As markets become increasingly competitive and margins thin, leaders in mid-sized businesses look across the organisation for efficiency gains. Enter network automation. A true saviour for IT.

Mid-market organisations are quite unique in that they face challenges from all sides. Above all, they have to keep pace with the expertise of larger enterprises, who invariably have more people, skills and budget to work on any challenge the business throws at them to remain competitive. Below, there’s the nimbleness and innovative nature of start-ups. They can test the latest and greatest technology without fear of failure (or much financial repercussion).

IT teams in mid-sized businesses aren’t so lucky. They have to pick and choose carefully, but invariably the operational side of the organisation shouts loudest, meaning time for innovation is placed on the backburner. The ability to automate tasks and processes is a critical bridge to modernisation.

Add to this, a severe lack of IT skills and talent hits hard in the mid-market. With precious few people managing your IT infrastructure, you need the right people doing the right jobs for your business to be its best self. Your talent needs to be working on the strategic priorities to take your business forward today, not the painful manual work of yesteryear – which automation easily takes care of.

As such, the pressure to deliver more, faster and better has reached fever-pitch. And, for a mid-sized business to survive, IT must move faster than ever before. Which is why automation is no longer a technical matter. It’s an essential part of business strategy. Cloud, APIs and microservices are catalysts driving strategic business goals, such as increased market share, competitiveness or boosting customer experience. And, if you don’t want your business to be left behind, automation is a must do to stay ahead.

The final frontier of automation – The network

One of the so-called final frontiers of IT automation is the network. Currently, Gartner estimates a whopping 75 percent of organisations still manage their networks manually. Whether that’s through a fear of losing control. Or simply because many organisations wish to maintain processes familiar to them. By not automating the network[1] to control and manage repetitive processes, mid-sized businesses miss out on a whole host of benefits that drive business strategy.

Reduced costs and increased strategic capabilities

Network automation simply means fewer people not only managing your infrastructure, but also dealing with and fixing problems. Automation reduces complexity, simplifies operations and consolidates network services, meaning you reap the savings. With labour costs the biggest dent in margin for any organisation, the ability to automate repetitive tasks allows you to reposition staff to projects that drive revenue. This helps create new opportunities for the existing IT staff, driving business improvements and innovation.

Enhanced business continuity

Network automation means less human intervention, which means less chance of any oversights occurring. Instead, processes, tests, updates, workflows happen like clockwork, delivering the outcomes you expect. Removing the possibility of human error means a far higher level of services can be delivered. And a greater level of consistency across different locations too.

Boost business agility and margins

Network automation also enables mid-sized businesses to gain a distinct upper hand over their larger enterprise counterparts, recreating that nimbleness of old. You can test new applications and address problems far quicker than if using a manual based system. You can also, for example, build and maintain operational models to drastically improve the launch of new services to market too. This results in the realisation of improvements far quicker, better competitiveness, and ultimately, increased margins.

Consistent compliance

Automation tools can also assist in the implementation of and adherence to compliance and security standards. A particularly vital consideration for mid-sized organisations operating in industries where this is critical e.g. financial services. For instance, there could be legal repercussions if there is a failure to adhere to certain industry protocols. Automation takes care of this.

Getting started with network automation

The obvious starting point for many mid-sized organisations is to understand what you want to automate and how you’re going to measure it.

The path to network automation also provides a great opportunity to revisit existing processes and determine their relevance in your current business. You may find you can ‘retire’ certain tasks or processes as part of any initial audit.

Once complete, you can now identify all of the different network tasks draining your team on a daily basis. With estimates sitting at around 70-80 percent of IT’s time spent on operational tasks, now is the opportunity to free up time for innovation and value to the business.

End-to-end processes with a lot of structured tasks make great candidates for automation, helping to alleviate the biggest workloads for your IT team. You can automate entire processes, from provisioning, management, reporting, to scaling up and down.

Given a large driver of automation is the ability to shift focus from operations to more innovative functions, a great measure of success is to understand exactly that. Which then manifests itself into being able to dedicate more time to strategic business priorities that truly make a difference to core outcomes. If you haven’t taken the automation step, do it quickly before your competitors jump too.

[1] The configuration, management, testing, deployment, and operations of physical and virtual devices within a network

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