Full-stack automation – achieving all your business goals at scale?
• Full-stack automation brings significant flexibility.
• It also allows for automation at scale as companies expand.
• Full-stack automation meets the main goals of modern business.
Automation is transforming not only the art of the possible in the worldwide business community in the post-pandemic era, but also the art of the necessary, helping teams and businesses meet previously unthinkable expectations.
It’s freeing people from the drudgery elements of their day-jobs, giving businesses visibility over their data and processes, and helping deliver on promises like same-day or next-day delivery.
But there are ways of doing automation, and ways of doing automation.
In Part 1 of this article, Abhijit Kakhandiki, Chief Product Officer at Redwood Software, a full-stack SaaS automation company, explained why automation was becoming increasingly vital to a business’ life and structure. In Part 2, he gave us a view on how humans and automation systems can work together to everyone’s benefit.
While we had Abhijit in the chair, and given that many companies have yet to go full-stack SaaS in terms of their automation, we asked Abhijit what advantages there were to be gained from such a stack.
Does it stack up?
What’s the advantage of having a genuinely ground-up full-stack SaaS, rather than the norm of building based on legacy technology?
What is happening in today’s world is that there are three layers of a technology stack. There is an infrastructure layer, which is your containers, your hardware, your operating systems, virtual machines and servers.
Then there’s something called middleware, which is you have your iPaas, your BPMs (Business Process Managers), your enterprise application integrators or API’s.
And then you have applications – your SAPs and Oracles. That’s also where you have your data fabrics, like Snowflake or Databricks.
There are certain trends that are happening right now, and the first one is that IT stacks are no longer just enabling the back office anymore, because technology has become such an important dimension in competing in today’s world, it is being asked to be a strategic driver of business outcomes.
So, businesses are actually saying “How can it help me in achieving my business goals – and those goals might be anything. One case we had was a CEO who said automation had helped him reduce his day sales outstanding, which led to an increase in market cap for his company. So, his attitude was not to worry about the amount he spent on his automation asset.
That’s the extent to which automation must enable these diverse business goals. But what’s also happening on the application side is that the number of applications has exploded. Companies are shifting from a suite to a “best in breed” approach so there are twenty times the applications there were just 10-15 years ago.
As the number of applications increases, it means the business process now has to span across more of those applications. That means they are actually taking longer.
On top of which, automation is being asked to own the business outcomes and really drive superior customer experience, as well as a superior internal employee experience.
And the third thing is that the underlying technology stack keeps changing. The great replatforming we talked about in Part 1 has become an ongoing paradigm in terms of technological upgrades to business systems, and we’re in a period of significant stack change right now.
We’ve already gone from virtual machines to Docker to Kubernetes to now using serverless architecture – and all while companies’ operations still need to function around the clock.
So how do you do that?
Flexibility on the fly.
You really need an automation platform that works across all of these three stacks, and that’s full-stack automation. It needs to connect your infrastructure, your middleware, and your apps, so you can build automations that are very modular, that can handle things in a specific layer, for a specific use case.
So what happens is, let’s say your infrastructure changes, you only need to change that modular component at that layer. As an example, if you move from Docker to Kubernetes, we have a Docker connector, and you can create that Docker component. The same holds true if you’re on AWS or Google, they’re just different flavors of creation.
You can just change those components and your core automation can still run. What this does is help you maintain and upgrade your automations much, much faster.
And one of the things that we’re finding is, as companies scale automation, they have this problem of automation governance, where if you take an unstructured approach to it and have twenty different automations that do exactly the same thing, it’s like having the same code in twenty places.
Again, there are very few new problems – software engineering ran into this 30 years ago. Automation is no different.
Clarity across the business.
Full-stack automation helps you achieve solutions to that much better. Because through these components, you can establish governance, and you can say, “The IT team is responsible for this one middleware component, and this one infrastructure component, and maybe this one component that runs reports in the SAP system. Anyone who has need of this first needs to go through IT to use those components.”
That way, any time you need to upgrade, there’s one team that’s responsible, otherwise we’ve seen problems where people who don’t have this full-stack automation approach get tangled in their automations.
If they have one automation that does one thing, but a different business unit has developed something which is essentially the same thing, which one does the team use?
Before you know it, you have 50 people doing that same work, when you could have had a team of 10, and those other 40 people could have taken your automation to the next level.
Ok, but apart from avoiding confusion, what’s the business benefit of that?
Automation at scale.
Companies are looking to achieve two or three things.
One is to make their business agile, so that they’re responding to the market’s demands faster, because these days, every customer is demanding a personalized experience, or even a personalized product, and they’re willing to pay more for it.
Handling mass customization is a challenge for which you need automation at scale.
Another big goal companies have these days is to provide better customer service, faster. And the third big goal is to make their operations much more efficient.
Bottom line, if you’re spending all of your money just running operations, you won’t survive. You have to apply investment dollars to innovations that help you achieve those goals.
Full-stack automation is a single technology that helps you better achieve these three business goals – and that’s kind of what’s driving everything right now.
Some things are just better when they’re fully-stacked.
28 September 2023
28 September 2023