Automation is increasingly being considered a core component of an IT operations strategy, with more than two-thirds of business leaders launching automation initiatives for IT operations management in 2022.
IT operations management, cloud operations, and IT service management topped the list of IT functions leaders are eager to automate, according to a Gatepoint Research report, which was commissioned by Resolve Systems.
Two-thirds of respondents said they are already deploying IT automation to cut costs, troubleshoot, and speed service delivery, while 44% are using IT automation for self-service for end users.
There is a growing sense that automation efforts will become even more important heading into 2023 — 29% of respondents replied that increasing automation in the coming year is extremely important.
How Staffing Shortages Are Hindering Automation Efforts
However, many businesses lack sufficient human capital to implement and realize automation projects, with more than three-quarters of survey respondents citing talent and staffing shortages as their top challenge.
For Vijay Kurkal, CEO of Resolve Systems, there were two interesting and particularly surprising findings that stood out to him.
First, he said, it was assumed that the top challenge in these times would be related to managing costs and reducing headcount, as many companies have been resorting to the last several months.
"So, it was surprising that the survey revealed the top challenge as not being able to find the IT staff and technical skill sets needed to progress the business further, and thus the reason to seek out automation solutions," he said.
Unsurprisingly, a byproduct of filling this gap is also gaining operational efficiencies that lead to cost savings, he added.
In 2021, half of IT leaders cited lack of technical skill sets as their No. 1 challenge, and in 2022, more than three-quarters (76%) reported IT talent shortage as their main obstacle.
"It was also interesting to see that the need for automation is expanding from a single IT problem, impacting one team or department, to crossing functional boundaries across the historically siloed organizations within IT," Kurkal said. "Now, it's clear that IT automation is not just for IT service management and automating service requests."
It also brings efficiencies to the NetOps and ITOps teams, he pointed out.
In 2021, for example, 42% of IT leaders were automating service desk requests, whereas in 2022, 45% looked to automate across the entire IT operations function.
"Wherever you sit in IT, whether operations, service management, network operations, or cloud operations, automation provides a lever for change," Kurkal said. "For automation to be successful, it should not just be looked at as a technology introduction. This touches all three aspects of an organization's foundation: people, process, and technology."
Wanted: Employees with Automation-First Mindset
The customers who have been successful with automation have not only picked the strategic tool for the job but have also invested in upskilling their people to ensure they operate with an automation-first mindset, he said.
"Regardless of the macroeconomic trends impacting enterprises across the world, a business still needs to grow, if not at least keep the lights on," Kurkal noted.
Whether it's the shift to remote working, the demand for digital, or increasing security threats, automation has emerged as the capability that IT can rely on to scale.
"The best automations are those in which the value equation is higher," he said. "Find a high-volume task or a process to automate to show value for the business and for IT."
As the report indicates, the most common ones to prioritize are IT operations management — for example, use cases such as infrastructure provisioning, testing, incident resolution, and proactive maintenance.
"By implementing automation, organizations build both resiliency and agility in the organization's people, processes, and technology, enabling them to weather whatever the changing landscape may bring them," Kurkal said.
He pointed out that in 2021, less than half of IT leaders were planning on implementing automation within 12 months.
"In 2022, the number increased to more than half of IT leaders that were planning on implementing automation," he said. "The power of automation is beginning to reach a tipping point."
Kurkal cautioned that those that don't adopt automation will be left behind, whereas those that make automation integral to their strategy will thrive in the age of digital transformation — and indefinite uncertainty.
Automation Benefits Both IT Workers and End Users
The best way to justify investment is to show business value creation, he said.
"Oftentimes, the term 'ROI' is used, but this is usually associated with a dollar value, and that's only a small, short-sighted part of the picture," he explained.
While automation does help reduce costs, looking at business value is a more expansive approach that should include cost plus additional tangible and intangible benefits.
For example, automating a ticket resolution process not only frees up a skilled IT worker's time but also enables the problem to be solved faster, delivering a much better experience for the customer or end user.
"Multiply this by the frequency of such tickets or events, and now you have a rich composite picture of measurable outcomes," Kurkal said. "There's a cost benefit, time saved, productivity enhanced, higher customer experience satisfaction, and valuable IT talent that can be repurposed to drive business innovation."
About the authorNathan Eddy is a freelance writer for ITPro Today. He has written for Popular Mechanics, Sales & Marketing Management Magazine, FierceMarkets, and CRN, among others. In 2012 he made his first documentary film, The Absent Column. He currently lives in Berlin.