The Coronavirus pandemic and its effects are likely to be with us for a while, but this health crisis will eventually subside, and once it does, many are wondering what things will look like on the other side, especially for IT. This question is particularly pressing in light of how many IT organizations very rapidly changed the way they work, and began delivering services to their enterprise’s end users, customers, and partners from remote locations.
In retrospect, we may look back on this period as heralding the acceleration of digital transformation for many organizations, much of which will be directly due to data driven automation.
In Q1 of this year, Enterprise Management Associates (EMA), a leading IT industry analyst and consulting firm, conducted an exhaustive global study on automation in the enterprise, spearheaded by their Vice-President Dennis Drogseth. Ayehu partnered with EMA to share some of the more intriguing highlights from that report with our audience, and then used the results as an input into developing some predictions for what post-pandemic IT will look like.
One of EMA’s findings was that automation has been making steady inroads into modernizing enterprise processes.
EMA also surveyed their respondents about which type of automation was at the vanguard of efforts to unify automation across IT. Interestingly, IT Process Automation was first, while RPA was last.
One of EMA’s most significant findings was that 90% of respondents viewed the coupling of AI/Analytics with automation as a “high” or “extremely high” priority. That in turn led to the uncovering of some other intriguing correlations.
Finally, EMA also uncovered the top obstacles to automating in enterprises that have not made good progress with automation. (Boldfaced results are the obstacles that were technical in nature.)
After combining #5 and #7, we boiled the technical obstacles down to 3:
- Product complexity
- Too much customization required
- And lack of integration
Let’s examine each one of these a bit more closely.
When it comes to automation, complexity is something we often hear about at Ayehu, primarily from organizations that have used automation vendors whose so-called “automation” actually involves lots of scripting.
This is why for many years now our mantra at Ayehu has been “Scripting DOES NOT EQUAL Automation”.
The idea behind automation is kind of similar to the idea behind a car having an automatic transmission instead of a stick shift.
Not everybody can drive a car with a stick shift. It’s more difficult for many people, requires additional driving skills, and increases the complexity of the product, which in this case would be the automobile.
Just about everybody however, can drive a car with an automatic transmission. You just get in the car, start it, decide if you want to go forwards or backwards by putting it in drive or reverse, and step on the gas. Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.
That’s similar to Ayehu’s philosophy on automation. Anyone should be able to create automation workflows, and it shouldn’t require any scripting, programming, or coding skills of any kind whatsoever. We’re often fond of saying that Ayehu is so simple to use, even a junior-level sysadmin who’s never written a single line of code in their life can become an automation wizard with just a few hours of training.
Every organization has its own way of doing things, and the automation tool needs to conform to that. Ayehu’s approach allows you to customize automated processes to fit your organization’s needs by taking a “Lego building block” approach to workflow creation.
Just about everyone who played with Legos as a kid already knows that Lego blocks are generally very basic and for the most part, fit into each other universally.
That basic simplicity and universal interconnectivity however, allows you to make an infinite number of forms and structures from very simple components.
That’s exactly how Ayehu enables you to rapidly customize workflows to fit an infinite number of IT processes. For those that were holding back on automation due to trepidation over the customization requirements, Ayehu’s flexibility and adaptability should ease any lingering concerns.
In case you haven’t seen the interface of Ayehu’s automation tool, here’s a screenshot that shows you what I’m talking about.
As you can see, it’s a kind of canvas where you build your workflow through a pretty simple, easy to learn drag-and-drop interface.
You have a selection of over 500 activities (or Lego building blocks) to choose from when building your workflow. Most of these are platform specific. You can see Active Directory, Amazon EC2, BMC Remedy and many other platform activities there on the left. All of these activities have been thoroughly tested, debugged, streamlined, and are ready to deploy in your environment.
After dragging-and-dropping your activities onto the canvas, you simply click on them to do some basic parameter configuration. No need for any coding.
Lack of Integrations
Ayehu has an ever-growing ecosystem of pre-built integrations and connectors available that are intended to simplify your automation process. Whether it’s an ITSM platform like ServiceNow or BMC Remedy, a monitoring tool like Solarwinds, infrastructure solutions like VMware, or just about anything at all, Ayehu can seamlessly integrate into it without needing to write a single line of code. The goal here is for Ayehu to be your single pane of glass for orchestrating automation across any platform in your environment, and that’s another way we help you overcome obstacles to automation at your enterprise.
Now that we’ve addressed some of the obstacles to automation that EMA’s report uncovered, we’re going to take a critical look at what Post-Pandemic IT will look like. We’ve got some very specific predictions we want to share with you, based on a synthesis of what EMA’s report uncovered, customer trends Ayehu has observed directly, and some published material by various thought leaders on this topic.
Before doing that though, I’m going to lay a bit of foundational context by talking about the current economic trends we’re all impacted by, as this is a big driver to some of our post-pandemic predictions.
At the time of this blog post’s writing, recent unemployment numbers have been nothing short of an economic horror show. The situation is bad, and we’re being told it’s going to get worse.
What does worse mean? Let’s get some perspective on things by looking at the numbers.
During the Great Recession, a little over a decade ago, the US lost a total of 8.8 million jobs. In the Information Technology field, there were 297,000 jobs lost. That’s a small percentage of the overall jobs lost. However, as a percentage of all the jobs in IT at the time, it was nearly 10%. So 1 out of every 10 jobs in IT were lost during the Great Recession, which lasted about 18 months.
