Minion hubot cropped

Add Hubot to Your ITSM Team

As part of the rapid growth in social media adoption, Twitter reignited a “chat revolution” and triggered a resurgence in internet relay chat (IRC) and its derivatives, such as Salesforce Chatter, Atlassian HipChat, Campfire, and Slack. These social media platforms are breaking down barriers when it comes to internal communication and people are finding ever more inventive ways to use them in the enterprise.

Now the DevOps “hipsters” have added a robot to their chatrooms and welcomed it into the team – it’s called Hubot and is described by its creators, GitHub, as follows:

“Hubot is your company’s robot. Install him in your company to dramatically improve and reduce employee efficiency.” 

I’m not sure that “improve and reduce human efficiency” is right but I get the gist. Hubot makes life easier.

So What’s Hubot?

Hubot is a program that lives in the social space, a chatroom to most of us (not a bar as some might argue), that can be programmed to react to stimuli provided by humans or automated events. DevOps people use Hubot as part of their continuous deployment process, sometimes referred to as ChatOps, to inform users of what’s happening, but Hubot can also be programmed, via scripts, to perform actions for users.

Examples of Hubot in a DevOps context include:

  1. A workflow is triggered by “speaking” to Hubot.
  2. Any issues with software builds are reported by Hubot and can be fixed by a human interacting with Hubot.
  3. ”Webhooks” in the deployment process, from dev to production, that provide stimuli to Hubot, which he acts on and/or reports.

Bringing Hubot to ITSM

IT Service Management (ITSM), in part, is about processes, workflows, and communication, making it an ideal opportunity for Hubot to add value.

One of the most obvious ways to use Hubot would be as a service desk “minion” – and who doesn’t love Minions – who can answer frequently asked questions (FAQs). Instead of an end user searching for an FAQ page and then searching that page for an answer, they instead ask Hubot a question:

User > @hubot what does ITIL mean?
Hubot > ITIL is an IT service management best practice framework. Prior to ITIL version 3, it was formerly called the “Information Technology Infrastructure Library” but you might still hear this longer-form name used.
User > @hubot who is on shift in IT operations?
Hubot > Operations Shift = jsmith, jdoe, rfeynman
User > @hubot who is rfeynman?
Hubot > rfeynman is Richard Feynman, Operations Manager, rfeynman@acme.corp, x12345

However Hubot is much more powerful than a simple FAQ or notification system because it can be programmed via simple scripts, hooked into systems via adapters, and interacted with by humans in the chat room. It’s even possible to have multiple Hubots working in unison, say linking configuration management with release management.

Using Hubot for Incident Management

Examples of Hubot in an ITSM environment, such as incident management include:

  • Automated dialing and escalation
  • Sophisticated alarm routing
  • Situational awareness (Hubot can add system information live)
  • Bi-directional (Hubot can update ITSM tools)

And remember that this is all done in a chat window that everyone can see, on any device, wherever they are – which really improves communication and collaboration.

Hubot has many existing adapters for chat systems but it can also be extended to connect to anything via an API. The installation is quite technical, which is why the Hubot phenomenon has started in the software-minded DevOps set, and it’s likely that an organization would extend this for ITSM rather than building their own Hubot ecosystem just for ITSM.

Don’t be put off by the initial complexity though. What many people say about using Hubot is that it’s a more natural and fun way of doing work in a predictable and reliable manner. Could it be that Hubot could bring more excitement to ITSM?

How Do You Get Your Own Hubot?

Like I mentioned before, the smoothest path to adopting Hubot for ITSM is to extend an existing DevOps Hubot within your organization. This hooks Hubot into the ITSM tool, allowing end users to interact with, or to just watch, a simplified chat interface rather than needing to refresh a complicated chat form.

Another quick way to get started is to get an already-extended Hubot system, such as ChatOps and VictorOps, that’s already configured to speak to your service management systems.

If you are more adventurous, then you could do it all yourself. Hubot is an open-source project from Github. You’ll need someone with decent software-coding skills to install it and then connect it to your chat systems via the huge list of adapters. Then you’ll need to work out what you want Hubot to do and start to program him.

People who have used Hubot for some time find they are constantly interacting and improving him and eventually he feels like one of the team, often because you can program it to have humorous responses. But he better not be funnier than yours truly.

So what do you think about Hubot for ITSM?

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Posted by Joe the IT Guy

Joe the IT Guy
Joe the IT Guy

Native New Yorker. Loves everything IT-related (and hugs). Passionate blogger and Twitter addict. Oh...and resident IT Guy at SysAid Technologies (almost forgot the day job!).


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