The whole concept of IT process automation makes a tremendous amount of sense on paper. In reality, fears over what IT automation means to IT jobs, coupled with a distrust of things they can't actually see working and the high cost of tools, have conspired to slow adoption of IT automation.
But in the wake of a recession that has left many IT organizations short of staff and the rise of cloud computing, more IT organizations are warming up to IT automation.
Cloud computing is significant because it serves to reduce the cost of acquisition of the tools. For example, Quest Software made a version of its tools available as a Quest OnDemand service this week to manage Windows servers and Active Directory, both of which require a lot of manual intervention.
Dmitry Soknikov, director of cloud solutions for Quest Software, says he expects the availability of the company's tools as a service will significantly broaden the appeal of Quest Software's offerings because they will become more affordable in terms of not only the licensing, but also all the IT infrastructure that IT organizations will no longer have to deploy and manage to run a systems management tool.
Similar cloud computing efforts have recently been made by Hewlett-Packard and Shavlik, and it's reasonable to expect there will be many similar services before the year is out.
The rise of IT process automation presents some challenges to internal IT organizations in terms of staffing. But in a downturn, more of them are inclined to look to automation when the business is telling them they are not allowed to hire any more staff.
That, of course, may not sit well with all the IT people who are out of work today. But it should serve as a wake-up call in terms of figuring out how valuable your IT skills might be in an age of increased IT automation. Obviously, automation isn't the answer to every IT problem, and there are plenty of functions where human beings will always add more value. The challenge is going to be figuring out just where a machine adds value versus the man or woman.