In the final installment of this blog series, I want to briefly describe the effect of our automation journey on our team’s culture, productivity, and organizational status.
The team had three cultural shifts during our automation journey. The first was the noticeable reduction in manual tasks. The team realized that they weren’t being asked to do as much repetitive, unrewarding, manual work. Being pulled away from higher-value, exciting assignments to complete these tasks had been very frustrating to the team. When we reduced the manual tasks as we rolled out automation, the team started to think about automating anything that had to be touched more than a couple of times. We began to create an automation-first mindset.
Second, as we started to show our automation in organized demos and production deployments, management took notice, which invigorated the team. Receiving recognition generated momentum for the team to do more, deliver quickly, and adopt the new automation strategy.
The third change we noticed was that our customers were now able to serve themselves Customers could use our triage dashboard to classify application issues, indicating whether or not issues were storage related. We later added the ability for customers to complete ad hoc backups and restores from our data protection platform. We also provided insights into General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) data for appropriate parts of the organization.
These cultural changes allowed the team to focus on strategic storage solutions required by the company's new technologies, such as application microservices.
The perception of our team within the company had transformed. We were seen as drivers of innovation and, most notably, as leaders. In the IT department, areas such as compute, network, and database started slowly automating. Managers in those areas began talking to their teams about matching what the storage team had accomplished. We were held up as an example of what was achievable.
As you can imagine, the team found this very satisfying. We were even given external opportunities as word spread outside IT, including speaking to other companies that were ready to take on their automation journey, presenting at conferences, writing white papers, and blogging.
Automation isn’t easy. It can require a cultural shift, training, missteps, organizational pushback, bringing in help to make it work. But make no mistake: Infrastructure automation is worth the effort. Start by making a plan. See where you want to go. Take small steps on the road. Know how to measure successes and failures. Be ready to adjust—and go for it!
To learn more, visit our page on automation with NetApp® and Ansible.
Tony Johnson is the SRE Automation Lead for IBM. He is responsible for the automation of hybrid cloud services and platforms for the IBM CIO team. Previously he was Storage Manager at Red Hat, from 2014 to 2020, leading a group of 6 engineers responsible for IT storage.