The Future of ITOps: Five Experts Weigh In On Navigating a Changing Field

What is the future of ITOps, and how is technology shaping that future? At a recent meet-up—co-hosted by Workato, Coupa, and VictorOps with guests from Splunk, Prysm, and Praecipio Consulting—ITOps professionals of all stripes gathered to hear a panel of industry experts address these questions. Leaders from four high-profile SaaS companies shared their insight into what the changing world of ITOps holds and how businesses can gain a competitive edge.

Leveraging AI and ML to Glean Actionable Insights

One recurring theme all panelists agreed on is the power that emerging technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can bring to ITOps. “We need to ask: how can you augment processes with AI and ML?” commented Sreeni Garlapati, the VP of IT at Prysm.

Sanket Naik, the VP Cloud Infrastructure and Security at Coupa, echoed this idea. “[From an ITOps standpoint], information overload will never go away.” But keeping pace with technology, he said, can help lighten the load.

“It’s also important to look for patterns,” commented Hans Gustavson, the Senior Director of Cloud Operations at Coupa. “You need to develop advanced methods of analyzing data, so you can predict problems in advance.”

Naik explained that machine learning, in particular, can help streamline incident management. “[With a strong pool of data for ML to pull from], you can predict crashes before they happen. You can identify the triggers—such as storage running out—and remediate the issue before the crash, without waking someone up in the middle of the night. [With ML, you] won’t crash the same way twice.”

Using Automation to Augment Your Team

The moderator Christian Lane, founder of Praecipio Consulting, pointed out that Gartner predicts that automation—especially intelligent workflows that harness AI and bots—are growing in popularity within ITOps. What does the push towards automation mean for IT staff?

Joni Klippert, the VP of Product at VictorOps, said that automation is useful for relieving ITOps staff of a lot of manual work. “It’s meeting humans where they want to do work and automating tedious tasks,” she commented. “Even analysts are really into it, which means it’ll be ubiquitous in no time!”

At Coupa, Gustavson said, automation is everywhere. “It’s pervasive for us,” he explained. “Tasks that used to take ITOps staff a lot of time to do can now be done in minutes. That allows engineers to work on more important tasks.”

Naik added that automation is actually the key to unlocking the power of advanced technology like AI. “Gartner shows it’s more valuable for companies to retrain employees on AI than to hire outside experts,” he continued. “The tools are getting better; products now come with AI and ML built in. You don’t have to be a data scientist to use AI, because automation makes it easy to apply.”

As for bots, the panel was optimistic. “At Coupa, we’ve deployed a number of bots across a wide range of tasks, from looking for emails from vendors to provisioning users and beyond,” said Gustavson.

Capitalizing on Digital Transformation for a Competitive Edge

With all this helpful technology, how should ITOps teams approach digital transformation in order to get the most benefit—especially at smaller organizations?

“I look at where biggest time sinks are and focus there,” said Naik.

Klippert added that taking responsibility is also key. “There’s an ‘own your code’ philosophy. You have to treat your code as infrastructure,” she explained. “Some businesses will always need a Tier 1 response team, but they’re adopting frameworks that allow them to get the right eyes on the problem faster.”

Digital transformation also changes the skills that ITOps teams should look for when hiring. “There are new personality traits needed to be successful in ITOps. The new SRE mentality is curious and seeks opportunities for improvement, not just looking for a green light instead of red,” Klippert continued.

Garlapati agreed, elaborating on the traits that teams should look for when recruiting ITOps staff well-suited to the changing field. ”Look for a software engineer who has an infrastructure mindset,” he advised.

Why? Gustavson believes that the future of ITOps demands an ability to think deeply. “There are lots of layers of abstraction to dig through. You have to understand what’s happening underneath.”

Watch Exclusive Video Footage of the Panel for More Expert ITOps Insight  >