Andrew Smith, UK Sales Director at Nexthink, gives us the low-down on how best to leverage data automation to get ahead of the game.
According to IDC, 16.3 zettabytes of information were generated worldwide last year, with numbers set to increase ten-fold by 2025. This data comes from everywhere: sensors used to gather shopper information, posts to social media sites, digital pictures and videos, purchase transactions, and mobile phone GPS signals to name a few. Data has taken over the world and is at the heart of cutting-edge technologies, including Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML).
When leveraged properly and ethically, snippets of data have the potential to drive positive outcomes across the business. Forward-thinking CIOs and business leaders have quickly recognised that enterprise IT ecosystems can benefit significantly by playing their cards right and making use of the correct data, at the right times, for the right purposes – leveraging automation for IT.
However, IT professionals are usually so busy rolling out data automation solutions for other business silos, they often miss the opportunity to apply these solutions to their own processes. It’s time for IT pros to get back on track and use the power of data automation to get ahead.
Debunking the myths around automation
IT automation and Digital Transformation have become hot topics of conversation among IT and business leaders, especially now that they have access to the data needed to make the transformation successful. But these initiatives come with some general fears and apprehension.
Even though they’re recognised as critical and inevitable steps, the general thought is that as IT becomes more automated, humans will become more irrelevant and – in turn – IT departments will shrink. This is a valid concern, based on how most IT departments are set up. Employees have issues with a computer or device, file a ticket with support and wait for someone to come and fix the issue for them. This process has driven the demand for automation, as employees are constantly frustrated with downtimes, delays and overall IT inefficiencies.
To remove these inefficiencies, IT pros are now able to leverage real-time data from employee devices and applications and take a more proactive approach to IT. Rather than simply responding to support tickets as issues pop up, they’re now able to see where and when users are having issues – and preemptively fix them or reach out and engage with the user to resolve the problem (often before the employee realises there’s even an issue). This is exactly where humans fit into the IT automation puzzle.
To illustrate, companies typically employ one engineer for every 250-300 servers. Initially, this seems like a decent number. In contrast, consider social media giant Facebook: according to Data Center Knowledge, one engineer manages 20,000 servers. How is this possible?
It starts with automation. Everything from climate control to destroying failed disk drives is an automated process for Facebook. More critically, this automation decouples the problem from the solution by failing over servers before they’re impacted directly and then escalating the issue for IT engineers. The result? IT can tackle their task queue without panicking, since the problem isn’t getting worse — it’s just waiting for a fix. There’s also a secondary aspect to the Facebook process: abstraction. Given the sheer number of servers in operation, the social giant opted to abstract most admin-server interaction, providing an easy way to scale up specific outcomes.
The death of the IT ticket
Automated platforms have come a long way in monitoring IT ecosystems, identifying issues and allowing IT staff to fix them proactively. Better yet, they’re sometimes even able to fix minor issues automatically – all because of carefully-organised end-user data being readily available. This makes IT vastly more efficient and prevents help desk tickets from piling up, eliminating long wait times for employees.
For example, say your IT department just rolled out a version of a business application you use daily. It seems to be a much better version than the previous one, but when you go to complete a specific task, you have to find a workaround in the app because it’s not working correctly. Perhaps it’s missing some functionalities. No big deal, right? So, the task takes you 10-15 minutes longer than usual – no problem at all.
Despite you dismissing this minor problem, your IT department can see that you’re using a workaround, so they reach out to you and let you know that they’re working to deploy an extension on top of the new application that will make your work even more efficient than before. This is the type of great IT support that enterprises can expect when they use automated platforms that leverage real-time end-user data to better understand the problems employees are facing.
Addressing system failures before they wreak havoc
System failures can occur for any number of reasons, such as an ageing computing infrastructure, malware infecting computer networks, or even because of human error on the part of end-users.
The only real way to avoid the chaos that ensues when systems fail is to work to avoid them in the first place. This entails updating legacy systems, regularly checking to make sure anti-virus software is current, and implementing automated alerts to help IT identify where problems could occur.
If a system failure does take place, IT needs to be able to restore normal computing services as quickly as possible to minimise the impact to the business. As infrastructures becomes more complex, IT needs to ensure visibility across the entire network, including the endpoints, in order to detect where problems might be occurring. IT also needs to see into situations that are ripe for problems, such as overloaded systems reaching storage limits; inadequate security protocols; end-user activity on suspicious websites; or even burned-out employees, who are spending too much time on their computers after hours.
IT departments can have automated systems in place that can alert them to potential issues, provide automatic remediation, as well as faster Mean Time to Resolution (MMTR) of issues, so that they are free to address the large issues and take a more strategic approach to prevention.
Adding value through proactive IT
There’s no doubt that system failures will continue to occur as technology becomes ever more complex and people and industries become more reliant on it to perform almost every function of everyday life. But by making use of automation and the right data, IT is able to be more proactive and can therefore get ahead of issues and work towards the appropriate resolution. However, is just the start of the possibilities.
The true value of a proactive IT department is that it provides a huge opportunity for IT teams to think strategically and accomplish larger, company-wide goals – solidifying IT as a key department, helping to guide the strategic course of the business. An empowered IT department is one capable of providing better service, reducing downtime and delivering innovation. Leveraging the right combination of analytics, automation and end-user augmentation provides the foundation for user-centric, immediate-response IT support that arrives before systems go down.
The days where IT simply sits back and waits for issues to pop up are over. To successfully manage a complex ecosystem, IT teams must leverage end-user data to have the insight required to proactively manage device and application-driven workplaces. As a result, IT will be able to resolve issues quicker and more efficiently, employees will be thankful for the great service they receive and the C-Suite will recognise IT as a key driver of the business’ success.