Closing the Gap: Deploying Automation the Right Way
Automation in the enterprise is nothing new. Engineers have been working with automation tools and frameworks for decades. From configuration management tools, to continuous integration and delivery pipelines to cloud formation, you name it—automation is part of the fabric of nearly any technology use case in the business landscape. If the previous statement is true, then why does automation still seem to pair with so much manual work?
The answer? There is still a palpable lag in the widespread adoption of automation across IT and the rest of an organization. For example, the majority of companies today have some form of digital offering—whether that’s a product, service, helpdesk, or other customer-facing application. And most companies leverage some degree of automation within their IT organization to deploy or maintain that service offering. However, even though automation is utilized, the full value is often unrealized in production. Its use is typically pigeonholed in small pockets of the business, and only the employees who implemented and/or built it are able to use and apply it.
We call this the automation gap.
The Automation Gap
The automation gap is a scenario where the use of automation within an organization exists in islands—with each specialized operational unit leveraging pockets of automation in silos. Additionally, the existence of an automation gap means most employees (besides the subject matter experts) either lack the tribal knowledge, skill sets, and/or access privileges across the organization to actually use it.
Through the lens of IT, an automation gap slows down operations, and can lead to bigger business problems such as:
- Limited innovation capacity because of constant escalations to specialists
- Increased SLA penalties and error rates from slowed incident resolutions
- Specialist burnout due to inundation of unplanned work and requests
- Ultimately unhappy customers and lost revenue
Considering the pace of innovation and rise in consumer expectations in the digital world, the negative externalities of an automation gap will only worsen—or widen—as the days go by. But before you can address the issues and bridge the chasm, you need to be able to identify and understand the underlying factors that contribute to the existence of the gap at its foundation.
The characteristics of an automation gap can be categorized into three main subcomponents:
- The Knowledge Gap
- The Skills Gap
- The Access Gap
The Knowledge Gap
Digital-first organizations of all sizes have to constantly transform to meet customer needs, keep pace with innovation, and stay ahead of the competition. In order to see success in this evolution, the digital infrastructure needs to adapt and evolve in parallel. But evolutions can’t just happen overnight. They occur through years of digital transformation, employee and cultural transitions, and new complexities and technical dependencies—all layered atop legacy infrastructure. Without proper documentation and understanding, seamless execution can be nearly impossible.
The knowledge gap is the understanding that no single individual or employee can be the subject matter expert for every dependency, system, or best practice in the IT organization. For example, a former employee with a 5+ year standing may have the tribal knowledge to tackle a legacy infrastructure incident, but the on-call responder who’s been working eight months might not have that nuanced understanding of the same underlying infrastructure.
The Skills Gap
The skills gap is the reality that different users have different technical skill sets. Similar to the knowledge gap, the skills gap stems from employee specialization of new technologies and complexities across an organization’s digital infrastructure. As new systems and processes are introduced, often the subject matter experts (SMEs) that built or implemented them are the only people who can properly triage a problem when an incident inevitably occurs. This specialization bottleneck can negatively impact the response lifecycle, burn out your specialists, and reduce the efficiency of your remediation efforts. This gap is especially evident during periods of attrition, where one or two specialists who left were the only ones with the understanding and skills needed for X system or Y service.
Not everyone knows how to administer a database, or automate a continuous integration pipeline. In fact, a company’s most highly skilled technicians are usually in such demand, anything that can offload their work helps scale the business. To constantly escalate repetitive diagnostics and procedures to SMEs creates unplanned work and acts as a distraction to otherwise high-value work experts should be prioritizing. Talent acquisition around these technical roles continues to grow, which makes this particular gap all the more important to tackle for organizations long term.
The Access Gap
Finally, an access gap is related to maintaining security posture according to today’s best practices. Following the principle of least privileged access, super-user credentials should not be widely distributed or shared among IT staff. Without the proper access to tools, information, and systems, you will see negative outcomes stemming from a lack of access, such as prolonged resolution times, inefficiencies around remediation, and less time for SMEs to focus on high-value work.
So how can PagerDuty help you bridge this automation gap, improve the overall agility of your IT operations, and enable your teams to innovate faster?
PagerDuty’s automation capabilities enable your end-users to do what previously only your expert engineers were able to do. The platform is designed to bridge these gaps by safely delegating automation for use by other stakeholders, eliminating escalations interruptions and dramatically reducing wait times. These processes can incorporate existing task automation as individual steps in an operational workflow, abstracting the specific context of each step from the process user, while providing a consistent operational experience.
The PagerDuty® Process Automation portfolio consists of the following offerings:
- PagerDuty® Automation Actions. A PagerDuty add-on that curates and connects responders in PagerDuty to automated diagnostics and remediation for services involved in incidents.
- PagerDuty® Runbook Automation. A SaaS service that enables engineers to standardize and automate runbook procedures, and delegate services as self-service operations.
- PagerDuty® Process Automation On-Prem. A self-hosted software cluster that gives engineers the ability to standardize and automate end-to-end operational workflows, and safely delegate them as self-service operations to stakeholders.
PagerDuty’s automation capabilities also help organizations safely close the access gap by providing the ability to invoke automated workflows without needing to explicitly share credentials or keys with end-users. It integrates with single sign-on (SSO) to enable role-based access control, and logs all activity at both process and step levels to meet compliance requirements.
To learn more about how PagerDuty’s automation capabilities can help you on your journey to close the automation gap, visit https://www.pagerduty.com/use-cases/automation/ today.