As published in IT Pro Portal.
Digital transformation is everywhere, infrastructure is expanding exponentially, and the role of IT is under increasing pressure to support such growth, with the same resources.
Digital transformation is not just a buzzword. It’s real, it’s happening and there is no escaping it. IT teams strive to propel their businesses towards growth and innovation. That’s why 2019 is all about transformative projects in tech: CIOs are planning to increase their investments in cloud technology (67 per cent), AI and machine learning (54 per cent), and emerging tech vendors (41 per cent).
But why is this occurring and what does it mean for businesses? IT departments feel the need to streamline processes and enhance their efficiency, in order to enable agile operations. The ripple effect of this is set to go beyond IT teams and impact entire businesses: nearly half of the organisations surveyed by KPMG expect to change their product or service offering, or business model in a fundamental way in the next three years to ride the wave of digital transformation.
This is simply because, in today’s ever-evolving landscape, a business’s chance at success lies largely in its ability to change and meet its customers’ volatile demands. Digital transformation is no longer an optional add-on to help an organisation stand out in a saturated market. It is, in fact, a necessity without which businesses can’t hope to keep up with the fierce competition.
It’s an IT operations conundrum
Naturally, innovation brings about complexity and risk. New strategies are often implemented without an increase in budget or IT personnel, so digital transformation puts pressure on already stretched IT teams. Before digital transformation took hold, employees were forced to carry out repetitive, low-value tasks and, while the introduction of new technologies have helped eliminate or reduce these activities, there are still a myriad of monotonous processes every day and a reluctance to “trim the fat”.
Here’s why repetition stands in the way of innovation. Firstly, the IT skills shortage is a real issue and it’s significantly affecting businesses: 67 per cent of global firms feel that the skills shortage is keeping them from progressing at a similar pace to the industry itself. If IT workers are constantly working on tedious, mindless back-office tasks, they miss out on the opportunity to think strategically and learn new abilities, thereby posing a serious challenge to innovation.
If these functions aren’t automated, how can IT teams survive and thrive? Service desks are flooded with requests and have to cope with a wide array of customer demands and expectations, driven by increasingly digital needs; they are also left to navigate an extremely diverse IT environment, with a multitude of technologies in play and changing processes. Finally, the very complexity and scale of today’s IT operations can mean staff are stuck in a never-ending humdrum of reactive, stressful tasks – leaving no time for proactive management, training or upskilling.
As a result, IT teams are too busy solving incidents and dealing with unhappy customers, and innovation – the lifeblood of the modern organisation – goes out the window.
Automation for salvation
The only answer to this conundrum is automation. The automation of back-end procedures produces a myriad of perks that empower IT teams to take control of their operations and overcome the increasing obstacles they face. For example, automating repetitive actions improve customer satisfaction. It can free up IT staff to expand their skill set, thereby helping businesses cope with labour shortage. This will also lead to workers adding more value by carrying out more complex tasks, focusing on organisation and strategy. If machines automate simple jobs, people are free to explore how technology can drive the business forward and take proactive steps towards innovation, rather than simply trying to stay afloat.
Automation can also shelter organisations from security risks: if IT processes don’t run smoothly enough to allow staff to do their job, they’ll seek ways to dodge these obstacles by sidestepping approved procedures and expose the business to security risks. An automated IT back-end not only quickly identifies vulnerabilities, but also helps functions tick along without friction, reducing the need to cut corners that lead to security breaches.
Ultimately, automation saves the business money, time, and improves agility in IT and across the entire organisation. After all, the numbers don’t lie: research shows that 66 per cent of automation processes are “very” or “extremely” successful.
What it takes
To successfully embrace automation, CIOs must get buy-in from senior executives; yet one of the biggest barriers to automation is resistance to change. Approval must come from the top - otherwise, simply automating small tasks can make life easier for the IT team but not drive success across the whole organisation.
In addition, moving towards automation means getting all users onboard early in the process, showing how automation will personally benefit them and uplevel their role -- and ensuring they have the right skills -- and then maintaining a continual flow of communication and improvement of practices. Establishing tangible objectives and metrics can help measure progress and assessing whether the investment has brought the anticipated ROI.
Finally, IT departments wishing to take the path of automation must select the right technology partner. Ideally, CIOs should choose an automation and orchestration platform that works across IT siloes and integrates into the existing IT investments. A flexible solution that scales with an organisation’s needs and appetite for automation is key if service desks want to focus on user experience, adapt to their customers’ volatile needs and be able to choose which tasks can be automated and which could benefit from a human touch. Otherwise, IT teams will face a proliferation of new tools that over time will only add to the complexity, vs reducing it.