With the amount of work assigned to IT teams increasing by the day—and few staffing increases in sight—forward-thinking IT decision-makers need to ensure they’re prioritizing automation technologies in the enterprise. In fact, Gartner predicts that by 2019, “75 percent of enterprises will have more than six diverse automation technologies within their IT management portfolios.”
We’re not naive. Finding the time to implement automation alongside your company’s day-to-day tasks can prove challenging. But as IT decision-makers, it’s the key to increasing your return on investment and growing the business in the future.
Automate the obvious
To start the automation process, it’s best to target the low-hanging fruit. These areas are the least challenging to implement and the benefits can be seen right away by the organization and any nosy business decision-makers. Deploying better solutions, such as smart printers and copiers, can help prove that automating key tasks is effective and provides a solid return.
Rather than pushing out printer drivers to your organization, modern devices are cloud-connected and can provide real-time information about their usage, as well as ordering their own replacement toner and paper. These devices, like your data center hardware, are full of sensors that help your team assess the status of the hardware and make decisions before something goes wrong.
Just as you monitor the temperature of your servers, you can monitor paper levels or part status so you can catch wear and tear early on. It’s an area most people don’t even consider, but a small amount of thought and effort in this area can save your staff hundreds of hours they might otherwise spend troubleshooting devices. With all this time saved, your IT team can instead focus on strategies to innovate.
Another focus area is resource provisioning. As your organization develops apps—or tests new ones—making resources available for developers can be a tedious, time-consuming task, which makes it great for automation. Automated resource provisioning, like offering a form that automatically provides developers with virtual machines based on their answers, means your staff isn’t performing highly repetitive tasks that a machine could whiz through.
Move up the chain
As you move up the chain it gets a little more difficult, but the investment payoffs grow larger. In a world of BYOD initiatives, patching has been sidelined, but it’s easier than ever to automate this task across both your own hardware and those being brought into the office.
New solutions, like mobile device management (MDM) platforms, can require all devices that touch your network to be updated and automatically deliver patches device by device. All your users need to do is connect, and the system does the rest—or warns your team if something goes wrong. These same systems can warn you when your network is vulnerable to a virus or intrusion. Rather than requiring your staff to manually verify you’re secure when a new vulnerability is discovered, MDM platforms ensure that devices prone to attack can’t connect until they’re protected.
The most obvious area to automate, though, is disaster recovery. This might sound difficult, but it’s key: If there’s a disaster—maybe a fire in the data center or an earthquake near your office—you should be able to simply press a button to begin the process of completely recovering your systems. A disaster with extended downtime is one area where it’s more expensive not to automate recovery. Automating the process means that when something goes wrong, and your team is spread thinner than usual, the process can be handled with little manual intervention.
Pick your battles
The benefits of automation are clear—especially when you consider the sheer number of opportunities available to increase efficiencies and streamline processes. The big thing with IT automation, however, is choosing your battles: Write down your most obvious areas for automation and decide which ones you can invest in, and try your best to demonstrate return on investment. You’ll probably find there are a number of areas, like printers, that can be focused on immediately.
Any task that’s repetitive and predictable can and should be automated. As your team gets busier but lacks new resources, setting up your own automation nation will alleviate workloads and ensure you retain IT personnel.