Automation is wonderful! It saves time and money, eliminates errors, relieves us of unpleasant and repetitive tasks, and creates strategic advantages over the competition.
But where is the best place to start automating and how can automated processes be optimized even further?
We go the distance with you to automate your IT tasks. From analysis to modular workflow development and integration into the development process.
The first step is to record the process and system landscape in order to answer the above question. We recommend taking a pragmatic approach here. Together with you, we analyze which processes currently involve the highest manual effort, are run through most frequently and can be automated in a short time. This is where the savings potential through automation is highest and the investment most effective. The result is a prioritized list of processes where the "pain" and "need" for automation are greatest.
Automation projects run the risk of getting lost in the minutiae right at the beginning. Fine concepts are worked out in detail, which are outdated again even before the project is completed. Our goal is to deliver deliverables as soon as possible after the start of the project. We succeed in this by developing solid rough concepts, because these are often sufficient to implement the basic automation. Basing the development process on agile development methods enables the continuous rollout of results, on the one hand to react to changes and requirements and on the other hand to have the developments in use faster. In the course of the automation project, the delivered artifacts are continuously built upon, including documentation.
There are various approaches to the automation of IT processes. In our projects, we rely on modular workflow development. This has the advantage that automated sub-processes support and accelerate the tasks of operational IT operations even before the entire automation project is completed. Infrastructure as Code in particular is very well suited for this, as individual modules can be integrated in just a few steps.
Regardless of the automation solution used (Micro Focus HCMX, Red Hat® Ansible Automation Platform, HashiCorp Terraform, etc.), we develop workflows in a modular, clear and traceable way. The application of best practices ensures that our automation solutions can be maintained and extended even after years. By using source code management systems, changes to the workflows can always be tracked.
In addition to less complex, but frequent and tedious tasks, there are more complex tasks in IT operations that are often based on the interaction of various systems. In our projects, we repeatedly encounter meter-long Excel files for the latter, which in the past were planned as a temporary aid, but in the meantime have become the nonplusultra work tool for the task. To automate these tasks, we first need to break them down into their component parts. This makes it easier to identify and automate the surrounding systems. For much of the information that is then still present in the Excel file, there are tools, some of which are free of charge, that can be easily implemented and automated via appropriate API's.
Once the various peripheral systems have been automated in a modular fashion, they can be orchestrated in a complex automation scenario and made available to their users as services packaged in self-service portals. In this way, you not only automate your internal IT processes, but also enable your "customers" to consume IT services at the same time - depending on their authorizations. If changes to existing services are required, these can also be automated in just a few steps - thanks to the modular workflows. Read more about orchestration here.
When IT operations are automated, automation doesn't stop there. In complex projects, we integrate our automation workflows directly into the development process, implementing an automated CI/CD pipeline with Jenkins, for example.As soon as developers check in new artifacts in the SCM, the code is checked for vulnerabilities using application security scanners, a new version of the application is compiled, the infrastructure is provisioned for the subsequent stages based on our automation workflows, the application is rolled out and tested with automated software tests. If the acceptance criteria are met in the QA environment, the application can be rolled out in the production environment following the same scheme.
Automation is more than just executing individual IT processes or end-2-end use cases by machine according to a pattern. We can also use Infrastructure as Code to document the entire production environment and, for example, port it to another data center or mirror it as a QA and development environment. This enables developers and testers to perform their tasks under real conditions and thus reduces downtime and post-development costs.