Last week, the CEO of HCL Technologies, Anant Gupta talked about the emerging contours of the 21st Century Enterprise (21CE) on his LinkedIN Influencer Blog platform. I’ve been fortunate to have had several discussions with him on this subject. In fact, all of us at HCL earnestly believe that the future of commerce is not just an extension of our current understanding of this subject but rather a completely new way of doing things. 21CE is our prototype definition of what this future may look like, and behind the definition is a whole set of over-lapping algorithms.
Today, I’m picking up one element of this construct for a deep-dive. I consider it to be the foundation of 21CE. That’s right! I believe that automation is the foundation of the new organizational paradigm. The word has a very long history, though.
Let’s rewind to 200 years ago, to a pre-18th century world. Farming was the primary profession of humans in that era and they did most of the work manually with little help from a few Paleolithic tools. This continued until they discovered that animals could be used to ‘mechanize’ some of the work. They invented the plow and, thus, Mules became an extension of their hands and feet, starting the agricultural revolution.
Cut to the 19th century. The first industrial revolution came as a result of Capitalism’s unquenchable thirst for relative surplus value. Machines made their way into the heart of commerce. The Industrial revolution took motive power and tools from the workmen and transferred them to the machines. What followed, thereafter, was a period of massive economic and social reset and a proliferation of prosperity.
As I write this piece in circa 2015, I can’t escape a sense of déjà vu. I believe we stand on the threshold of yet another revolution. I am tempted to call it the Augment Intelligence Revolution, wherein machines are being upgraded with artificial intelligence and robotics; once again to automate and mechanize the existing so called “menial” or “L1” work and open the doors to an era of new possibilities, prosperity, and economic reset.
Automation as default in the 21CE
Automation, if done correctly, with the right intent, process and technology can indeed be a win-win for all.
We at HCL believe that in an enterprise IT environment where standardization is still a distant dream, trying to apply 21st century automation without having the right foundation set up will lead to definite failure and unstructured workforce redundancies. Such desperate attempts lead to mistakes, and eventually, to failures. Desperate and hasty attempts to automate everything and anything does not reflect determination. Automation needs a consultative approach; it requires a clearly defined lifecycle of change.
Optimized automation is an outcome of experience, knowledge, skillset and vision. It’s an evolutionary process which improves process efficiency. To achieve optimized automation, your decision must be based on the pragmatic knowledge base.
Think DRY ICE!
Dry Ice is an interesting chemical element. It has a lower temperature than ice and is known for not leaving any residue. In fact, it does not melt into a liquid when heated; instead, it changes directly into a gas and evaporates. These features of Dry Ice are exactly what HCL’s automation platform stands for, and delivers.
The most unique feature of our platform is that it operates three layers (L-2 to L-0) below the usual IT surface and automates at machine, platform, and application levels, creating preventive and self-healing systems and software by leveraging techniques like machine learning and the creation of self-service capabilities with cognitive AI agents embedded into the systems, which ensure that IT Operations run by HCL are by default optimized at 30%.
This ‘beneath the surface’ optimization ensures that human talent ‘above the surface’ can focus on more intellectual and analytical tasks. Dry Ice has a very detailed ‘above the surface’ blueprint too. In its entirety, the vision of HCL’s Dry Ice is to help organizations go from FullOps to NoOps in 36 months. On an average, it can help most enterprises reduce their Ops footprint anywhere from 20% to 60% thereby ensuring agility and capacity re-configurement for enterprises and their human resources.
The future is not about ‘replacement’ but ‘up-placement’
With leaps and bounds being made within the enterprise technology space in the recent past, automation will help the 21CE gain competitive edge by re-aligning a workforce involved in highly tactical, repetitive, and manual processes to focus on core and strategic projects.
Today, automation is fast encouraging the convergence of skillsets, creating strategic job roles for the existing labor pool. For instance, system admins who can do scripting or coding are taking the route of becoming DevOps Engineers. Similarly, Converged Infrastructure Engineers are taking control of complete infrastructure, and developers who have IT infrastructure knowledge are enabling automation and contributing to environment management of SDDC.
The ideal discussion on the future of automation should not end with conversations concerning the replacement of the labor force with robots; it needs to burst the bubble being created by several other misconceptions, which are still holding IT decision makers back. These misconceptions include the fear of overshooting the automation budget, uprooting the existing technology infrastructure, and excessive lead time.
Automation helps enterprises stay in line with market and compliance expectations while achieving agility, accuracy, and competitive advantages. All it needs is an incremental approach and the right set of rules for it to benefit all the stakeholders.
The Final Word
If you take a quick look at its history till the 20th Century, automation was about processes being supported by people, and people being enabled by technology to do things faster. In the 21st Century Enterprise, this equation has changed to processes being powered by technology, and people supporting technology in an automated fashion. Indeed, automation in the 21st Century is all about Agile Thinking and Lean Delivery. Automation with Orchestration will enable the mantra of “Think like a Startup but deliver like an Enterprise” – the sweet spot where magic happens in the 21st Century!