7 IT leaders urge automation in these key areas

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The Enterprisers Project asked top IT executives to provide the areas all modern CIOs should have automated by now, if they haven't already. Here's what they said:

1. Technology Operational Environment

John Marcante, CIO and managing director of Vanguard's Information Technology Division, Vanguard

John Marcante

"Automating the technology operational environment is key in enabling rapid, continuous delivery and lowering costs.  Adopting a cloud management platform and orchestrating the creation of environments at the push of a button can go a long way in shortening the delivery cycle. It sounds easy, but in reality there is often huge people and process changes along with this transformation. The services that IT operations groups provide must be overhauled, requiring changes in roles, mindsets, and skill sets of the workforce. Having effective leadership to drive comprehensive change is just as critical as automating the technology."

2. Deliver to mobile devices

Curt Carver, vice chancellor and chief information officer for the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia

"I think a lot of today’s manual processes that are paper bound should be moving to completely electronic ones.  Within the Board of Regents I serve, the move to electronic signatures has had breathtaking effect, and people are really pleased. We’ve taken six-week processes and made them one-hour processes. Our FedEx bill has plummeted.

Unsure where to automate? I’d recommend that you to look to any manual processes where the information could be transformative if delivered to a mobile device, so that the modern executive has not only that information right at hand but can handle approvals on the fly and on the platform of their choice. Look for anything that drives the ability to collaborate, at any time. If your users want to be wearing big fluffy shoes and work at 3 a.m. on their mobile device, they should be able to. That’s what I want to enable them to do."

3. Focus on manual processes

Stuart Kippelman, corporate vice president and chief information officer, Covanta

Stuart Kippelman

You could apply automation to many different places in your enterprise, but if I’m given a choice of where to automate, I focus on the most manual processes. When you ask someone the question of where in the enterprise you should automate, “the most manual processes” doesn’t always come up. For me, I want the least number of people touching things so they can focus on their jobs and on driving value for the company.

I begin by focusing on where we are touching things the most and the most often, then I prioritize our sales and operations group first because that really drives value for the company. I want salespeople spending their time selling and not dealing with interactive assistance to update them.

There is a smart way to automate and then there is a way where you’re making something manual electronic but not doing anything transformative to it. Putting a form online is not what I’m talking about."

4.  Ask customers and watch them work

Ron Webb, executive director of Open Standards Benchmarking, Stats Hub, and Information System, The American Productivity & Quality Center

Ron Webb

"It depends on the organization, for sure. But, one thing I’ve learned over time is that every time I ask the customer this question, they always get it right. If a machine can do it and do it correctly, a machine should be doing it. Some good-old-down-home technical anthropology work (asking customers and watching them work), always leads me in the right direction."

5. IT on demand

Uri Sarid, chief technology officer, MuleSoft

Uri Sarid

"Why choose just one area? The credo for IT should be, 'Work yourself out of your job.' Ideally, you want to automate everything by making IT a self-service PaaS or iPaaS. There’s no reason IT should have to stand up every new app or integration. You don’t want IT creating a new environment or sandbox every time developers start a project. It should focus on creating services that enable everyone else to do their work. The way to do that is with IT on demand."

6. Data archiving

Ty Rollin, chief technology officer, Mobiquity

Ty Rollin

"Automation has eliminated the human in the loop for moving data across the entire fleet of systems to near real-time backups, and then cost effective archives. Data archiving must be automated across all tiers of storage, including all databases, file systems, web servers, and big data sets."

7.  Analytics

Nicko van Somersen

Dr. Nicko van Someren, chief technology officer, Good Technology

"Automating the analysis of all the log data created by various systems can save IT a fortune. This sort of log management can find issues with both security and service more quickly than manual analysis, not only shutting down attacks more swiftly but delivering better up-time and reducing costly support calls."

Nano Serwich is Editor of The Enterprisers Project and Global Awareness Content Manager at Red Hat.

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