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Are You a Confident CIO? Workload Automation Maturity Factors You Need To Know

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Many CIO's might wonder about their IT systems and what constitutes a mature workload automation system?

What are the steps along the way, and how do you know when you've achieved a mature, fully functioning automation system?

When selecting a system, how can you determine which one is going to best meet the needs of your company?

Here are the five steps along the path to workload automation maturity, the key factors that define each step of maturity, and how to select an IT automation system that's right for your business.


1. Job Scheduling (Grade A)

Job scheduling involves creating work flow across a number of platforms using a variety of different applications. A batch has to be done for each step in the process. It's time-consuming and highly prone to human errors. The end result is something akin to IT chaos. The data center of the future won't be so tedious. A platform needs to be much broader in scope to keep up with the growing demands of consumers and the ever evolving nature of the global marketplace.

However, a surprising number of companies are still stuck in this dark age of automation. The more data the systems are trying to keep up with, the more cumbersome and error prone the process becomes. Companies working with only a small amount of data get by with these systems more easily than a mid-size business with sizable data to manage. Many vendors offer a robust set of job scheduling functions and features to help simplify the process, but it lacks any type of integration across the company.

2. Information Technologies Process Automation (Grade B)

The next step up the chain of maturity is process automation, which adds a layer of communications between the job scheduler and the process automation routines. It orchestrates ITIL process inputs and outputs. Not all products claiming to have built-in process automation are as inclusive as they claim. The product needs to offer an easy interface to ITPA solutions to qualify as a Grade B automated system.

IT Process Automation is a step up from job scheduling, but is still a reactive, and not a proactive, approach to workload automation. Again, a large percentage of businesses are working with IT process automation and haven't yet progressed to the next level of maturity.

3. Resource Optimization (Grade C)

At this stage of maturity, the automated system becomes dynamic. It is able to conduct resource allocation and load balancing. It can shift work processes from overloaded resources onto unused resources. The worst shortcoming of resource optimization is its lack of integration. At this step, the workflow automation process becomes proactive and connected, a distinct step up from the non-integrated and reactive natures of Grades A and B.

There are five things an automated system must have to qualify as Grade C.

  • It must be able to conduct business impact analysis.
  • It must be able to conduct business integration.
  • It has to be able to automate provisioning.
  • It needs to have critical path analysis.
  • It has to have workload management capabilities.

At this point, the automated system becomes comprehensive enough to begin eliminating much of the time-consuming work and becomes less prone to human error.

4. Business Integration (Grade D)

Few companies are able to implement and maintain a system at this level of automation. A business integration level of automation is able to link IT services to the requirements of the business. It uses business impact analytics to assign priorities to workloads and it incorporates the applications, infrastructure, and customers for a three-way relationship. At this point of the maturity process, the workflow automation system becomes dynamic and adaptive.

The ability to prioritize important work and balance the workload among available resources defines this level of automation maturity. Though it is powerful and useful, it is difficult to maintain these systems, and few companies can invest the resources necessary to implement and maintain one over the long term.

5. Predictive Analytics (Grade E)

Almost no companies have this level of automation. It is predictive, using dynamic thresholding and heuristic monitoring. It takes statistical models and is capable of forecasting behavior according to historical trends. It prevents bottlenecks in the system by recognizing and predicting patterns and making preemptive changes in order to handle the workload. This level of workflow automation maturity is the most dynamic and adaptive of all. Predictive analytics is where the future of big data lies, but it has yet to come into its full potential.

What Level of Automation Does Your Company Need?

Every company has different needs, and each have different capacities for implementing those needs. Here are some questions to ask before selecting a workload automation system:

  • How easy is the system to deploy and implement?
  • Does the vendor offer services or utilities that help during the conversion process?
  • How disruptive is the new automated system going to be during the implementation process?
  • Is there a good facility available for testing and migrating to the new automated system?
  • How good is the customer support record for the vendor you're considering?
  • How often does the vendor update their software?
  • How responsive is the vendor when code fixes are needed?

Workload automation lowers operations costs, reduces the number of errors encountered (saving time and resources), and increases work productivity. But each system needs to be balanced with the needs and capabilities of the company in order to return the benefits promised by an upgraded automation system. Carefully evaluate the products available to you, and get to know the vendor before committing to any product or service.

At the minimum, vendors need to offer consolidated cross-platform job scheduling, resource optimization, and ITSM integration. If the vendors do not currently offer these products, move on and find one who does. What will the future of big data and fully automated workflow systems have to offer? Hopefully, in the not so distant future, our computer systems will be able to predict, identify, and respond to changes in demands while businesses are able to offer a more responsive customer service experience than has ever been imagined before.

Image via Flickr by meddygarnet

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John Leger has been married for 25+ years and has six children.  He is a self-taught web developer who spends a lot of time learning new technologies and sharpening his skills.  His ability to learn new things quickly has enabled him to skillfully play the guitar, keyboard, flute and bass.  In his off time, he loves to hunt and ski.  He’s also the lead instructor at a Taekwondo Academy in his home town where he teaches classic Chung Do Kwon.
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