IT teams are automating faster than ever. But without a coherent strategy, automation loses its power.
Automation in IT
In a recent study by Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), 56% of respondents reported having “too many scheduling and automation tools in place.”
This statistic isn’t too surprising, but as the study continues, it becomes part of a paradox.
It turns out that 75% of the study’s participants (56% of whom have too many automation tools) have recently purchased new automation tools and are likely to agree (strongly) with the assertion that “the need for automation is growing”.
Which means that the study’s participants —automation veterans from large companies— have recently procured new automation tools, believing they need more automation, yet simultaneously believe that they have too many automation tools.
This would hurt even Watson’s head.
Why IT Must Automate
Faced with growing workloads, discordant catalogs of tools, and an IT Skills Gap, IT teams have turned to IT Automation to better coordinate tools and to build more efficient workflows (among other things), saving themselves valuable time and resources.
Meanwhile, business teams that need faster data and more efficient processes are requesting that IT provide automation solutions. Automation is critical to scaling, and has therefor become essential to many of the critical, day-to-day processes that organizations rely on. Without automation, there wouldn’t be digital transformation.
“It is clear that organizations feel the need to automate and are doing so as fast as they can,” EMA’s President and COO, Dan Twing, recently wrote in the summary accompanying EMA’s research.
IT needs automation like a modern car needs an electric starter: without it, no one’s getting anywhere.
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What Causes IT Automation Sprawl?
IT is responsible for managing and maintaining the digital tools, processes, software, applications, and hardware that organizations rely on to complete critical, day-to-day work. And IT isn’t just doing this for the organization —IT is doing this for teams across the organization.
In the EMA study referred to above, 60% of respondents were using multiple Workload Automation tools, and about half of them were doing so because “different business teams require different scheduling tools to achieve objectives.”
Organizations rarely maintain homogeneous environments. Which means that to serve teams across the organization, IT must manage and maintain a catalog of incongruent, incompatible tools, hardware, platforms, and operating systems: IT creates automation sprawl by implementing different automation tools for separate digital environments throughout the organization.
Problems Caused by Automation Sprawl
IT Automation sprawl (similar to the Elemental Approach) has a few downsides. By using different automation solutions for separate environments, IT effectively establishes (or reinforces) tech silos. Silos make it difficult to pass data, information, and dependencies between environments, slowing down workflow integrations, hampering cooperation, and making it difficult to coordinate processes.
Most IT automation solutions are not meant to easily integrate with other automation tools, and often have narrow integration capabilities, working well with only a handful of other tools. Because of this, IT teams will spend significant time writing, testing, and re-writing scripts to get different automation tools and tech silos to communicate. This limits the scalability and responsiveness that IT teams can offer organizations.
Additionally, automation sprawl soaks up resources. For example, if an IT team is using three Workload Automation solutions, five native schedulers, and an array of custom scripts, a lot of time will be spent training enough team members to cover each tool.
How to Fix IT Automation Sprawl
Automation sprawl happens because business teams require diverse and incompatible tools that rely on different infrastructure hardware, platforms, and operating systems.
To accommodate the diverse tools businesses require, IT needs to take an Architectural, Layered Approach to IT Automation. This new approach calls for IT to center their automation strategy around a single Workload Automation solution that provides both prebuilt job steps and API accessibility.
By implementing an automation solution that comes prepared with a full library of job steps, IT can quickly build workflows and manage dependencies between disparate technologies and applications, with minimal scripting. It is also possible to turn APIs into reusable Job steps, without scripting, allowing developers to integrate with nearly any technology.
With the right workload automation tool, IT teams can easily integrate applications, tools, and platforms, passing data and information across the organization while managing the coordinated environments from a single window.
Talk about scalability!
What steps has your team taken to limit automation sprawl?
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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.