Bringing about change. One of the hardest things to bring about is change, and there is no place where that is truer than in the world of IT. When anything happens in the environment, the most common response from IT professionals is, “What changed?” That almost sounds like a Family Feud question, but I digress. The irony of that response is that most of the work that happens in the data center is driven by changes, change tasks, or incidents. Resistance to change has to do with the method and procedure involved with completing the changes or closing the incidents.
Policies and procedures do not usually change, in that you go with the tried-and-true methods that have been verified and used before, but there are times when the business makes a strategic decision to move in a new or different direction. It is these strategic moves that bring about the most change the quickest.
One of the most common reasons for direction change in the current modern-day data centers is the push for more and more automation in the environment. Now, for the companies that have all IT functions handled by an in-house technology team, automation is viewed as the best thing since sliced toast, since automation helps free up some of the limited time these professionals have available. The flip side of that coin are the professionals working in the managed services side of IT. Unfortunately, automation is a direct threat to the business model for any outsourced managed services team. These managed services teams’ compensation is calculated by the head count needed to meet the required service level agreements (SLA). Automation slowly and surely decreases the head count of these organizations as the original agreed-upon staffing levels no longer reflect the new reality that automation brings to the table. For this group, business-wide automation is not something that brings enhancement or level to these teams, but rather points to a decreased and dwindling staff with fewer and fewer services to provide and maintain.
Now, what I find really interesting is the next group of professionals that are worth mentioning. This group of professionals comprises the people who are part of the in-house IT team who resist the benefits that automation can clearly bring to the table. For whatever reason, these IT professionals resist having any company-wide automation initiative that penetrates their world of responsibility. In my humble opinion, some of this resistance to automation might be because of the professionals’ own insecurities and lack of self-esteem about the value or skills that they feel they bring to the table or about their place on the corporate IT team. There might be a certain technology that they would be ultimately responsible for. Such a professional might even be the only person, or one of just a couple of people, who can currently perform a certain task or work with certain technology. They may feel they present their worth to the team based on the number of manual tasks or changes assigned to them. There is a saying that a team is only as strong as its weakest link. These particular types of administrators are usually the weakest link in the overall team collaboration.
In closing, I would like to reiterate that the movement to automation is in its early years and will only continue to grow inside the data centers as more companies embrace and enhance their automation portfolio. The growth of automation will have a direct effect on the managed services providers. Slow and steady, the head counts on the accounts that continue on the automation journey will continue to shrink. There is an opportunity presenting itself with this operational change that automation brings that could redefine managed services. The managed services companies need to take a hard look at what it would take to expend the development skill sets available to the company. If the managed services companies can find subject matter experts that can also code the automation, the company could help refine managed services into something similar to DevOps service. So, in today’s modern-day data centers, get ready to bring about the change.