The Rise of IT Process Automation

Michael Vizard

There are a lot of these conversations these days about best practices in the land of IT, but the simple fact is that a lot of IT processes are becoming increasingly automated.

Whether the economy is fire on all cylinders or merely just sputtering along, higher levels of automation are a much-needed thing. From a technical point of view, things have never been more complex. And with the advent of virtualization, that complexity is only going to increase.

Meanwhile, on the economic front, the sad truth is that there are fewer IT people on staff. That means we need more automation just to give the remaining IT people a fighting chance at keeping all our complex systems up and running. The downside is that automation could eliminate jobs. If and when that happens, the good news is that there is usually an IT skills shortage somewhere else, assuming that people are willing to acquire the required skills.

None of this trend toward automated IT process management has been lost of systems-management vendors, all of whom seem bent on adding any number of tools into automated management frameworks. The latest of these is ORSYP, which just acquired Sysload Software. ORSYP is a provider of workload automation and job-scheduling software, while Sysload developed real-time performance and capacity-anagement software. This follows a few short days after CA announced it was acquiring NetQoS.

The <strong>very nature of the IT profession is changing right before our eyes</strong>. We have used IT to automate every single process imaginable, save one. The one exception to IT automation has always been the IT process itself. Now we're witnessing the automation of those processes at an accelerated rate, thanks to a number of technical and economic factors.

The only question now isn't whether we will automate IT, but rather to what degree?

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Sep 17, 2009 10:06 AM Lew Smith Lew Smith  says:

I agree that there is definitely a trend forming quickly as it relates to automating IT processes. The changes in the IT landscape that are occurring have begun to force this change.

Specifically, virtualization is the largest game changer and biggest need for such automation. Server sprawl has turned into VM sprawl. Greater environment agility has spawned new capabilities and advantages that require detailed levels of tracking. Integrating your existing change management system with another 3rd party system, taking advantage of a centralized CMDB, is a must. Intelligent categorization of systems and updates to your physical change management process have to be taken into consideration.

The long and short of it is that many companies do not recognize this need and begin to see issues/bottlenecks in their existing processes as they consolidate their environment. Emergency change procedures that worked with your original physical infrastructure need to be updated to handle certain changes in a different fashion. Looking into and categorizing automated change notifications, rather than submitting a change request for every change, has to be considered.

Lew Smith

Interphase Systems


Sep 17, 2009 12:19 PM Louis Paternoster Louis Paternoster  says:

When you use the phrase "labor shortage" or "skills shortage" you're speaking in a sentence fragment.  What you actually mean to say is:  "There is a labor shortage at the salary level I'm willing to pay."  That statement is the correct phrase; the complete sentence and the intellectually honest statement.

Employers speak about shortages as though they represent some absolute, readily identifiable lack of desirable services. Price is rarely accorded its proper importance in their discussion.

If you start raising wages and improving working conditions, and continue doing so, you'll solve your shortage and will have people lining up around the block to work for you even if you need to have huge piles of steaming manure hand-scooped on a blazing summer afternoon. 

Re:  Shortage caused by employees retiring out of the workforce:  With the majority of retirement accounts down about 50% or more, most people entering retirement age are working well into their sunset years.  So, you won't be getting a worker shortage anytime soon due to retirees exiting the workforce. 

Okay, fine.  Some specialized jobs require training and/or certification, again, the solution is higher wages and improved benefits. People will self-fund their re-education so that they can enter the industry in a work-ready state.  The attractive wages, working conditions and career prospects of technology during the 1980's and 1990's was a prime example of people's willingness to self-fund their own career re-education.

There is never enough of any good or service to satisfy all wants or desires. A buyer, or employer, must give up something to get something. They must pay the market price and forego whatever else he could have for the same price. The forces of supply and demand determine these prices -- and the price of a skilled workman is no exception. The buyer can take it or leave it. However, those who choose to leave it (because of lack of funds or personal preference) must not cry shortage. The good is available at the market price. All goods and services are scarce, but scarcity and shortages are by no means synonymous. Scarcity is a regrettable and unavoidable fact.

Shortages are purely a function of price. The only way in which a shortage has existed, or ever will exist, is in cases where the "going price" has been held below the market-clearing price. 

Sep 17, 2009 6:10 PM Thomas Moriarty Thomas Moriarty  says: in response to Louis Paternoster

Reading the article and then the response by Louis Paternoster. I would opin that Louis is a better writer and more knowledgeable by far than the author Michael Vizard.   Mike Vizard should not be paid much for his efforts, because if the quality of the article is a reflection of the effort, one can assume a lack of effort or a lack of ability.

Sep 17, 2009 6:12 PM Coleen Frazer-Hambrick Coleen Frazer-Hambrick  says:

With all new technology there is a fear factor. All one has to do is look at the movie industry to know this. First there was fear of "talkies", then actors and movie producers came to realize this new technology would be a boon for them. Later, television, VCR and DVD players all threatened the movie industry's way of life. As consumers began embracing these new technologies, the movie industry began to rethink its stand.

IT Process Automation has its own fear factor, but all must come to realize no process can be completely automated. Everything created by man has to endure the erosion of the second law of thermodynamics which states that all things are in a state of decay. Yes, jobs in IT as we know them now might be lost, but there are other jobs that will need to be filled. Flexibility is a good way to avoid job loss.

Sep 17, 2009 6:18 PM Matt Busch, UC4 Matt Busch, UC4  says:

Thanks for this article Mike. This is definitely a major trend in automation that UC4 has been seeing for a while now and the reason behind our acquisition of SENACTIVE in July of this year. The acquisition brings real time monitoring and real time response to the automation of IT processes. Workloads are becoming more dynamic and less planned. In order to support the next generation of automation requirements, UC4 will be able to sense not only physical, virtual, and cloud process analytics but add a layer of enterprise intelligence that can sense and respond to real time business events. This Intelligent Service Automation enables companies to automate jobs, processes, applications and services with real-time intelligence across a hybrid environment. This will effectively free up IT staff to focus on tasks that bring more value to the business and are more strategic, cutting the amount of money and time spent on 'keep the lights on' IT. To learn more please visit: http://senactive.uc4.com/

Jan 5, 2011 7:22 PM Gus Gus  says:

The question for automation is why, not how. Why morally someone wants to give corporations the possibility to decide about people' faith. Corporation are dumb, they cannot conceive automation without brilliant people implementing this kind of things, because the management never understand it in first instance, but they use it just for cost savings, and get their bonuses, nothing else. Automation has a price and the consequences are unknown in the long term. What it seems to be good in the short term could be bad in the long and vice-versa. 


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