But what exactly is an automation architect supposed to be doing, and how do you know if your company needs one?
Departments within an organization are often left to pursue automation solutions independent of larger, enterprise-wide initiatives. This lack of oversight and institutional control can impede cross-silo cooperation and the sharing of data. As various departments implement a wide range of automation solutions, IT teams are stuck managing and supporting a bevy of new and legacy tools, without any standard policies to reference.
This is what automation architects are supposed to amend.
What Does an Automation Architect Do?
Ideally, an automation architect is there from the beginning, like the conductor who also writes the score and hires the musicians. Ideally….
Regardless, an automation architect works closely with not just the CIO, whom he/she reports to, but also with the CFO, the CMO, the CTO, etc. – the automation architect collaborates with senior leaders to determine and direct the business’s automation goals.
Once the automation architect has established a set of automation goals, he or she develops an automation roadmap to guide the enterprise-wide implementation of new tools and processes.
It is up to the automation architect to determine what can be automated, and when. For instance, it is often easier and more rewarding, financially, to automate file transfers before automating application releases. But, if those files from the claims department are in dozens of different formats and have had an evolving set of standards over the last 20 years…
This isn’t something you can dump on your IT director.
For the automation architect, standardization is a crucial part of the job. The automation architect sets enterprise-wide, institutional standards and best practices for software configurations, documentation, and testing, with regards to automation. The automation architect also gets to work with his or her company’s compliance and legal teams to determine, for example, retention and business continuity policies for automated workflows.
Aside from establishing enterprise-wide policies and best practices, the automation architect is also an internal advocate for automation. Employees and managers can be reluctant to buy into automation (think job-security concerns and skepticism towards new technologies) and so the automation architect often plays a key role in voicing the benefits of automation.
What Skills Should an Automation Architect Possess?
Communication skills are a must. The automation architect will need to brief business leaders on the opportunities afforded by automation. It is unlikely a CFO is familiar with server tasks and file transfer protocols, but the CFO is going to need to understand his or her options in order for the automation architect to develop an automation workflow that addresses the specific needs of the CFO’s business segment.
Those communication skills aren’t limited to briefing senior leaders. Automation architects often find themselves motivating business partners to implement automation solutions by elucidating the benefits they provide to employees, processes, and growth.
As mentioned, part of the automation architect’s job is to establish goals from which he or she can develop an automation roadmap. Part of the reason for creating these goals is to establish quantifiable KPIs to illustrate progress, success, and ROI. An automation architect should know how to measure and present quantifiable KPIs to prove the benefits of enterprise automation.
Finally, an automation architect needs a deep understanding of current automation tools, processes, and best practices. There’s a reason automation architects are becoming more popular, why enterprise architects and CIOs are not the ones managing automation architecture: enterprise automation is a dynamic, rapidly evolving field demanding its own expertise.
Is an Automation Architect a Good Fit for Your Team?
Whether you work for a Fortune 500 or a mid-sized agency, many of your routine, manual tasks are likely to already be automated. Automated workloads give employees the bandwidth they need to focus on high-priority tasks and long-term goals: Automation is what allows companies to innovate beyond competition.
Every company with automation needs an automation architecture, with someone to manage that architecture. An automation architect has a lot of responsibilities that don’t mesh with the responsibilities of enterprise architects, CIOs, or site reliability engineers. However, that doesn’t mean someone from the IT department can’t move into the automation architect role – or, for a smaller company, that someone can’t assume the additional responsibilities of an automation architect.
There are many benefits to promoting an automation architect from within: that person already knows (or is at least familiar with) the business leaders, the corporate structure, etc. The automation architect needs to understand how the different business segments work together, how data and information flow through the organization, and how existing IT infrastructure can be leveraged to support automation.
What the automation architect position requires is experience in IT infrastructure, communication skills, and a deep understanding of the tools and software that drive enterprise automation. An automation architect needs to know where to find layered automation solutions that are versatile, extensible, and highly compatible with today’s pantheon of enterprise software. An automation architect needs to be able to leverage an automation solution that consolidates and coordinates even the largest IT operations.
Brian is a staff writer for the IT Automation without Boundaries blog, where he covers IT news, events, and thought leadership. He has written for several publications around the New York City-metro area, both in print and online, and received his B.A. in journalism from Rowan University. When he’s not writing about IT orchestration and modernization, he’s nose-deep in a good book or building Lego spaceships with his kids.