The Opportunities and Barriers of Pervasive Automation
September 24, 2018

Nigel Kersten
Puppet

From how applications and infrastructure are developed, configured and built to how they are tested and deployed, pervasive automation is the key to achieving better efficiency and standardization that gives companies the competitive edge.

For those who are not familiar, pervasive automation is the concept of scaling automation broadly and deeply across the entire software delivery lifecycle. It's an important concept that should not be overlooked considering more and more companies are realizing the limitations of automating a narrow slice of their company compared to having pervasive automation across both their infrastructure and applications.

People can easily conceptualize how automation impacts their business: it helps development and operations teams innovate faster, achieve strategic objectives and build value.

Yet, the challenge is measuring the breadth and depth of automation at an organization with complex applications and siloed IT infrastructure. To get a broad view of how companies are performing on their journey to pervasive automation, Puppet released its Pervasive Automation Report that reveals where the opportunities and barriers currently exist. Here are a few key findings of the report pertinent to the DevOps industry at large.

69 percent of C-level respondents strongly agree automation is a competitive advantage compared to only 43 percent of those in a practitioner-type, hands-on role.

There is widespread agreement at the team, departmental and organizational level that software automation is a huge competitive advantage. What is interesting, however, is how much a respondent values automation is largely dependent on his or her job title.

In general, executives have a rosier view of the state of automation in their business. Part of the reason is that they have very little insight into what's happening in the software delivery lifecycle, and rely on metrics that don't really tell them much about the health of their software factory.

Using security and compliance reporting as an example, C-level respondents viewed 75 percent of the process as mostly or fully automated versus 49 percent from those more likely to be the ones producing those reports.

Across the board, respondents indicate there are high levels of automation throughout the software delivery lifecycle. If the value of automation is more apparent to respondents in a leadership role, we should not be surprised that director and C-level respondents also perceive higher levels of automation than department managers and team members. That's because C-level executives don't know how much automation is taking place because they are not ingrained in the day-to-day tasks.

This is a huge blind spot for executives who are ultimately on the hook for the next security crisis. It's important for teams at the department level to have the tools that would empower them to scale automation.

Enterprise-level organizations struggle with visibility into their IT estates. Less than half of respondents knew what software they had running in public cloud environments. The numbers were only slightly higher in traditional and containerized environments.

It makes sense that to ascertain an organization's level of automation, it's critical to know what is in the IT estate. Yet, many enterprise-level organizations can't assess the success of automation because they have limited visibility into their IT estates.

It's worth noting that many people think they know what they have, but when the auditor comes knocking, they have to shut down the business to run their inventory — either manually or with various tools. People may know what they have at a fixed point in time, like after an audit, but knowing what the business has on a continual basis is a major challenge.

For larger organizations, no more than 50 percent of respondents believe that any individual process is fully or mostly automated.

With its inherent challenges and intangibles, the perceived level of automation is higher in small to medium-sized companies. On the other hand, larger organizations have a different perspective.

Companies that have been around for more than 10 or 15 years have specific challenges. For example, many of them have one solution for a specific pain point and have to automate a continuum of technologies. That's why it's important for organizations to have the right tools to bridge Dev and Ops at scale.

New challenges will arise as new technologies are released, but even with these shifts, pervasive automation should always be top of mind. Adapting to tomorrow's technology means staying on the path toward pervasive automation.

Nigel Kersten is VP of Ecosystem Engineering at Puppet

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