Automation has historically been one of the most cost-effective ways of doing business. You see it in factories, where automated manufacturing systems produce products quickly and flawlessly. In banking, ATM has become the de facto way of conveniently withdrawing cash for customers, and it’s convenient for the bank tellers too. So it’s not hard to imagine that IT Process Automation will also benefit your IT department as well as your organization as a whole.
So when you should you start? Before you do, here are some factors that you first have to consider:
Do your IT department personnel perform many tasks that are routine and repetitive? These are tasks that follow a type of activity that can be verified by a set of rules. You’ll probably find a lot of these tasks, which you can then automate.
- One simple task that automation can do more efficiently is the simple routing of PDF files and forms to the right recipients.
- Work load automation is another good example of this. You can use a program that automatically uses automated provisioning to avoid cloud resource conflicts between different groups and tasks, and to respond to resource shortages so that tasks can be completed on time.
- Similar programs can also be used for application development and testing. You have to provision various resources such as storage, databases, and operating systems so your developers can build and test. If you’re using a DevOps approach, then you can make sure that your Development, Operations, and Quality Assurance departments are working seamlessly.
- You may also find programs that can help with Orchestration. This is a bit different from simple automation. You can automate tasks more easily, but orchestration is about automating workflows and processes.
- IT security can also be enhanced by automation. For example, your company may leave internal systems up and open and authorized users can log on and off. But sometimes users forget to log off. This represents a potential security breach, and it’s also a waste of energy.
A simple program that automatically signs off a user work station that’s been idle for 10 or 15 minutes can solve this. The program can even automatically record user activity as well.
- Automation can also be used for failure detection. For areas with lots of computing equipment, the temperature and humidity must be monitored, and that can be done with sensors and software.
Other programs can detect signs of wear in hardware components like servers and disk drives, so you can deal with them without having to undergo significant downtime.
- It’s now common for many IT departments to automate nightly processing tasks such as routine system backups.
- Automation can also help with proper data storage. For greater efficiency, you need different data storage solutions for different types of data. You may want to use solid state disks for real time access to data. Some of your data may be rarely (or even never) accessed, so you should use cheap, slow, and reliable cold storage disk drives. You can then use your standard disk drives for data that doesn’t need real time access.
Automation can take care of all that. These programs can sense and determine how often certain data are accessed, so they can then asses the appropriate storage solution.
Costs of Automation
Of course, there is the cost of the software to consider. Can your business afford these various tools? There are a lot of automation programs out there.
But the costs aren’t limited to software prices. You also have to do several tasks to prepare your IT department for automation, and these tasks may also cost your business.
You have to rewrite your company procedures and policies, and you have to check these changes for government compliance. You have to change the workflow in your data center to factor in the automation. You will have to retrain or redirect your IT people to work with the new software and procedures.
At the same time, you need to compute your labor costs for all these tasks that will be automated. It’s one thing to automate routine tasks that highly paid people are doing, when they have better things to do with their expertise and time. But it may become more expensive for you when you already have low-paid and low-skilled workers doing these repetitive tasks.
Here you have to study other benefits that may result, aside from labor costs. Your use if automation can result in the following:
- You can produce more of the products your company is making, or you can do a greater amount of work.
- The quality of the products and the services you offer may improve tremendously.
- You can produce fewer errors, and you can provide services and products to clients more quickly.
These can offer considerable benefits to your bottom line, and they can justify the switch to automation even if the costs are a bit higher.
Legal and Social Acceptance
Historically, there’s always been a level of resistance to any type of change in any environment, and the workplace is no exception. Some people in your IT department may not want to do things differently.
There’s also the familiar threat that automation can cost people their jobs. Morale may suffer, especially when you reduce the number of people in the IT department because many of their tasks are now being performed by automation software.
Automation doesn’t really mean that in the end there are no people in your IT department because it’s fully automated. You’ll find out that you will still need people there to manage things, and to come up with creative solutions that simple automation can’t do.
But with automation, your IT department becomes more efficient while your costs are reduced. Your business basically works better for less money, and that’s something you should always want.
So when will your IT department start setting up automation software? That’s up to you if you’re the boss, but you may want to start now. Why waste time?