Information Technology

Homegrown scripts within modern IT environments are increasingly complex and risky.

How Workload Automation And Orchestration Are Mitigating Hazards While Creating More Ideal Workflows. – By Ryan Dimick, Chief Technology Officer, SMA Technologies

Keeping pace with today’s complex and expanding IT environments is one of the biggest challenges facing IT teams. While automation tools can ease this burden, many companies have relied on homegrown automation scripts that have been built over time by different people using different tools. This mishmash of commands, scripts, and tools can put mission-critical operations at risk.

To mitigate this risk and help scale the benefits of automation, leading companies are turning to modern-day automation and orchestration software. According to Gartner, by the end of 2024, 80% of organizations will have embraced a very different model for the delivery of workload automation to support the needs of the business for years to come.

Eliminating Hidden Costs

While homegrown scripting does not carry a hard cost like a commercial solution, it requires a dedicated time of internal resources to create, test, and update scripts over time. 

An Informational Week study found that 45% of the participating organization’s IT teams spend more than 5 hours per week writing scripts to handle workflows and automation. That equates to roughly six and a half weeks annually writing automation scripts alone. Add to that time required to effectively test and verify that the scripts work properly and ongoing editing to ensure they remain up to date as IT environments evolve, and the true cost becomes significant.

In addition, there is an opportunity cost as these tasks pull IT, staff, away from core day-to-day operations and strategic initiatives that add more value to the business. Once companies factor in direct and opportunity costs, the true expense of homegrown scripts can easily exceed the price of a more powerful and scalable workload automation software. 

Eliminating Failures, Security Issues

More costly than the expense alone, custom scripts are far less reliable and prone to human errors and security issues. Because custom scripts are built ad hoc over time – many times by different users with their tools of choice – errors within the code and potential security vulnerabilities often go unnoticed. That is until a task is executed, and the entire workflow fails, or the security vulnerability is exploited, impacting customers, and potentially putting the company at greater financial risk.

Once an issue occurs, diagnosing and fixing it also is more difficult with homegrown scripts, given they are built independently over time by different people using different tools. Given the complexity this creates, diagnosing the root cause of an issue can be nearly impossible and very time-consuming, further prolonging the negative impact on customers. 

Conversely, leading commercially available workload automation tools have built-in error handling that can correct failures automatically or provide an alert so the issue can be addressed proactively. In addition, these solutions are supported by automation experts who are deeply familiar with the tool and can quickly assess and fix issues, minimizing the impact on customers.

Remaining compliant

Homegrown scripts rarely have adequate auditing and reporting capabilities, making it difficult to track what files are being transferred in and out with timestamps and log details that are required for compliance.  

Modern workload automation tools continuously monitor all processes, automatically record history and audit logs, and provide advanced reporting to ensure companies. Without these capabilities, it is much more difficult and time-consuming for companies to prove compliance with regulations when they are audited.

Maintaining Institutional Knowledge

Another downside with homegrown scripts is the loss of institutional knowledge when IT staff leave the company, a reality that has accelerated recently with the Great Resignation and continued tech talent shortage. Given the structure of scripts vary significantly from one developer to the next, institutional knowledge walks out the door when the developer of a script departs. This leaves the remaining staff with the unenviable task of trying to read and understand the scripts. 

Tying it together

Continuing to use homegrown scripting can leave a business open to many risks that modern-day workload automation software eliminates.  

Workload automation software provides a single point of control across today’s complex IT environments while providing necessary scalability as workloads increase as companies accelerate digital transformation to keep pace with the demands of customers.

Through this type of platform, there is essentially an elimination of any potential human-related errors taking place, which also means the mitigation of a total shutdown or reduction of operation times – enabling IT personnel to spend their time focused on other important tasks.

Ryan Dimick, VP of Engineering, SMA Technologies

About the Author

Ryan Dimick is the Chief Technology Officer at SMA Technologies in Houston, Texas. Throughout his nine-year tenure at SMA, Technologies Ryan has also held positions as Director of Engineering, Director of Cloud Services, Software Architect, and Sr Business Consultant. He started his career at Corning Credit Union as a user of the OpCon automation platform and held positions in IT Operations and Programming.  Outside of work, Ryan loves to be creative in the kitchen by mixing cuisines and creating culinary concoctions with his family. He loves running with his dog, the serenity of growing a garden and producing his food, and his competitive spirit prevents him from saying no to ping pong challengers.

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