A 5-year Plan to Automate IT Tasks

Automate IT tasks | Binary Tree

A recent Gartner survey found that many organizations expect to automate at least 62% of their routine IT tasks by 2021. So whether you’re itching to automate tedious, repetitive IT processes—or even more complex ones—this is the guide for you. It gives you a bird’s eye view of what you should be doing in the next 5 years to get there.

Year 1: Plan and staff for automation

In the first year of this plan, you set the stage for later automation. Action items:

1. Look for places to automate

Start by looking across your business and IT processes to find places to automate. There are often great automation opportunities across many common, repetitive IT tasks: doing daily checks, setting up servers, installing upgrades and patches, and rolling out and installing new applications.

2. Prioritize the list

Next, assign priorities to your list of possible places to automate. Mark any processes that will be easy to automate, as these can often be your quick wins. Across the board, consider these things:

  • Is it a critical process?
  • Is it prone to human error?
  • Will it be complex to automate? Or quick?
  • Is there some project dependency on automating this process?

3. Map places you already automate

Many of your teams probably already use automation in many ways. So the idea here is to map out any islands of automation and see if you can share with more teams.

4. Set targets

Now that you have a good picture of what you’d like to automate, set automation targets for the coming years. Gartner recommends that you plan to automate anywhere from 60-80% of your processes. That’s because some processes and tasks might not justify the time and effort it would take to automate, like tasks run by only a few people.

5. Hire or train people to mastermind it

To stay on track with your automation goals, it’s a good idea to dedicate team members to this area, rather than re-purpose people who might then get pulled in several directions. Early on, you should be thinking about how to staff for at least these roles:

  • Automation architect to design and plan automation solutions
  • Automation engineer to develop and execute
  • Automation manager to oversee everything

6. Get people excited about the possibilities

Changing culture is a big part of making automation happen. So it’s best to get started on this culture shift early. A great thing to do here is to share why you want to automate. Usually, that’s to help the org scale, be more efficient, do things more quickly, and reduce chances for error. And reassure employees that you’re not looking to automate them out of a job—you want to free everyone up for more critical, high-value tasks.

Year 2: Staff more and pilot

By this point, your automation program is gaining momentum. Now is the time to put a team in place and keep laying the foundation for what’s to come. Action items:

6. Set up automation governance

If you haven’t already, this is the time to build out an automation team, led by an automation manager. This team should do things like:

  • Monitor your automation tools as they evolve
  • Keep looking for new places to automate over time
  • Find places to consolidate tools
  • Develop a library of repeatable code
  • Work with application developers on the next step

7. Update applications to allow for automation

If they aren’t already, your applications need to be set up to easily allow for automation. This could mean re-architecting them with containers. Your automation team should work closely with your application developers to figure out what needs to be done here.

8. Pilot artificial intelligence

We’re just starting to scratch the surface of how artificial intelligence (AI) can help make automation better and faster. But it’s becoming clear that the world is moving toward AI to help process big data and make decisions. So now is a good time to start looking at how AI can help you identify patterns in your IT operations. Maybe even do a pilot or two.

Years 3-5: Execute your plans

This is where things get going full steam ahead, and all that planning and piloting should pay off. Action items:

9. Roll out and iterate

Your automation team should work to hit the automation targets you set in step 4. Within 2-3 years, you should be able to automate anywhere from 60-80% of your IT tasks. Then comes the ongoing work of keeping the automation running—and looking for ways to make it run better.

10. Try out advanced AI automation here and there

Last up, you should be ready to try out more advanced automation on a few processes where it makes sense. AI is ideal for scenarios in which there’s a decision tree. In other words, the tool would need to consider multiple factors before it takes the next step. Start by using this type of automation in cases where you have a strong base of knowledge and data, and you have very specific outcomes.

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Source: Gartner. 2018 Strategic Roadmap for I&O Automation. May 2018