IT environments and processes have changed significantly in the last few years. In many ways, the future arrived earlier than expected: initiatives for digital transformation and adoption of cloud services and infrastructure have been accelerated into production as organizations faced new demands in response to the pandemic.
The strategies and tools for workload automation similarly face a need for rapid evolution. Traditional approaches and automation solutions are proving unable to meet the needs of the new IT environment and the business. What is the future of workload automation in the coming year and beyond?
A Changing Landscape for IT Operations
Organizations have embraced new technologies to deliver on the cost reduction and improved operational performance promised by digital transformation. Self-contained on-premises data centers have shifted to hybrid cloud and containerized infrastructures. The use of new business applications and services has also expanded the ecosystem as APIs and web services enable easier and faster connectivity with traditional ERPs and other enterprise applications. And organizations have increased their use of big data for machine learning, artificial intelligence and analytics across the enterprise.
These technology changes also reflect a shift within the business as CIOs, IT professionals and automation software are viewed as enablers of improved customer experience and competitive differentiation. Organizations need greater agility and innovation from their IT and Operations leaders for IT process optimization and for delivery on value-based KPIs, rapid time-to-market and profitability.
These technical and operational shifts require significant changes to IT automation strategies and workflows, and business leaders are taking action now. In the opinions of Gartner analysts Chris Saunderson and Manjunath Bhat, by the end of 2024, 80% of organizations will have embraced a very different model for the delivery of workload automation.
Why Workload Automation Must Evolve
Traditional workload automation solutions evolved from job scheduling, and while it delivers on the key values of operational efficiency, reduction of human errors and cost savings, it still carries many limitations in functionality from that earlier implementation.
Many workflows in traditional workload automation are still managed by careful coordination of scheduled tasks. However, customer expectations for responsiveness and competitive differentiation both require business tasks to run in near-real time.
Workload automation capabilities have also traditionally been focused on core workflows around ERPs or other siloed technical or operational domains, with many organizations operating multiple workload automation tools independently. This type of automation leaves gaps that lead to inefficiency, errors and manual processes, with no clear visibility to the performance of the overarching business processes the automation is intended to support.
In both cases, the limitations of the traditional approach to workload automation prevent IT leaders and teams from shifting their automation strategy to focus on the higher-value goals of innovation, agility and customer service.
Gartner’s New Model for Workload Automation
In Gartner’s view, the model for workload automation must adapt to address these strategic and operational shifts. Fundamentally, they believe that the scope of workload automation must expand both horizontally and vertically to deliver automation of a full business process, where each business process is viewed not as a set of discrete tasks but a complete cross-platform service coordinated from end to end.
Gartner defines the automation software systems that will deliver this new view as Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms (SOAPs), and has identified six capabilities that differentiate SOAPs from traditional IT workload automation and will be essential for business and IT operations.
- Workflow orchestration to enable end-to-end coordination of a business process across its underlying technologies and presents a unified view of that process. Through this orchestration, IT teams can eliminate gaps in automation to gain efficiency and insight that can ensure and even optimize performance.
- Event-driven automation to react to events or data in real-time, running processes to handle them as they occur rather than queuing or delaying for batch processing.
- Scheduling, monitoring, visibility and alerting gives IT operational information to meet SLAs and proactively resolve issues, and keeps business users up to date on the metrics and processes they care about.
- Self-service automation to empower business users, developers and other teams to directly interact with and initiate automated workflows.
- Resource provisioning to perform configuration and provisioning of compute, network, storage and other resources needed for devops initiatives including development, testing and deployment of IT infrastructure.
- Managing data flows to orchestrate the data lifecycle through ingestion, transformation and storage pipelines as real-time streams, batched transactions or file transfer.
The Gartner Market Guide for SOAPs
Get the complete Gartner® Market Guide for Service Orchestration and Automation Platforms to learn why SOAPs represent the next evolution of workload automation tools.
A Unified View of The Automated Enterprise
The new requirements for workload automation extend its role and value beyond its traditional scope and use cases, but SOAPs do not replicate or replace other specialized IT automation software. Rather, they become a central hub that orchestrates business processes with other, complementary forms of IT automation technologies such as Robotic Process Automation (RPA), DevOps and infrastructure management toolchains.
However, IT organizations with multiple workload automation tools can and should consolidate them into a single business process automation platform to eliminate the costs, inefficiency and fragmented views that result from these separate tools.
Workload automation performs a critical role within IT operations, but it must evolve to adapt to the advancements in technology and changing business needs to deliver more value to the organization and its customers.
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