The Human Role in Network Automation

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The IT landscape is an ever-moving target, full of new trends and technologies, and it keeps every data scientist, IT specialist, and CIO on their toes.

Various data science, IT, and cybersecurity trends illustrate the major advancements in technologies like AI, ML, and big data analytics. These innovations are powering next-generation business solutions, including those enabling network automation.

How does the role of enterprise employees change in network management as more IT and cybersecurity processes become automated? Here’s a deeper look at network automation, its benefits, and why human intervention is still necessary.

Also see: Best Network Automation Tools 

The State of Network Automation Today

The COVID-19 pandemic caused a massive uptick in remote work. As a result, most companies seek to invest in advanced automation solutions capable of mitigating ongoing internal and external risks.

Network automation is a growing market with lucrative opportunities for providers. It’s expected to reach $8.9 billion by 2025, driven by increased adoption of AI, ML, the Internet of Things (IoT), 5G technology, and edge computing.

Today’s IT teams and data experts seek digital, automated solutions with three key characteristics: speed, agility, and consistency. These qualities allow organizations to maximize their networks’ functionality and efficiency, two essential elements of maintaining a competitive edge.

Consider automation at Danske Bank. The company has reached a high level of maturity as a result of the implementation, according to Gyte Gedvilaite-Hansen, Deputy Head of the Intelligent Automation Center of Excellence. Danske Bank is only one example of many companies that are make major use of automation.

Also see: 7 Enterprise Networking Challenges 

The Role IT Employees Play in Network Automation

Efforts to make automation a staple in network management are nothing new, but the role of employees continues to evolve. How do the responsibilities of IT employees change as automation becomes more prevalent?

First, employees play a primary role in the implementation of network automation. Many IT processes become automated post-implementation, but human employees must do the work to incorporate automation into their IT infrastructure. Network managers must work with CIOs to identify which automated solutions will best suit their needs, make business cases for each, and create a guide for implementing them.

During the implementation phase, IT staff must partner with trusted third-party vendors, choose services with the right integrations, automate configurations to ensure consistency, and perform various other tasks. Without human employees, how could a network become automated in the first place?

One might think IT employees are no longer needed for operations once network automation is set up, but this is far from the truth. Administrators and managers must conduct thorough employee training for these new systems. Employees in nontechnical roles must receive adequate training to effectively use the network and do their part in protecting the organization from any potential threats.

Automated solutions make network management easier in many ways. However, organizations still need employees to oversee automated processes, especially when first using the new infrastructure. An automated process is only as effective as the correct implementation and employee monitoring and upkeep.

Also see: Top Managed Service Providers

Will Increased Network Automation Cause Worker Displacement?

There’s some concern about whether automation will create worker displacement in the future. Ultimately, the need for skilled IT professionals will not cease to exist because of the advent of automation. These technologies work best alongside humans, not in place of them.

It’s still possible that CIOs and CTOs in some organizations will reduce the headcount in their IT departments after implementing automation. This staff is still necessary, but companies might cut costs by laying off employees. It’s understandable that IT pros might worry about losing their jobs if automation takes center stage.

Since the beginning of 2022, tech companies have laid off nearly 50,000 employees to reduce overhead. These layoffs have a ripple effect on the tech industry because the remaining IT staff face increased workloads and high pressure to perform well.

Also see: Trends Shaping the Future of IoT

How Network Automation Benefits Human Staffers

Automated solutions that take over mundane, repetitive tasks with little or no human interaction offer significant benefits. Here are some specific ways enterprises can succeed by automating their networks.

Standardized Processes

Network automation facilitates the standardization of critical IT and cybersecurity processes throughout an enterprise’s network infrastructure. In the IT realm, standardization is key — it reduces user friction, allowing employees to better understand processes and procedures. It’s less likely that employees run into common pain points or face difficult questions while managing a network in which there are standards to follow.

Reduced Workload

Network automation removes some of the heavy lifting that IT staff is responsible for under the umbrella of network management and cybersecurity. Although the IT industry is moving toward a hands-off approach, professionals are in high demand and are still integral. However, automated networks lessen the amount of work, enabling employees to focus on more important, meaningful tasks.

Minimized Human Error

Human error is a top cybersecurity risk in today’s increasingly threatening landscape. According to IBM X-Force’s 2022 Threat Intelligence Report, phishing was the biggest pathway for compromise in 2021, accounting for 41% of initial access incidents. Automated networks, which are often tied to cumbersome and manual processes within an organization, minimize the chances of human error.

Improved Cybersecurity Posture

Automatic updates, real-time threat detection, and other automated network solutions are integral in bolstering an organization’s cybersecurity posture. These solutions take a proactive approach to defending a company’s network against external and internal threats, lowering the chances of data breaches or other attacks.

Critical Scalability

Network automation allows organizations to scale, an essential feature of any IT security solution. They can roll out new services, devices, and applications without spending time and money preparing and securing the system beforehand. Manual networks offer a different level of scalability than their automated counterparts.

Also see: Best Open Source Network Monitoring Tools 

The Future of Network Automation: What Employees Should Know

The sheer volume of data makes modern IT environments too complex for employees to handle on their own. Automation is a trend expected to grow rapidly as AI, ML, IoT, and other technologies proliferate.

Data scientists, cybersecurity professionals, and C-suite executives should understand that implementing automation by no means renders human employees useless. Instead, it sparks changes in their day-to-day activities and responsibilities.

IT teams must monitor the efficacy of automated solutions and suggest other areas of opportunity to incorporate these products or services. Some employees might not face major changes in their responsibilities, but many will, so companies must prepare their teams for significant shifts.

The Convergence of IT Automation and Human Intervention

Due to its array of benefits, network automation is a significant trend organizations are prioritizing, especially in their digital transformation strategies. The vast amount of data circulating throughout the business world is too much for humans to process manually. Therefore, the role of automation becomes that much more important.

The need for skilled IT professionals will not cease to exist because of the advent of automation. Clearly, automation will continue to change the business landscape and IT world, especially as technology advances and becomes ubiquitous.

Devin Partida
Devin Partida
Devin Partida is a contributing writer for Enterprise Networking Planet who writes about business technology, cybersecurity, and innovation. Her work has been featured on Yahoo! Finance, Entrepreneur, Startups Magazine, and many other industry publications. She is also the Editor-in-Chief of ReHack.

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