Enterprise Software

Automation will force inhouse IT staff to retrain

IT staff will need to prepare for disruption as automation of IT management processes picks up according to the author of a new report.

Inhouse IT workers will need to reskill as automation of IT operations increasingly takes over tasks carried out manually today, according to a study.

Systems that automate IT management processes could replace one third of tasks carried out by IT teams according to the report 'The wastage of human capital in IT operations' by analyst house Quocirca and autonomic technology specialist IPsoft.

These "level one" tasks are replaceable due to their simplistic and repetitive nature, says the report's author, Bob Tarzey, analyst with Quocirca. He defines these simple level one tasks as the responding to minor user incidents, carrying out routine maintenance or basic error checking.

These mundane tasks take up about one third of the time of in-house IT staff, according to the 100 IT managers at companies surveyed for the report. An example of a level one task suited to automation, says the report, is the patching of physical servers or virtual machines.

The upshot of increased automation for inhouse IT staff will be a change to their role and possibly, in the short term, job losses said Tarzey.

"It might lead to job losses in the very short term because of the economic climate that we're in. But the real thing that it will produce in the long term is better delivery of IT to businesses," he said referencing savings on staff costs and the potential for inhouse IT staff to retrain to carry out tasks that deliver greater business value.

"In the long term the people that work in businesses with an IT-related job will be much more application-focused and much more focused on making sure those applications deliver what the business needs, however they're underpinned."

The other alternative for in-house IT staff will be moving to work for service providers that will run the bulk of IT infrastructure and systems used by businesses, he said. While these service providers' automated IT shops will require far fewer staff to run than those of today's businesses this will be balanced out by an overall rise in demand for IT services.

Tarzey said: "If you go to Rackspace or Amazon you won't find staff being wasted in the same way they are at a large enterprise with a conservative IT department and lots of legacy management styles.

"You'll have more technical staff but they will want to drive  efficiency out of those operations to make them cost effective."

Tarzey said that automation tools have reached a level of sophistication where they can be aware of context, taking account of factors like time of day or load when carrying out their tasks. When setting up these automated systems Tarzey it is important to give them the ability to recognise exceptions they can't handle, and to hand these tasks off to a human operator.

About

Nick Heath is chief reporter for TechRepublic UK. He writes about the technology that IT-decision makers need to know about, and the latest happenings in the European tech scene.

13 comments
Deadly Ernest
Deadly Ernest

a company wanting to push sales of a faulty product. See the critical part in the second paragraph: quote .... the report ‘The wastage of human capital in IT operations’ by analyst house Quocirca and autonomic technology specialist IPsoft. .... end quote Every admin I know goes out of their way to automate as much of the system work as they can, most use scripts and the like, while some use nought software when they can find some that are good and work - sadly, too much of the stuff on the market isn't work the cost of the shrinkwrap it comes in.

jwwestbrook
jwwestbrook

Automation has always been a part of how good of a network admin you are. It increases efficiency but there is a wall you hit eventually. This might just pear down inefficient IT teams but nothing more. Automation is why some admins have a 50 machine network and others are responsible for thousands.

ryumaou@hotmail.com
ryumaou@hotmail.com

Seriously? I mean, this is what I've been doing for the past 20 years. I automate as many repetitive tasks as possible so I'm free to do more interesting or complicated things. Whether it's automated "patch management" (ie. Automatic Updates) or scripts that run before or after every backup to clean up dead tmp files, the automating TechRepublic seems to have just discovered has been part of my daily routine for my entire career. Who would have guessed I was at the cutting edge for so long?

jasjb
jasjb

So say the people selling the software that usually requires the level of maintenance it purports to replace. And what is it that they think more than 90% of the software out there is supposed to be doing? It is all there to automate something. If you have a short attention span or are just new to the industry, please take these with a grain of salt. The marketting people are out to sell their product to the already flooded market.

macmanjim
macmanjim

And who pays? Employers don't, but they want unicorns when searching for a position. Companies don't invest in employees anymore.

Dr_Zinj
Dr_Zinj

Scotty: "The more they overthink the plumbing, the easier it is to stop up the drain."

Odipides
Odipides

Users who have to be asked if the computer/printer/phone is plugged in and/or turned on are unlikely to benefit much from an automated system. What was it that "the gods themselves contend in vain" against?

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

because your server always boots up properly after applying the patch, right? And by golly if it is automated we can do this to thousands of servers in the blink of an eye! [i]An example of a level one task suited to automation, says the report, is the patching of physical servers or virtual machines[/i] This is like saying we don't need humans in the loop when automated drones are used in combat.

BlueCollarCritic
BlueCollarCritic

Report or Cleverly disguised pro-Cloud marketing strategy? This so called report reads more like a well-disguised pro-cloud marketing gimmick. If its not a marketing gimmick then it fails and fails badly in its logic. If it is a pro-cloud marketing piece then at least you can forgive the weak arguments reasons given. Automation of Level One tasks – Updates: Sure you could automate this, that is until the day that some idiot by neglect or by intent pushes out some update that few if any IT admins would have allowed had they known about it instead of it being part of an automated update. Updates are somewhat automated now but there is still someone in IT that reviews these so that when one of these dumb-dumb updates gets sent down the line IT can respond to it. In a truly automated world this discovery would be made too late. Society is not yet ready for computer maintenance to be treated like car maintenance. Too few users fully grasp the potential harm that can be caused by their computer from their own ignorance. If we’re smart (and I’m hopeful that enough us are) we will not only have the sense to wait a generation or 2 before seriously examining level one computer task automation but that we’ll also not be conned by the push to the cloud agenda pushed by large ISP’s who seek to centralize the control of information via the disguise of computer maintenance centralization. WARNING to the decisions makers: No matter what a pro-cloud individual tries to tell you the fact is that no Cloud management company either in the US or abroad will ever protect your data like you would! They may at first refuse requests for your data (or access to it) from but they will NEVER ever fight to protect it like you would. Once enough systems are on the cloud the government WILL move to enact legislation that makes it easier to gain access to that data and you can bet your life that no one be they Verizon, AT&T, Amazon or any other big Cloud provider will fight for your privacy and protection like you would! If you move to the cloud then you have only yourself to blame when one day you find that one or more government agencies and or one of its authorized entities (that means private entities partnering with the government) have a copy of your data. Remember, no one will fight to protect your privacy (which includes your data) like you would!

Charles Bundy
Charles Bundy

Once upon a time there was a Virginia agency that had recently moved to Active Directory. They used to have a forest of NT4 domains, but decided on a single enterprise admin model to reduce overhead. One day a central enterprise admin decided to write a script to remove user accounts, unfortunately when run in the production environment it emptied the [b]entire[/b] statewide directory. Lowly non-enterprise admins watched in horror across the state as the accounts disappeared. Since there were DCs located in each district the enterprise admins in their infinite wisdom had not done a schema backup. Lo and behold a few alert souls [i]physically[/i] pulled the plug on their remote DC before said changes were fully propagated. This allowed Microsoft platinum support engineers to restore the user accounts. The moral of the story is too much automation and too little testing are a recipe for disaster. But having people in the loop is just plain CYA.

marc
marc

Is that a documentary or the work of fiction with Matthew Broderick? Speaking of automation, the way Ferris Bueller set up the dummy to roll over was great!