Now we come to the COVID-19 Pandemic, which for the purposes of this economic discussion we’ll say began at some point in March of 2020. So far, as of the latest April unemployment report, we’ve already lost a total of over 20 million jobs. That’s more than twice as many lost during the Great Recession, and it happened in just a matter of weeks!
You may also have heard that this represents a 14.7% OFFICIAL unemployment rate, which is the highest we’ve had since the Great Depression. But earlier this week, the Treasury Secretary was asked if it was possible the UNOFFICIAL unemployment rate was actually higher (as high as 25%). He acknowledged that it very well could be, which is jaw-dropping.
In the IT field so far, there have been 254,000 jobs lost. Over a quarter million jobs lost! Given the total number of IT jobs in March 2020, that represents 8.8% of the industry. In just one month due to the pandemic, our industry has lost almost as many jobs as were lost in 18 months of the Great Recession!
BTW – every number just quoted is taken directly from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
So how bad will it get? Well, no one knows for sure of course, but we can take an educated guess based on some of the projections out there.
For the total duration of the pandemic, there are estimates that ultimately 47 million jobs will be lost. How many of those are in IT? That could be AT LEAST 500,000 jobs, which would equate to somewhere around 20% of the industry.
Perhaps some of you might be thinking, well this is still early days, and as the situation develops, we could actually see job growth in IT due to the surge in demand for more IT services. Perhaps you’re right. Afterall, given how the pandemic has anecdotally awakened many organizations to the need for accelerating their digital transformation, there may in fact be a big surge in hiring of IT professionals.
So far though, that clearly hasn’t happened. In fact, once Federal bailouts like the Paycheck Protection Program run out of money, there could also be an acceleration in contraction of employee headcount in the IT field.
Given that reality, we’ve chosen to base our projections on the direction we actually see things going, as that seems to generally be the most prudent thing to do.
Here’s one more thing everybody needs to take into consideration.
If headcount reduction impacts your IT operations, it almost certainly WILL NOT RESULT in a corresponding relaxation of strict service level agreement targets. If your organization is obligated to continue meeting certain mean-time-to-resolution commitments, and you’re about to lose or have already lost some staff, you’re going to have a tough time meeting your SLA targets. Depending on how your SLAs are written, that could mean incurring some stiff financial penalties.
Just another data point to consider, as I proceed to present you with our predictions for what a post-pandemic IT will look like.
Post-Pandemic IT Prediction #1: Digital Transformations Will Be Accelerated
If it isn’t already, expect digital transformation to become a major focus for many IT organizations, including yours.
Bill McDermott, the CEO of ServiceNow said on a recent earnings call that they’re seeing “…that customers who are farthest along in their digital transformation are better equipped to manage this crisis. Companies lagging behind are realizing that they now have a burning platform. Accelerating digital transformation has become a business imperative.” He then went on to predict that over $7 trillion would be spent on digital transformation over the next three years.
Digital Transformation, of course, has been one of the bigger buzzwords of late. Of all its many definitions, the one we like best is “the collection of technology, process, and even cultural disruptions an organization adopts to maximize its competitiveness in the 4th industrial revolution.” Those technology disruptions can include things like cloud computing, artificial intelligence, chatbots, and of course automation.
For IT departments, digital transformation ultimately boils down to optimizing and accelerating delivery of computing services, regardless of whether the customer is external or internal, or whether they’re working from home or sitting in a corporate office.
Post-Pandemic IT Prediction #2: AIOps Deployments Will Be Accelerated
90% of the respondents to EMA’s exhaustive survey reported viewing the merging of Artificial Intelligence with analytics and automation as a “high” or “extremely high” priority. Given the massive paradigm shift that working from home brings to an organization’s infrastructure, AIOps is being increasingly viewed as the best solution to monitor and manage on-premise and remote worker systems.
One example we’ve been hearing a lot about lately is the massive increase in VPN usage as a result of the upsurge in staff working from home. This has led to an increased need for monitoring and managing VPN license servers, to ensure that with all the VPNs being used remotely, the license limit isn’t suddenly breached, thus crashing the VPN server and creating an outage for everybody in the organization logged into it.
At this point, the new norm of working from home is virtually certain to become a long-term permanent consequence of the COVID-19 outbreak, especially considering the liabilities organizations may incur by bringing workers back to open office plans with shared desks and common areas. It’s just very hard to see how that arrangement can possibly continue.
There are discussions about retrofitting these types of work areas with partitions and sneeze guards, but it remains to be seen how effective that’s going to be, particularly compared to just letting people continue working from home. That’s especially true now that everyone can see working remotely isn’t the productivity apocalypse many control-freak executives thought it might be.
As a result, expect to see the accelerated use of AIOps due to this monumental workplace transition.
Post-Pandemic IT Prediction #3: Accelerating Implementation of AI Chatbots
There was already a trend towards deploying AI chatbots as 24x7x365 virtual operators that enable self-service automation for service desk requests. The momentum driving that shift pre-pandemic was the huge reduction chatbots delivered in cost per ticket on L1 requests ($4 vs. industry standard $20).
The COVID-19 outbreak however has placed pressure on many IT organizations to expedite the rollout of AI chatbots, and reroute call volume away from humans working at the service desk towards virtual operators that are always on-call. If your organization suffers any headcount reduction as a result of the economic situation, and even if it doesn’t, there’s likely going to be a much bigger emphasis on using AI chatbots to facilitate more self-service incident remediation and request fulfillment.
If you’re interested in test driving Ayehu NG with all its cool new features and get a head-start on post-pandemic IT, download your very own free 30-day trial version from the link below: