Become the "Automator," Not the "Automated"
June 23, 2017

Mark Levy
Micro Focus

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"Become the Automator, Not the Automated." This is a phrase that has been used by many throughout the last several years and was first coined by Glenn O'Donnell, an analyst for Forrester Research.

While it's a simple enough phrase, it speaks directly to how today's organizations and IT teams must innovate to remain competitive. A critical aspect of innovation is acknowledging the digital transformation of businesses. The move to digitalization enables organizations to more effectively unlock the power of information technology (IT) to fuel and accelerate business innovation. It is a competitive weapon and a survival imperative. According to Forrester, by 2020, every business will become a digital predator or prey (The 2016 Guide To Digital Predators, Transformers, And Dinosaurs Benchmark: The CIO Digital Business Transformation Playbook by Nigel Fenwick, May 10, 2016). This same theory applies for those working on IT teams.

With digital transformation, IT has become the deployment pipeline that delivers digital assets to the customer. The faster IT teams can deliver these assets, the bigger the competitive edge the business has over rivals. However, it's important to note that this new role for IT is causing major changes. Organizational structures, processes, and technology are all going through a major transformation to support this "Need for Speed." Modern IT practices such as DevOps are redefining how organizations and teams are structured, and automation is redefining the types of skills and jobs needed to support the deployment pipeline. For those on IT teams, take notice and be aware of the changes as they will certainly impact your career. Understanding and embracing this change will give you a better path to future employment in this new world of IT.

The deployment pipeline is the end-to-end process of taking a business idea and delivering it as value to the customer. Long lead times, waste, and inefficiencies are obstacles to delivering at the speed the business requires. Most jobs that provide manual services within the deployment pipeline are prime candidates to be automated. Some tasks can't be automated but most tasks can and will be automated.

Losing jobs to automation is nothing new. Jobs have been lost to machines in the past, but as old jobs are destroyed, there is potential for new jobs and roles to emerge. Believe it or not, workers are more likely to benefit if they perform tasks that are complemented by automation.

For example, if you are a system administrator, learn how to design and develop the automation policies and scripts that support the deployment pipeline. If you are a quality assurance test engineer, start working with the developer to design and deliver the automated test scripts. Leverage your domain expertise by updating your skills to support the automation of IT. Automation will replace people in performing routine, codifiable tasks, however, when problem-solving skills, adaptability, and creativity are required, people will still have the advantage.

Automation also enables lower-skilled IT workers to perform complex tasks. Software delivery was once the bailiwick of highly skilled experts, however, with automation, those experts can be redeployed to create actual customer value. Lower skilled, less costly resources can be leveraged to deploy the software.

For example, one of the largest general insurers in the UK was deploying three releases a day for their main retail application. Highly paid and highly skilled Oracle DBAs and software developers were spending up to 50 percent of their time deploying releases into pre-production environments. The demand for releases kept growing and the team was reaching the point where the frequency of releases would not be manageable under the current process. To solve this problem, the IT delivery team acquired and implemented an application release automation solution and created a "single click" automated deployment which enabled release managers, and not Oracle DBAs, to perform all release deployments. In this case, automation freed up valuable development resources to focus full-time on creating customer value for the business.

The digital transformation of IT is in progress and rapidly advancing. Organizations must automate across the deployment pipeline to deliver velocity. Take the initiative, embrace this change, and accept the challenge. And remember, become the "Automator" and not the "Automated".

Mark Levy is Director of Strategy, Software Delivery, at Micro Focus
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