Why software automation has become an important tool in the CIO’s bag

In a mobile-first, socially enabled first world, customers have become highly demanding and empowered. To attract and retain new customers, organisations are increasingly being asked to build systems that adapt and evolve to customer demands.

However, for large enterprises, building the systems to support this level of innovation can be singularly expensive, drive complexity into already-complex systems, and increase the risk of something going wrong.

These systems are expected to be high-availability, safe, bank-level-secure and often delivered with fewer resources than before. Understandably, this is a challenging proposition.

Given the new appetite for regulation, if something goes wrong, it is essential to be rapidly clear how the problem can be fixed in a prescribed time scale.

These changes are not optional, but the IT departments are under pressure to implement them in a way that does not compromise or damage existing legacy systems.

This perfect storm of rising customer expectation and increased attention from regulators is driving complexity into the system – and IT departments are struggling to keep up.

A case in point is the US health-care system’s ongoing upgrade from the ICD-9 system of classifying injuries to the new, more comprehensive ICD-10 system.

>See also: Automation will not kill offshore outsourcing, Ovum says

The change, which will expand the number of diagnosis codes to 69,000 from 14,000 and procedure codes to 85,000 from 13,000, will help provide more up to date accounting, and improve the data they collect on patients. 

IT however, is proving to be a roadblock. Supporting initiatives such as ICD-10 is painful for stretched IT departments, because it forces them to maintain existing technologies whilst in parallel setting up IT systems that support the new initiatives or standards.

For any enterprise, the level of IT complexity can become mountainous over time. The deadline for the implementation of ICD-10 was pushed this week to October 15th, 2015 – a year later than planned.

The delay means that some who have rushed to adopt the new system now must maintain two systems in parallel. St. Luke’s Health system must now increase training costs to $450,000 from $300,000 to ensure that physicians and businesses are comfortable using the new codes.

Often, when a firm wants to enter a new market, they are faced with a similar story. Smart CIOs and Line of business (LOB) owners need to be able to convince auditors in new markets that they can track when and where application deployments have happened.

With application deployments rapidly becoming agile after decades of waterfall development (think 80 deployments a day rather than 4 a year), this is becoming increasingly difficult.

Each new data centre, application deployment or digital technology introduces a new attack vector. Today’s CIO is intensely fearful of being targeted by attacks, given that security breaches exposed the data of 70m people last year.

CIOs are also acutely aware that the security threat can also come from within – so preventing developers from accessing production servers is also essential.

Tellingly, according to the Wall Street Journal, many CIOs already believe that their organisations have been breached. The C-level conversation then quickly turns to detecting and resolving breaches.

It would be very easy for the role of the CIO to become merely about “keeping the lights on,” managing new compliance initiatives and maintaining application security.

However, the travails faced by many hospital authorities in implementing ICD-10 provide a cautionary tale.

Leading business change and adopting new business models requires dedicated time and resources – the kind which cannot take place when the main business initiative is just to keep the lights on.

Developing and adopting innovative solutions requires large enterprises to adopt the mentality of a start-up – spending time in the field, breaking down organisational silos and talking to customers.

Yet start-ups are not encumbered by the same kind of legacy technology, or organisational complexity as enterprises – and can therefore inherently move at a faster pace.

By applying automation technology intelligently, enterprises are able to address these challenges more effectively. Automation enables businesses to ‘stitch together’ business critical processes to work in tandem, while reducing manual hand offs.

Automation has been in play for decades – helping large, heterogeneous organisations to handle job-scheduling processes but is now starting to become a critical business enabler.

Automation’s ability to handle tasks further up the stack – making data driven decisions to enable real-time decision making – means that it is increasingly playing a role in transforming business processes.

Indeed, next-generation automation is at the heart of initiatives such as Industry 4.0, a project in the high-tech strategy of the German government, which promotes the computerisation of traditional industries such as manufacturing.Led by the likes of Bosch, they are linking every part of the supply chain with wireless automation.

Enabled by technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID), production units can now be mapped across the production line, from supplier to consumer. Each product can have digital information embedded into it that can be shared with machines as it moves through the production line.

>See also: How the software-defined data centre will affect security

For smart CIOs seeking to remain in control of their business while moving faster, automation will become a highly strategic enabler.

The sheer pace of technology-enabled change means that it is increasingly essential for businesses to explore new models of service delivery and re-imagine the role that technology can play in meeting customer demand.

Automation alone may not have been able to solve the US healthcare system’s mountainous problems over the transition to ICD-10, but it could have made the process smoother.

Enterprises that are able to make better use of the technology will be able to focus on value, fast deployment, and meeting standards to remain compliant – a problem that automation helps to solve.

Even as businesses run more safely and efficiently today, dedicating resources to building the business is critical to driving down costs and remaining in control.


Sourced from Richard Muirhead, CEO, Automic

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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