For the past 20 years and to the benefit of the C-suite in companies all over the world, smart automation software has been engineered, refined, and constantly improved by its developers to respond automatically to repetitive and resource-consuming tasks – that is, the work that nobody wants to do.
It is widely accepted that the most basic and repetitive tasks usually can be solved with software, scripts, and simple programs with even limited intelligence making it the baseline for automation. That scenario is so 2010 – if you threw just a few variables into the mix, and the engine would come to a grinding halt.
Today, organizations such as the largest banks, IT companies, and telecoms are moving beyond the baseline of basic automation, and it isn’t for cost savings alone. Their compliance requirements related to higher-order transactions have increased, and the stakes are much higher for them to remain in compliance. This plus the expense of using expertly trained personnel to keep IT systems running and to solve what boil down to basic and repetitive problems are key drivers in the move to more advanced intelligent automation.
Another key factor is one that has been a constant this decade – the issue of so much data flowing into the company, from transactions, authentications, and other business processes affecting customers that organizations need any help they can find just to keep up. It is the quintessential image of trying to drink from the fire hose, and the fire hose is ever-widening. And with the state of IT today, few organizations – even highly successful ones – have been able to increase IT spending fast enough or significantly enough to match the growing demand for IT in all aspects of the business.
If You Can’t Get Bigger, Get Smarter
What this means, in the end, is either increased costs or increased risks, neither of which is acceptable. But the good news is that the smart automation technologies available today are light years ahead of earlier automation tools, which depended heavily on hand-coded scripts and rigid run books to automate some traditional manual IT tasks. Today, smart automation engines are more capable than ever of analyzing, learning, and responding to a mountain of transactions, which can number in the thousands per minute. These transactions are critical, must be watched and responded to in real time and, as an added benefit, produce critical, valuable, and actionable data.
The new reality is that about 90 percent of all IT service-management functions from traditional labor-based activities can be transitioned to machine-based execution, if the “smarts” are there at the foundation. Having a smart automation engine as a virtual colleague that learns as it goes helps secure and streamline the number of issues that need direct expert intervention.
How Does the Smart Automation Engine Work?
Once an intelligent automation software system is installed, the IT teams teach the machine all-important tasks by feeding the machine with so-called knowledge items.
The smart automation engine extracts information that describes the IT environment in which it is to operate, or “the factual knowledge” (e.g., a CMDB, an asset management solution) from existing systems. At any point, situational data describing the operating environment can be retrieved from multiple sources, such as like-monitoring or log management systems, or logging in and having a look.
The smart automation engine chooses relevant knowledge by selecting the knowledge item that is applicable to any given context, based on the factual and situational knowledge, along with the task description and all available data on the task at-hand.
The smart automation engine makes a decision, and here we have cognitive learning: After deciding which knowledge to apply, the engine executes this knowledge using the same security procedures that humans would use or, if possible, by intelligently reusing the available tools already deployed.
Concurrently, the smart automation engine creates documentation of this step-wise decision-making process for a tracking system. The documentation contains all relevant background and context information as an attached data pool for follow-up analytics. Another benefit: All data/knowledge stays within the company at a centralized access point.
One real-world example of smart automation is finding and fixing anomalies in the way users authenticate themselves and log in to complete their transactions. Are these transactions legitimate, or might they be of concern to the security and integrity of data? Does the way they are being monitored meet compliance standards?
By using smart automation, companies can derive significant economic benefits by transforming the execution of nearly 90 percent of all IT service-management functions from traditional labor-based activities to machine-based execution. This provides a 180-degree shift in the focus of the vast majority of routine IT functions from expensive manual labor to cost-efficient autonomics. The more complex the IT system is and the more data that must be processed, the greater is the benefit through smart automation. And the more data, the faster smart automation can learn.
At the same time, the IT operation itself improves in several different areas, such as quality, agility, flexibility, and risk/compliance. With smart automation, companies improve quality by reducing and, in many cases, fully eliminating, communications redundancy, because knowledge is retained and integrated from among every group within the enterprise.
With smart automation, flexibility is increased by relying on human-driven knowledge transfer instead of on hard-coded rules that must be reprogrammed in order to accommodate changes in priorities, processes, or strategic initiatives. And by working together with a virtual colleague, human experts with a wide and deep knowledge of regulations can help ensure that smart automation solutions facilitate risk mitigation and regulatory compliance. In turn, the system makes decisions based on a complex matrix of regulatory and corporate governance requirements, but can also spot and reduce potential risks before they become problematic.
By utilizing computers to carry out repetitive IT service activities rather than dedicating expensive professionals to handle relatively low-value activities, smart automation allows IT organizations to focus their employees on the highest-value activities, thereby enhancing a company’s technical progress. This is particularly important in fast-growing organizations or enterprises with vast amounts of data, where the ability to scale service delivery often necessitates hiring permanent or temporary staff.
When a company can use a software tool to sort through data, parse thousands or millions of events, maintain compliance, and reduce costs, everyone wins. Smart automation engines will be at the basis of every successful enterprise.
Chris Boos is the founder and CEO of arago GmbH, a German-based high-tech software company offering intelligent enterprise IT automation solutions. With the ambition to enable the corporate world through cutting-edge technology only used in new high-tech organizations, Chris supports the start-up scene as an investor and serves as a board member at various IT companies. In 2003, the Economic Forum Deutschland awarded Chris with the John F. Kennedy National Leadership Award for the sustainable long-term path he set arago on in the IT industry. Chris pursues the goal of providing the corporate world with the tools to advance their technology and utilize it as a competitive advantage in the digital age. Learn more at http://www.arago.co.
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