Two months ago in this newsletter, we requested your participation in a survey on the topic of IT automation. This week, we offer a look at some of the survey results.In March, Enterprise Management Associates conducted a Web survey to gauge the interest of IT executives and outsourcing companies in emerging technologies for automating IT processes, particularly ongoing maintenance and operations activities. More than 60 companies from a broad range of industries responded, and most are taking a keen interest in automation.About 42% of survey respondents said they are automating IT management and administrative functions "wherever we can." More than 60% are using some form of scripting in their management processes, and nearly a third of respondents said they use technology that triggers automated action when specific thresholds are achieved. Approximately 21% of respondents are using policy-based tools that perform automated actions in the IT operations center.From an outsourcing perspective, however, the most interesting responses were to the questions regarding the motivation for IT automation. When asked to name the two most important near-term benefits of automation, 70% responded "managing more resources with fewer personnel," and almost 40% responded "maintaining high IT service levels." Asked to name the two most important long-term benefits of automation, IT executives gave almost the same response: 60% said "managing more resources with fewer personnel," and 33% said "maintaining high IT service levels."What's striking about these responses is that the same motivations that drive IT organizations to outsourcing are also driving the move toward automation. Improving staffing efficiency and costs - particularly in the current economic environment - is one of the chief reasons why enterprises are re-evaluating their approach to outsourcing, applying internal staff resources to strategic tasks while seeking to outsource tactical and repetitive tasks that take up too much staff time.This same motivation is driving the move toward automation. In fact, when asked the three most important results they wanted automation to deliver, 58% of survey respondents said "handling repetitious operational tasks." Another 44% said "handling repetitious maintenance tasks." Essentially, IT executives are looking to automation for the same reason they often look to outsourcing companies: to offload the time-consuming grunt work.Similarly, IT executives hope that automation will help them improve their overall service levels. Some 58% of respondents said they hoped that automation would deliver "proactive, rather than reactive, management" to their IT environments. Several respondents wrote in additional responses along these lines, such as "improving service level management" and "improving process efficiencies." These responses suggest that IT executives are looking to automation technology to help them break free of old methods of managing IT and achieve marked improvements in service - these are also key drivers behind the decision to outsource.Does the similarity of motivation behind IT outsourcing and IT automation put the two solutions in competition with each other? In some cases, the answer might be yes. If IT management tool vendors can provide technology that automates repetitive processes and eliminates the need for human intervention, then there will be no need to outsource those tasks. If automation can replace internal staff, it can replace external staff as well.However, it is much more likely that IT automation tools and IT outsourcing services will work hand in hand to achieve the goals of better staff efficiency and greater quality of IT service. This survey shows that IT outsourcing service providers could benefit greatly from emerging automation technology designed to help their customers achieve many of the same goals. Perhaps the data shows that outsourcing vendors should be quick to embrace automation technology as a partner - if only to prevent it from becoming a competitor.