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Does IT Have Anything to Fear from Automation?

Automation has been a buzzword of recent weeks–and,  as buzzwords go, quite a fearsome one, replete with World Bank warnings and sufficient general anxiety to get some pundits whispering of a “Silicon Valley backlash.” The general gist of all the coverage was that our species is set to make itself permanently redundant.

Automation and IT, of course, go hand-in-hand. But what about IT automation–that is, the increasing ability to further automate processes within the engine of society’s larger technological transformation? With growing amounts of tasks that previously required some form of manual intervention–such as OS deployments–becoming automated and remotely managed, should IT workers be as nervous as (for instance) taxi drivers regarding the future viability of their livelihoods?

The good news (for IT workers) is that the answer is an emphatic no.

The future is more, not less, complex

The last few decades have seen growing sets of applications and systems. Certainly, we’re not seeing any kind of consolidation of applications–just look at the average phone. Complexity and the rate of change have been increasing for a long time, and it looks like this will continue moving forward.

Take Windows 10 servicing, a significant concern for many organizations setting out on their Windows 10 journey (Juriba and 1E are co-hosting a dedicated webinar on this subject alone later this month): Across the board, you’re looking at increased scale, increased applications, increased pace of change, increased stress on the network, plus more reliance than ever on digital, with ever more severe consequences for organizations if things do wrong.

If you listen, most IT firms in most organizations will tell you that they are barely keeping the lights on. In the meantime, their wider organizations are expecting and demanding more and more from them: In IT, greater automation is needed just to keep up, and the more automation it can introduce, the better chance it has of being able to actually add value to the wider business.

Of course, if someone used to have a day job putting PCs on desks and configuring them, this is something with diminishing relevance. However, with 1,800 applications to manage in an average organization, there’s plenty to do with that time you’ve saved through automation. That’s true across the board.

There are also increasing numbers of IT jobs, such as OS deployment, that, without automation, demand an unnecessary, exorbitant outlay on purely temporary additions to the IT team. U.S. healthcare provider Riverside Health Systems embraced automation around the time of its Windows 7 migration, when it realized it was otherwise looking at having to hire around $600,000 worth of additional, temporary labor. Now the same team has been able to instigate and accelerate its Windows 10 migration, with the same combination of Microsoft SCCM and 1E tools.

Planning for automation

IT, then, should be embracing automation, and for its own sake. How, though, should it approach it? While some lucky organizations (principally new ones) won’t have to negotiate legacy, the vast majority will. These will need to focus on the following things:

  1. Draw up a provisioning strategy

You need to prepare a strategy for provisioning your operating systems and applications, and to be aware that in 5 or 10 years’ time, your estate is likely to be quite heterogeneous.

  1. Get on top of your app sprawl

You need to be able to rationalize, consolidate, to get rid of the noise around your applications. The average enterprise might be managing around 1,800 applications: you need to reduce this number, and then establish which of the remaining apps can be enabled via the cloud.

  1. Stay Current

Last but not least, you need to be secure: You need to Stay Current on all of this. That means establishing an automation strategy for keeping up-to-date with all your software: your OS, your apps, etc. As WannaCry demonstrated all too clearly, it’s never been more important to stay current, and, without automation, this is an extremely tall order.

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 4.11.18 PMStuart Okin is the VP of Product at 1E.

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