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Understanding automation

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Automation software helps improve efficiency—delivering value faster while solving IT and workflow challenges.

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Automation is the use of technology to perform tasks with reduced human assistance. Any industry that encounters repetitive tasks can use automation, but automation is more prevalent in the industries of manufacturing, robotics, and automotives, as well as in IT systems.

IT automation

The use of technology to automate repetitive, manual IT tasks such as provisioning, network management, and data backup and recovery.

Business automation

The alignment of business process management (BPM), business process automation (BPA), business rules management (BRM), and business optimization with modern application development to respond to market changes.

Business process automation

The use of software to automate repeatable, multistep business transactions.

Robotic process automation

The use of software robots to perform repetitive tasks previously done by humans.

Industrial automation

The reduction of human labor in manufacturing processes as part of factory automation efforts, usually to the point where human workers simply provide oversight at a control panel or other human-machine interface (HMI).

Artificial intelligence

Rule-based software that performs tasks typically accomplished with human intervention.

Machine learning

Adaptive algorithms that use predictive models to perform tasks without explicit instructions—automatically modifying algorithms with each completed task

Deep learning

Multiple adaptive algorithms, automation software, and programs that perform a fixed repetitive task—such as extracting small details from raw images.

In today’s world of rapid technological change, the challenges organizations face—to support employees and partners, reach new customers, and provide innovative products and services—are more complex than ever before. IT plays a crucial role in meeting these demands, but also acts as a blocker if it isn’t scalable and can’t keep up with demand.

As enterprises scale, so does the difficulty of deploying and maintaining environments that are stable, more secure, and consistent. To break it down further:

  • IT operations are resource-intensive—and maintaining legacy systems and processes at the same time as new ones only increases complexity.
  • Requirements and demand are outgrowing IT and business capabilities.
  • The scale of technology (virtualization, cloud, containers, etc.) is too great to do manually.

In this constantly shifting environment, automation has become a strategic imperative. Automation is critical to managing, changing, and adapting your IT infrastructure and the way your enterprise operates. IT teams can automate complex processes to increase efficiency, productivity, and flexibility—while also reducing costs and human error.

Automation is not meant to replace people—its purpose is to augment human capabilities. This is known as the paradox of automation: as you become efficient using automation, human involvement becomes more important but less frequent.

Some may see automation as a tool that eliminates jobs, but automation actually frees up existing IT staff to focus on larger challenges. By simplifying processes and reducing manual tasks, IT teams can improve efficiency and productivity—while also preserving resources to work toward strategic goals, such as improving customer satisfaction. 

Automation can help enterprises achieve: 

  • Greater productivity. By automating mundane, repetitive tasks, a higher volume of tasks can be performed more quickly with less oversight, allowing IT staff to spend more time on value-adding projects. 
  • Better reliability. Decreasing the amount of human intervention also reduces the risk for errors and improves consistency. Automation ensures that steps are done the same way every time—so teams know exactly when processes, tests, updates, or workflows are going to happen, how long they’ll take, and whether they complete correctly.
  • Easier governance. Relying on large teams of people to perform complex processes can easily lead to knowledge gaps and miscommunication, both within and between groups in an organization. Codifying knowledge in automation can help to ensure more controlled, consistent governance across teams and tasks. 
  • 24/7 operations. Since automation can execute tasks in the middle of the night without human intervention, businesses can automate remediation at any time, reducing mean time to resolution (MTTR) and minimizing downtime. 
  • Better security. Automation can be used to identify, prevent, and respond more quickly—in a standardized way—to potential security threats across IT environments.

Despite automation's undeniable value, its benefits can be limited if adopting automation is not an enterprise-wide initiative. As organizations implement a comprehensive automation strategy, they must often navigate cultural challenges that have built up through years of disconnected teams relying on inefficient practices. 

Automation in isolation

Many organizations already automate some number of IT operations, but this automation is often isolated—in the form of ad-hoc tools designed for a single domain. These disparate approaches may speed specific functions, but they can be difficult to scale and update as technological requirements evolve. 

With this disconnected approach, IT teams often have to frequently recreate and customize automation for a specialized purpose, which takes time away from building critical services and customer experiences. Focusing on piecemeal solutions also makes it more challenging to share automation expertise and develop consistent governance strategies across an enterprise.

Building support for enterprise adoption

In order to adopt automation across your organization, all teams—including line of business, network, security, operations, development, and infrastructure—must be on board and participate. Clear processes for creating, deploying, managing, and adapting automation are essential for broad adoption and ongoing use. Many organizations also choose to establish a formal team of automation experts—like a Center of Excellence—to develop an effective adoption strategy and support new and experienced automation practitioners across the enterprise.

An automation platform provides the capabilities for building, running, and managing your automation. In contrast to simple automation tools, an automation platform gives your organization a unified foundation for creating, deploying, and sharing consistent automation content and knowledge at scale.

Building an effective automation solution takes time and energy. Working with a trusted partner like Red Hat—who is able to handle the heavy lifting for you—can help you save effort and start automating faster.

You can do more with automation

Building on the strategic foundation of Infrastructure as Code (IaC), organizations are beginning to use these practices to automate IT processes at every stage of the operational life cycle. Just as IaC standardizes the build, provisioning, and deployment of infrastructure, IT teams can adopt Ops as Code and Policy as Code to codify the management, maintenance, and governance of systems after they are deployed.

Learn how to extend IaC into Day 2

Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform is an end-to-end automation solution that helps enterprises configure systems, deploy software, and orchestrate advanced workflows across teams and IT environments—from datacenters, across clouds, to edge locations. 

Ansible Automation Platform includes all the tools needed to implement enterprise-wide automation, including an event-driven solution, analytics, content tools, and playbooks. It allows your teams to centralize and control your IT infrastructure with a visual dashboard, role-based access control, and other features that will help reduce operational complexity.

With a Red Hat subscription, you get certified content from our robust partner ecosystem, access to hosted management services, and life cycle technical support that allows your teams to create, manage, and scale automation across your organization. And you’ll get expert knowledge gained from our success with thousands of customers. 

Technology is the easy part. Culture is much harder.

Automation can help IT teams focus on innovating and creating value. But what does it take to actually reach that finish line? And how does it affect the way teams actually work? Season 2 of the Code Comments podcast tries to find out.

Check it out

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