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Adopting Automation: Don’t Sacrifice Strategy for Speed

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Like multi-cloud, automation can be (and should be) strategic. 

In a perfect IT world, we would see the smooth road of (internal) digital transformation follow a predictable path to success. It would start with the selection of platforms and toolsets with which operational tasks could be automated and processes orchestrated. With the successful implementation of such a strategy, IT would free up resources to focus on innovation and come together with business leaders to drive the (external) digital transformation train full steam ahead.  

All too often we see something much different. We see automation begin in closeted pockets around the organization, the beginnings of potholes in the road. Each pocket choose its own toolsets and platforms and maybe even languages. There is little communication nor is there a concerted effort to collaborate. IT groups stake out mile markers and defend them with the fervor of MacArthur in the south Pacific during World War II.

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There is chaos. Operational silos appear. Each one hoards its toolsets and carefully crafted scripts with Scrooge-like glee. All are different. None are easily integrated, in spite of needing to work in concert to deliver apps across IT and out, into the public cloud.

Eventually, something happens (usually a Very Bad Thing™) that forces IT leadership to acknowledge that it has a problem. They have no plan - no strategy – moving forward on how to merge all the disparate automation tools and platforms in use. They have approached automation tactically, and fallen into its use accidentally.

The architectural debt is mounting. The technical debt is overwhelming.

Organizations that sought to relieve pressure on operations discover that they have contributed to what amounts to automation anarchy. Getting it under control will take time, cost money, and disrupt the digital transformation train already in progress.

Because it’s happening already.

 

 

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Our State of Application Delivery 2018 is clear. Automation and orchestration are responses to digital transformation initiatives. Fifty-five (55%) percent of respondents indicated they were employing automation and orchestration as a result of digital transformation programs in their organizations.

And they aren’t fooling around with it.

Only 17% claim they aren’t using automation at all in production. More than half (53%) are using it either partially or fully in production. And the remaining 31% are piloting right now. 

But that doesn’t mean they’re doing it strategically. It doesn’t mean that different departments and business units aren’t adopting different toolsets and platforms that will wreak havoc later on. It doesn’t mean that they’re all using the same repositories to store their automation artifacts. And it doesn’t mean that they’ve considered the impact of the inevitable multi-cloud world in which they will need to operate on those choices.

Some organizations are standardizing. Half (50%) of respondents are employing only one network automation framework. Another 36% use two. That’s a good thing, but there’s still the 14% who use three or more different systems. If that’s a strategic decision, great. That’s a form of standardization. But if it’s not – and it’s driven by disparate business units or departments or a laissez-faire approach to automation – then it’s incurring both architectural and technical debt that will result in a reckoning in the future.

Consider carefully how you’re moving forward with automation and orchestration. The choices you make today will impact your ability to sustain it and innovate in the future. And given the business’ increasing reliance on IT to help drive success in a digital economy, that impact is far more critical than it may appear.

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