German automation software that could eliminate the jobs of many IT workers is raising age-old anxieties about whether tech will make us obsolete.
“What has happened over the last 200 years is that people have been asked to work like machines and people don’t do that very well,” says German technologist Chris Boos, CEO and co-founder of arago and a scheduled speaker at DLD 2015 in Munich. ”People are good at thinking up new stuff or finding something good in an error so I find it humorous that people are scared that jobs designed for machines are being taken over by machines.”
Arago’s key product is AutoPilot, a knowledge-based automation platform, which was developed over more than eight years. The platform is based on a combination of different technologies and high-performance algorithms. It enables companies to automate their entire IT stack, including heterogeneous IT environments and individual applications. AutoPilot claims to be able to enable automation rates of up to almost 90%.
Arago’s first customers have been companies with complex IT systems such as banks, telcos and outsourcers. Boos says his company’s technology has cut their IT costs by 30% to 50%.
While the productivity gain for employers is obvious, will IT workers lose their jobs en masse because of automation? The answer is a clear no, Boos says. Their jobs will just get more interesting.
A report by consultancy Forrester Research predicts a dramatic decline in infrastructure administrator positions through 2015, while professionals such as automation architects and knowledge engineers will be in high demand.
Raised $55 Million From U.S. PE House KKR
Boos has been working on algorithmic software development for 25 years and arago was launched in 1995. Many people scoffed at the idea of automation but driverless cars and other developments have helped put the technology on the map. Gartner named arago a “Cool Vendor in IT Operations 2014” and in October the company raised a $55 million round from U.S. private equity firm KKR. The types of firms that KKR normally invests in “are perfect clients for us,” says Boos. So, he says, he expects that connection to help arago expand into the U.S.
Arago decided to first focus its technology on automating IT systems because it will have a less obvious impact on employment.
If you wipe out factory jobs it escalates into a political problem. Eradicating IT jobs is less of an issue because there is such a high demand for professionals in the sector that is relatively easy for most to find new jobs, Boos says. “If you want to start to take these things out of the lab you have to do it in a way that is non-threatening,” he says.
What’s more, he says, “I believe that IT has changed everything else so now it is time to change the IT world.”
At the moment most companies spend up to 80% of their IT budget just to keep things running as they are and only 20% to change things a little bit, says Boos. “This is the problem we are addressing.
Either Fire Workers, Or Get Them Doing Other Cool Stuff
“When you install our technology you free up the time of the people. Companies can convert this to cash by firing people or convert that time back by letting people do cool stuff.”
The AutoPilot automates the entire IT stack – from the provision of IT infrastructures up to incident-, change-, capacity- and availability- management.
The result is a reduction in costs, improved service quality and a significant increase in data security.
In 2013 AutoPilot managed 1.95 million tickets automatically and reached an average automation rate of more than 87 % – which resulted in an overall cost saving of 31%, according to Gartner’s report on Arago.
AutoPilot distinguishes itself from most automation solutions by automating IT operations independently, Gartner says. Arago’s algorithms are capable of learning thousands of rules and rank them accordingly based on the context at any given time, just like humans do.
It’s able to work with ambiguous or even contradictory rules, too, and learns as it goes which ones work best, says Boos. The automation platform learns from IT experts. It then uses their knowledge and performs their tasks to operate the IT fully automatically – like a virtual colleague.
Be The Automator, Not The Automated
The trouble is that the people who are supposed to train them worry that if they do a good job they might make themselves redundant.
But, says Boos administrators’ attitudes change once they understand that they can have the machine do all the boring work, freeing up time for them to do strategic tasks.
The bottom line is that IT experts will increasingly be able to focus on engineering, while delegating routine operations to machines – as long as they embrace automation and its potential, the Forrester report says.
Boos’s advice for IT workers is posted on his blog. “If you want to be in the best position to succeed in the IT world of tomorrow you should overcome your fear of change and actively embrace automation; as Forrester analyst Glenn O’Donnell puts it: ‘Be the automator, not the automated.’”