Automation is taking the market by storm. Research firm Gartner predicts that by 2020, more than 40% of data science tasks will be automated, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Businesses are turning to automation to reduce costs, increase productivity and gain a competitive advantage. Add DevOps to the mix and it becomes readily apparent how DevOps teams can benefit by leveraging a little workflow automation. After all, the DevOps process is framed by repeatable workflows, wherein the agile manifesto dictates progress or other frameworks define how change moves through the development and deployment cycles.
“Most development projects are hindered by numerous manual steps and the lack of defined collaborative communications methodologies, leaving far too much room for error,” said Raj Mehta, CEO of Raj Technologies. “Defining a workflow and bringing automation into the picture could go a long way toward reducing errors.”
The DevOps community has come to rely on many manual processes and numerous tools to keep the pace of rapid application delivery and change management. Those solutions often have points of failure, where important tasks can slip through the cracks. Even so, many developers are resistant to change and embrace the processes they have already established. Yet, intertwining manual processes with automation and management tools has been demonstrated as rather inefficient, slowing the perception that workflow automation can actually achieve the productivity promises claimed.
Perhaps the challenge comes from the fact that many DevOps teams require assistance to achieve any type of automation goals. That indicates there may be a lack of qualified professionals to bring forth workflow automation. “You have to crawl before you can run, and that means you must become an expert in designing workflows, before deploying one, or at the very least, turn to an expert,” Mehta noted.
A workflow is a fundamental process that dictates the steps to achieve a goal. Workflows have been used for centuries by businesses and have become digitized over the last few decades, with numerous workflow tools coming from leading vendors.
Many technologists may have first encountered the workflow ideology back in the days when Microsoft’s Sharepoint first came on the scene, which offered rudimentary tools for routing content through various steps. Of course, the workflows in use today have become much more complex, requiring designers to not only know how to script actions but also understand the overall goal of those actions.
That’s a simple truth understood well by Workfront, a Lehi, Utah, based vendor of workflow solutions which is looking to better service various organizations, as well as DevOps professionals, to create workflow automation opportunities. The company’s primary product goes by the name of Workfront as well and uses a platform-based approach for creating workflows that can be integrated across multiple technologies, bringing centralized workflow orchestration to many use cases.
Tools like Workfront fit well into the automation equation by creating the foundation of workflows. However, most DevOps professionals need more than workflow design to achieve improved automation. Other elements must be considered, such as demand management, resource management, project templates, policies and scripted actions. Efficient workflow tools should also incorporate task lists, collaboration capabilities and reporting.
Of course, Workfront is only one of many workflow automation companies on the market. Many other vendors are established in the market, with Market News Reports mentioning leaders such as Pegasytems, Tibco Software and Sourcecode Technology Holdings dominating the market.
HNY Research projects workflow automation market size will grow to $16.58 billion by 2023 from $4.68 billion in 2017, at an estimated CAGR of 23.48%. Key factors such as ease in process with the installation of workflow automation tools, convergence of workflow automation with traditional business processes, focus on streamlining business processes and cost efficiency through workflow automation are driving the workflow automation market.
“Business leaders must carefully analyze different processes and identify which workflows can automated. Therefore, business leaders should avoid rushing into workflow automation adoption and analyze the various potential use cases and choosing which vendors best fit in their organization,” said Naveen Joshi, founder and CEO of Allerin.
Many businesses are leveraging workflow solutions on their path to digital transformation and bringing once-manual processes into a world where automation can be applied. While some may argue over the intricacies of digital workflows and how those workflows fit into business process management (BPM), one truth remains evident: The goal is to digitally transform and introduce automation, which in turn indicates robotic process automation (RPA), becomes the next logical step.
According to Grand View Research, the global RPA market is expected to register a CAGR of 31.1%, from $597.5 million in 2018, driven largely by demand for business process automation via artificial intelligence (AI) and software robots.
RPA paired with workflow design may prove to bring full digital transformation to DevOps, and potentially grow beyond just a niche in those challenging environments. Workflows, BPM, BPA and RPA are becoming increasingly important to DevOps organizations seeking to lower error rates, boost productivity and improve communications.