There is no doubt that IT automation has proved its worth, with automation technologies now being sewn into the technology fabric of future-fit organizations. It’s an essential component in driving operational efficiency to maximize enterprise potential. Businesses incorporating automation effectively are setting themselves up to excel, and that advantage is vital, no matter the industry. 

As the evolving technology landscape proves a strong reason for expanding automation use cases, and the ability to use this automation anywhere like in cloud environments, enterprises are in turn being pushed to evaluate new opportunities to automate. But automation is far from a quick fix or a panacea.

Business leaders must look critically at what processes and workflows to automate based on what will have the greatest impact across the business, as well as what is most adaptable to imminent change. Even then, the automation vision must be holistic and comprehensive, with proper support from diverse champions and a collaborative organizational culture. Finally, you actually need the right mechanism to achieve this. 

Identifying the right candidates for automation

It’s easy to hone in on the benefits of automation: After all, automation itself is designed for simplicity, optimization, speed and efficiency, and that’s likely what you’re trying to achieve. But realistically, you don’t have endless resources to automate every part of your IT ecosystem, nor a universal understanding of every obstacle the business faces. 

Take the time to first categorize and assess the prospective tasks for an automation plan:

  • Is it adaptable to change? 

  • Which pockets will have the greatest impact? 

  • Does it reach across domains and business objectives? 

  • Is there a known resolution? 

  • Do I know the steps to resolve the issue, and in what sequence those steps must occur? 

The initial stage of discernment is the time for critical, specific standards. The processes that make the final list must meet each aspect of the criteria you set. 

But just because a process initially makes the cut, it doesn’t mean that it should go unchecked along the way. Scenarios continuously change in a dynamic tech landscape, so you will need to reevaluate whether the use cases you selected are generating the anticipated outcomes and properly adapting to shifting situations. 

Extend a culture that can support your initiatives 

While evaluation and identification of the right processes is a critical part of an automation initiative, the actual execution necessitates a consistent effort from many stakeholders, in many departments, working within a strong organizational culture of automation. To determine where you need to go, you must first evaluate current practices, attitudes and understanding of automation across the organization. From this baseline, determine your desired end state by establishing a shared vision, setting measurable goals and getting proper buy-in from passionate experts. These transformations start with the engineers who champion a better way, and from leaders who are involved in the process and frequently empower their colleagues to embrace automation.

It’s hard to change manual processes that have existed for so long; it takes building strong alliances across multiple teams and aligning them to how the business functions. Demonstrate the value of connecting silos with the same language, sharing the same subsystems and coordinating resources to attack rote, debilitating manual processes. Automation is about enabling IT professionals to focus their expertise on big picture innovation by building repeatable, effective frameworks through collaboration. To realize this full potential, teams must extend beyond the confines of one functional or technical area and across all IT operating models to address higher business needs with a shared culture of automation. 

What to look for in an IT automation solution

Just like finding use cases that are adaptable to change, you need the right automation solution that can also withstand environmental, situational and technological changes. There are so many options for individual tools that are specific to random acts of automation, but we’re not automating for the sake of it. 

Overall, you need a holistic solution that is designed to meet all of your needs today, with the flexibility to address future concerns. Platforms provide infrastructure upon which to build things, and much like an application platform, an automation platform abstracts otherwise redundant or unimportant functionality to make automation itself simpler and more accessible. Look for an automation solution that is easy to adopt, supports your workload portability needs, and includes management tools. 

In addition, select a platform that comes from a partner who will support your goals, bring you up to speed, help guide you through roadblocks and be committed to your long term success.

Turning to an open development model allows for a platform with greater stability, more innovation and a stronger security posture. Open source communities empower innovation by developing software that pushes the boundaries of technical ability. The flexibility of open source allows for more modular development and deployment, reducing the need for long term roadmaps and better preparing operations for rapidly changing environments.

To meet the challenges of an open hybrid cloud world with IT automation, organizations must successfully break down the silos that too frequently exist among teams and technology. They must also lean on dedicated champions, the most effective solutions and the right processes. These plans must be rooted in the assumption that all things will change over time, and you must begin with a plan that has adaptability at its core.


About the author

Tom Anderson is a vice president at Red Hat, responsible for the Ansible Automation Platform product and business strategy. His focus is on helping customers automate the way they deliver services to the business with Red Hat’s hybrid cloud solutions.

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