IT Management

Welcome to this new column, which will discuss key avenues IT executives can take to help their businesses be more effective, innovative, and competitive by achieving better IT operational efficiency. Today, even the most savvy IT executives are struggling with how to provide more value from enterprise IT investments in the face of flat or marginally increasing IT budgets. Understanding these core needs, in this issue, I will delve into three key areas in which automation can dramatically improve IT operational efficiency, saving money while improving service levels.

IT operational efficiency is the result of deploying management technologies and processes that reduce the operational costs of the IT infrastructure while improving service delivery, specifically:

  • Automating IT infrastructure management tasks in four key areas—infrastructure, applications, databases, and IT operations—so tasks are streamlined and highly repeatable
  • Setting up automated management processes between IT and the business, so that as you develop new business services, you can easily integrate them into the IT infrastructure.

At this point, you may be thinking: “I’ve spent a lot of money on software to automate the management of my IT infrastructure. We’re automated, already.” However, there’s automation and then there’s automation. Delivering more value to the business means strategically automating IT management by first focusing automation on the bottlenecks that are holding back business progress because they require people to intervene and make low-level decisions and second, by integrating automation across systems, applications, components, and eventually entire business processes.

If you aren’t strategically automating IT management like this today, or planning on it for the future, then you may not be able to reap the full business benefits of IT operational efficiency.

End-to-end automation, rapid resolution, and compliance are the three key areas where automation can provide strategic leverage. Consider the following:

End-to-End Automation: Many IT organizations have spent heavily on automated management tools—primarily tools that automate daily tasks or automate recovery by taking an unaided action in response to an event. The next wave of productivity improvements will come from integrating these “islands of automation” into end-to-end automated IT management processes that are tied to business priorities.

Rapid Resolution: As IT infrastructures have expanded, it’s become much more expensive and time-consuming to isolate and solve problems—even with advances in automation. To maximize IT operational efficiency, businesses need to speed problem resolution across the infrastructure.

Today’s IT infrastructures are incredibly complex, with business services and business logic traveling complicated paths inside and outside corporate firewalls. Solving problems all too often involves multiple experts from different technology silos getting on outage conference calls to walk through the problem. Meanwhile, money isn’t being made, employees are idle, and customers are impatient.

In the near future, look for software that speeds problem resolution by providing real-time, granular insight into transactions (instead of the components that transactions flow through). End-to-end transaction management will replace today’s “photographs” of the IT infrastructure with “full-motion video”—and link IT management more directly with the business (transactions).

Compliance: Properly automated infrastructure and application management also can enable the business to respond to unusual challenges and opportunities.

Compliance is perhaps the best recent example of this. Businesses are struggling with the cost and complexity of complying with tough new laws governing financial reporting and consumer privacy, including the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX).

Automating IT infrastructure and application management can help businesses establish repeatable processes for compliance, putting an end to fire drills. Automation won’t guarantee compliance, but it will reduce the costs of creating audit trails and the overall costs of auditing.