For Government IT Professionals, Automation is Not Foe, but Friend


Those who have been in government IT for many years may get a little squeamish from time-to-time. Understandable, right? I mean, there is a continual array of learning and training that coincides with a federal IT manager’s chosen profession. Legacy technologies are being replaced with shiny new cloud, virtualization, and networking software. Network complexity continues to grow apace, and budget and security concerns are always prevalent.

Underlying all of that may even be a sense of uncertainty regarding job security – and some of this uncertainty may stem from automation software. For some professionals, automation tools can conjure up uncomfortable feelings of change (i.e., “how much will automation impact my job?”). Others may simply be hesitant to put their trust in software to do a job they’ve been doing manually for a long time.

Don’t fret, I say. Automation is your friend, and it can be used effectively to eliminate wasted time and unnecessary headaches.

Creating Their Legacy, Driving Innovation

Those should be comforting words for today’s federal IT professionals, who tend to have their fingers in a lot of pies. Their jobs have evolved beyond simply managing the network. Growing network complexity and initiatives like DevOps have given administrators far more responsibility than ever before.

Today’s IT professionals can’t afford to be burdened with manual interventions that require hours – sometimes days – to fix. Furthermore, many do not want this burden; they like the idea of having time to do things that will help advance their agencies’ technology agendas. They want to be able to create their own legacy and drive innovation.

Alert! Let’s Automate Responses!

Huge time-wasters, like constantly responding to alerts, are hindering them. Who wants to have to manually react to every single alert that comes through? Who has the time?

Sadly, there will always be alerts, but there’s now a better way of dealing with them, one that won’t take hours out of a federal IT professional’s day.

Let’s take a look at a simple example. When a server alert is created because a disk is full, a federal administrator would typically deal with that task manually, perhaps by dumping the temp directory.

However, is this task really necessary?  What if instead the administrator wrote a script for this task, thus eliminating the need for that manual intervention?

Here’s another one. For whatever reason, an application stops working. Again, the traditional way of dealing with this challenge – manually – can be painstaking process and take up an inordinate amount of time. Automation allows managers to write a script that enables the application to automatically restart.

Problem solved; time saved.

Administrators can also evaluate their alerts to determine if an automated response is scriptable. This could create far fewer headaches that are caused by dealing with one-off alerts.

Perhaps even more importantly, automated responses could free up IT time to focus on more pressing matters. Managers can now have the freedom to develop and deploy new and innovative applications, for instance, or find ways to deliver those applications to users more effectively so they can have the tools they need to do their jobs.

Tools for the Job

Speaking of tools, there are certain types that should be considered. Solutions dedicated to change management and tracking, compliance auditing, and configuration back-ups should be on everyone’s automated wish list.

Each of these tools will not only save administrators vast amounts of time and resources, but will also greatly reduce errors sometimes created by manual tasks – errors that can lead to network downtime or even potential security breaches. All the while, they’ll help to free up time for projects that can help your agency become more agile and innovative.

I’m not advocating that IT professionals should try to work their way out of doing manual tasks, but I do firmly believe that there are ways they can manage the hand they’re dealt more effectively and efficiently. They can use automation to make their lives easier and their agencies more nimble and secure. In turn, they can work smarter — not unnecessarily harder.

Joe Kim is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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