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The Promise of IT Automation (And What You Should Do About It)

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By 2023, 40 percent of infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams at large enterprises will use AI-informed automation, according to Gartner research on the future of AI technologies. The likely benefits of IT automation? Increased productivity, agility and scalability.

In fact, “hyperautomation” made Gartner’s list of the top 10 strategic technology trends for 2020, according to Gartner Distinguished VP Analyst David Cearley.

“Hyperautomation looks at two things. Number one, an expansion of automation, where everything that can be automated will be automated,” Cearley said. “Second, hyperautomation looks at going from RPA [Robotic Process Automation] and task-oriented automation to adding much more sophisticated AI-based process automation and building digital twins for the organization for digital ops.”

Four promising opportunities for IT automation in the workplace are data center automation, cloud automation, remote office automation, and mobility automation – with digital transformation driving all four areas. But IT leaders must take action to ensure their organizations are set up to realize the benefits of automation.

“Although the potential for success is enormous, delivering business impact from AI initiatives takes much longer than anticipated,” says Chirag Dekate, senior director analyst at Gartner. “IT leaders should plan early and use agile techniques to increase relevance and success rates.”

We’ll consider a few best practices for successfully implementing IT automation a little later but first, let’s explore three insights about IT automation from recent research.

Insight #1 – IT automation will reshape the workforce

Research firm Forrester predicts that 2020 will usher in major changes to the workforce because of IT automation. How major?

  • An estimated 1.06 million knowledge worker jobs will be replaced by automation, according to Forrester’s “Predictions 2020: On the Precipice of Far-Reaching Change.”

  • Employees on the frontlines who interact directly with customers will be impacted as well, with contact centers predicted to cut their staffs by 40 percent, the same study found.

  • People in “high risk” jobs – office administration, production, transportation and food preparation – will be among the most vulnerable to automation, according to the Brookings Institute.

“Unsurprisingly, employees are wary of automation. Automation’s impact to the future of work will be both sweeping and sensible, but these changes can place unprepared leaders on their heels or put companies in peril.”

Insight #2 – Automation may ultimately advance the workforce

Some roles will not be at risk from automation. Companies will still rely on workers for positions that depend on human characteristics like intuition, empathy, and mental and physical agility. The Forrester study predicted that in 2020 there will be an additional 331,500 of these sorts of positions, including teachers, cross-domain knowledge workers, and digital elites.

Those in impacted fields, like contact center workers, may benefit in surprising ways. For example, while there will be fewer contact center workers, “agent whisperer” technologies will give employees that remain the tools to offer an enhanced customer experience – and they’ll be rewarded with higher salaries for those increased customer experience (CX) skills.

For an idea of how IT automation will shape employees’ lives, we can look to other periods in time when mass automation occurred.

“Historically, workplace substitution by machines has freed up humans to focus on higher-value tasks or to create new ones,” writes the Brookings Institute. “The Agricultural and Industrial revolutions of the 18th and 19th centuries, for example, were periods of immense workplace automation – but, the share of the population engaged in work actually rose as new demand engendered new products, services, and work.”

Insight #3 – Automation can serve as a bridge to cloud

Eighty-eight percent of IT executives, managers and staff describe IT automation as “extremely” or “somewhat” important for achieving their organizations’ objectives, and 93 percent say they’ve completed cloud automation, according to Pica8’s “IT Automation Survey.” The drivers for automating the provisioning and managing of cloud computing workloads include digital transformation, a desire for IT agility and better security.

Automation is “key to seamless cloud migration,” minimizing risks from human error with processes such as workflows, file transfers, P2P and B2B transfers, multi-factor authentication, auditing and reporting, according to JaxEnter article “How automation mitigates security concerns surrounding cloud migrations.”

Consider Five IT automation best practices

IT automation holds serious promise as part of an overall digital transformation strategy. Follow these five best practices to increase your success at adopting IT automation:

  • Choose solutions wisely: Look for automation solutions designed for enterprise network deployments and workflows rather than DevOps workflow-oriented data center tools.

  • Start small: Begin with inexpensive, open networking automation tools with the remote/campus switch deployment, configuration and maintenance capabilities you need to start out.

  • Start simple: Avoid dependence on expensive and scarce network engineers by deploying simpler, GUI-based open networking campus automation tools non-programmers can handle.

  • Challenge your vendor: Ask your networking vendor why you’re paying for a solution stuffed with a bunch of advanced features you don’t need.

  • Consider Linux: Adopt Linux-based open networking to easily integrate with open source campus automation and management tools.

How could IT automation benefit your organization?

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