IT Ops automation: The elephant in the room

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The pace of change affecting IT Operations is skyrocketing. With the rate of digital transformation and the explosion of SaaS platforms throughout organisations, business technology teams are managing more complex environments than ever before. Add to this the effect of the COVID 19 pandemic, with the complexity of maintaining systems while supporting large-scale remote working, and IT teams are dealing with an unprecedented continuity challenge. 

Automation delivers a solution that relieves the pressure on overstretched teams and reduces the risk of costly system downtime, but we can’t ignore the elephant in the room. The pandemic has also created unprecedented job uncertainty and many people view automation as a threat to their job security. So how do we marry the power of automation to reduce human input with the need to protect the livelihood of hard-working IT personnel? 

Quite simply, the best automation technologies in history have NOT been designed to replace humans; they’ve been developed to make work easier.

The synergy of people and technology

Enhancing the competitiveness of businesses requires a partnership between technology and people to deliver better ways of working. Intelligent automation – done right – is not about replacing people with technology. The opposite should be true: it’s about connecting people, processes and technology to simplify complex processes and improve productivity. 

The right automation strategy works with the human workforce to increase the speed with which tasks can be completed so that humans can spend more time on value-added tasks that require the skills that technology can’t replicate, like strategic thinking, empathy and emotional intelligence.  

A brilliant reminder of this is the call to arms by Professor Klaus Schwab, author of The Fourth Industrial Revolution and founder of the World Economic Forum:

“together shape a future that works for all by putting people first, empowering them and constantly reminding ourselves that all of these new technologies are first and foremost tools made by people for people.”

Empowerment breeds innovation

Intelligent automation not only reduces mundane, repetitive tasks to free employees up for more engaging work, but it also delivers solutions to common business issues that would otherwise be slow or costly to address. This could be anything from upscaling server capacity to meet unexpected demand, to automating employee onboarding to make your joining process a competitive advantage, even during a pandemic! 

Ultimately, what every business leader needs is technology that protects business continuity and enables the business to be as agile as possible to respond to the ever-changing world we live in today. Automation delivers vast competitive advantages and increases the speed with which businesses can respond to change while reducing the usual risks and costs associated with changing at pace.

Changing mindsets

IT automation enables technology teams to spend less time on incident management and more time on the things engineers are most passionate about: using technology to drive the business forward. But there is still resistance and misunderstanding about the return on investment that automation quickly delivers.  

As an industry, IT operations management has not kept pace with the rate of change in technology infrastructures and so business continuity is at risk from outdated and siloed processes. Here are just a few examples of the common challenges we see hampering the agility of business technology teams: 

  • Businesses collect and process vast quantities of data that can help to identify pressure points and predict incidents, but interpreting this data is still a very manual process.
  • Siloed systems result in data being replicated throughout organisations, creating a security and governance nightmare for IT leaders.  
  • Engineers are often hampered when managing someone else’s code because they don’t have the knowledge of the process by which the code was developed. This slows response time and results in issues needing to be escalated to a few overstretched specialists.
  • Tickets may be raised but left incomplete, so the learning from an incident is not readily available to help speed up a subsequent occurrence and there’s a lack of consistency in communication to end-users. 

Automation resolves these issues

Intelligent automation breaks down these siloes and enables incident management to be more outcome and data-driven so learnings can be applied during an incident to increase the speed of resolution and similar incidents can be prevented before they occur. This enables businesses to avoid the huge financial and reputational costs of prolonged system downtime. 

  • Machine learning interprets data from each incident to deliver continual improvement and actively prevent incidents from occurring again.   
  • Automated root cause analysis pinpoints issues in seconds instead of hours and gives engineers the information they need to act quickly. 
  • Automated runbooks deliver the steps to resolve recurring issues so that anyone unfamiliar with an incident has the instructions and context to help them easily diagnose and resolve an incident, with less room for error. 
  • AI enables remediation to be triggered by the simple click of a button because all the information required to make a decision is readily available.
  • Tickets are automatically created, updated and closed, removing the admin headache and risk of incomplete information.  

The future of IT Ops

Intelligent automation connects people, processes and technology to supercharge the speed of work and reduce the risk of error, which benefits the business and its workforce in countless ways:  

  • Shorter incident resolution times reduces the risk of lost revenue and reputational damage. 
  • Fewer escalations are required because expert knowledge is translated into automated process steps that anyone in the team can execute. 
  • Fewer incidents mean your most valuable assets – your people – can spend more time on incident prevention and innovation.

But we shouldn’t automate for automation’s sake and this is where human input is always required to ensure time and effort isn’t wasted on automating tasks that have no strategic benefit or could magnify issues. As Bill Gates describes: 

“The first rule of any technology used in a business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.” 

The right IT automation strategy offers an opportunity to aid recovery following the pandemic and provide a more rewarding and stable working environment for IT personnel.

Ending the curse of the 3am call-out

Watch this engaging session from the Zenoss GalaxZ20 conference to see a real-life example of how AIOps and intelligent automation combine to reduce the frequency of the dreaded 3am on-call call out for IT engineers.



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