Research: IT Automation

Jun 06, 2011


Bending the 80/20 Barrier: Automation Is Just the Start

As the economy recovers, IT is caught in a squeeze between requests for new applications, services and device support and demands from upper management to keep budgets lean, staffing light and operations tight. These are irreconcilable objectives as long as we spend the vast majority of our resources on legacy services—a variant  on the familiar 80/20 rule, whereby 80% of IT’s time, effort and dollars are spent on routine “keep the lights on” activities with only 20% going to develop new services and applications.

Our InformationWeek Analytics 2011 IT Automation Survey shows that, while automation is an important pillar of a larger IT management strategy to bend the rule in favor of greater business-enhancing innovation, it’s no panacea and must be coupled with a shift to an IT services portfolio, more rigorous IT governance using industry best practices with clear service and process definitions, and a reassessment of which services IT should deliver internally vs. outsourcing.

While enterprise-class automation suites have been around for years, adoption hasn’t exactly spread like wildfire. Our survey shows that just 45% of respondents use automation software, with an additional 40% exploring the idea. And unfortunately, the definition of “run book automation” is in the eye of the beholder, since a large plurality of those who have automated are using homegrown software. Now, we’re sure a few of these systems approximate the capabilities of commercial run book software. But let’s face it, most are sets of quick hacks admins have patched together and reused.

One reason to consider buying automation software is that it now does more than just repeatably complete administrative tasks. It also provides a platform for capturing, organizing and reusing unstructured IT knowledge, like novel solutions to common help-desk problems or lessons learned from application pilot tests, further mproving our operational efficiency. In fact, our survey shows most IT organizations have ample opportunity to improve operational efficiency through automation—and that there’s plenty of potential for growth in the automation software market.

Still, not everything that can be automated should be. With today’s abundance of MSPs, cloud service providers and SaaS applications, it’s often better to let someone else do routine IT tasks, such as front-line end user support or email. If you can’t identify where your internal staff adds unique business value or security, you should at least launch a cost analysis on outsourcing. Collectively, automating some internally delivered services and opportunistically outsourcing or cloudsourcing others can boost that 20% development ratio by 10% or more.

In this report, we’ll analyze the state of IT automation: where it’s most frequently applied, implementation barriers and the benefits it brings to the enterprise. We’ll examine gaps in automation deployment and spotlight areas, such as virtual server provisioning, routine system maintenance and user management, where we should be increasing use.  (R2780611)

Survey Name: InformationWeek Analytics 2011 IT Automation Survey
Survey Date: April 2011
Region: North America
Number of Respondents: 388; respondents screened into the survey as being involved with IT automation technologies

Research Report