No Digitalization Without Automation

Thom Kunz

It’s the age of Digitalization. And we’ve hit its focal point the hard way. While some are still working on the C-level slideware to explain “Digitalization” to the Execs, others have already implemented their entire strategy (that’s quite something, yes).
And then mother nature hits us with a little virus – and showed us all how much of what is possible that has been inconceivable so far

  • not boarding planes and still talking to people
  • sitting at another place than usual and still doing valuable work
  • internet for everybody

What’s not possible, though, is an IT department’s human scale-up (it’s still only so much to be squeezed into a day) or scale-out (Board says “no” – to hiring).

If only there was less of the usual duties so to focus more on the specifics that a crisis brings about.
Not possible? – Well, if only we would have automated earlier …

So now, after having invested the past few weeks entirely to enable your staff to work from home, let’s look into some very basic standards that every IT department can automate. Must automate.

I need VPN access

In the Cloud age, VPN still has not seized to be. I wasn’t even surprised how many of our customers fought the load of VPN access requests to be accomplished. Large enterprises mostly still have an on-demand authorization policy for VPN. Which means: Request it – we check it – then you get it.
Still, VPN – configured correctly – is entirely secure. And can be provisioned entirely automatically (even if your company’s policy requires to raise a request).
Here’s were Automation comes into play:

  • Have a little self-service portal form ready for your users
  • As per the organizational information from HR (data integration), push any submitted request to the respective manager for approval
  • Add the user’s credential information to the respective permission level (grouping and policies can help with full/split scenarios and geo-located endpoints)

The flow itself is easily constructed; any specifics of your setup are scripted within the Automation solution’s action blocks. Period. No human interaction on such simple requests anymore.

We need a team space for our project

Your project teams probably all found creative ways to collaborate. And still do – especially when working from home. Even though you have a really great and well-working collaboration solution for project teams at the tip of a finger.
So why this self-service “creativity”? Because just now (in times of this crisis), it takes the IT department ages to setup their collaboration space. Even though you have done it plenty of times. It also takes you ages to reach the requestor at the other end to squeeze out that last important detail. Because they’re already at home. And on-off, of course. And still they need this space.
Well, then let them create them. Of course, alongside your IT policies, naming conventions, permission structures. The solution:

  • Self-service form for request data (including any of the details that caused you numerous phone calls in the past)
  • If need be, pass it on for approval
  • Automated space/channel/team/… setup as per company policy including group setup, permission structure, etc. …

Done. No human interaction needed. Spot-on for the CEO’s home WiFi improvement.

I need a VM for testing

Since the very beginning of the Cloud age the “I need a VM now” use case was one of the most stressed classics.
However, while the focus tended to be on the capability of executing the ramp-up “on the instant”, end-2-end automating such requests tended to be neglected.
Needs are the same as before:

  • Self-service portal for requesting the need (and parametrizing it to the extend necessary for execution)
  • The Automation Platform to execute the request respectively in any involved platform (again, this may not only involve the hypervisor but also any request audit tracking, monitoring solution to keep the new VM stable, permission structure to allow/reject according need, etc.)

And why is this:
Because none of the requests an IT department is getting these days is standard by any means. These requests need your attention, creativity, flexibility, spontaneity.
Having to deal with all those standard “no-brainer” requests at the same time keeps you from being the support you ought to be in times of crisis.
Are you through it, already? Then, now is the time to pick the Automation tool of choice and start cleaning up with manual standard requests.  And – behold! – there’s another advantage: No more documenting for audit purposes – if your Automation Platform of choice does it for you.

So: Eat. Sleep. Automate. Repeat.

We would be happy to learn about your automation needs and show you our take on how to approach them!

System Integration – the Key to Automation

Njinn Automation - Eat.Sleep.Automate.Repeat.

In our daily work we touch many applications. Connecting these systems enables you to automate your processes and break up silos. Orchestrate the old, the new, on-premise and in the cloud.

3 IT Processes You Must Automate​

Thom Kunz

You must automate? Few things in life tend to be “a must”. Maybe some dreaded events like death and taxes…
… and Automation. Otherwise those life immanent events kick in just too soon.
I would like to point out just three ready-to-automate processes which, today, any IT organization in the world is facing and just needs to get right in the beginning to ease engineers’ and operators’ lives.

