Why IT Automation Must Be Designed to Accommodate Change

Tue, Nov 12, 2013 @ 07:11 AM

IT Automation Strategy

IT Automation Drives Digital Change

Never before have IT organizations been under more pressure to change, both from internal and external forces alike. Changing IT environments, new compliance and regulatory demands, the 24/7 consumer or trying to gain a competitive advantage within the marketplace… these unpredictable forces thrust change on the demand and capacity of enterprise IT infrastructure. It’s resulting in an increasing rate of change to the systems and processes that the modern IT organization is responsible for. IT automation is no exception to this.

IT organizations typically adopt an “elemental” approach to IT automation: a fragmented collection of scripts and platform-specific scheduling tools. These uncoordinated automation solutions, developed independently of each other, require constant revision and re-synchronization in the face of change, thereby increasing IT operational costs and diminishing staff productivity and efficiency.

An "elemental" automation strategy is one that’s built to last, not designed for change. That philosophy is reflected in the predominate tool for automation: the script. Scripts are like concrete, they’re solid at first, but start to crack and become brittle over time. Writing and updating scripts consumes time and resources and when it comes time to update, the developer that wrote the script has often moved on. 

Automate Without Scripts

Modern IT automation solutions must be designed for change by going beyond being a “script wrapper” to provide a true IT Automation platform that provides scalability and flexibility by allowing the IT organization to move beyond scripting. Many of today’s legacy job schedulers are script-driven solutions that often require common IT and business workflows, and associated job properties, constraints, triggers, flow control and workflow logic, to be hard coded by a developer.

Script-driven job schedulers erect barriers to the building and modification of IT operational and business processes. According to recent research by Gartner and Forrester Research, the modern workload automation solution should provide a library of production-ready job steps for common IT functions, applications, data sources and platforms, thus removing the end user of the burden of building and maintaining scripts and placing it squarely on the shoulders of the vendor. This library is combined with a dynamic workflow designer that utilizes a drag-and-drop GUI and automation architecture, thereby allowing the end user to focus on driving innovation via IT automation as opposed to writing and QA’ing lines of code.

This same functionality should extend to the inclusion of web services, APIs and other connectors to allow a workload automation solution to easily “plug-in” to custom third-party applications and data sources that may comprise a batch process the organization is looking to automate.

Automate Business Intelligence

A perfect example of where an automation solution that’s designed for change applies to a real-world use case is the concept of “agile BI.” The democratization of BI and reporting solutions throughout the modern enterprise is placing increasing pressure on IT organizations to build or continually update the underlying data integration processes that feed these reporting solutions. We hear this scenario from financial services customers who leverage ActiveBatch to automate overnight batch processes that pull data from third-party data sources (such as Reuters or Bloomberg), process and format that data and update their trading desk systems/applications by the start of the next business day. As new data sources are identified or traders and analysts require access to new data sets and reports, the ability of the IT organization to quickly respond to update the underlying data integration processes becomes more than just a task that requires completion, but a competitive advantage for the firm.

As we talked about in a previous post about IT Automation and Big Data, the use of scripting and platform-specific scheduling tools builds barriers to garnering the benefits from concepts such as “agile BI.” Custom-coding, testing and validating data warehousing, ETL or analytic/scoring processes can take weeks or even months, by which time the business is requesting a new set of reports.

By leveraging an automation solution that's designed for change, the business gets the return on investment they'd been looking for when they invested in BI & reporting by allowing IT to reduce latency and increase data quality.

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