When I talk to customers about their adoption of an enterprise IT automation strategy, there is one challenge that frequently comes up: How to spread adoption beyond the individual or team that first embraces an enterprise-grade tool, and expand adoption by bringing more teams on-board.

To understand why this is a problem, let’s start by revisiting why an enterprise-wide approach to automation is a good idea. 

A recent survey1 of 1,200 IT Leaders from across Europe found:

  • “Overcoming the barriers to enterprise-wide IT automation will let businesses enjoy significant benefits and manage present and future challenges...”

As well as the obvious benefits of reducing manual toil, an enterprise automation platform can:

  • Orchestrate and coordinate tasks across teams.
  • Allow re-use and sharing of automation assets.
  • Address security concerns by integrating with identity & access management systems and credential & secret stores to implement robust controls over who has access to automation operations with escalated privileges.
  • Provide consistent visibility and metrics for automation tasks performed.
  • Reduce the cognitive load associated with using disparate tools.

Most of these benefits are directly related to adopting a unified solution with flexibility to address a wide-range of use cases and capable of integrating with a wide variety of other systems for security, service management, etc.

If these benefits are attainable, then why aren’t all organizations pushing ahead? There are a number of reasons that I hear from customers:

  • Skills - often the pioneering team is not resourced to share their expertise with others.
  • Inertia - automation is not new, so usually individuals and teams have an existing tool they are familiar with for their area (but usually does not scale for the organization as a whole). Also known as the “not invented here syndrome”.
  • The “paradox of the platform” whereby everyone would benefit from a common approach but no one is prepared to take responsibility for creating and maintaining it.
  • The “keep it under the radar” strategy, where avoiding attention from the IT Security team might be compromised if a tool becomes visible beyond an individual or team.

So if you’re reading this as an individual within an organization and you’re wondering if there’s anything you can do to help develop an enterprise automation strategy (i.e. “a movement”), I’d like to offer some suggestions.

Initiating change is hard, so it’s important to be clear why it’s worthwhile. For the individual within an organization, there are a few things that could be motivating:

  • Gains in personal productivity from using a tool with a large ecosystem of add-ons and readily available examples.
  • Learning a new skill and gaining experience in a discipline that is directly relevant to investment areas for digital infrastructure success, according to a recent survey by IDC2.
  • The opportunity to try out something that’s fun (people have applied their automation skills to all kinds of things, like home automation) and the personal benefits from being altruistic3 and sharing knowledge.
  • Often careers are built on making an impact within an organization, but sometimes finding the right opportunity to “shine” can be difficult, so an initiative that can grow organically, and should appeal to senior management, can be a great way to raise your profile.
  • In a similar vein, Ansible is one of the most vibrant open source communities, so getting involved can be an excellent way to learn and raise your eminence outside your organization.
  • Which leads me to the other obvious point: Developing skills in a very popular tool and demonstrating an ability to influence organizational change are two very marketable skills that will enhance your professional credibility and look great on your CV.

If you’re looking at this from the perspective of “what’s the benefit for my organization?”, then there are is different set of outcomes that you will care about:

  • Automation makes good business sense4. Simply put it will:
    • Increase speed and agility.
    • Improve efficiency and productivity.
    • Help enhance security and reduce risk.
    • Mitigate skills challenges.
  • An automation platform is the foundation for modernizing ways of working, i.e. adopting an Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) approach and having an infrastructure deployment lifecycle which includes testing and validation before deployment (in the same way modern application development pipelines do).
  • Reduce technical debt thanks to more reliable processes and improved productivity.
  • Free up resources from dealing with manual toil to focus on more strategic tasks, like business improvement and transformation.

Hopefully, those are compelling reasons, but where do you start? Looking for some inspiration as individual, there are some great resources out there - I recommend “How to build a movement” by Derek Sivers5. He says you need to be prepared to stand up and be different, to be visible. In other words, you need to be prepared to evangelize and make the case for enterprise automation (probably referencing some of the points above). He also highlights the importance of embracing early collaborators - “The first follower transforms the ‘lone nut’ into a leader”.

