• 02/21/2018
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Taking IT Automation to the Next Level

Process and tool simplification will help IT teams become more integrated into everyday business.

Over the last few years, the industry has seen some major transformations: Agile product development processes, DevOps culture, and big data, to name a few. Seeing how a full-stack team can drive better products, more rapidly, with greater empathy for the customer is amazing. Some organizations are well on their way through these transitions, and many more are just beginning. To ease this journey, we need to simplify the process of moving data through workflows.

Today, IT automation is used to glue different tools together to create more efficient workflows -- at least that’s the idea. In reality, the tools we use can be so complicated with so many options to handle every possible situation that they actually become more difficult to use than the original, manual workflows. We can, and must, do better.

Process and tool simplification will get us to the next level of acceleration. Business needs change, sometimes quite rapidly. That requires us to adapt outside the regular process to make the next deal or to pivot to the next product or feature. But most of time we follow a standard process and it takes far more effort than should. That extra effort often goes at the expense of time and quality. With data quality being the biggest challenge to data analytics and machine learning, we are hurting our own data initiatives as well as stifling productivity. You need the right data in the right place at the right time, to create the insights you need.


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(Image: geralt/Pixabay)

But we're still stuck inputting data every day, then copying data from one system to another. It's a repetitive task. This happens because the next tool doesn’t automatically talk to the previous tool, or the tool after it. Imagine entering data just once about a customer, a deal, a desired outcome, and it flowing through all of the proper tools, generating results that directly benefit the business and its customers. With so many APIs available there is just no excuse for manually duplicating data entry or manually exporting data from one tool just to import it into another. That should happen at the push of a button, if it isn't fully automatic.

When we allow people to rise up a level, automated systems and integrations can handle the routine, rote tasks more accurately, consistently, and faster. The checks and balances in our processes can be fully automated or even eliminated if they are no longer needed. This is not to eliminate jobs, but to reduce the mundane, error-prone parts of a job enabling people to bring more value and help your business move faster.

Think about going across town for a meeting, do you think about feeding and caring for the horses or do you just get in a car? What about all of the routine maintenance that a car requires? Many electric vehicles don’t even have traditional maintenance items such as hoses, belts, or oil to change. Maybe you bypass that maintenance altogether by taking public transit, a taxi or a service like Lyft. Your goal is simply to get from one point to another efficiently.

When you open the Lyft app and request a ride to a meeting, you let another system handle vehicle maintenance, fuel, driving, and parking for you so you can focus on where you add value -- your meeting. What if everyone in your organization could take advantage of similar automation, everyday?  How much more responsive could you be to customers?

These are, actually, just steps along a much larger journey to truly realize technology as an integrated part of everyday business instead of just the realm of the IT department. Over the next few years, tools will become easier to automate or fall out of favor as we focus on business process and the user. Automation will not just be the realm of DevOps teams and full-stack engineers. It will just be normal. Technologists who think at the business level, then translate that to interconnecting the underlying systems will truly bring us forward into the next era. Stop focusing on technology for technology’s sake. Focus on the business and ease of use for everyone.

Learn more about automation, including using tools such as Ansible, at Interop ITX, where Jere Julian will present "Patterns for Improving Network Automation."

Get live advice on networking, storage, and data center technologies to build the foundation to support software-driven IT and the cloud. Attend the Infrastructure Track at Interop ITX, April 30-May 4, 2018. Register now!


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