Sysadmins Lean on IT Automation in Rough Economic Times

When the economy is healthy and things are full steam ahead, it’s easy to fix problems and solve issues with, well, money. In flush times, it’s easier to ask for what you need.

But, these are not those times.

Today, it seems as though each morning brings more news of downturn. Inflation is rampant, companies are losing resources, and job stability can be shaky at best.

While moments of financial duress are hard for everyone, system administrators (sysadmins) face a special kind of challenge. How can we help sysadmins in these days of shrinking budgets?

Sysadmin challenges in rough economic times

As you know, sysadmins are challenged to do their work without impacting end users. Compare the sysadmin to a Formula One pit mechanic. When a race car needs a tire change at a pitstop, you’ve got to execute in seconds – without impacting the driver’s focus and momentum.

Rockstar sysadmins see themselves as allies to the rest of the organization. Not only does that mean the sysadmin knows how to fix pressing IT issues, but it also means they must successfully allocate the right number of IT resources (both people and tools) to address the problem. This can be especially tough in lean economic times.

But there is one workaround solution that makes a ton of sense when it comes to saving IT teams money (and time). It’s automation.

In this blog, we’ll help you identify what to automate and the processes and procedures that can keep your company running smoothly and productively – without costing your department an arm and a leg. We’d also like to note, automation is not the miracle remedy to all IT and/or financial challenges. Sometimes, what you don’t automate is as important as what you do automate. One size doesn’t always fit all. So, leverage these recommendations for your unique environment.

Automation – Keeping your costs low and IT team happy

In a world of increasingly complex threats and declining headcounts on IT teams, automation has emerged as a key technology.

When asking yourself if you should pursue automation, it’s important to note the benefits of automation. In lean economic times, automation helps to:

1. Remove redundant work

Automation eliminates wasted time and repeated work cycles. This means you can stop following the same manual steps over and over. Minimizing manual administration eases your staff’s workload so they can focus on higher priorities and, with automation, the frequency of human error inherently declines as well.

2. Retain your IT team by enhancing job satisfaction

By automating tasks, you can see two immediate gains – the overall manual workload for IT drops and overall efficiency and output rises. Both play well in keeping your staff happy. First, you’re keeping them out of the manual “weeds.” Second, you’re enabling them to more quickly meet goals and excel at their work without adding resources.

3. Increase your ability to scale

Scaling a task, from patching to updating software, across ten or ten thousand devices is not as daunting when you can automate it. Automation also offers consistency in scaling. Regardless of the number of devices, the same actions are taken across every device you automate providing you additional peace of mind.

However, before you automate, you must identify what you want to automate. How do you automate pressing tasks and keep IT strategically involved in the process?

Let’s dig into these steps!

Getting started with automation

1. Define your process and procedures

Processes are a series of actions performed by multiple teams, groups, and/or individual contributors that can be defined in a higher-level context, such as outlining steps in general terms. Processes can take days or weeks to complete.

Procedures are a set of actions performed by an individual or team and are often completed in one sitting (or a relatively short period). They’re more detailed, providing guidelines and parameters of the work or action. Most procedures are well-suited for automating.

2. Determine what procedures consume the most time

Long drawn-out procedures that drain your team's resources are low-hanging fruit when identifying what to automate. Are they taking hours or days to complete, and do they need to be completed on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis? These are the procedures you want to get off your team’s plate – fast.

3. Automate the procedures

The steps within your procedures are ideal candidates for automation. Since they are performed by an individual, that individual can detail what the outcomes of each step should be so an automation solution can be built to meet these requirements and tested to ensure the same outcome.

Diving into the nitty gritty of automation

Getting started may be most reliant on what tools you have available and your comfort level with each. While we could go on and on detailing each, we’ll highlight a couple of sources where you may want to begin your automation journey.

Existing platforms

From your current platforms, identify those that support automation. Case in point, the Automox console enables automated control as well as with our script-based Worklets.

APIs in your current stack

Don’t worry - they’re not as scary as you think; APIs are everywhere and often publicly available in the cloud. In fact, there are more tools available that let you build automations without learning a whole new language.

Scripting tools

A bit of copy-and-paste can go a long way as well as online resources like Stack Overflow, or product community forums allow you to tap into other people's solutions that you can adopt and can inspire simple commands that do powerful things. Other, non-coding scripting tools like Zapier, Workato, Okta Workflows, Freshservice Workflow Automator, etc., also offer easy ways to start automating.

Things to consider when automating

We hope this blog kicks off a thought process that will inspire you to look at how your current routines can be freed from the manual grind by implementing automation. A couple of recommendations as you begin to automate:

Slow down

We’re natural problem solvers who thrive off the feeling of fixing problems. Take a step back before you dive in. Have all the steps been detailed and walked through so you did not miss a key piece of the process? Don’t feel like you have to automate everything all at once. Automating is a process in itself. Instead of getting quickly overwhelmed, start organically prioritizing what automations will have the biggest impact and what you can conquer first.

Ask if your existing process is correct before you automate it

Can the process first be improved and then automated? And, as requirements change, your automations may need to change as well. Being cognizant of this is important even after you put your automations in place.

Seek help from others

Placing yourself as the sole source of automating is not only a lot of pressure, but you could miss key elements. Leverage others and have conversations with them on what would make it easier. Do they want increased control or removal of red tape? Or would automating clunky workflows make life easier?

Don’t bypass testing your automations

As great as automations are, they can quickly unravel if the automated procedure is incorrect or missed a step. This is especially true for security automations from policy changes to SOAR data enrichment (especially as you integrate multiple sources).

In addition to training, be sure to communicate the value of your automations

We often forget to share the value to get buy-in, and secure future resources when the automations work, get business buy-in. IT and security teams typically would only get noticed when they make mistakes – not anymore. Elevate the value of your automations (and don’t forget to showcase the value your team brings to the business in the process)

Automation with a lean budget: Final thoughts

Stop just thinking about all the things you can automate and take that first step

You may find that your workload frees you up to focus on automating even more tasks and start focusing on more strategic work.

By eliminating redundant, manual steps and streamlining workflows through automation, you can not only do more with less, but you can also respond to tough economic times with confidence. In the end, automation will help ensure your staff is providing the highest ROI in the critical work you do – every day.

Image credit: Steen Schledermann


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