Josep Garcia

Paving the road to successful digital transformation with automation

By Josep Garcia, Vice President and General Manager, Asian Growth & Emerging Markets (GEMs) at Red Hat

2020 has been an unprecedented year for many businesses, and demonstrates that organizations need to accelerate, rather than pause, their digital transformation efforts. A Harvard Business Review study reported that 95% of Asia-Pacific executives said digital transformation has gained in importance over the past 18 months, and that 40% of Asia-Pacific executives are quickly developing and delivering new applications to market, compared to 23% of executives in the rest of the world. As organizations accelerate their digital transformation programmes, they should consider automation as an important step of this journey.

Today’s new hybrid IT models include a mix of traditional, private and public cloud technologies. Workload strategies in these new models must consider cost, security and reliability, as well as compliance and regulatory requirements. One of the biggest challenges facing any IT team is finding ways to reduce the demand for manual processes and operations. In an IDC study sponsored by Red Hat, 86% of IT professionals said, “automation is very important or mission-critical to my future cloud strategy”. Automating individual tasks can help, but as your IT environment grows, trying to keep track of so many individual automated processes can create as much complexity as it solves. A report from Forrester Research also indicates that automation is a “boardroom imperative” across industries and geographies. In network automation, technology leaders should be looking for solutions that allow users to manage policy, enforcement and processes at the domain level. Solving problems at the same time and in one place allows for easy scalability, while freeing up bandwidth to focus on more strategic initiatives.

Eliminating repetitive tasks is a straightforward value proposition

The most obvious benefit is cost reduction. Expanding automation for an activity or set of tasks means less time spent manually performing those tasks. IT teams can implement new processes – create DevOps and DevSecOps, and enable them to make new applications and update at speed and at scale. Singapore’s SingTel created playbooks for configuration management and automated time-consuming, repetitive tasks, such as diagnostics and report generation. This not only helped ensure better stability and network uptime, but also freed up employees from routine work to focus on revenue-generating tasks. Providing consistency for software development and IT operations across all footprints, from bare metal to hybrid multi-cloud, will help further drive that success.

Automation also enables self-service and delegation. As people work in new configurations –  like we do now with vast swathes of employees remote working – we’re all under resource and time pressures. Delegation and self-service are vital to address these new challenges. Microsoft leveraged automation to transform how they manage networks and network automation within their partner ecosystem: comprising hardware vendors, different technologies and multi-vendor requirements. Working with Red Hat Ansible Automation Platform’s community, Microsoft drove network advancements for their enterprise clients.

Teams also cannot write code and create products without governance. Without the adequate layers of review and oversight, organizations run the risk of leaving open security vulnerabilities and configurations. This can pull valuable resources, time and money to solve problems that do not need to be there in the first place. Governance about “who’s allowed to do what”, especially in economies and businesses in ASEAN that are leapfrogging technology, is important when considering automation.

What’s next: AI-Driven automation

Data is everywhere, so when you crunch all of that information, you want your AI to gain insights from the data and have the right intelligence so that you are best-positioned to optimise, fix and respond. AI and automation are natural partners, as AI can drive automation. In 2021, we predict that organizations will combine automation with AI/machine learning to create an additional layer of automated insight that is designed to optimize business processes. Adopting AI/machine learning also comes with challenges. To fully harness AI, organizations will need to manage complexities of an evolving software stack, provision the necessary infrastructure quickly, obtain the relevant data and cleanse or transform the data in ways that will be useful for AI models.

For instance, banks in Southeast Asia are using robotic process automation (RPA) to approve credit card applications, automate payments and validate claims. Since RPA can augment and mimic human judgment and behavior to replicate rules-based human action, it helps reduce the time to accomplish those tasks and enables workers to focus on strategic initiatives. In the Government sector, Malaysia’s social security organization PERKESO is using process automation to reduce operational costs and extend the availability of its services. With the help of process automation, over 400,000 employers can now perform transactions, such as contribution submissions and payments, via PERKESO’s new digital channels, instead of having to visit a physical branch. This not only supports PERKESO to better serve existing customers, but allows them to broaden their mandate and help ensure that employees in new sectors, such as drivers working for e-hailing services, are protected under Federal regulations.

Automation allows organizations to architect intelligently with their existing infrastructure, while bringing legacy IT toward a cloud-native future. Automation also uses data for greater business insights, helps ensure security and compliance, and allows for agility across hybrid IT. If adjusting is the imperative for this year, then organizations should consider automation as a foundational part of this ongoing digital transformation, in order to thrive.