Automation is a hot topic across many aspects of IT because of the clear benefits it delivers. From giving organizations the ability to execute with speed to sparking DevOps and hybrid cloud modernization to allowing teams to complete tasks faster so that there is more time for innovation, automation has proven to be a huge differentiator.
Consider one company's experience with virtual machine (VM) provisioning. The team needed to provision 1,000 VMs as quickly as possible to support some new applications. With the team's usual method, each VM would have taken 20 hours of work to complete. Because a vendor was involved, this would have taken 16 weeks at a cost of more than $850,000. By using automation instead, the team provisioned each VM in 30 minutes, saving significant time and money.
Results like this are why automation has come to the forefront as an end-to-end enterprise strategy that can usher in a completely new way of working, powered by an "automation-first" mindset.
As a result, IT architects are tasked with expanding enterprise automation strategies to turn siloed pillars of automation tasks into full cross-domain processes. The goal? Deliver operational efficiencies that drive tangible business advantages. No matter what industry, vertical, or geography you operate in, delivering new IT services quickly gives your company a huge advantage.
5 automation best practices
Here are five ways you can help your organization expand and accelerate your automation journey to stay ahead, improve IT operations, and spend more time innovating.
1. Understand where you are today
Begin by assessing your organization's current automation maturity level. Forrester recommends assessing six key competencies to understand your current overall level of automation. Combine this assessment and a discussion with stakeholders in your organization to get a sense of what is currently being automated, how many siloed automation tools are in use, and how automation can be expanded and matured.
2. Set goals around how to expand automation
Based on your current level of automation maturity, you can design new goals to increase sophistication within a single automation solution and across multiple domains and processes. Don't forget to include executives in the discussion to learn their needs. For example, security automation may be on their minds, or they may be looking at broader strategies for automation and be willing to help you promote automation across IT teams.
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3. Be a catalyst for unifying activities
Now that you have some automation goals, you can work with teams to define and refine specific actions. Help your teams right-size their initial automation initiatives. You may want to start with simple tasks that are repeated often; this can help you implement automation quickly and illustrate its benefits in real terms.
For example, you might start with installing Apache web server. Once you do this, you can add new tasks, such as templating a website, customizing CSS, or configuring a load balancer features. You might also begin expanding across domains, such as a developer self-service provisioning request process. If your processes are not optimized, start there to improve your results. Keep your goals realistic, and include all stakeholders.
4. Build a community, expand skills, and scale automation
Share automation successes across your organization; this helps teams see and understand the benefits of this new way of working, especially if your executives also share and support the results. This is a good opportunity to begin building a community of practitioners and using different learning methods. Focus on enabling teams with automation skills rather than creating solutions for them; often, you must combine domain expertise with automation knowledge to deliver the right solution.
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Some ideas for building interest across your organization include:
- Hosting lunch-and-learn sessions
- Sponsoring hackathon contests
- Creating and curating reusable automation assets
- Soliciting groups interested in diving deeper into automation about their ideas
5. Plan for governance
As automation becomes holistic, think about how you will manage and control it for optimal use. Here are some things to keep in mind:
- Who will have access to which automation capabilities for which sets of inventory?
- What organizational compliance policies must be followed?
- How will auditability be achieved?
- What basic security constructs are required (encryption, etc.)?
Start small, think big
Using these best practices will put you well on your way to transforming how your IT department works and leave more time available for higher-value projects and innovation. The best way to establish an "automation-first" mindset is to think about your automation strategy holistically. How can it be threaded across everything your team is doing? How can automation help each team in the IT organization? Incremental steps can quickly grow to produce a large, force-multiplier effect for your team.