The rise of zero-touch IT

This article was contributed by Thomas Donnelly, CIO at BetterCloud.

For corporate users, that sounds pretty simple: just subscribe to a software-a-service (SaaS) application that does all you need to do. Easy. No fuss. Aside from the friendly interface, IT has a growing workload powered by those very applications. IT is generally understaffed and SaaS is unable to maintain a flood of onboarding, security and offboarding functions. In addition, IT now supports remote workforce that works every hour. In short, I.T. Managing SaaS deployments and managing day-to-day management forces IT to be highly responsive – and therefore less efficient.

Blame the spread of SaaS, not the application. Saas became a very good thing. Ten years ago, ordinary corporate employees used Microsoft Office, and some even used the ERP, CRM system, or SaaS budgeting application. Now the same corporations use hundreds of SaaS applications to increase employee productivity. With the addition of 20 or more annually, deployment, maintenance and security challenges have increased.
The stakes are high with regulatory orders severely punishing data, privacy and governance errors, especially where PII and parent company data come out. There has also been an exponential increase in the amount of data for security. It is important to get every step right in all SaaS-ops processes affecting employees, customers and job applicants. Privilege and security breaches are very costly. It requires automation of increasing diversity of IT operations and workflows.

This automated approach is becoming known as Zero-Touch IT. In fact, many IT operations and tasks can be accomplished without human involvement. Given the ballooning population of SaaS applications, this is the most practical way to go.

Why is Zero Touch made for today, and how does it work?

First of all, Zero-Touch IT is a way to free your people from maintenance tasks and make your OPS team more strategic. You’ve noticed the great resignation – IT genius has never grown on a tree, and now there’s an epic famine. Your team’s time and abilities should not be wasted on what can be automated.

Second, IT serves demanding customers. Corporate users have become less tolerant of waiting for IT to come to their rescue, and they have high expectations. After all, if they can find and load a CRM app on their phone in a minute, why can’t your technology experts give them a new company CRM in 10 minutes?
Users onboard, request privileges and operate in different time zones. Automation does not sleep, making it suitable with asynchronous workforce.

Third, Zero-Touch IT, when implemented properly, reduces errors caused by fatigue and overload. A distracted IT employee can easily grant unauthorized data privileges to an outside contractor, with serious consequences.
There are options for Zero-Touch IT; Independently built workflows can be automated, but these can produce spaghetti of different processes that behave differently and cause confusion. It is best to approach Zero-Touch IT through a compatible management platform.

Zero touch is a concept that is fast becoming a reality

The automation engine that enables Zero-Touch IT acts as a central command center to work seamlessly, consistently with dozens of SaaS applications. It will require running a fairly complex, multi-step workflow that affects a wide variety of applications – some enterprises actively utilizing and supporting over 100 SaaS resources. The workflow setup should be builder-friendly; It needs to be a low-code solution, which can be operated by menu and select-click. IT staff are not usually coders or developers, and everyone in IT should be able to use the platform.

Benefits of Zero-Touch IT

The zero-touch benefit that is often cited for ROI purposes: it frees IT professionals to use their skills to contribute more as technology competitors rather than “fixers” and helps businesses move forward in the world. Time is saved when IT teams do not go through the backlog of tedious, multi-step tasks.

With the Zero-Touch IT initiative, workflows become more defined – it is necessary to automate them. Workflow can expand into multiple applications; An application can, in many cases, trigger necessary actions elsewhere without waiting for human intervention.

To extend the value of Zero-Touch IT, automation engines should be able to interact with key applications such as automated ITSM, ServiceNow, workflow engines and chatbots.

The waiting time factor for users can also be dramatically reduced, which can increase not only their productivity but also their satisfaction with IT and company. Onboarding is a good example. New jobs average more than 50 tasks to complete during onboarding. Recruitment industry statistics show that if a new employee’s onboarding process is positive, their retention rate is much higher. That is a significant issue; A 2021 Gallup poll found that only 12% of employees strongly agree that their employer does an impressive job onboarding.

Offboarding can be even more important, especially for safety effects. Our data indicates that IT teams spend an average of 7.12 hours offboarding one of the company’s SaaS apps.

Perspectives and Findings

When most of enterprise computing moved to the cloud, and thousands of specialized SaaS apps flourished, the ROI case for easy-to-operate automation of IT operations became even stronger. Moving towards zero-touch, IT quickly leads to clarification processes. Automated workflow reduces boring and time-wasting by pulling men out of the loop. Zero Touch teaches users how IT looks and engages – and tends to improve their employer. Interactions about many small, often frustrating requests and waits are reduced, and more about technology improvements to help address larger business issues.

With a 30% to 50% reduction in requests (because automation manages the rest), IT becomes less responsive and has the ability to use technology to help others achieve their goals. These can play a role in helping departments become more strategic and business focused.

The alternative to Zero-Touch IT is an ever-increasing task as SaaS apps are added very quickly. IT specialists should be force multipliers, not repair technicians. Zero-Touch IT is a practical, cost-effective approach to maximizing resource utilization in an enterprise and now is the time to implement it.

Thomas Donnelly is the CIO at BetterCloud.

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