There’s no doubt that you’ll need buy-in from senior leadership, so be prepared to build a business case to justify investment. The points above about “good business sense” should provide a starting point to quantify impact in terms of:

  • Time saved by avoiding manual effort; reusing automation assets.
  • Reducing delays by creating end-to-end, cross domain, workflows that minimize manual hand-offs.
  • Greater resilience through reduced meantime to recover (MTTR).
  • Improvement in terms of security posture (i.e. patching every month rather than every six).
  • Reducing, or even eliminating, the effort involved in collecting evidence for auditors on what actions have been performed and the status of system updates.
  • Consolidated metrics that support KPIs and measurable improvements.

Making a case can also be based on more qualitative data, like references from other organizations and the benefits they have realized. You’ll find a good selection at: https://www.ansible.com/resources/case-studies

Once you’ve found your first followers (or perhaps you are one of the early collaborators), then it becomes a matter of fostering a community. There are several things that can help with that:

  • Organize “lunch & learn” sessions.
  • Promote use of Red Hat Learning Labs to help people develop their skills. (https://developers.redhat.com/learn)
  • Take advantage of Red Hat Learning Subscriptions if your organization has them - there’s a curriculum for Ansible: https://www.redhat.com/en/resources/ansible-automation-platform-skills-path-brief
  • Run an internal “conference” to build awareness, develop interest and share best practices.
  • Create a study group.
  • Establish a core team to help steer the development of the community.
  • Think beyond your organization to reach others who are on the same journey. There’s an online Ansible community - https://forum.ansible.com/ - where you can connect with others interested in Ansible and automation.

There are also ways that Red Hat can support you, by:

  • Contributing to internal events to:
    • Provide product overviews and/or updates
    • Demo new features
    • Support Hackathons
  • Conduct an Ansible Adoption Assessment where we facilitate a discussion about where your organization is on its automation journey and where you aspire to get to.
  • A Professional Services engagement with our team of architects and consultants (this would normally start with an Adoption Assessment).

When it comes to supporting adoption of Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform, our Professional Services team has a well-defined roadmap that includes several activities to prepare and help on-board new teams.

To conclude, it’s helpful to refer to one of the customer case studies - Ulta Beauty6. Based on a successful automation program, their recommendations are:

  • Establish a small core team.
  • Gain leadership buy-in.
  • Recognise that “no one team can cover everything”.
  • Allow for a degree of autonomy for every team adopting the enterprise automation platform.
  • Organize cross-functional workshops and seminars.
  • Encourage “learning by doing” - e.g. hackathons.
  • Start simple, proceed with caution, demonstrate results, and celebrate success.

Good luck on your journey!

 

Additional resources

The IT automation imperative: What executives need to know

Read this e-book to learn how Red Hat® Ansible® Automation Platform can help your organization use automation to increase return on investment, reduce downtime, deploy solutions faster, and more. https://www.redhat.com/rhdc/managed-files/ma-it-automation-for-executives-ebook-f32037-202209-en.pdf

Ansible Webinar Series (WW)

Global webinars on demand

Ansible Webinar Series (EMEA)

EMEA upcoming webinars and on-demand

Automation Adoption Journey

Red Hat Services Journey: Automation Adoption


1 Thriving through change with enterprise-wide IT automation, November 2023 - /fr/engage/ansible-automates-report-2023

2 IDC, Improving Business Outcomes with Hybrid and Multicloud Infrastructure and Automation in the AI Everywhere Era, Doc #US51286423, Oct 2023

3 https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/explore-mental-health/articles/what-are-health-benefits-altruism

4 /fr/blog/business-imperative-enterprise-it-automation

5 https://www.ted.com/talks/derek_sivers_how_to_start_a_movement?language=en

6 /fr/code-comments-podcast/season-2/ulta-beauty


About the author

Mark Swinson is a Sales Specialist with Red Hat in the UK and his passion is working with customers to translate business challenges into innovative solutions that will deliver better outcomes using the latest technology and most effective ways of working. He has over 25 years experience in enterprise software and whilst his career has covered a wide range of roles he has always maintained a keen interest in how things really work.

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