IT automation explained: Motivations, benefits and tools

IT automation refers to the tools and practices used to automate jobs, batch processes and workflows to improve IT efficiency.

Written by Editorial Staff. Last Updated:
IT automation refers to the tools and processes used to automate IT environments

IT automation encompasses a wide variety of tools, practices and capabilities. It’s also a rapidly evolving field driven by continuous advancements in digital technology.

In this post, we’ll discuss what defines IT automation, what IT automation software is used for and why it’s becoming increasingly important as organizations strive for digital growth.

We’ll also cover the major categories of IT automation, discuss common automation strategies and take a close look at the major trends shaping the impact of IT automation today.


  • IT Automation is the process of automating IT tasks, including jobs, batch processes and workflows.
  • IT automation mitigates the pressures of digital proliferation and market forces.
  • There are many types of IT automation and a wide range of use cases.
  • IT automation is quickly evolving and incorporating new technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence, to optimize efficiency and scalability.

What is IT automation?

IT automation is the process of using practices and tools to automate jobs, batch processes and workflows to reduce manual intervention. IT automation provides professionals with tools and processes to save time, increase efficiency and reduce operating costs.

The key difference between IT automation and common point solutions such as native schedulers, home-grown tools and custom scripts is that IT automation solutions are designed to integrate a variety of digital tools by automating workflows from multiple sources.

IT automation is a broad term that encompasses many different types of tools and strategies. As we’ll see below, IT automation solutions offer a wide variety of capabilities that can be subdivided into other fields of automation.

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What is IT automation used for?

IT automation is great for automating and scheduling time-consuming, error-prone, repetitive tasks. These include large batch processes that must be completed daily, large data transfers or data entry tasks.

By automating manual, time-consuming processes, IT professionals save themselves time, reduce operating costs and increase efficiency. Moreover, by reducing manual tasks that are otherwise vulnerable to human error, IT can improve SLA management.

Meanwhile, greater integration capabilities mean that IT can use a single platform to manage workflows from multiple tools. IT automation solutions can effectively automate and integrate workflows across an environment and organization.

Ultimately, different IT automation tools offer different capabilities — a wide variety of IT automation tools offering everything from analytics to workload balancing to extract, transform and load (ETL) automation, cloud provisioning and more.

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Why do we need to automate IT?

Automating repetitive, time-consuming and manual tasks increases operational efficiency, optimizes resources and reduces IT costs. There are specific IT automation solutions that can simplify workflow integrations to help in developing versatile, scalable architectures.

Market forces

Market forces play a significant role in popularizing automation. Leveraging digital tools is crucial to staying competitive. Organizations are implementing more digital tools at a quicker pace, so staying ahead of changes in the market means automating alongside key players in your industry.

As a result of this trend, IT teams have seen their workloads surge, their responsibilities multiply and their business relationships shift.

IT complexity

As the number of digital tools in IT’s catalog has grown, so has IT complexity. In a global survey of large enterprise leaders, 46% of respondents agreed that reducing IT complexity supports innovation.

The problem is that many of the digital tools and technologies deployed by organizations are incompatible, forcing IT to manage fragmented, siloed environments. This makes it difficult to pass information or to manage dependencies between tools, hampering efforts towards scalability and making it almost impossible to create a unified, integrated environment.

IT automation solutions manage and reduce IT complexity by automating end-to-end, cross-silo workflows. Automation tools for IT are designed to integrate with a variety of other tools, either through custom scripting, pre-built job steps or out-of-the-box integrations. In the best-case scenario, a single IT automation solution can help IT manage, monitor, automate and coordinate workflows from disparate tools across the organization. They can easily consolidate their digital portfolios and simplify their IT environments.

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Rapid change

It’s not just IT that’s being forced to quickly adapt. Digital technologies are rapidly evolving, driving changes across organizations, markets and industries. As a result, many are pushing IT to accommodate necessary, continuous changes. 

However, IT departments often rely on legacy IT systems engineered for static, homogeneous environments that can’t easily integrate with new tools and technologies.

