Automation Strategies Are Shaping Up

A combination of older and newer technologies is making a difference in IT workload management. Here are six areas of IT automation that are delivering results today.

Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data

June 3, 2021

5 Min Read
Credit: faithie via Adobe Stock

Over the past 18 months, IT has utilized automation strategies such as robotic process automation and a variety of both centralized and decentralized automation. Which types of automation work best in which usage scenarios?

The answer is that a combination of both older and newer technologies is making a difference in IT workload management. These technologies are saving staff time, printing mistakes, and delivering timely and dependable results.

Here are six areas of IT automation that are delivering results:

1. Low Code, No Code, Flex Code

Since the 1970s, report generators have abstracted application development so end users with little or no programming knowledge could generate their own reports without having to ask IT. The drawbacks were that these self-generated reports added so much superfluous code in the process that run times were extended and compute resources were wasted.

Today, an assortment of no-code and low-code tools still add overhead, but the cost of compute is lower. Add to this a new “flex-code” capability that actually extends the span of what these automated code generators can produce -- because the flex code also enables IT programmers to create raw code in the programming languages of their choice.

This range of automated code generation -- from no to low to high -- is now available on a single platform.

2. Security Detection and Alerts

Automated security intrusion detection and alert systems are now in use on virtually every type of network and system. They are regularly used by IT, not only to respond to the alerts that they generate, but also for the active monitoring of user access points and locations at which specific types of networks, systems and applications are being used.

By reviewing logs that are auto generated by these systems on a daily basis, IT has a good idea of who is accessing which applications and data, and when. This knowledge assists in security monitoring. It also provides guidance on which users and applications are receiving the most access, and at what times of day. This assists IT and end users as they ensure that popular applications are available when employees need them, while seldom used applications and data are designated for decommission.

3. Software Updates and Device Lockdowns

Edge intrusions are one of the most serious security breach points, since edge devices like smart phones are harder to monitor, and their users don’t always secure them.

This is why many companies have now moved to automated software updates that are executed from their networks whenever users sign in with a smart phone and there is a security or a software update. The update is automatically pushed down to the smart phone.

IT uses this automation to ensure that all security and software versions across all devices are in sync. Additionally, the automation software can track mobile devices in the field and lock down a device if it is lost or misplaced.

4. Robotic Process Automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) is still in early stages of implementation at many companies, but it is already solving some of the age-old data entry problems that have cost organizations years of frustration and lost productivity. The frustration comes in when a user must update three separate systems with invoice data because the systems can’t talk to each other.

With RPA automation, user data entry can be emulated. The RPA automatically populates all of the different data entry points and systems with the same data, so the user doesn’t have to rekey it multiple times. Since the RPA does this repetitively and changelessly, there is also no risk of human error.

5. Extract, Transform, Load Software

As a systems integration solution, more organizations are using extract, transform and load (ETL) software to automate the interfaces and data exchanges between systems. These ETL systems operate on set of business rules that are initially defined by IT. Using this pre-defined ruleset, the ETL software automatically extracts data fields from one system, transforms the data fields into the formats they need to be in for the target system, and then loads the resulting data fields into the target system.

Many ETL tools come with hundreds of pre-defined application programming interfaces (APIs), so IT doesn’t t have to hand-code these. System integration is still a major IT challenge -- but with ETL automation, the job is easier.

6. Test Environment Auto Provisioning

It’s a painstaking job to set up test operating systems for purposes of IT application testing. Then, there is the issue of de-provisioning these test environments when testing is over.

Both are unwelcome tasks in IT, where hand-coded scripts for loading OS test environments can introduce errors, and system resources are needlessly consumed by old test environments that IT forgets to de-provision.

Now for Linux and other operating systems, there is automated OS provisioning that an application programmer can trigger at the press of a button. The same auto-provisioned OS can be set with a time at which the OS will automatically de-provision. This takes test environment setup tasks out of the hands of highly paid system programmers and DBAs so they can focus more time on IT planning and production optimization.

Related Content:

How to Get Automation Right

IT Automation: Still Room for Improvement in Some Spots

Automating and Educating Business Processes with RPA, AI and ML


About the Author(s)

Mary E. Shacklett

President of Transworld Data

Mary E. Shacklett is an internationally recognized technology commentator and President of Transworld Data, a marketing and technology services firm. Prior to founding her own company, she was Vice President of Product Research and Software Development for Summit Information Systems, a computer software company; and Vice President of Strategic Planning and Technology at FSI International, a multinational manufacturer in the semiconductor industry.

Mary has business experience in Europe, Japan, and the Pacific Rim. She has a BS degree from the University of Wisconsin and an MA from the University of Southern California, where she taught for several years. She is listed in Who's Who Worldwide and in Who's Who in the Computer Industry.

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