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December 2020
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IT Pros and Automation: A Match Made in Heaven

Sascha Giese, Head Geek™, SolarWinds

By Sascha Giese, Head Geek, SolarWinds 

Once upon a time, automation was mainly associated with manufacturing assembly lines and little else. Fortunately, we’ve moved past assembly lines; automation today plays a critical role within an optimised IT environment in everything from robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to electrical engineering and instrumentation.

In fact, automation is increasingly becoming one of the cornerstones of an optimised public sector organisation. If you’re a public sector IT professional, you may be wondering if automation can make your job easier. The response would certainly be “yes,” as automation can save time and money and dramatically enhance overall agency performance on multiple levels. The question is: how?

Step-by-step guide to automation 

A good starting point is automating network configurations, which can help public sector IT professionals be more effective in the following ways:

  1. Meet compliance requirements, particularly when it comes to regular network audits. This includes monitoring and auditing network devices from a single view, tracking unauthorised and erroneous configuration changes, and automating inventory reporting and policy violation scans.
  2. Implement configuration changes quickly and efficiently.
  3. Automate firmware upgrades.
  4. Save time and increase productivity.

This can all be achieved by automating network configurations. Consider automating workflows, which can dramatically free up time for public sector IT pros. It’s even possible to automate mobile-device-initiated tasks, if your organisation allows this type of interaction.

These examples are only the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to automation, which offers opportunities beyond ordinary IT tasks. Public sector IT programmers can automate back-office human resources tasks, procurement tasks, and financial tasks, and they can even use AI to add context to collected data. This data can then be used to automate nearly any task from responding to threats to addressing citizen inquiries.

In fact, AI will likely be the foundation for myriad automation possibilities. Take cybersecurity as an example. AI can help IT security pros more efficiently understand the severity of potential threats and remediate them through automated responses.

Adding automation means enhancing job skills 

As you might imagine, implementing automation throughout an organisation—for a range of processes—requires a different skill set than the one required in nonautomated environments. Traditional public sector IT roles will require more “soft skills,” such as the ability to write and communicate effectively, in addition to problem-solving, critical thinking, and leadership skills.

As part of its Government Transformation Strategy policy, the U.K. government made it a priority to ensure the “Civil Service is world-leading in terms of digital transformation” by 2020. This includes having one of the most digitally skilled civil service populations. According to the strategy, this means “making the best use of the tools, techniques, technologies, and culture of the internet age. It means having a generation of public servants of all professions who are confident working across organisational boundaries, understand the broader public policy context, and who are equipped to identify and lead opportunities for radical digital change and reinvention.”

With more automation and AI, public sector IT pros are transitioning from service managers to service brokers. Because provisioning storage and answering end-user service requests will soon be automated (if they’re not already), these individuals will instead be identifying data interactions, designing policies, and implementing new technologies requiring a depth of understanding beyond coding or IT management.

Embracing change is necessary if organisations are going to successfully implement automation. However, this requires teams to recognise and prepare for the impact these changes will have. Automation can have vast benefits for the public sector if you integrate it carefully and consider the way it alters workplace dynamics. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing—it just requires preparation.

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