IT environments are increasingly complex as organizations shift their focus to digital transformation, and that complexity is holding organizations back.
Most organizations have at least 10 large application platforms that are critical to day-to-day operations. At the same time, large enterprises have on average 900 applications. It’s not surprising that 85% of IT organizations report that integration challenges are the biggest hurdle for digital transformation, according to a survey report from Mulesoft.
IT environments used to be monolithic. It used to be enough to rely on point solutions for scheduling tasks, with custom scripts and in-house tools to automate processes between applications. But as environments become more distributed and diverse, those point solutions and custom scripts are becoming liabilities.
Organizations are accelerating their digital transformation initiatives to adapt to COVID-19 disruptions and economic turbulence. These responses require innovative business processes that streamline data across complex environments, providing digital services directly to consumers. This can drastically increase the impact of IT errors.
For example, digital performance problems can quickly crash websites during surges in e-commerce traffic. Reliability and elasticity are key.
As environments continue to grow and diversify, IT organizations must implement solutions that centralize control of automated processes and systems.
In order to centralize control over automated processes, an automation solution must be able to connect to disparate tools across different technology systems. This can be accomplished in 4 ways.
- Platform-agnostic connectors for common IT tasks such as file transfers, database connections, and software installations.
- Native integrations with popular platforms and applications from vendors such as Amazon, Microsoft, Oracle, IBM, and SAP.
- API adapters to provide extensibility to virtually any service, application, or server.
- Custom scripts are rarely 100% avoidable. Automation solutions that are script-language independent make it possible for IT to integrate any script into end-to-end workflows.
According to Mulesoft’s survey report, organizations using APIs to connect endpoints were 69% less likely to report integration challenges.
API adapters make it possible to rapidly connect endpoints and third-party services. This is critical for automation environments that rely on cloud-based services and infrastructure, and also for delivering digital services to consumers.
API adapters can also support a variety of content and authentication types, and can include features such as testing, templates, and wizards to streamline development.
As organizations add more third-party services to their tech stack, APIs will become a key asset for IT teams. Procurement should pay attention to automation tools that provide REST API adapters, with support for SOAP, WSDLs, .NET assemblies, and command lines for legacy solutions.
The Benefits of Centralized Control
With multiple schedulers and dozens of applications across the environment, tracking down a single log file to pinpoint the root cause of an issue can take an inordinate amount of time. If that issue requires a fix to a custom script, IT is tied-up much of the day.
By running automated processes through a single platform, IT gains a single repository for logging, monitoring, alerting, and reporting on those processes and associated applications.
For example, when SBA Communications consolidated its various schedulers and automation scripts, the IT staff was able to reduce the average mean time to resolution by 90% –from one hour to five minutes– by relying on centralized monitoring and logging.
There are endless benefits to controlling automated processes through a single pane of glass. It enables IT to accelerate the development of new workflows, reduces time spent fighting fires, and facilitates the creation of innovative end-to-end processes that meet business needs and end user expectations.
Consolidating custom scripts and an in-house scheduling solution enabled Lamar Advertising to manage continuous, real-time data transfers, a key prerequisite for the digital billboards it needed to roll-out.
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Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms
Not all automation tools offer the extensibility necessary to centralize and orchestrate processes, applications, and IT infrastructure. RPA tools, for example, are designed to automate rules-based tasks.
Orchestration is a new field, but there is a class of solutions that are particularly useful for centralized automation and IT architecture.
Workload automation software, like traditional job schedulers, enable users to schedule a variety of automated tasks. However, workload automation (WLA) solutions are not native to specific platforms –they are third-party platforms that offer a wide range of capabilities as well as the limitless extensibility needed to support business initiatives today and 5 years down the line.
Market-leading WLA solutions are so successful at centralizing that Gartner has sought to differentiate these solutions from traditional job schedulers and legacy automation tools
“[Service orchestration and automation platforms] expand the role of traditional workload automation by adapting to cloud-native infrastructure and application architecture. SOAPs do not represent a new market, rather a transformation of a mature market for workload automation tools to meet modern infrastructure, application and data requirements.”
Deploying A Centralized Automation Platform
Automation and orchestration platforms are designed to consolidate schedulers, automation tools, and custom scripts. That said, vendors sometimes offer automated migration tools that make it simple to transform existing files, jobs, and objects so that they may be loaded into the new solution.
Additionally, some automation vendors provide licensing models that allow users to deploy their licenses either on-prem or in a public or private cloud. Vendors will even allow IT to redeploy their licenses to different machines, IT systems, or locations (on-prem/private cloud/multi-cloud), giving IT teams the flexibility to easily adapt to changing demands from business units.
Preparing IT for Long-Term Success
Many organizations are pushing to improve and in some cases recreate the customer experience in order to adapt to COVID-19-related pressures. Because so many customer interactions now exist in a digital space, CIOs are looking for new ways to streamline data management processes to provide data to customers and employees in real-time, as well as boosting application performance.
Business models are always changing and business operations are always evolving. IT departments, if they aren’t already, will need to be able to integrate and orchestrate a variety of new technologies, from big data and artificial intelligence, to microservices and data centers housed in cloud environments.
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