The drive towards business automation
• Automation is being driven by increasing complexity and higher tech needs.
• Automation is now business-critical.
• Automation helps smaller teams deliver more.
It has become a truism of the post-pandemic era that automation is a key underpinning technology driving the way in which businesses will have to work as more and more work is driven to the cloud.
But automation is not the same across the business world. Many companies try to ease their way into automation – and there’s a logic to that in terms of initial outlay. But there’s also the option to go full-on full-stack SaaS.
We sat down with Abhijit Kakhandiki, Chief Product Officer at Redwood Software, a full-stack automation company, to find out why automation is becoming not just popular, but increasingly necessary to business success.
Why is there currently such a big demand for automation? What’s the thing that makes it automation’s time to shine?
There are big drivers right now, pushing businesses to do more and more in the cloud – money, convenience, reduced risk of downtime, and so on.
The problem they are finding is that all of this is becoming so complex, the journey from your current architecture to where you want to be. And automation can be a great help in simplifying that – if you do it right.
The shifting sands of process complexity.
Paint us a picture. Why the complexity?
There’s been a fairly natural shift over time. Around eight years ago, the first cloud modernization wave happened, which at the time involved more of a lift and shift approach – how can I get rid of my data centers? How do I replace on-prem legacy apps with SaaS apps and so on.
What is happening in this new wave is that we’re starting to see a lot of ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) moving to SaaS. And a lot of “best of breed” products have started replacing suites, because they have superior targeted functionality, so the the market itself has grown.
For example, in CRM (Customer Relations Management), one generalized system used to be enough. Now you can have ten systems in an organization, because the granularity and the specificity of each system has increased. You can have a system for sales calls, a system for contact tracking, a system for sales forecasts, and so on.
What that means is that people are actually doing more and more. The number of applications has exploded. And now, CIOs are not just taking a lift and shift approach, they’re carefully assessing and refactoring.
That means they’re saying “Even in the cloud, do I just stick with one cloud provider? Or do I go with multiple cloud providers?” And they’re all becoming hybrid cloud and multicloud.
The process is not new – it happened in the procurement world 30 years ago. You can’t ever have a single source supplier, you have to limit your risks.
But a lot of CIOs are saying they need to look at these decisions carefully and refactor them, which means tearing down their monolithic architectures and switching to something based around microservices, putting everything in containers.
So you may have a microservice that is just centered around a customer lookup, because more and more stakeholders want to perform just that specific action.
The necessity of automation.
So the rise in automation is being driven by a periodic process of upgrade within the tech paradigm of the business world?
Companies are actually even modernizing their CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery/Deployment) and DevOps. What that leaves you with is a big, complex, N-dimensional math problem.
Welcome… to the Twilight Zone.
The point being, when you have a big, complex, N-dimensional math problem… humans cannot have a manual approach to doing this. They have to adopt automation to do all of the things they need to do to migrate from on-prem to the cloud, right? Even orchestrating some of these various cloud services.
Ahhh. OK, that suddenly made sense all at once and in hurry.
Buckle up. Because we have a lot of customers who say “I have a ton of these different automation systems, but I still need one place to actually get a single pane to have visibility and control.”
Mitigating the quiet quitting trend
And so, as you move workloads to the cloud, as you move your compute storage networks to the cloud, and as you optimize your infrastructure in terms of cost and availability, you have to have automation play a central role in this.
So we are actually finding that automation is now very pervasive as a fabric. A lot of companies are not thinking in terms of “Do I need to automate or not?” It’s more like “How can I automate the most so I can improve productivity?”
The multi-stage process.
An arms race of automation?
Kind of, yeah. There’s a statistic that says some countries need to improve their productivity by 50% or more to achieve their national GDP targets. And it’s not as though you can magically create more resources. But with automation, you can take a lot of the “lag” out of economic processes, whether on a national or a company basis.
Think about digital exhaust. If you have all those systems – one for sales calls, one for contact tracking, one for sales forecasts, and all that – that quickly builds up a lot of digital exhaust, and people can’t handle it.
It becomes A Thing in its own right. In the old days, you probably needed to record just two parts of a transaction. And now that transaction has up to 30 different parts, and you’re being asked to record and interact and digitize all of this. It becomes very complex for humans. Humans need a break.
Automation – doing the things that humans can’t, or don’t have time to do. Wall-E, but in software.
That’s a point. We’re living in a much more intensely data-driven world than we were just 5-10 years ago, and now everything in those 30-stage processes has to be monitored and checked and recorded somewhere. That’s an explosion in data, and an explosion in data recording work.
Exactly. Every company now is becoming a big data company. And every company is also becoming a software company.
The whole big data thing is that, as you say, we are creating data at an enormous rate. But what is also happening is that this data is in different silos, because when there is a certain initiative in a company in a certain year, they get a system for it. And then fast forward 10-15 years from there, and you have 20 of these systems. And now you’re like, “How did I get here?” Well, life just happened to you.
And the problem then is “How do I get value from this?” Because you have this part of the data in this silo, this other part is in this other silo, and so on. One of our big use cases is data management automation.
That’s an answer to how you get data from all those different silos, to do what you want the data to do. It’s very simple, and always driven by business outcomes.
Maximizing productivity in processes.
If you need real-time visibility of your data, and this data was locked up in a big data warehouse in the past, now you can put a data streaming platform like Kafka in front of it, and using our solutions, you can orchestrate that entire flow from those 20 sources in 20 silos.
Now you have real-time visibility. Why’s that useful? Say you promised your customers same-day delivery. You can’t meet that promise without real-time visibility.
Once you can do that, it drives the human productivity angle as well – if you only have a team of 20 people, can you actually make this happen with that team? You can’t hire 100 more people, that’s not going to work in terms of math.
Your accounts department will come after you with lethally-sharpened pencils.
That’s also where that productivity angle comes in – how can this team of 20 people make this transition successful for you? And it can, but it needs a good deal of automation to make it happen – which is why we’re seeing a lot more data fabrics coming in to facilitate this shift in terms of meeting expectations from both companies and their customers.
In Part 2 of this article, we’ll dive deeper into how automation helps smaller human teams punch significantly above their weight – and how it can also take out the day-to-day chaff of many roles, and leave humans doing more fulfilling work, day in and day out.
28 September 2023
28 September 2023