Service Requests – no: not any!

That’s no news. Automate your Service-Requests. Boring. When I talk with customers about their experiences in automating their request for service creation or change, mostly what I hear is: “We are special. There’s these two steps that are specific, so we need to script anyway. We stick with scripting.
Well, then … 2 things, though: (1) You are not that different. And (2) Well, do script it then. Powerful automation solutions put their focus into step aggregation, auditing of executions, automation repository, permissions, … and let you do the things, you know best when it comes to the nitty-gritty details (Python, Powershell, Perl, …).
The point is not how you want to automate; that point is, that you automate. Making your users use automated delivery when requesting a service reduces your team’s manual interventions, the likelihood of errors and drastically increases the overall quality of the services you deliver.

Here’s some of those well-known, eternally-been-around examples of IT Service Requests to automate:

  • User on- and off-boarding into umpteenth systems
  • Virtual machine request, delivery, setup
  • On-demand (test) environments
  • Increase mailbox and file storage
  • Add Firewall exceptions
  • Grant access to applications / change permissions
  • … and many more

IT Housekeeping

Would you want to get up at 3 o’clock in the morning, just because log files filled up your disk and now your application is down? Or interrupt whatever you’re working on for the third time, because management needs a report on usage numbers and SLAs right now?
While a full hard drive can easily be avoided by automating log rotation or disk expansion, its necessity only becomes obvious once the incident happens. On the other hand, sending out reports every Monday morning not only avoids those pesky “I need it now” interruptions, but actively highlights the service quality you provide.

IT Housekeeping involves plenty of activities. Here are just a few more examples for must-automate IT housekeeping tasks:

  • LOG Offload/Rotation
  • Synchronize permissions over systems
  • Archiving
  • Cleanup unused resources
  • Daily locked user report
  • Push data into analytics / generate dashboard
  • Restart on crash (and alert *)

*) Disclaimer: Restart without alert is void. Alert without subsequent action is … well … not quite sensible to say the least (I normally set the alert to automatically create an item on the DevOps team’s board).

Compliance and Audit

No, I won’t go into arguing the need for comprehensive audit data on all actions in an IT environment. Arguably, that’s not arguable anyways. Since May 25th, 2018, however, a new beast is around in the compliance area: Organizations shiver when only its name is spoken aloud:


Any data owner can hold liable any data controller (and data processor on the controller’s behalf) as to where theirdata is stored, processed, forwarded or used. The three most asked questions by any data owner are:

  1. Where is my data stored?
  2. Where did it come from?
  3. (Please) delete all my data! (“please” usually not included)

While (1) is subject to the data privacy policy, (2) and (3) are subject to proper tracking and auditing of actions and operations. (3) further includes the obligation to disclose a comprehensive report of locations, where data is (was) stored.
So, very simply, in order to sit back and relax, here’s three processes that you must automate regarding GDPR:

  • Data entry and change throughout the organization, across all data-stores (CRM, tracking data, custom applications, etc.)
  • GDPR compliant access request to all personal data
  • GDPR compliant data deletion request

It’s not about survival – maybe!

Whether these examples are “must-automates”, may be negotiable. Less negotiable is the fact, that organizations spend way too much time, effort, frustrating action and negative energy when not doing it. Where does frustration start. Remember the typical automation evolution path:

  1. Process knowledge in one’s head
  2. Recurring Tasks
  3. Scripting
  4. Connectivity or credential parametrization
  5. Repository for collaborative development
  6. Local execution by multiple people
  7. Deployment as application
  8. Monitoring
  9. Alerting
  10. Auditing

I bet, that latest at (4.) the headache begins. Starting at (10.) and working backwards within an enterprise-ready automation solution cures the headache.

Apart from that, what’s your “must-automate-s”?

We would be happy to learn about your automation needs and show you our take on how to approach them!

System Integration – the Key to Automation

Njinn Automation - Eat.Sleep.Automate.Repeat.

In our daily work we touch many applications. Connecting these systems enables you to automate your processes and break up silos. Orchestrate the old, the new, on-premise and in the cloud.