3 paths to efficiency via IT automation
- By Jim Manias
- Mar 02, 2015
Government IT environments are growing larger in scale and more complex than ever. At the same time, demands for leaner, more efficient and cost-effective delivery of services and the secure exchange of information with the public have never been higher.
For the IT department, these real-time demands in a fluid 24/7 world means that IT is increasingly called on to coordinate complex tasks and business processes. Agencies need orchestration across disparate technologies and solutions, as well as management of the many products that need to interact and communicate seamlessly -- and safely – among various workflows.
The centralization of government data centers through IT automation is key to achieving these more comprehensive objectives. Automation improves operating efficiency and reduces costs, while simultaneously meeting escalating demands on the IT department and the government organization as a whole.
Here are three primary ways state and local governments can use IT automation to save money:
1. Think architectural, rather than elemental.
A Gartner study, Market Guide for Workload Automation, found that most organizations have at least three automation tools in their computing environment. That means each tool brings its own baggage of licensing costs, maintenance and duplication of work. This approach to automation is an elemental one, akin to the “whack-a-mole” game; trouble spots pop up over and over again and are addressed individually, while the real problem is never actually solved.
In contrast, an architectural approach places individual tasks within the context of the broader computing landscape. It also calls for a unified, agencywide strategy to determine a central focal point for automation of all technologies and applications used, reducing licensing and maintenance costs. This is like using a universal remote for managing a home entertainment system: smart TV, audio system, etc. An architectural approach provides a single point of control that simplifies the entire IT environment and enhances operational efficiencies.
What’s more, simplification of the IT environment through an architectural approach to automation helps solve the vital, yet ever-changing compliance issues central to state and local government organizations. IT automation helps government agencies mitigate risk by providing them the means to develop centralized policies that guard against unauthorized changes to production workflows.
2. Simplify, simplify, simplify.
Most government organizations try to meet today’s demands through elemental automation in the form of batch processing computations predefined through scripting. However, scripting is time-consuming, labor intensive, prone to failure and very expensive in the long run. Moreover, the rapid pace at which government organizations must adjust workflows and processes to meet the demands of new policies or regulations makes scripting increasingly complex and hard to maintain. It’s like solving the problem of complexity with more complexity.
Despite the problems with scripting, it is still a central part of day to day operations, and organizations need a way to resolve the complexity associated with its maintenance.
Automation helps IT departments benefit from scripts by allowing them to be stored within objects. As a result, developers don’t have to copy scripts to the systems they will run on. Additionally, modern automation software with lifecycle management capabilities provides a secure, central library to store scripts and track revisions, helping the IT department better audit changes to scripts and allowing for revision rollbacks.
Agencies today must take a step back and look at the overall computing landscape, then seek to simplify the development, implementation and maintenance of business and IT processes into unified workflows that share data and manage dependencies across disparate applications and systems. At that point, workflow creation can be simplified into pre-built steps where the logic is already tested, reducing the need for manual script maintenance and time-consuming logic testing.
The result is faster, more efficient IT operations with reduced time and labor costs.
3. Embrace the cloud.
According to Gartner, nearly half of all large enterprises will have a hybrid cloud deployed by the end of 2017. Government agencies are now beginning to follow suit due to the cost savings potential of cloud computing. However, the benefits of hybrid cloud computing, where the organization continues to manage and monitor some of its resources and sends others out to be managed externally, can be offset by significant challenges.
IT automation helps ensure that agencies see the cost savings promised by hybrid cloud environments by adding improved efficiencies in resource usage through automatic provisioning and de-provisioning of systems. It also minimizes the effect of idle systems running in the background by setting parameters to automatically spin down idle systems. Likewise, it ensures the successful execution of workflows by automatically spinning up additional resources when needed.
The result is a reduction in manual intervention and associated costs, minimization of service-level agreements and critical deadline breaches as well as improved resource optimization.
Jim Manias is Vice President of Marketing and Sales at Advanced Systems Concepts.