Automation in the Cloud: Three Ways to Revolutionize Your Business
Cloud is transformational in many ways. But one of the most interesting is IT’s newfound ability to change—and improve—the way your business goes to market.
Ask yourself: How rapidly can we go to market right now? How quickly can we pivot to respond to customer needs? If the answers are anything other than “immediately,” you have the opportunity to offer your customers a more flexible and adaptable product with automation in the cloud. If you can evolve your standard answer to “right now,” the value proposition shifts dramatically.
“The combination of Cloud and automation can revolutionize the way you interact with and deliver services to your customers”
Automation in the cloud, changes the way you interact with and deliver services to your customers. It also offers a fundamental improvement on how you develop and maintain your systems. Three examples of applying automation in the cloud are:
• Automated infrastructure provisioning for customers with repeatable needs.
• Automated scaling for applications in the cloud.
• Automated vulnerability testing and remediation.
There are many more opportunities for automation in the cloud and the list continues to grow. And, while there are many global advantages to this approach, here are the three I think are critical right now.
Automation in the cloud changes the way you sell
Automation revolutionizes a sales cycle that involves demonstration. A software company or any organization that has a complex and lengthy sales cycle would fit into this category. Using automation hands the sales organization can respond immediately to potential customers. While on demand, they can immediately provision the sales assets they need, to pursue an enterprise sales opportunity.
Here’s an example: Our client is a software vendor who wanted to increase sales velocity and reduce cost of sales. They automated the customer demonstration process using cloud, to provide on-demand capacity so the demonstrations can happen on the fly while sales teams are in front of the customer.
Prior to automation, the sales team had to coordinate in advance with IT for capacity. IT had to provision and build demonstration environments, which could take up to a month if they need to purchase hardware. Sales had to calendar the demo with both IT and the customer, while keeping the customer warm. In this pre-cloud-automation world, it was on IT to keep up with growing customer and sales opportunities, so they had to constantly buy new hardware to manage demand.
After automating the demonstration environment creation process, the sales team just has to push a button and the demo can occur immediately with on-demand capacity. IT no longer needs to purchase and support costly new hardware. Capacity is automatically allocated to sales on an as-needed basis and disappears when the demo is complete.
Automation in the cloud changes the way you respond to customer need
In today’s marketplace, customer responsiveness is king. With automation in place, you can respond to customer requests rapidly. Automation allows you to quickly roll out new capabilities or features, giving customers what they want in real time.
The primary driver for these new capabilities is DevOps automation, which automates previous manual and complex tasks (such as development environment provisioning and configuration). This type of automation increases the velocity of new features and capabilities and eliminates manual processing and configuration errors.
Think about it: if software—essential to every rapidly evolving business in today’s market—is the 21st century’s equivalent of the 20th century “factory,” DevOps automation is akin to a modern day assembly line where errors are eliminated and speed is increased.
"I believe it is incumbent on the forward-looking, strategic CIO to help their organizations see that the combination of cloud and automation can revolutionize the way you interact with and deliver services to your customers"
Consider this example of how DevOps is transforming a business: A global marketing analytics client gets a steady stream of customer requests for new and different marketing analyses. In the past, responding to these requests required customized infrastructure, which was prohibitively expensive due toboth labor and computing facilities costs.
We built an automated, modular analytics portal that will enable their team to build customized analytical environments for each customer with the touch of a button. No more expensive, error-prone, time-consuming manual configuration. Because the portal was built and housed in the cloud, the client builds capacity on demand with no lengthy pre-planning cycle. And since they only pay for what they use, the service is immediately available at a low cost that allows them to deliver to a much greater number of customers.
Automation in the cloud changes the way you align with the business
Automation enables you to spend less time and resources worrying about just keeping things to run smoothly. That reclaimed time and resource pool offer you more time to collaborate with the business. The collaboration allows you to plan and execute their needs rapidly and aggressively in the ways I talked about earlier.
Here’s a great example of this process in action: We worked with a financial services organization that went through the automation transformation I described above. Afterwards, they were able to execute on an initial goal of taking several IT managers and realigning them with a matrix reporting structure to both IT and a business line leader. Each IT resource now has the objective of identifying, planning and delivering the technology that business line needs to execute its strategy. This organizational change was made possible solely by the automation strategy, which freed up critical human resource (and, as an added bonus, generated terrific new career development opportunities).
This is a time of transformation and organizational change; of great opportunity for folks who can see the business prospects automation in the cloud. I believe it is incumbent on the forward-looking, strategic CIO to help their organizations see that the combination of cloud and automation can revolutionize the way you interact with and deliver services to your customers. These changes are not only within the IT organization, but also across the business; looking at automation from an IT perspective alone sub-optimizes the opportunity. The CIO needs to make sure they are engaging the entire business—a paradigm that positively changes the traditional IT/Business dynamic that we have all been wrestling with for 30 years.