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December 15, 2011
4 Min Read
InformationWeek Green - Dec. 19, 2011
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Data Center Automation
Shifting spending from IT operations to innovation and meeting business needs more quickly should be key goals for every CIO. One way to do this is with a highly virtualized data center. But IT won't get the staff efficiency gains and cost savings from virtualization unless it automates more of the work IT does.
The message is starting to get through: 36% of the 345 business technology professionals we surveyed are already using process automation tools, while 32% have an implementation project under way.
Faster response time to service requests is the top process automation impact, cited by 25% of tech pros surveyed who have fully deployed process automation tools. Others cited reduced errors and shifting staff to new activities--which means freeing IT to focus on higher-value projects. Cash savings, though, can be elusive: Just 11% cut staff, and 5% cite cost reduction as a key impact of process automation.
Despite the lack of hard savings, private clouds are driving a new interest in automation; IT just can't deliver the highly scalable and more flexible virtualized data centers without it. Public cloud environments, in contrast, add complexity to process automation, as workloads tend to be set up in silos, but emerging cloud-broker technology provides a potential solution.
The difficulty IT faces with a process automation project will largely depend on its systems: The more standardization, the easier automation will be. Lots of homegrown applications and complicated workflows will increase the difficultly. Yet it's still worth pursuing. IT leaders must get a better grip on strategic challenges like better governance and cloud integration, but tech teams at the same time can identify small-scale projects for quick wins in 90 days or fewer, like integrating hiring and firing processes with Active Directory.
The Governance Mandate
Automation must start with governance--a process for aligning IT and business priorities and then ensuring that execution follows a well-defined process. It's discouraging that only 45% of IT pros who use or plan to deploy IT automation tools say governance is extremely important in process automation. That number should be higher.
Governance frameworks such as Six Sigma, ISO 9001, ITIL, and CMMI can provide a significant head start in helping standardize and formalize processes. These frameworks won't meet all of IT's needs, but they can significantly reduce the time to establish core process areas.
Two great candidates for automation are configuration and change management. Automating these can help reduce errors in the infrastructure and eliminate a lot of manual effort to keep systems up and running.
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Research: IT Process Automation Process Before Tools
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About the Author(s)
CEO, Fusion PPT
As CEO of Fusion PPT, Michael Biddick is responsible for overall quality and innovation. Over the past 15 years, Michael has worked with hundreds of government and international commercial organizations, leveraging his unique blend of deep technology experience coupled with business and information management acumen to help clients reduce costs, increase transparency and speed efficient decision making while maintaining quality. Prior to joining Fusion PPT, Michael spent 10 years with a boutique-consulting firm and Booz Allen Hamilton, developing enterprise management solutions. He previously served on the academic staff of the University of Wisconsin Law School as the Director of Information Technology. Michael earned a Master's of Science from Johns Hopkins University and a dual Bachelor's degree in Political Science and History from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Michael is also a contributing editor at InformationWeek Magazine and Network Computing Magazine and has published over 50 recent articles on Cloud Computing, Federal CIO Strategy, PMOs and Application Performance Optimization. He holds multiple vendor technical certifications and is a certified ITIL v3 Expert.
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