One of my favorite stories is about Frankenstein’s monster. Where would we be without the horror camp and delightful comedic knock-offs inspired by that classic? Bride of Frankenstein, Abbot and Costello Meet Frankenstein or Young Frankenstein anyone? I’m off to get my popcorn! I love the iconic, “It’s alive! It’s alive!” and wonder if I can’t change it to “IT’s alive!” and paste it on my office door.
After all—as IT professionals, we too assemble bits and pieces and processes running in our data centers and enterprises and animate them into semblances of intelligence and productivity. But should we? What role should IT Process Automation (ITPA) play in our daily work lives? Are we creating our own monsters?
While walking into work one day, I passed a software engineer with a T-shirt reading, “Go away or I will replace you with a very small shell script.” While the possibility of actually replacing IT staff with scripts is about as remote as Frankenstein’s monster: the necessary process automation behind such a sentiment isn’t that far off. There’s lots that IT Process Automation could be doing—and should be doing to save ourselves time and money.
The truth is, most IT departments are woefully behind the ball when it comes to IT Process Automation. What’s causing this?
• No one is in charge of automation. Since IT Process Automation isn’t focused on by a single individual or department, each IT discipline or line of business attempts to solve their own problems which leads to tons of shadow IT projects and a slew of ITPA solutions of dubious merit.
• Too many ITPA tools inside a single enterprise. While one tool rarely solves every problem, having a mish-mash of non-communicating ITPA tools scattered about your enterprise does as much harm as it does good.
• ITPA has gotten a bad reputation. Nothing kills a project faster than failure and ITPA can go horribly wrong by promising the world and delivering more complexity and headache that the original problems they were designed to solve.
However, following some simple suggestions can help IT departments and enterprises everywhere with their automation strategies.
• Designate or hire an “automation expert” for your enterprise. Having a single person or department focused on solving ITPA problems across your entire enterprise is invaluable and will save you from many pitfalls.
• Choose a single, flexible automation platform to be your enterprise standard. Such a platform should demonstrate:
• Flexibility: The ability to interface with as many systems, applications, and hardware as possible without too much “specialization” in any one task or system.
• Ease of Use: No one wants to have to script every process. Look for tools that allow for easy graphical interfaces and “flow chart” type construction without the need to dive into command lines and coding.
• Customization: Having warned against coding above, paradoxically—you’re going to need the ability to code automation as your ITPA demands expand. A good ITPA platform should be highly customizable through either advanced GUI interaction or diving right down into scripting when needed.
• Start small, dream big. Tackle projects in steps by coming up with a “master plan” to your automation and breaking it down into small projects with identifiable results. While this seems like a no-brainer . . . many ITPA projects get tangled in their own complexity by biting off more than they can chew. Getting base processes down first is a must to your ITPA success.
By following these simple suggestions, you can use ITPA to decrease the amount of time IT staff spends on routine or manual processes, increase business and IT productivity, and decrease resolution times during IT events. ITPA can literally revive your data center. So cue the creepy music and thunder. Start that lightning storm and insert the mad laughter. IT’s alive! IT’s alive!
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