It's not controversial that business success today depends more than ever on IT performance. Business processes and IT operations are highly interdependent and tightly linked. Alignment between the two is no longer an option—it’s a requirement to stay competitive. Your business customers won’t succeed in today’s dynamic economy without IT behind them, but business customers care about outcomes, not technologies. The more you can think like they do, the better your relationship will be, the better your outcomes will be, and frankly, the better your future job prospects will be.
Forrester calls the evolution of IT from a provider of technologies to a broker of business services the “IT to BT (business technology) transformation.” Key to this shift is rethinking IT’s role in the enterprise and, in particular, rethinking current IT processes and the tools used to support them. Many IT organizations have improved workload, application release, run-book, data transfer, and virtual machine management processes, to name a few, through automation—yet still fail to deliver the agility and responsiveness their business customers demand.
We are sometimes so focused on details that we forget to think clearly. Nothing new there; it’s still a story about trees and forest. A few years ago, this was clearly the case when I met with one of the first vendors of run book automation. My first thought was that it was very similar to workload automation, but I let myself be convinced that it was so different that it was obviously another product family. Taking a step back last year, I started thinking that in fact these two forms of automation complemented each other. In “Market Overview: Workload Automation, Q3 2009,” I wrote that “executing complex asynchronous applications requires server capacity. The availability of virtualization and server provisioning, one of the key features of today’s IT process [run book] automation, can join forces with workload automation to deliver a seamless execution of tasks, without taxing IT administrators with complex modifications of pre-established plans.”In June of this year, UC4 announced a new feature of its workload automation solution, by which virtual machines or extension to virtual machines can be provisioned automatically when the scheduler detects a performance issue (see my June 30 blog post “Just-In-Time Capacity”). This was a first sign of convergence. But there is more.
Automation is about processes. As soon as we can describe a process using a workflow diagram and a description of the operation to be performed by each step of the diagram, we can implement the software to automate it (as we do in any application or other forms of software development). Automation is but a variation of software that uses pre-developed operations adapted to specific process implementations.