If IT is going to support a dynamic, adaptable organization, then the business function itself must become dynamic and adaptable, which is what IT automation solutions enable. By providing a single platform that IT teams can use to coordinate and automate workflows across the organization, automation tools help businesses stay relevant and competitive. This is especially true of low-code IT automation solutions, which drastically reduce the need to write custom scripts by offering pre-built job step templates and integrations. 

Surge of data

Data is essential to organizations interested in improving products, services, processes and practices. Over the last several years, as mobile devices, IoT and cloud computing technologies have evolved, that volume of data has grown exponentially, straining IT resources.

Regardless, organizations are pushing IT to develop the architectures necessary for gathering, processing and analyzing huge volumes of data.

IT automation tools can prevent IT from drowning in data by automating data management processes. These include ETL jobs and data repository updates that ensure data warehouses perform in near-real time. When IT doesn’t have to manually monitor hundreds or thousands of ETL workflows, Plus, IT automation tools will also integrate with business intelligence (BI) tools and data warehousing tools, provide Hadoop automation and more. Thus, IT can automate end-to-end workflows that provide the data and analytics line-of-business leaders need.

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What are the benefits of IT automation?

Properly applied, IT automation can have significant positive impacts on an organization and its employees.

  • Compliance and security: Regulatory compliance and data security are non-negotiable for organizations looking to scale and increase customer satisfaction, and automating IT processes such as data flows makes these easier to achieve by mitigating the vulnerabilities inherent in complex processes.
  • Cost reduction: Automating repetitive tasks eliminates the need for manual labor and extensive oversight, which are both major ongoing costs associated with IT maintenance.
  • Enhanced productivity: Employees can spend the time they once dedicated to mundane work to higher-value activities that support business goals.
  • Improved accuracy: Automations are less prone to error, so IT leaders can have confidence that both IT and business processes — and the data within them — is reliable.
  • Scalability: Consistency and accuracy drive improved service delivery and enable enterprises to respond swiftly to new opportunities for growth with confident decision-making.

Automation tools for IT

You can achieve IT automation with a variety of tools. The types of tools listed below provide IT professionals with automation solutions that solve specific problems and perform specific processes.

There are also powerful, versatile IT automation tools that transcend the following categories, overlapping with many other types of automation.

Here are the nine primary types of automation tools in IT.

Batch process automation

Batch processing refers to the group production of multiple jobs or workflows. Batch jobs are often run together during “batch windows,” the nightly periods of low resource demands when large batches of jobs can be processed together without delay or interference. Batch process automation removes the need for human interaction in batch processing.

Big data automation

Big data automation tools help IT professionals gather, organize and process vast volumes of data in far less time than it would take to do so manually. This capability allows IT teams to discover patterns and anomalies in data sets that are otherwise too massive to be thoroughly analyzed by IT personnel.

Business process automation

Business process automation (BPA) tools automate line-of-business workflows. BPA tools offer functions and features that are specific to the needs of marketing, sales, finance, etc. BPA tools are essential to digital transformation goals because they provide the ability to restructure business processes as digital-first processes.

Digital process automation

Digital process automation (DPA) refers to the automation and optimization of business and IT processes. DPA platforms facilitate the end-to-end flow of information between business applications, IT systems, employees and customers to support the customer experience with access to real-time data. 

Enterprise automation

While BPA automates specific workflows, enterprise automation tools develop cross-silo, end-to-end workflows and orchestrate them to create a single, enterprise-wide automation environment.

Infrastructure and operations automation

When infrastructure and operations (I&O) teams need to update operating systems or configure servers on virtual machines, they can use an operations automation platform. IT operations and infrastructure automation focuses on the hardware and middleware of an environment as well as the processes and workflows that address customer needs.

IT process automation

IT process automation (ITPA) refers to automating both line-of-business clients with BPA and back-end IT processes. ITPA  tools orchestrate and integrate workflows for IT tools and IT processes.

Managed file transfer automation

Managed file transfer (MFT) automation tools automate and manage the transfer of data between servers using either FTP, FTPS or SFTP. Managed file transfer automation tools place an emphasis on security and encryption with the goal of helping organizations meet compliance and regulatory demands.

