IT Process Automation: A Complete Guide to Optimizing Workflows in 2023

With growing data volumes and system complexity, IT teams grapple with efficiently managing IT operations, security, and infrastructure. IT process automation provides a solution – automatically handling repetitive, manual processes so tech teams can focus on innovation.

But where exactly does IT process automation excel? What benefits can it offer? Who are the main vendors? And what is its future outlook?

This comprehensive guide answers these questions and more, providing both technical and business readers a complete overview of optimizing IT workflows with automation.

What is IT Process Automation and How Does it Work?

IT process automation (ITPA) refers to using software tools to automate routine, repetitive IT workflows, processes, and tasks. It does this by integrating with an organization‘s backend systems, servers, databases, applications etc.

Once integrated, ITPA solutions can monitor systems, trigger responses based on conditions, and execute predefined processes across multiple IT systems with minimal human intervention.

For example, common uses include:

  • Automated incident response – detect failures and resolve issues without admin input
  • Regular patch management and system updates deployed across infrastructure
  • Automated provisioning and deprovisioning of user accounts/permissions
  • Workload and batch job scheduling across systems
  • Automated backups with scheduled testing and failover executions
  • Continuous compliance checks and controls to meet regulations
  • Monitoring performance metrics and application health

ITPA tools achieve this by providing capabilities to:

  • Connect to infrastructure components like servers and databases
  • Design workflows with logical connectors, conditions, loops, and handoffs
  • Trigger automated processes based on event alerts, schedules, or file availability
  • Leverage existing APIs, scripts, and commands across systems
  • Orchestrate end-to-end processes spanning multiple technologies
  • Provide control, visibility, reporting, and analytics around processes

Leading ITPA tools include intuitive "no-code" drag and drop designers allowing even non-developers to build and deploy automations.

According to TechTarget, the top ITPA use cases revolve around automation of incident response, IT asset discovery, policy enforcement, network config, health monitoring, and more.

Below we explore the benefits, vendors, use cases, and outlook for IT process automation in further detail.

Key Benefits of IT Process Automation

ITPA delivers major productivity, efficiency, and business continuity gains. Forrester found that over 50% of firms have adopted ITPA with reported benefits including:

1. Increased efficiency – automating manual tasks improves productivity and allows IT teams to accomplish more with existing resources. Some metrics include:

  • Task time reduction by 65% to 90%
  • 70-90% fewer people needed for operations
  • 63% higher system administrator productivity

2. Cost reduction – automating labor-intensive IT activities reduces operational costs substantially. Sample metrics:

  • Up to 75% lower IT operations costs
  • 45% reduction in service desk tickets/queries
  • Up to $3 million savings from automating deployments

3. Improved SLAs – automated incident response and remediation times can dramatically improve IT service levels:

  • Reduce incident resolution times by over 90%
  • 99.95% SLA compliance compared to 92% manually
  • Over 30% quicker batch job completion times

4. Enhanced compliance – continuous automated controls ensure IT processes adhere to regulations like HIPAA and GDPR.

5. Higher availability – automated failover, backup and recovery minimize risk of downtime from outages. Samples:

  • 99.99% availability for mission-critical apps
  • Under 1 minute failover times achieved

6. Scalability – ITPA allows infrastructure and processes to rapidly scale up or down on demand.

7. Strategic enablement – automated operations free up IT teams to focus on high-value initiatives.

According to Enterprise Management Associates research, leading motivations to adopt ITPA include productivity gains, cost savings, and enabling innovation.

ITPA vs RPA – Key Differences

IT process automation is often contrasted with robotic process automation (RPA), though they have distinct areas of focus:

IT Process AutomationRobotic Process Automation
ScopeAutomates backend IT systems and infrastructureAutomates repetitive user-interface focused business processes (eg. data entry)
IntegrationIntegrates with databases, servers, APIsMimics user interactions with software UIs and surface-level data
ComplexityOrchestrates complex workflows across systemsHandles simple, rules-based tasks
ScalabilityCentralized administration for enterprise-wide useBot-based individual process automation
Decision-MakingCan incorporate intelligence for dynamic decisionsFollows predefined rules and logic

In practice, many organizations combine RPA and ITPA for end-to-end intelligent process automation from frontend to backend.

Leading IT Process Automation Vendors

The IT process automation landscape has over a dozen notable vendors offering a range of solutions:

VendorOverview
VMwareBroad ITPA capabilities spanning infrastructure, cloud, apps, and services
StonebranchCombines workload scheduling with IT process automation
BMCComprehensive solutions for automating mainframe and cross-platform IT workloads
Redwood SoftwareITPA with intuitive visual design and library of pre-built process templates
Resolve SystemsITPA focused on AIOps-driven intelligent incident response automation
CiscoWorkload automation platform with cloud orchestration and analytics
IBMAutomates IT processes across on-prem and multi-cloud environments
OpConPlatform for workload automation, SAP automation, file transfers, and event automation
ASG TechnologiesProvides automation and orchestration capabilities for workloads, events, and services
Tidal Workload AutomationSpecializes in job scheduling, automation, and analytics for IT processes

ITSM vendors like ServiceNow and Cherwell also offer IT process automation capabilities. With rising demand, the vendor landscape will likely expand.

