There has been massive growth in the number of IT automation tools in the past few years and the benefits are compelling; automation improves efficiency, productivity and output while reducing cost, risk and inconsistency. Automation also cuts down on repetitive tasks and ultimately, relieves headaches!
Automation has transformed a wide range of processes, such as accounting, customer relationship management, marketing, regulatory compliance, and cyber security. And automation tools are more accessible than ever before. New start-ups embrace IT automation and build it into their business model to develop efficient and cost-effective processes. However, many businesses still spend a lot of time on manual tasks.
Why aren’t more organizations adopting the automation path?
Moving business processes to automation can be difficult. It often requires the rewriting of policies and procedures, vetting these changes for governance compliance, adjusting workflows in the data center to accommodate the automation, and of course, retraining and/or redirecting IT personnel to work with the automation in their daily routines.
Most IT departments opt to install automation in areas where the introduction of new processes is least painful, and the benefits and the results of this automation can be felt right away. Areas such as customer service and disaster recovery are difficult to automate because they often require more complex and unique decisions to be made, and the amount of scenarios needed would be difficult to input.
Milind Govekar, Research Vice President at Gartner, said that organizations need to move from opportunistic to systematic automation of IT processes. “Most current use of automation in IT involves scripting,” said Govekar. Scripting can usually solve a problem, but when many scripts are compiled together, they can cause a mess.
How do you get started with IT automation?
Start by cataloging your current processes
Many organizations don’t know what they are already automating. Start by conducting an audit of the businesses processes and identify what automation already exists in the organization. “The more you standardize the environment before automating it further, the better placed you will be,” said Mr. Govekar. “Don’t automate the mess—get rid of the mess first,” he added.
Look for automation tools that work with your processes
Some areas of business take to automation really well, whereas other just don’t.
For example, storage management, system back-ups, and data management are already big areas for automation in companies, whereas customer service and disaster recovery are areas that require unique decisions to be made, and the automation set-up is too complex.
Consider the cultural implications
Automation has implications for skills and job roles. Technical staff may ask, “Am I automating myself out of a job?” If cultural resistance is present, automation processes will not and cannot happen. However, not all tasks can be automated right now and staff will still be needed. Instead, encouraging upskilling and education on automation applications can resolve the negative resistance.
Automation applications are diverse
There is a wide range of available automation applications; Gartner predicts that by 2017, 75% of enterprises will have more than 4 diverse automation technologies within their IT management portfolios, up from less than 20% in 2014.
This means that an array of applications will need to be implemented, and you will need to ensure that the integration of these applications is a key factor when making decisions on which areas can be successfully automated.
And finally, even though the level of automation in companies will continue to increase, not all processes will be appropriate for automation, and, in many cases, ultimate decisions will need to be made by knowledgeable individuals within the company. It’s a lot like operating a commercial jet—there are times when you can leave the airplane on autopilot, but the pilot is always available to take charge during critical steps.