Robotic process automation

Robotic process automation (RPA) tools are software bots that mimic how humans complete manual processes. Users train RPA tools by demonstrating a process the software can then complete on its own. RPA tools automate manual, high-volume routine tasks such as data entry.

Intelligent Automation refers to applying both machine learning and artificial intelligence to RPA tools.

Workload automation

Workload automation (WLA) solutions are general-purpose IT automation tools that help users orchestrate and integrate automated workflows across the enterprise. If ITPA focuses on IT and BPA focuses on line-of-business processes, then WLA is a synthesis of the two. It’s a workflow automation solution for workload balancing and workflow optimization for the enterprise.

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Automation strategies for IT

Automation isn’t just about tools — it’s also about the strategies that guide implementation. Without a coherent strategy, automation can compound IT complexity and hinder integration efforts.

With a proper IT automation strategy, a powerful, low-code or no-code automation solution can accelerate IT’s impact and drive faster achievement of digital goals by generating repeatable automated processes.

Having a viable automation strategy becomes especially important as environments grow and automation spreads. An automation solution can coordinate and consolidate tools, simplifying the IT environment and creating potential for scalability.

The top three IT automation strategies in use today are:

  • The architectural, layered approach
  • Bimodal IT
  • Workflow optimization

The architectural, layered approach

The architectural, layered approach to IT automation calls for a low-code IT automation solution that can provide a single point of control for coordinating and managing a variety of automation tools.

The benefit of this strategy is that by coordinating and consolidating disparate automations into a single framework, IT can direct task execution across any number of heterogeneous environments. Data, information and dependencies can integrate and support orchestrating workflows across the organization.

The architectural, layered approach contrasts with the elemental approach to IT automation, which is defined by the use of ad-hoc point solutions powered by native schedulers and custom scripts.

This approach allows for:

  • Quick and reliable automation of complex, end-to-end workflows
  • A drastic reduction in the need for custom scripting
  • A lower overall cost of IT and business operations

Bimodal IT

Bimodal IT calls for two parallel systems, or modes, within IT. The first mode relies on legacy infrastructure to provide certainty and stability for operations and SLAs. The second mode leverages new tools and technologies to drive innovation and develop new processes, products or services.

By maintaining these two parallel systems, IT can develop scalable solutions and agile processes while insulating traditional infrastructures from uncertainty.

However, these two modes must be able to communicate. IT departments need to manage data, information and dependencies across these two modes. The solution is to use a low-code IT automation solution to manage the operations of the first mode and the development of the second. A single automation platform can unite a bimodal environment.

Workflow optimization

Workflow optimization refers to redesigning workflows to better leverage an IT automation solution to build more efficient, integrated workflows that improve SLA adherence.

Workflow optimization should apply to both existing workflows (re-imagining them in the context of the IT automation solution) and new workflows (shifting automation to the left in the project development cycle).

By building automation into processes from an early phase of development, IT teams can increase efficiency and agility and respond faster to changes by addressing issues across different environments.

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Trends in IT automation

As digital technologies continue to develop, organizations can apply IT automation tools in new and exciting ways, better adapting to dynamic market forces and placing new requirements on short-staffed IT teams.

The following trends in IT automation offer a glimpse of the direction IT is headed.

Digital transformation

The modern business mantra is that every business is a digital business. It isn’t enough to digitize processes and offer services through an app. Organizations must redesign themselves to meet dynamic market pressures by continuously evolving.

As a result, they can no longer rely on fragmented IT environments and static legacy infrastructure.

To meet digital transformation goals, IT teams must now leverage IT automation tools to help coordinate and consolidate disparate tools and integrate cross-silo workflows. 

Cloud automation

Managing cloud resources can be time-consuming. At any given time, IT can have dozens or thousands of virtual machines provisioned in the cloud. Operating cloud resources at this scale is untenable without automation. 

For example, it becomes prohibitively time-consuming to locate the best resources on which to run specific workflows. And if virtual machines are left idle, IT’s bill increases as it has to license more resources.

