The whats and whys of automation
Understanding a broad concept like automation requires first defining what the word means. In this context, Anna and Jonathan understand automation as simply the process of offloading tasks from your workflows, removing the human factor from time-consuming steps. The key to success with automation is planning: You need to start by asking questions such as what the problems are that you’re looking to eliminate, who the stakeholders are, who is impacted by the process and so on.
What can automation do for you? Executed properly, it allows you to accomplish more work over a shorter period, eliminate human error, decrease the number of IT tickets you have to field and free yourself up to learn more advanced skills. While your current workflows may not obviously require automation, think about what expanding your operations would call for – scalability is nearly impossible without automation.
Figure out your ice cream recipe
Anna and Jonathan use making ice cream as an analogy for automation. Different customers will have their own needs and preferences, so you want to be able to experiment with different flavors and toppings; at the same time, being able to serve them all means coming up with one widely applicable base recipe. To do this correctly, you need to boil your process down to the essentials. Examine the task to be completed, take stock of the tools you have (and know how to use) and break down your task into discrete chunks. Starting with the least number of required ingredients and tools, you can add and remove components until the taste is just right. Nailing the base recipe takes time, but if you do it correctly, you’ll easily save much more time in the future.
Example task: Generating an out-of-compliance device alert
The presenters proceed to take an example task – generating an alert for the IT team every time a device falls out of compliance – and walk us through each step of creating a base recipe for automation. This starts with scoping the task correctly, thinking about the facets such as what the timing needs to be and who the beneficiaries of the task are. As you identify the steps in your process, be sure to check your existing tools before you over-engineer a solution. Jamf Pro has many built-in features that allow you to automate processes without having to write your own scripts.
In this example, Anna and Jonathan define the steps, rearrange them as necessary and show us how to troubleshoot a problem with the alert only going to the person who configured it by creating an email distribution list and plugging it in as the contact email. They then discuss the ways in which you can use your base recipe to address related tasks that may come up in the future and create new workflows – switching flavors and adding toppings, as it were.
Look to the developer community
There’s no sense in reinventing the wheel, so before you get too deep into planning a desired automation, check out the Mac developer community to see if someone has already provided a solution you can use or build on. The presentation ends with a summary of the resources available to you and tips for finding and using existing automation. These include the Jamf Nation user community, the Jamf Developer Portal and previous JNUC videos. Happy hunting, and hopefully this session will have you making your own “ice cream” before you know it!
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