In today's fast-paced business environment, information technology shapes the way companies operate, compete, and grow. The pace of technological advancements adoption can play a deciding role in a company’s success or failure. However, how this can be achieved within an organization may not always be clear.
For this reason, we’ve invited co-founder and CPO at Kubernetes automation, optimization, security, and cost management platform CAST AI, Laurent Gil. Additionally, our Head of Platform Engineering at NordLayer, Carlos Salas, for his take on improving the current organization’s IT infrastructure.
Let's take a deep dive into your current IT infrastructure assessment, automation areas identification, the right automation tools selection, its implementation, and the best practices.
Assessing your current IT infrastructure
Laurent Gil shared his valuable insights on how businesses can optimize their IT infrastructure to drive efficiency and productivity. According to him, one crucial step in this process is conducting a comprehensive assessment of your current infrastructure.
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“A successful IT optimization strategy always starts with a gaining clarity around the current state of the infrastructure. A thorough assessment helps to identify issues and bottlenecks that are good candidates for automation – and where automation will make the biggest impact. Quick wins are just as important as long-term strategy and keeping your eye on the bigger picture, considering your company's specific needs and direction.”
Here's how your current IT infrastructure could be evaluated in 8 steps:
Define assessment objectives. Assessment objectives can be diverse, and they should focus on particular areas that could use improvements. For some businesses, it may be ironing out security vulnerabilities, while for others, it may be performance improvements.
Gather information. Regardless of assessment objectives, the next step will always be data collection. This will form a solid foundation for the evaluation process providing useful insights in later steps.
Evaluate your used hardware and software. All used servers, storage devices, routers, switches, as well as operating systems, databases, applications, and security software should be reviewed. Check for potential bottlenecks and clunky setups that are slowing down your operations.
Perform network checks. Analyze your network topology, bandwidth, and latency. Evaluate your network security measures, such as firewalls, intrusion detection, and prevention systems.
Look into data backups and disaster recovery. Verify that your data backup and recovery plans are up-to-date, reliable, and effective. Test your disaster recovery procedures to ensure that they meet your recovery time objectives.
Analyze your security setup. Assess your security policies and procedures, including access controls, authentication, and authorization. Test your security controls to identify weaknesses or gaps.
Consider the IT budget. Evaluate your IT budget and spending to identify areas for improvement or cost savings. Identify potential areas where technology investments can drive business value and growth.
Document your findings. Document your findings and recommendations in a detailed report. This will serve as a reference document providing actionable recommendations for improving your IT infrastructure.
Identifying areas for automation
Findings from the IT infrastructure assessment should help you identify areas that could benefit the most from automation. As different companies have different IT struggles, going through this process should be a highly individualized approach. That said, here are some common areas that could be easily automated.
Data entry and data processing. Routine maintenance tasks like data entry, migration, and validation can be easily automated using macros, scripts, and other robotic processes.
Network and system administration. Tasks like server monitoring, backup, and patch management can be time-consuming and repetitive. Automations enable the creation of templates to perform the tasks identically, leaving less room for human error. In addition, this frees the staff from manual processes allowing them to focus on strategic activities.
Software deployment. Every software deployment instance involves a lot of repetitive tasks to ensure that it’s deployed correctly and without errors. Automating them can help reduce the time and effort required for deployment and improve the reliability of the process.
Customer support. Simple customer support tasks like answering frequently asked questions, providing account information, and processing routine requests can be solved without human involvement. Leveraging chatbots and virtual assistants can combine convenience and efficiency for businesses and their customers.
Choosing automation tools
When it comes to selecting automation tools, Laurent Gil highlights the significance of putting business needs at the forefront.
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“I've seen the benefits automation can bring to organizations of all sizes firsthand. However, not all automation tools are created equal, and choosing the right one for your business can be a daunting task.
What you need to consider are first and foremost your specific business requirements. Understanding business needs and matching them to the right automation offering ensures that what you invest in represents the best fit for your company.”
Here's a brief overview of the approach that businesses can take when selecting automation tools:
Research what's available on the market
Clear business objectives and defined areas for improvement will allow you to fill in the gaps with automation tools. This can involve various routes like reviewing industry publications or consulting with vendors directly.
Evaluate select tool features
Once a list of potential features has been compiled, it's important to evaluate its features. Depending on needed functionalities, this can involve scalability, customizability or other ease of use adjustments.
Industry expert and Head of Platform Engineering Carlos Salas highlighted the importance of considering the bigger picture when selecting automation tools, highlighting their interoperability.
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“Whatever automation tools you select won’t exist in a vacuum, so thinking about potential integrations with existing systems and processes isn’t a bad idea.”
“Data security is paramount. Before implementing any automation tool, it’s imperative to thoroughly evaluate its capabilities in protecting sensitive information and adhering to established security protocols.”
This paves the way for seamless automation implementation without hiccups and ensures optimal performance down the line.
Test and trial
Before making a final decision, businesses should take chosen automation tools for a test drive. Various methods like setting up a proof of concept or pilot project to evaluate the effectiveness of the tool in real-world scenarios will help to realistically evaluate its usefulness.
Implementing business IT automation can be a complex task that requires careful planning and execution. Here are some general steps that you can follow to implement business IT automation.
Design the automation process. Start by creating a plan for automation, including a timeline and a list of tasks to be automated. It also helps to break the process into smaller tasks and identify the rules and conditions that must be followed.
Deploy the automation. The exact route of automation deployment will depend on whether it's an in-house built tool or a third-party provider was chosen. Still, it's best to test in a production environment initially and, after testing, move on to full-scale implementation.
Train employees. Expect that your workforce will only know how to use it after a while. Expect that there will be a transitionary period during which various training will help staff to familiarize themselves with the tool better.
Evaluate the results. After the automation has been implemented and employees get used to it, it's worth checking its impact on productivity, efficiency, and accuracy. This information can be highly useful when identifying shortcomings in your current setup as well as planning and identifying new areas for automation.
Best practices for automating IT
To maximize your chances that your automation process goes smoothly, it can be good advice to follow the best industry practices. These include:
Focusing on standardization
Standardization is critical when it comes to automating IT processes. It also makes it easier to automate routine tasks, reduces the chances of errors, and helps ensure consistency across your IT infrastructure.
Make use of automation platforms
According to Laurent Gil, automation platforms have the power to enhance business efficiency and streamline operations.
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"Automation platforms enable businesses to accelerate and streamline their workflows and processes. Gone are the days of tedious manual tasks and complex coding requirements. With intuitive dashboards and user-friendly interfaces, these platforms empower users to design, create, and implement automation workflows without the need for in-depth technical expertise. And that’s a very good thing."
Gil's words highlight the significant shift brought about by automation platforms in the business landscape. With these powerful tools at their disposal, organizations of all sizes can leverage automation to optimize their workflows, freeing up valuable time and resources for more strategic endeavors.
Adopt a DevOps approach
Adopting a DevOps approach to automation can help streamline the IT development and deployment processes. Integrating development and operations teams allows the entire software development lifecycle to be automated. This can help you deliver software faster and with fewer errors.
Stakeholders are the personnel that the automation process will directly impact. Therefore, their input can help to identify potential pain points in advance. This can lead to more effective automation that addresses real problems and is designed to meet the organization's specific needs.
Optimizing your business IT requires a systematic approach based on evaluating your current setup. The thorough analysis of the current businesses' IT environment allows them to identify potential automation areas.
The process is finalized by choosing appropriate automation tools and going through the implementation process. It's important to consider specific needs, evaluate tool features, integration, and test and try the solutions before fully committing. Automation adoption has the potential to make businesses even better adjusted to the current digital landscape.