Will Automation Replace the IT Workforce?

Whether you work in Manufacturing, Tech, or Retail, you’ve likely considered the impact of automation in your industry. The rapid digital transformation brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic forced many leaders to face this concern head-on. But for IT, there is no cause for alarm. Automation is not designed to replace the workforce; it is designed to be ITs greatest asset. By automating things like infrastructure monitoring, service requests, and onboarding, IT professionals can free up valuable time to focus on more strategic initiatives that contribute to business growth. 

Defining Automation in IT

Every industry defines automation a little differently. In Marketing, automation can be as simple as setting up email workflows based on user activity. For example, if two users take different actions on a website, an automation platform might trigger different email streams to nurture them based on their preferences. In Manufacturing, automation might look like machine-operated factory lines. From driverless cars to advanced machine learning, the scope of automation is huge. In IT, automation primarily serves to refine and enhance Process.

For IT leaders, creating operational efficiencies continues to be a top priority. The goal is to increase team productivity and ultimately create a better end user experience. IT Process Automation, or ITPA, is the process by which IT services are automated into workflows. This reduces the time and cost associated with manual management.

Other examples of automation in IT:

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML)
  • Auto-discovery and auto-scaling
  • Customer onboarding
  • Remediation and problem resolution
  • Helpdesks, service centers, and chat

Given automation’s contribution to process improvements, let’s consider what it means for the workforce.

An aid to IT, not a replacement

There continues to be a misconception that automation will replace manual labor. And while that is true to some extent for other industries, that does not mean an overall reduction in IT jobs. Here are four ways that automation serves as an asset to IT, not a replacement.

1. Automation can reduce the chance of outages and downtime

With ITPA, engineers can triage and resolve issues instantly without submitting a ticket and waiting. An automated system to ticket, troubleshoot, and resolve issues saves precious time for engineers and end users alike. The predictive capabilities afforded by AI can even empower engineers with actionable data before issues occur. This means that operations teams can get ahead of issues rather than hearing about them from the end user first.

Outages and downtime continue to be a pain point for many IT professionals. According to one study, human error contributed to nearly 25% of unplanned downtime. Automation can help decrease downtime by:

  • Shortening the time between alert and analysis
  • Providing always-on service
  • Predicting outages with anomaly detection

Thanks to automation, IT professionals no longer have to spend hours on troubleshooting and guesswork. By reducing downtime and sustaining customer happiness, automation is both a massive asset to IT and to the business.

2. Automation has transformed skill sets and created more jobs 

Consider an automated capability like a self-healing system. Self-healing systems are designed – usually by machine learning – to detect and fix issues on their own. This is a key advancement in IT automation that saves precious time and resources. While self-healing systems certainly replace the need for manual triage and remediation, the skill set required to build such ML models is in hot demand. For young professionals pursuing computer science or data engineering, the prospects are good. In fact, jobs in which machine learning or AI skills are required grew by almost 75% in recent years. So while repetitive tasks are going away, there is a massive need for humans who can build machine learning models to make sense of data and use that data to scale and grow the business. For leaders looking to upscale automation without downscaling resources, train your team in advanced computer science and machine learning modeling so they can build automated systems with capabilities like self-healing.

3. Automation improves productivity and team health

For many professionals who work remotely post-pandemic, it can be difficult to draw a line between work and personal time. But employees can experience a better work-life balance thanks to automation. Gone are the days when team members had to wake up in the middle of the night because a server went down. Gone are the days of spending hours in war rooms to get it back up and running. According to one study, 86% of employees believed that automation would help increase their productivity. This suggests that many professionals do not compete with automation; instead, they use automation to help them complete their work more efficiently. A major benefit of automation is that it keeps businesses and systems online 100% of the time. This allows engineers and other IT professionals to take breaks and get sleep at night without having to operate a system manually, 24/7.

4. Automation saves money – and time

If increased productivity does not alleviate the misconceptions about job disruption, the cost reduction associated with automation is undeniable. In fact, Forbes discovered that intelligent automation can save companies up to 75% in cost. As IT budgets continue to increase post-pandemic, leaders can now spend more on strategic initiatives, tool consolidation, and cybersecurity rather than the costs associated with maintaining legacy systems. And while manual labor costs will diminish, jobs won’t. As technology evolves, skillsets evolve. IT professionals can pivot to building their skills in advanced topics like AI, data mining, virtual reality, and more to future-proof the business. 

We should also note that automation does not just save the budget; it saves time. For example, automated customer onboarding can save precious time for customer and service provider alike. In one case study, a leading MSP introduced a new monitoring and observability solution with fully automated onboarding that reduced customer onboarding time by 90%.

Automation and IT: a symbiotic relationship

So will automation replace the IT workforce? The short answer is no. Automation will not replace jobs; instead, it will bring clarity to essential IT operations. Automation allows practitioners and leaders to focus on innovation and strategy, offloading the mundane and repetitive tasks to machines and AI. It also contributes to better productivity and team health. For IT leaders and young professionals alike, there will undoubtedly be a shift in the type of work required to keep the IT infrastructure running. Hire and train employees to learn how to build machine learning models and engineer data in a meaningful way. Automation will only continue to grow and evolve, but for the IT workforce, this is truly a good thing.