2022: The Year Automation Comes to the Forefront of Reliability and Experience

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Read more about author Julian Dunn.

It’s no shock to anyone that 2021 was a year of big change, much of it due to the continued effects the global pandemic has on how we do business. As every organization across every industry addresses their new needs for digital transformation and continues to expand distributed working options for their employees, it’s clear the way we do business has fundamentally changed forever. In fact, a recent study from McKinsey & Company found that as a result of the pandemic, companies have accelerated the digitization of their internal operations by three to four years and the share of digital or digitally enabled products in their portfolios has accelerated by seven years.

These pressures on businesses are compounded by the fact that competition has never been greater, and an organization’s digital services must be available to all their employees and customers – no matter where they’re located – around the clock. Experience is everything these days, yet digital incidents are inevitable. The ability of a company to resolve issues and minimize impact to its bottom line and its customers will be key.  

“Making Work Visible” Becomes the Mantra for Automation 

We still see that many ITOps and DevOps teams still rely on manual and reactive incident response processes, but as IT environments continue to grow in complexity, this approach no longer cuts it. Teams need a way to streamline incident response to keep services always on. That’s why automation, and Automated Incident Response, will provide the means to reduce revenue or productivity loss from outages and increase productivity so engineers can stay focused on enhancing the customer experience. Gartner even predicts that “By 2025, 30% of I&O teams will adopt Automated Incident Response to address operational resilience improvements, up from 5% in 2021.”

Automation will be key to helping businesses minimize downtime and relieve pressure on their already-overburdened teams – and we’ll see this emerge in 2022 even more than it already has. It continues to be an area of focus, primarily driven by the need to extract specific knowledge from the heads of a small number of subject matter experts to reduce business risk and “make work visible.” Consider the current work-from-anywhere model – employees are more distributed than ever before, and manual processes done without the knowledge sharing of a team or office often only live with that one person. Institutional memory is as important as ever and automation can support team collaboration, no matter how distributed. We’ll start to see it increasingly be a key part of a CIO’s playbook to address hiring challenges, as there simply aren’t enough experts out there, so their time must be used wisely.

Here’s what I see coming down the pipeline for technology in 2022 and beyond:

  • “Incident management” will evolve into something like “reliability management” as a more service-oriented approach wends its way into even operations functions. We’ll see a shift away from traditional, siloed approaches, to those that enable better collaboration across development and operations teams, which ultimately improves visibility and efficiency, and streamlines the response process.  
  • Public cloud will not only become even more dominant, but the sophistication of the services they provide will increase and move “up stack,” focusing on end-user experience and out-of-the-box usability rather than previous primitives that required experts to knit raw components together. Think of more complete solutions rather than just a bag of tools. But beware of complexity and overengineering the desired outcome. Not all solutions sold by cloud providers are meant for your business and could add undue stress on your systems and people. Savvy teams will choose services tailored to the needs of their operations. 
  • Organizational change and resistance of IT organizations/staff to adopt new models (e.g., project-to-product thinking) will continue to be the No. 1 impediment for companies attempting to achieve their digital transformation goals. By embracing new models, early adopters will see improved outcomes through transforming the ownership, staffing, and operating model of their IT organizations.
  • Companies will increasingly seek to invest in multi-cloud approaches, but many of these projects will not bear fruit and/or burn a great deal of cash to achieve results, because the investments are being made for the wrong reasons (attempting to avoid vendor lock-in rather than multi-cloud for best-of-breed features that a specific cloud provider has versus another). I forecast a negative ROI on many of these projects, such as the benefit gained by avoiding an incumbent cloud provider like AWS versus the expenditure (both CapEx and OpEx) on creating multi-cloud primitives.
  • Development environments increasingly move directly into the cloud, powered by comprehensive DevOps or CI/CD platforms like GitLab/GitHub coupled with features like GitHub Actions, Codespaces, etc. This is also driven by the increased complexity of application architectures, coupled with the raw horsepower needed to spin up a stack of even moderate capacity that rapidly exceeds the processing power of a developer’s laptop.

If we continue to follow the trajectory we’re on now, 2022 is likely to be another big year of change for business. As our IT systems continue to evolve with more complexity, the right tools – deployed through collaboration between development, IT, and business teams – will be required to ensure system reliability doesn’t impact operations, customer outcomes, and a business’ bottom line. 

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