Over the last couple of years, we have seen the importance of automation in IT operations grow significantly. These automations are targeted towards enabling faster, efficient, and error-free operations. However, such use-case driven automation requires human efforts to complete the end-to-end operational activities, which are not covered by the automated use cases.
The key issue with the dependency on human resources for driving day-to-day operations is the overhead involved in resource planning, fulfillment, allocation etc., which brings with it many inefficiencies to the operations. On top of it, the risk of manual error during production changes will always remain and significant overheads will be added in terms of process to mitigate the risk. Such processes in turn, slow down the rate of change and impact the time to market for the changes required by business.
So, instead of focusing on individual use cases, if the focus of automation changes to automate all the activities that are to be performed by a role, we will be able to conceive the idea of IT operations that is run by technology for the most part and human intervention is used only where absolutely necessary. This will pave the way for zero touch operations eventually.
In situations, like the current COVID-19 crisis, when most of the workforce are working from home, technology-managed operations are better for the business.
Some of the benefits that we can realize through the role-based automation approach are:
- More efficient operations with a much higher throughput
- Ability to scale operations without delay
- Error-free operations without risk of human errors
- Standardization across the board with enforced best practices
- Higher availability of services
The need to identify apt roles for automation
We know that the roles in IT operations are defined based on the combination of technology, process and level of complexity. In order to get automation to execute the activities of a role, the activities performed by a role have to be re-assessed and re-aligned such that what can and must be done through technology are separated from those which require human intervention. By doing so, it will become obvious what kind of roles are more amenable to be driven through automation. This will also help us utilize human resources optimally, adding more value to the operations where applied.
While the idea of role-based automation seems interesting, one needs to be judicious in selecting the right role to be automated. The selection of the right kind of roles will go a long way in making this approach effective and sustainable. Some of the typical roles that could align with this approach are:
Infrastructure tower operations
Multiple towers make up the infrastructure operations. These towers, be it within data center, network, cloud etc., have many roles defined which fit well with this approach. These become the first area of choice to create role-based automation
Standard software platform operations
Standard enterprise software platforms with respect to ERPs, CRMs, ecommerce etc., have many roles that are aligned to this approach. Standard operational activities are performed in each of these areas that can be transformed into an automated process.
Domain specific operations
There are multiple roles in every domain that have standard operating procedures that leverage technology for e.g. in manufacturing, the production process is managed through various technologies and there are human resources deployed to manage the same using these technologies. Such roles are mostly amenable to the idea of role-based automation.
Steps to role-based automation
Step1: Identify activities of a role
One can follow the process shown in Figure 1 to come up with the list of activities to be included as part of the identified role.