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How to prepare for an automatic enterprise infrastructure?

Before adding automation, take control over your processes or else you could end up enhancing the problems you already have.

How do you establish the right amount of automation in an enterprise infrastructure?

As your enterprise infrastructure becomes increasingly networked, virtualized and more complex, it's easy to look to automation as a way to optimize your information management processes. After all, who doesn't want a more efficient and faster way to control data security, storage, application performance monitoring and the economics of IT? It's a no brainer.

But not so fast.

As Bill Gates so eloquently summed it up: "The first rule of any technology used in business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency."

If you don't have a firm grip on the processes you are trying to create in an automatic enterprise infrastructure deployment, you could do more damage than good. As such, you first need to determine when automation is appropriate and how much automation makes sense.

Here are five rules of thumb to help you answer these questions.

1. Model your processes
Using business process modeling (BPM) tools, first model the visibility, accountability and adaptability of your current processes. This should include both system and application interactions as well as human activities. In particular, ask yourself what the weak points are in your current processes that could be affected by automation.

2. Get clear on your goals
With a clear understanding of your current processes, a list of goals should be set and ranked. As a top priority, consider goals that align with your broader business objectives and where automation is likely to have maximum impact.

3. Assign accountability
Assigning accountability is key and should not be restricted to IT personnel. It should also include business leadership and people who work with your IT systems on a daily basis.

4. Isolate and automate specific parts of the process
Automating everything at once is likely to lead to failure. Instead, develop a plan over six to 12 months that isolates specific processes. This way you can easily test your hypotheses, monitor results and measure your progress.

5. Assess and scale
After each test, assess the outcomes against your goals, review accountability and scale automation where you are seeing results.

Finally, with automation, it's important to keep on top of the trends. We've witnessed many of our clients make the move away from working with a series of large technology vendors -- which create specific automation tools around discrete technology stacks -- to a model built around networked, cloud-based approaches that can be scaled across all systems and applications. But it doesn't stop there. We must also consider that there is an increasing need for mobile applications that allow on-the-go collaboration so that our automated systems can be monitored and adjusted in real time.

Ultimately, to determine the right amount of automation, remember these elemental points: Develop a robust plan; run isolated tests; and ensure that key personnel across the business are held accountable.

About the author:
Alexandre Wentzo is CEO of Stamford, Conn.-based Casewise Ltd.

This was last published in May 2014

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