Clearly, not all organizations were born digital. Many companies still have big legacy IT estates, with underpinning business-critical systems that have been in place for years and numerous on-premises applications.
Typically, these organizations have also expanded their IT estates with the adoption of cloud technology to some degree or another. The challenge for these more established organizations is to develop software at the same speed and quality as cloud-native organizations – those born in the cloud.
That doesn’t mean getting rid of legacy applications, but more to find a way that ensures they perform in a digital world. In a new research-led report, The Automation Advantage, Capgemini and Sogeti look at a key enabler for this: automation. The report evaluates the gains to be made from applying automation to IT operations processes – especially those for infrastructure provisioning, configuration management, application testing, and application release. And it concludes that automation is a lever for acceleration in all areas of software development, whether on premises or in the cloud.
Why should you bother? Quite simply, automation brings tangible business advantages. Of the 415 IT executives surveyed for The Automation Advantage report, 20% are deemed Fast Movers. These are executives working in organizations that are the most advanced in applying automation. Compared with those companies in the slow lane (Followers), Fast Movers report that automation is generating measurable benefits. For example, automation has helped 75% of Fast Movers to boost overall revenue and profitability, as well as to change their business models. Further, 86% say that customer experience has benefited.
Drawing extensively on The Automation Advantage report, the following 5 steps should be considered (amongst others outlined in the report) to accelerate your legacy IT, bringing it up to speed with today’s digital world.
Step 1: Define an automation strategy to meet business objectives
No technology initiative can truly succeed unless it is designed to meet bigger, predefined business goals. Begin your automation journey by defining your business objectives. Review your legacy estate carefully, keeping in mind these high-level business goals and then look at rationalizing infrastructure. Clarify the business requirements and objectives for each application and set appropriate KPIs for speed and agility on IT operations process you expect to operate. Your tactical approach could lead to migrating applications to the cloud, building cloud-native applications as replacement, developing modern APIs (application programming interfaces), modernizing legacy technology, and embracing DevOps principles and culture, some of which are covered in the following steps.
Step 2: Move ahead with cloud-native development & leverage PaaS
Cloud-native development could be used both to replace legacy applications and build net-new applications. Platform as a Service (PaaS) is an enabler of cloud-native development andthe automation capabilities of PaaS will accelerate in all areas of your software development. IT leaders should evaluate the different PaaS models (Public PaaS, Traditional PaaS, and Custom PaaS) taking into consideration such things as the degree of flexibility required to choose between cloud providers and whether an ‘out-of-the-box’ approach is preferred versus a ‘do-it-yourself’ approach. Legacy applications can benefit from your investment in PaaS without necessarily being rearchitected. Selecting and implementing the right pattern for each application – co-existence, lift and shift, refactoring, replacing or transforming – will help accelerate delivery of new software for both legacy and cloud-native applications.
Step 3: Modernize and automate your legacy IT estate
Automating legacy systems and IT operations processes allows companies to manage traditional applications and infrastructure in a more competitive, agile, and scalable manner. The result is that new code can move from development into production in minutes, even in traditional applications. The velocity of software development and deployment increases across the estate, improving business agility. IT leaders should evaluate continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) automation tools according to their ability to shorten the development cycle, maximize release velocity, and detect defects early and effectively. Even for legacy applications running on premises, most elements of the CI/CD pipeline can be automated.
Step 4: Make a cultural shift to adopt and embrace DevOps principles
Enterprise DevOps is about delivering more, better, and faster, but with less. Automation is an essential ingredient, but so are people and processes. The first stage in the cultural shift is to improve collaboration between development and operations teams; but IT and business stakeholders also need to collaborate more closely to translate innovative business ideas into new features or services. IT leaders need to drive behavioral and cultural changes to achieve a DevOps culture. This means that alignment of the IT delivery process through behavioral and cultural standardization should be a higher priority than standardizing tools. It is important for the team to embrace baseline DevOps best practices irrespective of the underlying toolset or technologies. It will often be essential to hire experienced senior talent, as well as re-training existing resources to operate in the new DevOps world.
Step 5: Allocate a dedicated budget to automation projects & address barriers to change
Fast Movers report that each of their automation projects has a dedicated budget. Unlike Followers whose automation maturity is not as advanced, Fast Movers do not rely on the annual IT operations budget to finance projects. Of course, it’s not just about getting funding, but about getting buy-in from internal teams as well. The survey of IT executives for The Automation Advantage report found that internal resistance was a concern for both Fast Movers and Followers. 40% of firms in the survey reported that their engineers and operators assumed automation meant a risk to their jobs. For Fast Movers, however, effective communication from senior management was a powerful tool for overcoming resistance. Bringing in external help, such as consultants to review current DevOps automation tools, and upskilling existing teams, complemented by onboarding new talent, are other ways recommended in the report to address barriers to change.
These 5 steps are covered in more detail throughout The Automation Advantage report. It’s a fascinating analysis of the state of IT automation maturity today, how Fast Movers are consistently outperforming their peers, and how best to accelerate legacy IT automation.
More tips can be found in the NEW research report: ‘The Automation Advantage’