2018 is the year of automation and anti-innovation. You might be thinking something along the lines of, “How can both of these things be true?”
Before the onset of the Industrial Revolution, many people made a living building products by hand. Fast forward to the dawn of machinery, and technology gradually replaced many of these manual jobs. There was a period of adjustment then people were either making and fixing machines or no longer making things themselves.
It’s just one example of a theme that occurs time and time again across each generation: automation. Each instance might look different, but the lesson is always the same. You either get on the side of automation or become eliminated by it.
It’s a tale as old as time, and it’s sweeping our industry right now.
Automate, Automate, Automate
Recently, I sat down with an IT team who were firing the kind of questions I was asked 10-15 years ago. When I flipped the conversation to ask them about their automation challenges, they said, “Another group is doing that.” I asked if that group was the software engineers and whether they were automating deployment. They nodded. Realization finally struck when I asked my next question:
You understand that when they do that, they stop calling you, right?
IT managers have long thought of themselves as being on top of the transformation curve — we’re the ones bringing technology to business. However the tables have turned and the commonly held belief that IT related roles are immune to replacement is now simply not true.
As the realization of what this meant sunk in, my conversation with the IT team took a drastic turn. We played out different app deployment scenarios and what each meant from a control and ownership perspective. The key in all approaches is to engage and become part of the answer. Whether that is via providing APIs and abstractions or managing individual software instances at-scale and providing visibility and tooling. Engagement matters.
Automation is evolving how people are working, how careers paths progress, how IT operations are run, and how organizations staff IT. We’re moving toward a future in which more software developers are staffed in IT positions.
The moral of the story always comes down to productivity. How can IT organizations enable other business units to be more productive by empowering them to automate for themselves?
Anti-Innovation and Operationalizing
So, what’s to stop automation and technical innovation from totally upending our industry?
Some time in the middle of 2017, the industry experienced a form of innovation indigestion. New ways of approaching IT hasn’t stopped iterating for years and at some point organizations need to make a decision and stick with it. When that happens, change pauses for the organization so that they can embrace the new and make it pervasive. Highlights like Docker, Ansible, and Kubernetes stand out in the crowd and defacto standards emerge.
The result is that mainstream IT slows the rate of new technology and operationalizes it for broad adoption. Finally, talk turns into action. Organizations were able to nail down detailed project plans and roll out real processes and tools. This is anti-innovation – the cycle when we actually make innovation stick. Technology pauses and organizations transform.
As organizations operationalize automation, we’ve been looking at how we can simplify and ease the adoption process with solutions. This includes everything from licensing to APIs to management to hardware to software. We we’ve watched our customers take this journey, we look to our product offerings and verify we’re doing right along these lines and making the entire process as simple as possible.
In the end, we see that all of these technology decisions are actually business decisions, and organizations are increasingly and explicitly perceiving them as such.
Get Ahead of The Curve and Stay Ahead
As organizations focus on operationalizing all this new tech, there’s a massive opportunity to get ahead of the automation curve, develop new skills, and get involved before the next wave of technological innovation and operationalization hits.
This trend delivers huge positives to the industry: productivity gains, cost efficiencies, new levels of speed, increased value, and interesting, strategic work. Automation work still requires the value of a human, but the questions that organizations have to ask are shifting. How do we handle the distribution of new advancements and required workers? The next time that question comes up, make sure you’re on the right side of the equation.