Whether simplifying laborious tasks or complex workflows, there's no question that automation can support organisations that want smoothly run operations.
And after consumer examples of fridges that can order milk and cars that can book themselves in for a service when an oil change is due, it's no surprise that forward thinking companies are thinking about how "things" can start initiating purchasing - with IT procurement high on the wish list.
But of course automated purchasing needs to be done intelligently. If I get four pints of milk delivered every day for two weeks, or if the car books itself in for a service every 12 weeks rather than every 12 months, suddenly the automation is costing me time and money - not saving it.
Who do you blame at this point? My first port of call would probably be the programming. But what if it works perfectly? What then?
For the examples listed above, a faulty sensor is likely to be the cause, instead of poorly written code or workflows. Whether it's the pressure sensor in the fridge reading the weight of the milk carton wrong, or the car's connected dipstick reading the oil as empty, a faulty sensor sends the wrong message to generate the wrong result.
But of course, businesses aren't using pressure sensors or connected dipsticks to measure their software consumption. However, similarly, the biggest risk when automating IT procurement is providing the automation process with the right inputs. But what inputs does it need access to?
It's essential to provide an accurate view of the installed software and who has access to which subscribed service. Discovery and Inventory, if you will.
It's also important to know whether people are actually using the services provided. If they're not, that software needs to be recovered so that the licence can redistributed to another user, avoiding a constant stream of new purchases for software that's already lying dormant on your network. Or, if they're only using a few capabilities of that programme, shift them to a cheaper version that is appropriate to their usage.
Finally, it's key to make sure that what's in use across the organisation is what the company is allowed to use. Compliance is no one's favourite topic, but it's always better to check and reconcile any software licence discrepancies before an auditor does.
While there's no question that these core elements of IT procurement put serious demands on an automated service, it isn't to say it's not possible - you just need the right inputs.
When you do have the right inputs, the reward can be immense. I've seen customers reduce exposure to SAP licensing by as much as $25m or reduce their Microsoft spending by $4m per year - that's big money to big businesses.
While of course, it's the dream of many CIOs to have someone constantly optimising your software purchasing and management 24/7. That's not to say that automation will be putting anyone out a job any time soon. The complexities and subtleties will long demand someone to guide and manage even the most intelligent product on the market.
Instead, automated solutions will play a key role in helping reduce the burden of time-consuming tasks like licence re-harvesting, controlling virtual cloud assets and moving users across different subscription packages. Each task supporting the over-burdened IT leader by giving them more time to do the stuff that robots just can't do.