Category Archives: It Automation

Finding Value in Automation

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 9.25.00 PMUnmeasured IT automation has little value.  Even though IT organizations appreciate what automation provides, once deployed it is rarely measured against value to the business.  When automation works it’s ignored, when automation breaks – it’s to blame.  When automation is developed internally the effort and cost are sucked up as part of a project or developed without any real accountability.  When IT organizations want to buy an automation product the justification is typically evaluated against head-count or time saving.  Initially, this is fine but if ongoing savings are not captured additional investment will need new justification – ideally based on business value.

Over the past year I’ve spoken with dozens of IT organizations to try to understand how they captured IT automation value. Responses varied but included “we capture it by logging activation’s” and  ”we don’t capture it”.  Capturing automation activations is fine, but when something runs 300 times – who cares? The reason for not capturing automation value was the value of automation should be obvious.  The problem is it isn’t.

IT automation continues to be a major initiative, but for many it fails to deliver on its promise because the value it provides is not understood.

In February 2014 I started work on a practitioners guide to automation. I didn’t want it to be something that had to be read cover to cover (who has time for that?) or something that tried to be a definitive all encompassing automation book (too many automation variations).  I wanted to write something that provided a way companies could gain a quick understanding of their automation state, assess value using real calculations and then plot a strategic path forward.

To meet these objectives the following was done:

  • To keep the guide focused it addresses three specific automation use-cases; Provisioning & Configuration, Patching & Compliance and Cloud.
  • To assess automation state and set a strategic path the guide breaks each use-case into five levels (ad-hoc to advanced)
  • To ensure all aspects of automation were covered the guide covers: process, people and tools
  • To measure automation value each level has specific calculations for cost, speed and risk

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                                                       Automation Use-Cases Aligned to Automation Levels

Even though this document was written while working for BMC however, it is not focused specifically on BMC products and services.  BMC decided to call the guide the Automation Passport. It focuses on what needs to be done irrespective of what technology is being used or planned to be used. Companies are using it to plan an automation strategy with the process maps defining what management tools are needed, how they should integrate and what data/information is passed. If a company’s automation approach is to use open source automation toolkits (e.g. puppet and chef), embedded automation tools and home-grown talent for development, the passport provides a view on the scope of the automation required and the associated effort.

The following diagrams are examples of the detail contained within the guide.

Process

Provides a view of what needs to be done at each automation level within each use-case. This level of detail can be used as a foundation and tuned to meet each IT organizations specific requirements.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 9.45.24 PMExample: Patch Process (a level within Patching & Compliance)

People

Provides a view on how an organization and roles change as automation maturity increases.

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Example: Roles for Provisioning & Configuration

Technology

Explains the types of technology used at each level in-line with the automation process (orange boxes indicate the technology introduced at this level).

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 Example: Technology  supporting  the Govern level process for the Cloud automation use-case

Last year BMC released the first edition of the Automation Passport. It contained the automation model mapped to the  Provisioning & Configuration and Patching & Compliance use-cases.

In January 2015 BMC released the Automation Passport Early Release Edition. This updated version contains the Cloud Automation use-case, value calculations for each use-case level, greater detail on automation roles and responsibilities (including job descriptions), cloud type definitions and explanations on how capacity, performance and availability management tools support and evolve to support the automation of cloud environments.

More detail on the passport can be found at the following location: http://www.bmc.com/it-solutions/automation-passport.html

The latest automation passport can be downloaded (no strings attached) from: http://documents.bmc.com/products/documents/36/96/453696/453696.pdf