By Brenton O’Callaghan, Avantra
For every IT Ops Administrator who dreads a 2 am support call, the concept of zero-touch automation may sound like a dream. But the fact is zero-touch automation of IT Ops is now within reach of all SAP-powered enterprises.
While not all manual SAP management routines can or should be automated to the point that they require no human intervention, nearly all can be automated to the end of needing only a single button-push. Those businesses that adopt an automation-first mentality can realize enormous time and resource savings and free their IT teams to add value instead of performing routine chores.
Practically Perfect Environments
Despite their complexity and specificity, SAP environments are perfectly amenable to the right kinds of automation. A prime example is a routine like security updates of SAP kernels. These are regular, repeatable, and not dependent on context. Even the policy guiding them tends to be somewhat static. Operations like that are perfect candidates for complete automation.
The same rules that power automation can include human intervention as necessary, including approvals before anything runs. While technically not “zero-touch,” these routines can be reduced from an hours-long multi-touch chore to a one-click task. The same situational intelligence that powers the automation also gives Administrators the visibility they need to assure the automation is appropriate.
A new factor in the automation process is the advent of AI and machine learning. Recurring—if irregular—tasks with standard protocols and consistent desired outcomes are ideal candidates for AI application. This allows for assurances that the necessary conditions exist to run the automation and can guide the process once activated.
Adopting An Automation-First Mentality
Beyond freedom from those dreaded late-night alerts, automation opens the possibilities for time and resource savings that are unique to each enterprise.
The opportunities to automate routines are as many and varied as the companies running SAP. The crucial first step is a commitment to automating IT ops. This inevitably must come from the top and is best motivated by a business case built on prospective savings.
Such a business case doesn’t need to be theoretical. Most companies have operational pain-points that automation can address right away. What’s more, an automated environment delivers full transparency into SAP landscape health and performance on-premises and in the cloud. The axiom that “You can’t manage what you can’t see” is reason enough to implement this degree of visibility.
Automation quickly eliminates alert fatigue and provides quick root-cause and automated resolution. Once a company begins looking for routines that would benefit from automation, opportunities emerge from every corner of the enterprise. These invariably deliver cost and time savings orders of magnitude in size, not just incremental.
It all begins with the commitment to automation.
No “Big-Bang” Needed
While the change from a break/fix approach to an automation-first mentality is a sharp change, the actual implementation doesn’t need to—or even should—be that dramatic. By implementing SAP environment automation incrementally, the biggest operational savings can be pocketed quickly while learning is gained over time.
Even before solving the immediate problem that inspires automation, the adoption should be guided by a strategy. Administrators should identify all the candidate processes for automation and prioritize them according to business impact and the practicality of automation. Then follow the plan.
Because automation generates detailed audit trails, they help inform rollouts and are an ideal way to address compliance matters. The details of automated routines—complete with time stamps and the fact the log itself is automated—make quick work of any required forensics.
Remember that AI can play a role in enabling automation. AI can learn routines and patterns and be taught how to evaluate conditions to trigger execution. These generate audit trails that document learnings to inform status reporting for the system, for the progress of the automation initiative, and for ongoing refinement of the strategy.
Striving for zero-touch automation of IT Ops in an SAP environment is a realistic initiative that can yield enormous benefits in cost savings, systems utility for the entire organization, and maximization of IT resources. Chief among those resources is the talent and expertise of the IT administrators themselves.
It all begins with a commitment to automation. And it can end in more good nights’ sleep.
About The Author
Brenton O’Callaghan is Chief Customer Officer at Avantra.