Prioritizing Automation to Drive Digital Transformation

Modern Data Center

The Role of People, Process, and Technology to Get You There

According to the Dell Technologies Digital Transformation Index, 85% of businesses fast-tracked at least some digital transformation programs this year.1 But transformation isn’t easy. In fact, 94% of businesses in the same survey indicated that they are facing entrenched barriers spanning across technology, people, and policy, and less than half (41%) believe they have the right technologies to accelerate transformation.

Automation has emerged as a key enabler of digital transformation by eliminating time-consuming and error-prone manual tasks and, instead, introducing streamlined processes that can be optimized across the enterprise. In 2020, one study showed that 31% of businesses indicated they have fully automated at least one function, with two-thirds of respondents confirming that their organizations are piloting the automation of business processes in one or more business units or functions.2 The global survey showed that 72% of businesses cite “making automation a strategic priority” as one of the most important factors in their companies’ achievements with automation.3

But automation isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution that can be implemented without taking into account the people, processes, and technologies that it will impact. Let’s take a look at each of these areas and how to align them successfully when adopting automation as part of your digital transformation journey.

When Automating, Start with People

As the shift to subscription- and consumption-based models have dramatically changed how IT services are delivered, the role of IT organizations is moving from that of a provider of technology to a broker of services. In doing so, IT needs to evaluate the needs of internal and external customers—for example, the help desk organization, developers, or business end users.

When it comes to automation, understanding these needs becomes critical to success because, after all, the users of technologies can best identify workflows and suggest opportunities to improve the efficiency, speed, and quality of work.

Typical questions for end users may include:

  • Do end users request things directly? If so, does it make sense to provide front-end catalog-style request methods?
  • What are end users requesting? Laptops, virtual/physical desktops, new email groups, application access, and unstructured file storage are frequently mentioned.
  • Are the requests coming from end users changing? SaaS-based access requests may be replacing more traditional IT access and services.

With initial customer input, IT will better understand the direction and focus to take when approaching the implementation of automation solutions, which is why understanding where demand is coming from will also help automation efforts. Are internal initiatives driving the need? If so, what are they? Efficiency, standardization, security, and outsourcing are common reasons for the adoption of automation. Developers may also be looking to accelerate application features or drive to DevSecOps to integrate CI/CD pipelines or enable development teams to own the full stack of the application. Platform operations can help IT operations scale to meet demand, but whatever the reason behind the demand for automated workflows, an upfront understanding and accounting of these is critical to move forward.

That’s one reason that it is often easiest to start with your own IT team. This can involve automating manual internal tasks to build trust in tools and learn how to iterate automation tasks to be more efficient and scalable. Once this is accomplished, you can begin to share your automation with other internal teams. Guided use of developed automation practices can be shared between system engineering teams and the help desk, for example. After guided sharing and observation, greater trust in the underlying automation enables further self-service to become a potential reality—for instance, giving the help desk access to an execution portal for the creation of new user accounts with the end goal of removing the manual step in the process altogether.

When you identify the internal and external customers for IT services, you can begin to focus on the processes and workflows that automation can benefit.

By 2024, organizations will lower operational costs by 30% by combining automation technologies with redesigned operational processes.

Analyzing Processes on the Way to Automation

Gartner predicts that by 2024, organizations will lower operational costs by 30% by combining automation technologies with redesigned operational processes.4 But before processes can be redesigned and optimized, you must first understand what exists. Teams, departments, and the enterprise have operational-level agreements in place that need to be analyzed in order to discover the impact of changes that automation can help facilitate. This is also an opportunity to reevaluate existing processes that no longer support business strategy and imperatives because, at the end of the day, automating a bad process or one that isn’t supporting transformation won’t get you where you want to go, no matter the level of automation.

Helpful questions to ask include:

  • What is the current process for requesting resources? How does a developer request a server, virtual IP address, DNS record, Storage LUN, or file share?
  • After a request is made, what is the internal process to service the request? Where does the request originate?
  • Are there multiple handoffs between teams? Are teams working in different tools? Are there internal operational level agreements (OLAs)?
  • What parts of the process are manual? Can any of these be automated? Are they owned by your team or a different team?
  • What are the biggest pain points within your process? What steps most slow down the process? What steps most often lead to human error?

In many cases, processes have existed without reevaluation for years, and, in others, processes have evolved but they have not necessarily improved, and they may also involve manual activities that introduce a level of risk in today’s environment. That’s why it is also important to involve compliance and governance teams in the exercise to ensure that requirements and needs are met when moving from a manual to an automated process.

Answers to these governance and compliance questions can help:

  • Who is responsible for the automation platform? Who has access to make requests?
  • Do we follow ITIL frameworks? Will the system need to support CAB approval, etc.?
  • What pieces of your process ensure that existing rules are followed?
  • What new rules and requirements will be needed if a fully automated service is put in place?

When you identify the internal and external customers for IT services, you can begin to focus on the processes and workflows that automation can benefit.

Automation Technology Aligns with Your Strategy

After people and processes, you need to align automation with your technology strategy. From foundational business direction, such as your cloud strategy, to the tools currently in use, you will be building a platform that may be able to leverage existing tools or require new tools—but you need to know that up front and be willing to adopt the right tools for automating your processes.

From a technology perspective, you’ll need to know:

  • What is your cloud strategy? Lift and shift? SaaS first, PaaS, Iaas?
  • Is there a drive toward hybrid cloud? Will support for multiple hyperscalers be a requirement?
  • What toolsets are you already using? What do you like/dislike about them?
  • Have you identified gaps in your tooling?
  • What are the must-have integrations to meet governance/compliance requirements?


EchoStor brings a depth of experience across environments to automation and transformation initiatives. From improving operations and optimizing investments by automating the end-to-end technology lifecycle, to planning, integrating, and supporting the infrastructure and tools you need to successfully transform, our team is ready to help.

Discover how EchoStor can help your organization automate as part of your digital transformation journey.

1 Dell Technologies, Digital Transformation Index, 2021.

2-3 McKinsey, The imperatives for automation success, August 25, 2020.

4 Gartner Research, Forecast Analysis: Hyperautomation Enablement Software, Worldwide, 2021.


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Daniel Clydesdale-Cotter

Vice President, Cloud and MSP Solutions

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