Spotlight on Tech

Automation Simplified: The Basics and Success Roadmap

Geoff Hollingworth
Chief Marketing Officer
Rakuten Symphony
May 23, 2023
minute read

To succeed in the telecommunication industry, the number one priority should be to automate its operations with full efficiency. What happens if you don’t? The lack of speed and mounting costs will lead to an overwhelmed management of your technology.

So, what is automation? How does it apply to telecom and what are the challenges standing between a quick implementation? How can you succeed? Here is the simple breakdown.

What is automation? 

Automation is a powerful tool that takes manual and repetitive tasks into a software program, eliminating human intervention and time for max efficiency. Software and automation in a way have a symbiotic relationship. Automation requires software professionals, and they need automation to reduce redundant activities.

What’s automation in action like? Let’s take an example of troubleshooting a cloud infrastructure. A typical cloud infrastructure uses an orchestration system called Kubernetes (k8s) that utilizes automation to deploy, scale and operate the application. In the backend, there is a team of computers, referred to as “clusters” that manages the applications. Its journey often looks like a web of a flow chart.

If there is a problem, you can backtrack the flowchart to identify the root cause for an appropriate action. Traditionally, this was done by a human specialist – but when there are hundreds and thousands of clusters to go through - low scalability is inevitable.

With automation, identifying fault in a sea of flowchart can be done immediately. In a scenario where thousands of clusters run into an issue simultaneously, the program can run in parallel with no more cost than the computing power required to run said program.

Why aren’t we seeing more automation?

To put it simply: It’s just not how organizations worked historically. Telecom runs manually and it’s been successful. But when you take today’s expectations for network deployment density and faster time to market into account, the future doesn’t seem kind to manual processes anymore.

Automation is the number one priority in creating change. All other infrastructure initiatives are dependent on successful automation implementation, operational transformation and organizational change. Convincing a new mindset for organizations using new technology is always a larger problem than the technology itself. Not just in telecom, but in any other industry.

Steps to successful automation

  1. Horizontal organization model

Your automation team should be positioned horizontally to cover all domains, horizons and influences. Remember how software and automation intertwine? Naturally, a presence of a software-efficient pro on the team is key to success.

What proved to work at Rakuten Symphony is to create an Automation Center of Excellence that automated all domains. As need for automation increased, the Center broadened and became an integral part of other organizations to help establish distributed automation teams.

  1. Always ask, “Can this be automated?”

The number of process flows is larger than organizations understand. In most cases, they are not documented outside the expert’s brain.  Without a culture of automation, manual habits will hinder success.  

We include an automation question mark within the Root Cause Analysis process of all network faults, to ask the question: “can this problem be resolved with automation?” If yes, it is added to the automation use case candidate backlog.

  1. Automation assessment

Automation itself needs to be managed with a disciplined testing, publishing and execution process.

Our best practice is captured in our Automation Studio product that manages the life cycle, discoverability and security of all automation scripts.

  1. Automation software management framework

There needs to be a runtime automation software management framework. Automation scripts need to be triggered to run automatically as soon as the entry criteria are identified.

We have captured this in our software automation framework.

  1. Automation script accessibility

The execution and actions of automation scripts needs to be documented in an easy-to-read form for post-analysis and automation error checks.

This approach is managed in our software automation framework through the automated creation and management of our trouble tickets.

The bottom line

Leveraging Rakuten Symphony’s experience and framework, your full automation journey can decrease from four years to just one.

The bottom line is to build upon the existing automation software framework and automations that have been proven in live operation. Additionally, for maximized efficiency and cost savings, it’s best to build your own focused organization and automation teams.

For more information on our transformational journey and an in-depth breakdown, download our whitepaper here on Mobile as a Software™.

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