In many ways, infrastructure automation looks like an ideal way forward for the IT team. It promises improvements in efficiency and accountability. And, it can reduce costs and risk.

According to Gartner, automation deployments are increasing. The firm forecast that 75 percent of enterprises would have more than four automation technologies in their IT management portfolios by 2017. That’s up from less than 20 percent in 2014.

That level of growth is impressive, but is it right for your organization?

What’s Driving Automation?

Commentators believe that budget constraints and a shortage of IT skills are the primary forces driving automation.

The availability of lower cost servers and applications is increasing the IT estate and the workload for the IT team. However, there is also a scarcity of IT professionals with the skills and qualifications to manage the changing environment. Recruitment and retention is a serious challenge.

Pressure on IT budgets adds further problems, and that makes automation an attractive proposition. Clearly, there is a strong case for automation, but should you automate for the sake of automation, or should you take a more considered approach?  Where should you begin and what are your priorities for automation?

Set Objectives

In the current climate, business objectives are as important as IT objectives. Automation can help you increase availability for users or support converged applications that improve decision-making. By setting clear business objectives, you can prioritize automation tasks and ensure stakeholders understand the benefits of the automation program.

Identify Savings

It’s also important to calculate the financial benefits of automation. By comparing the cost of existing manual operations with the forecast cost of deploying automation, you can identify savings in time, cost and resources.

Analyzing the cost of different operations will help you identify and prioritize projects that deliver the greatest savings.

Set an Automation Strategy

Analyzing and prioritizing the most important tasks will help you develop an automation strategy. Your strategy needs to take a number of factors into account. Is automation technically feasible and how much will the project cost. If you don’t automate a process, do you have the skills to manage it manually? If not, how much would it cost to hire skilled professionals, and are they available?

You should also factor in the business benefits, as well as the cost benefits of replacing manual processes. You may be able to improve IT productivity, as well as reducing labor costs.  And, there are potential risk management benefits because automation can eliminate the problem of human error.

Automation and the Cloud

While the initial emphasis may be on automating premise infrastructure, there are also opportunities to use automation to improve the benefits available from the cloud.

For example, by automating provisioning in a mixed environment, you can allocate cloud or other virtual resources automatically to meet current resource requirements and forecast workloads.  This can help you optimize resources and control spending on third-party cloud services, as well as meeting service level agreements.

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