Is ChatOps the Answer to Making IT Love Their Jobs?

Workato
Workato
Jan 18 · 5 min read

This piece originally appeared on the Workato blog.

When GitHub coined the term “ChatOps” several years ago, it originally referred to using chat tools to speed up the development lifecycle. As ChatOps has proven successful in its original application, however, IT organizations have started using it for a wider range of workflows.

In fact, 78% of IT teams say it’s easier to collaborate on tickets thanks to chat apps, and 69% say ChatOps has decreased their average time to resolution. Some teams even consider these tools the new employee UI. ChatOps has the power to make long and tedious IT processes much faster and easier and, as a result, create happier IT teams and better-satisfied business teams.

Like any new tech, however, IT leaders see ChatOps as an opportunity for continual improvement. When it comes to moving forward with ChatOps, most IT teams have two goals:

  1. Broadening their use of ChatOps to cover other IT workflows besides ticketing and DevOps, like provisioning. This means connecting to more apps and enabling employees to execute more complex workflows — like approvals — without context-switching.
  2. Creating a better ChatOps experience — also known as “ChatOps 2.0” — to improve adoption. This involves minimizing the need for clunky text commands, making sure that notifications don’t become a firehose, and using AI to help digest information. For example, simply switching from text-based bot commands to dialog inputs can increase adoption by 50–100%.

But turning these goals into reality isn’t as simple as just downloading Slack or Microsoft Teams.

It Turns Out That Custom Code Isn’t the Answer…

If you’re relying on custom code and scripting to power your ChatOps, it can quickly get prohibitively time-consuming and expensive. It also keeps your team from focusing on other key initiatives, if they’re spending a lot of time creating ChatOps workflows for internal use.

As Nathan Underwood, and Automations Engineer at CARFAX, notes, “Dev teams are very focused on building and developing new things. It’s easy to forget about all the work they have to do to support things that have already been built!”

Bill Olson of Tenable, a cybersecurity provider, faced a similar challenge when redesigning the company’s helpdesk to incorporate a chat interface.

“We’re a software building company, so we could build anything we needed. But we also recognized that taking our engineers away from building products that our customers would give us money for, to building something internally probably wasn’t the best use of our time,” he says.

…But Neither Are Community Plugins

On the other hand, many open-source bot frameworks don’t have the enterprise features that IT needs to feel confident in their chat-based workflows — and they can be difficult for new users to learn to use.

“If you are planning on fully automating meaningful tasks through ChatOps such as deployments and infrastructure changes, community chatbot plugins are not likely to get you where you want to be,” says Ben Odom of Librato.

Together, these factors are a recipe for low adoption. So, while IT teams want the benefits of pervasive ChatOps, they often don’t have the resources to implement it.

The Answer? Automation Platforms

As ChatOps has become more popular, many automation platforms have begin offering bot frameworks. When compared to the cost of developing and maintaining an in-house solution, these tools can be far more cost-effective.

IT leaders say that they’re also more likely to help you address key concerns, like:

For most IT teams, security is the #1 concern when choosing a ChatOps tool.

“It’s a myth that ChatOps is not secure,” says Odom. “Like any piece of software, it is as secure or insecure as it is designed and implemented. Find a common sense approach that balances usability, good practices, and your organization’s compliance requirements.”

Today, many paid bot providers are adopting enterprise-grade security protocols. Here at Workato, for example, we designed Workbot to meet some of the most common security requirements. Workbot is also the only bot that offers Verified User Access, which keeps approval workflows secure by requiring that you authenticate your credentials.

As with any critical technology, availability is a crucial consideration when choosing a ChatOps tool.

“Because you have identified that ChatOps is an important platform, you should take the time to do some basic risk analysis. What if Slack is unavailable? What if the host running your chatbot becomes unavailable?” Odom cautions.

Bot solutions like Workato have SLAs that dictate what level of availability you can expect. They also have built-in error handling, which can prevent your workflows from becoming irreparably disrupted in the event of an error. That makes it much easier for you to have faith in your ChatOps solution — and it means a lot less maintenance work for your team!

Finally, if you hope to embrace ChatOps over the long-term, it’s important that you choose a solution that the end users can easily expand on. Whether they want to write their own commands or create chat-based end-to-end workflows, they should be able to use ChatOps to streamline tasks they face every day.

“You should make it as easy as possible for others on your team to contribute new features and enhance existing ones,” Odom advises. “Find a way that works best for your team to meet periodically and get feedback about how ChatOps is working for them, and how it can be enhanced to improve your team’s ability to deliver value to customers.”

Pervasive ChatOps: Not Just a Pipe Dream

Ultimately, ChatOps has the power to radically transform the way your IT team works. It can foster collaboration, streamline common tasks, and even make it easier for other employees to get the IT help they need. The key is choosing a solution that is extensible and as easy as possible to implement and maintain. Otherwise, you risk only creating more work for your IT team.

Ready to Implement?

IT leaders often choose to implement an automation platform like Workato, which is the only intelligent automation platform with a chatbot built on top.

See how the teams at companies like Coupa, Grab, and more are using Workato to power ChatOps >

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The future isn’t A.I. or voice — it’s integration. We write about automation, bots, business apps, and business best practices.