What is the Market Outlook for IT Process Automation?

Multiple reports forecast robust growth for the IT process automation market:

  • According to MarketsandMarkets, the ITPA market is projected to grow from $7.2 billion in 2022 to $17.8 billion by 2027, representing a CAGR of 19.5%.
  • IDC predicts worldwide spending on IT automation software reaching $18.4 billion by 2026.
  • Drivers include digital transformation, cloud adoption, need for greater efficiency, and expanding use cases.
  • Solutions incorporating AI/ML and analytics are expected to gain strong interest.
  • Cloud-based delivery models will also gain traction for enhanced agility, mobility, and scalability.

The COVID-19 pandemic has further propelled IT automation adoption as firms recognize the need to digitally transform with lean IT teams.

Overall, IT process automation appears primed for robust growth in coming years, potentially reaching over 25% of the $100 billion IT operations management market according to GrandViewResearch.

Real-World Examples of IT Process Automation Use Cases

IT process automation use cases span infrastructure, operations, apps, and beyond:

1. Automated Incident Remediation

  • ITPA tools can automatically raise tickets, attempt fixes, escalate unresolved incidents, and keep users updated.
  • Resolve Systems shares an example where automated remediation reduced critical incident resolution time from 4 hours to 5 minutes.

2. Server Provisioning and Configuration

  • Automating setup of new servers with pre-defined configurations reduces server build time from days to minutes.
  • ITPA tools can also automate configuration changes across server farms rapidly.

3. Application Performance Monitoring

  • By gathering metrics on application response times, system loads etc., ITPA can trigger actions to scale resources or resolve problems proactively.

4. Batch Job Scheduling

  • Automating execution and monitoring of jobs like billing runs and report generation optimizes efficiency.
  • ITPA tools can manage dependencies between thousands of jobs across platforms.

5. User On/Offboarding

  • Automating new employee onboarding across apps/systems dramatically improves IT experience.
  • Offboarding automation locks departing user accounts and manages access deprovisioning.

6. Cloud Orchestration

  • ITPA tools can automate provisioning infrastructure across multi-cloud platforms while optimizing cost, security and compliance.

7. IT Compliance Controls

  • Automating controls, audits, and reports helps comply with regulations like SOX, HIPAA, PCI DSS, and GDPR.

8. Backup and Disaster Recovery

  • ITPA solutions can schedule backups across servers and apps, run DR drills, and orchestrate failovers to ensure availability.

These real-world examples highlight the breadth of IT functions that can be optimized with process automation.

The Future of IT Process Automation

Key trends that will shape the future of IT process automation include:

  • Integration with AIOps – Combining ITPA with artificial intelligence for IT operations platforms will enable dynamic, context-aware process automation.
  • Incorporating RPA – Integrating RPA bots will allow for end-to-end automation from front to back office systems.
  • Leveraging Data Analytics – Advanced analytics will provide deeper intelligence for predictive, prescriptive automation scenarios.
  • Expanding Use Cases – Applicability of IT process automation will grow across IT domains from ITOM to SecOps, NetOps and CloudOps.
  • Support for Hybrid IT – ITPA tools will need to automate consistently across on-premise, multi-cloud, edge and containerized environments.
  • Low-Code Automation – Enabling non-technical users to build automations will spur broader adoption.
  • Reinforcement Learning – ITPA solutions can continuously self-improve through reinforcement learning algorithms.
  • Enabling Digital Transformation – IT process automation will be integral for managing the next phase of digital transformation and IT service delivery.

Gartner predicts that by 2022, 40% of new enterprise applications will leverage AI-powered automation during development. ITPA is poised to deliver on this vision of "autonomous IT operations".

Key Takeaways on IT Process Automation

  • IT process automation focuses on optimizing repetitive, rules-based IT workflows through software automation.
  • Key benefits include improved efficiency, reduced costs, higher service levels, scalability, and strategic enablement.
  • ITPA adoption continues to accelerate as digital transformation drives IT modernization.
  • ITPA integrates with backend infrastructure unlike RPA which automates front-office processes.
  • Major use cases span IT domains from infrastructure to operations, security, networking and more.
  • As ITPA leverages the latest AI and analytics, it will become integral for managing the modern IT landscape.

Conclusion

IT process automation provides a powerful mechanism for optimizing workflows across the technology stack. With the ability to integrate disparate tools and automate complex cross-domain tasks, ITPA enables enhanced efficiency, productivity, and innovation.

As the technology matures, IT process automation is transitioning from workload-focused tactical tool to an enterprise-wide intelligent automation platform integrated into the fabric of IT operations.

Forward-thinking organizations are embracing ITPA today to build the responsive, dynamic, and autonomous IT environments of tomorrow. With the benefits and business drivers clear, IT process automation merits consideration in every modern IT strategy.

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