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IT Professionals Weigh in on Enterprise Automation

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IT professionals are singing the praises of automation. It’s a transformative technology practice that allows IT to improve agility and the availability of services while liberating IT staff from time-consuming routine tasks. These are essential factors as organizations transition to digital business.

But IT leaders also preach prudence. Automation in IT must be approached with a clear strategy. It must be fully understood, skillfully deployed, and diligently monitored, tested, and optimized.

We reached out to influential IT leaders to learn what factors and best practices organizations should consider in order to realize the maximum benefits of automation in the data center. Here’s what they said.

Automation Earns Interest

Dan Conde (@dconde_esg), cloud and network infrastructure analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, summarizes some of the use cases of automation and its potential to influence enterprise IT:

 Interest in automation has arisen for many reasons. Fundamentally, it is to assist in areas where there are skills shortages or issues related to scale. However, developments like the DevOps style of infrastructure management also contribute to its interest. One way to help is to treat “infrastructure as code” – to help configure and provision systems using DevOps-style tools and scripts. Another important way is to use automation as a way to automate the workflow. This helps integration between different teams - and [Enterprise Strategy Group] research shows integration between network operations and other IT domains to be one of the biggest challenges facing the organization’s networking teams.

Start Smart

Of course, the use of automation will be unique to every organization – which is exactly why each company must make sure it is fully prepared before leaping in. This is a common theme among those that advocate for a deliberate approach.

Automating tasks and orchestrating processes is something that every IT organization should focus on when the time is right. However, before they do, the best thing that IT organizations can do is to ensure that everyone involved gets thoroughly educated on tools/systems that will be used for automation/orchestration as well as the business applications AND users that are involved. You can’t automate what you don’t understand and you can’t automate properly unless you understand automation scripting and tools.

- David Davis (@DavidMDavis), Partner at ActualTechMedia.com

 Businesses considering automation should first take the time to understand their technology processes thoroughly. That discovery process will inform their automation practice.

- Ethan Banks (@ecbanks), co-founder at Packet Pushers

 While the opportunities to automate data center operations are becoming greater every day, IT professionals have to continue to strengthen their own skills to successfully select, implement, and utilize the right automation tools to meet their specific IT and business management needs.

-Jeffrey Kaplan (@thinkstrategies), managing director at THINKstrategies, Inc.

Test and Optimize

IT leaders understand how essential automation will be, but they stress the importance of maintaining a perpetual strategy focused on maximizing the business value that automation can deliver.

 Always start by understanding user requirements and how this impacts the organization. Remember, automation is designed to make both IT and business processes easier. And, a major part of this digital transformation we’re experiencing is because of the digital user. In designing automation for the data center, leverage the technology as a direct tool to help improve overall processes; and, like any tool, make sure to review your automation settings for optimal performance.

- Bill Kleyman (@QuadStack), chief technical officer at MTM Technologies

 Critical to any automation initiative is a reporting system that monitors the system for out-of-scope effects. Automation is critical in virtualized environments to maximize the use of invested assets by avoiding variable HR costs as a factor of total assets invested.

-Jon Freeman (@Wi_FiMAN), vice president WorldWide sales and cloud design

 The best thing you can do when implementing and using automated systems in your business is to test and optimize. A broken system will not delight your customers, and an optimized system will create an enjoyable experience for your customer and deliver better results for your business.

- Robyn Kyberd (@RobynKyberd), digital marketing consultant at Optimise and Grow Online

Don’t Forget the Future

Indeed, automation promises to shake things up. Many organizations that embrace this technology will reap the benefits of increased efficiency and improvements to their products and services—as well as the customer experience they deliver.

But as this transformation takes hold, IT leaders must prepare their teams for a future business environment that may look entirely different than the one they were hired into. Developing and integrating the technologies that will form that future is a big responsibility, and riding it out will require some outside-the-box ideas.

 Or, as Sarah Austin (@sarahaustin), a data scientist and technologist, puts it:

 Companies must sharpen their skills in creative thinking. Automation will replace mundane tasks, which will open more opportunity for creative strategies.

Automation is one of the pivotal tools that will help IT leaders envision and invent the future digital landscape - but only if they approach it with precision and practice it with diligence.

To learn more about automation, visit our blog page on Network World.com

To see how Brocade can help automate your organization, visit us here.

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