Managing growth and taking cost out at the same time is a requirement for digital business, but it’s not easy for IT infrastructure and operations (I&O) leaders to achieve. Automation is the answer. The benefits are compelling – automation improves accountability, efficiency and predictability, while reducing cost, variability and risk. So why aren’t more organizations further down the automation path? Until now automation has been deterministic, where discrete manual steps or processes were automated to lower costs and improve quality of service. While this approach has provided incremental benefits, it doesn’t handle massive scale or dramatically reduce costs. Milind Govekar, research vice president at Gartner, says IT organizations need to move from opportunistic to systematic automation of IT processes.
“ IT organizations need to move from opportunistic to systematic automation of IT processes.”
“Most current use of automation in IT involves scripting,” says Govekar. “Scripts are more fragile than agile. What you end up with is disconnected islands of automation, with spaghetti code throughout the organization when what you need is a systematic, enterprise-wide lasagne.”
Scripting also reinforces a “hero culture” in IT. An individual solves a problem by writing configuration scripts or code to automate something, but when the person who wrote the script leaves the company, there is no record of it.
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Start by cataloging what you have
Given the continued growth of automation technologies, many organizations don’t know what they already have. First, identify what automation exists within the organization already and rationalize as much as possible.
“The more you standardize the environment before automating it further, the better placed you will be,” says Govekar. “Don’t automate the mess – get rid of the mess first.”
Next, attack cultural resistance
Automation has implications for skills and job roles. Technical staff may ask, “Am I automating myself out of a job?” The answer is often yes. “Automation maturity cannot, and will not, happen when the team required to implement automation technologies is resistant or reluctant,” Govekar says. “You need to incent the desired behavior by rewarding automation efforts and efficiency improvements, and instead of reinforcing the ‘hero’ culture, create a culture of process definition.”
Without leadership and coordination, adoption of automation tools will continue to proliferate throughout the IT organization, including tools with overlapping functions. Institute the roles of an automation manager and an automation architect, who will work with a team to coordinate current and future requirements, tool considerations and implementations.
There is no single automation
“ Automation in its many incarnations will be a pivotal linchpin in the future data center.”
Most IT organizations have a plethora of automation technologies deployed. Gartner predicts that by 2017, 75 percent of enterprises will have more than four diverse automation technologies within their IT management portfolios, up from less than 20 percent in 2014.
As businesses start to implement smart technologies and automation of their own, I&O leaders will have to start looking at automation beyond the traditional opportunistic areas. This means investing in “heuristic” capabilities that capture human learning and then automate it.