Businesses today depend on IT to achieve business objectives and gain a competitive advantage in their respective industries. However, as companies have been transitioned to a largely remote workforce, IT technicians have even more on their plates. Staffing cuts could make matters much worse. By leveraging the power of IT automation, IT teams can boost their productivity and keep the business running smoothly.
What Is IT Automation?
This Red Hat article defines IT automation, sometimes referred to as infrastructure automation, as the use of software to create repeatable instructions and processes to replace or reduce human interaction with IT systems.
Many software tools in the market support the automation of IT processes with minimal intervention from IT technicians. For example, remote monitoring and management (RMM) and endpoint management tools typically provide IT automation capabilities.
Policy-based IT automation involves the use of policies that guide automation to implement IT best practices and standardize processes across the environment. Policies guide IT automation and apply standardization by:
- Defining what to monitor — events and/or conditions (states) on the endpoint, in the case of RMM and endpoint management solutions.
- Defining the actions to be taken when an event/condition occurs — set alarms, execute scripts (aka “agent procedures”), create a service ticket or send an email notification, for example.
- Specifying the routine processes to be executed and on what schedule — e.g., inventory, patching, and maintenance
- Applying specific sets of policies to individual machines, machine groups or organizations, as needed.
What Are the Advantages of IT Automation?
IT automation offers many benefits to the IT department and the organization as a whole. A few benefits are as follows:
Lower IT Costs
Internal IT teams and managed service providers (MSPs) are always looking to reduce IT operational costs so that they can leverage a larger portion of their budget for strategic IT initiatives. According to Kaseya’s 2019 State of IT Operations Survey Report, “Reducing IT Costs” is the second highest priority for IT teams. (See graphic below). Automating IT helps reduce operating costs by enabling a smaller team of technicians to manage a larger IT environment. This is often referred to as having a higher endpoint-to-technician ratio. Personnel costs are typically the biggest portion of the overall IT budget, so a higher endpoint-to-technician ratio pays big dividends.
Increased IT Operational Efficiency
With many routine tasks automated, IT technicians have more time to focus on initiatives, such as digital transformation, that drive business growth and success. As noted in this CIO.com article, CIO Jason James said that he sees automation and process transformation as critical components for creating a competitive advantage since they bring increased efficiencies that reduce costs and allow human talent to shift their focus to higher-level tasks.
Satisfied End Users
With the delivery of repeatable, high-quality IT services and auto-remediation of service tickets, IT automation can improve the user experience. Auto-remediation of service tickets shortens the mean time to resolution (MTTR) of many common IT incidents. This, in turn, is highly correlated with user/customer satisfaction.
Reduced Compliance Risk
Organizations that deal with customer data (pretty much all businesses) must comply with industry regulations, failing which, they could be subjected to not only costly fines and penalties, but also damage to the company’s reputation and market value. By implementing compliance automation, IT teams can rest easy knowing their regulatory requirements are being met.
Which IT Processes Can Be Automated?
Any process that can be handled with a script (agent procedure) can be automated. As the definition of IT automation above implied, a script is simply a set of instructions that can be executed automatically by the agent installed on an IT device. Here are a few examples of IT tasks that can be automated:
- Discovery of assets on a company network – You can automate network discovery by deploying an agent to a single device (computer) on the network. That allows all endpoints on the network to be discovered and then the process of deploying an agent to each endpoint can also be automated. With all of the agents installed, all devices are now under management by the endpoint management tool.
- Software updates and patching on all devices, on- and off-network – Increase your team’s efficiency and improve IT security by automating software patch management across Windows, macOS and third-party applications. Patching is critical to the security of your IT environment. Strive to apply critical security patches within 30 days of public availability. An automated patch management process makes this very doable.
- Data backup to the cloud or an onsite appliance – Avoid downtime and disruption by automating backup and disaster recovery processes.
- Remediation of common IT incidents – Auto-remediate common issues such as printer errors, low disk space, password resets, and more. Any incident that can be resolved via an agent script can be auto-remediated.
- Compliance reporting – Stay in compliance and have the reports you need to demonstrate compliance.
IT automation, when done right, is a boon to IT teams. It improves reliability while relieving them of tedious manual tasks and enables the company to scale efficiently. Want to learn more about which processes you can automate that can benefit your company? Download our checklist 7 Processes to Automate to Improve Productivity and Reduce IT Costs.