Automating the provisioning and de-provisioning of cloud resources is cloud automation. Its dynamic nature means it’s easier to scale resources up and down depending on the workload. IT automation solutions can quickly deploy hundreds or thousands of cloud resources, set up storage and server clusters and monitor the environment, so virtual machines are never idle.

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Hybrid IT

Compliance and regulatory requirements can limit what an organization can achieve in the cloud. As a result, some choose a hybrid IT approach, balancing practicality with innovation. Hybrid IT employs traditional, on-site infrastructures (such as mainframes and data warehouses) as well as cloud resources, either public or private.

Managing a hybrid environment can be challenging, especially because cloud resources aren’t always engineered to integrate with outside technologies.

IT automation solutions help automate processes within hybrid environments, allowing users to integrate, coordinate and automate processes across disparate infrastructure resources. With an IT automation solution, IT can seamlessly manage data, information and dependencies across cloud-based and on-site resources and efficiently allocate workloads across environments.

Intelligent automation

Intelligent automation refers to any IT automation tool that utilizes machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI).

Intelligent automation tools can drastically improve processes and outcomes over time by optimizing IT resources and improving efficiency through data analyses.

Powered by ML, intelligent automation tools can analyze historical and real-time data to predict and prepare for future resource requirements. This allows intelligent automation tools to scale or reserve the necessary resources in advance.

By leveraging ML and AI, an intelligent automation tool drastically reduces wait times and idle machine resources, improving SLA records.

Self-service automation

Organizations rely on digital tools and technologies to manage critical, day-to-day workflows. As a result, IT teams have seen their workloads surge and their responsibilities rapidly multiply.

Self-service automation portals are gaining popularity as a safe, effective way to reduce the volume of day-to-day tasks that IT must complete. Self-service portals are user-friendly applications that allow line-of-business personnel to run recurrent, repetitive processes without involving IT. This can save IT a lot of time, even though IT retains ownership and administrative rights over processes and portals.

Self-service portals allow line-of-business users to query data, share files, generate BI reports and more, while help desks can provision machines, reboot systems and reset passwords.

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The IT automation story continues

IT has become essential to critical, day-to-day processes, innovation, product and service development, customer engagement strategies and more. As a result, IT is moving closer to the center of the organization.

The technologies we rely on are rapidly evolving, and organizations are in a state of continuous change, trying to anticipate where markets are going.

Cloud services and AI are two of the biggest trends in IT automation. Cloud services have made huge volumes of resources dynamic and fast, and AI is now integral to the development of big data and analytics. Because of the scales that cloud services and AI operate on, IT automation will continue to play a role in how organizations leverage these technologies.

IT automation tools have been empowering IT for decades. As the technology continues to develop, the capabilities these solutions provide will continue to evolve to meet the needs of tomorrow’s IT function.

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IT automation FAQs

What is meant by IT process automation?

IT process automation is the use of technology to orchestrate and streamline repetitive tasks within an organization’s IT operations. It involves implementing automated systems to manage and execute tasks across various IT infrastructures, including data centers, without human intervention.

What is the difference between IT support and IT automation?

IT support typically requires direct interaction with end-users to resolve issues and maintain IT system functionality. It includes troubleshooting, software updates and configuration management.

IT automation, on the other hand, uses orchestration tools to preemptively manage IT support and IT operations by automating routine processes, data management and more to reduce error and increase efficiency.

What is an example of automation in IT?

One IT automation example is backup and disaster recovery. An IT team might program its systems to perform regular backups of critical data across servers and workstations. To minimize disruption to daily operations, they may choose to schedule these backups during off-peak hours. In the event of data loss or system failure, disaster recovery protocols can restore data and system functionality with minimal downtime thanks to backup data. This type of IT automation greatly reduces the manual effort required to protect against and recover fromdata breaches or hardware failures.

Which is the best automation software?

The best automation software for your organization will depend on your specific business needs and infrastructure. However, the most effective platforms for an enterprise are those that are capable of automating end-to-end processes and removing silos. Vet software providers to select one that keeps up with automation technologies, guarantees a high percentage of uptime and prioritizes partnership to empower your IT staff to drive new automation initiatives.

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