DevOps Dashboard featuring number of builds, work in progress, successful deploys

What is DevOps automation?

DevOps automation automates tasks and ensures proper feedback loops between operations and development teams throughout the development lifecycle.

Creating and refining software takes the joint effort of both the development team and the operations team—but coordinating between these two departments has not always been the most effective process. That is why DevOps has become a key methodology and culture for building software. Physically or virtually combining the development and operations departments into one responsive and collaborative team, DevOps breaks down information silos and helps ensure faster, more effective product delivery. Projects are designed, tested, and produced much more efficiently as specialists work in a collaborative environment and prioritize continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD).

Considering that DevOps is a discipline that prioritizes efficiency, DevOps automation is the next logical step. Automation reduces how much human assistance is required to complete a process or perform a task and can be easily scaled to meet demand. This makes automation a natural component of a DevOps workflow and helps teams function at scale while accelerating their productivity. Here, we discuss the details of DevOps automation and how it has (and still is) shaping modern software development.

DevOps can be a complex practice, with many steps and processes involved. Potentially even more problematic is the fact that because DevOps brings together multiple departments there is a very real possibility that many of the established processes may vary from team to team.

Unfortunately, simply automating every process is generally not an option. As such, choosing what to automate, and what can be automated, is a vital first step in DevOps automation. On the other hand, it is a widely accepted truth in DevOps that you should automate wherever you can. Understanding where to focus your efforts will help you more successfully leverage DevOps automation and optimize your workflow without overextending yourself. The following DevOps steps may provide the greatest advantages when automated:


During the planning phase, DevOps teams need to understand the business/application goals and requirements of the product or feature. The product will come with a slew of requirements and be operating within a release plan, so it’s important to know the metrics you will be using to measure performance and success. This should all be influenced by feedback from stakeholders, customers, and other key players as you solidify your development strategy.

Automation in this stage allows you to more easily keep track of KPIs and metrics, as well as gather vital feedback without having to devote substantial amounts of resources to the process.


Developers and engineers will take a project from the planning phase and implement it, at least in terms of coding and/or configuration artifacts. This is done using a source code repository where code can be checked in, reviewed, and changed; that repository also stores different versions of code.

DevOps automation can not only automatically compile code, store it in version control, deploy it into testing environments, and eventually release it to end users, it can also be deployed to assist in code generation itself.


In this next phase, the code is taken from the source code repository and compiled into artifacts that can now be fully carried out. Automated tests are conducted to ensure that the executed code is satisfactory and can be deployed. Metrics are also used to gauge the quality of the code, its performance, the build performance, and more before a team approves the product for release.

Given the large amounts of measuring, regression testing, and continuous integration that can all be automated and standardized, automation is especially useful during the building stage.


There is also an entire process dedicated to testing the software product or feature, often referred to as software verification. Software verification helps ensure the quality of the software features for production, deployment, etc.

Software testing and validation exercises use unit tests, acceptance and regression testing, security and vulnerability analysis, configuration testing, and performance measurement, which are often all automated with tools and applications. In fact, automated self-testing is standard practice for every build so that developers know the code is functioning properly and quickly correct issues when they are found.

Release and deployment

Once all of the building and testing has been completed, the DevOps team can release the new feature or product. This happens through a process known as staging, where the team can package the release with package configuration practices. To get released, it is also likely that the release needs to be approved by higher-ups, ensuring that any feedback from executives or managers is integrated. This process is automated using tools such as package management software.

Because DevOps relies on iterative software deployment, updates must be released into user environments quickly and regularly. This requires coordinating all relevant releases and confirming that backups are available in the case of a system failure. The easiest way to ensure updates are deployed safely and effectively is to automate schedules or timed releases.

Monitor and operate

After every release, the software product should be carefully monitored—both in terms of performance and security. The IT infrastructure needs to remain secure and optimized, and understanding the user experience through monitoring and metrics will help improve the features of the software for future use. Again, tracking and reporting automations help developers remain on top of the performance of their software and the needs of their users.


Governance processes help with audit compliance, change management, and information security, allowing DevOps teams to keep pace with production despite near-constant changes. To avoid non-compliance, damaging shortcuts, and bottlenecks, automated governance processes help DevOps maintain CI/CD without risking the quality of work.

Finally, because DevOps is an iterative methodology, each of these automations must be capable of operating concurrently as different features or builds are moving through the process.

Service Management DevOps Insights

See what DevOps can do for you

Speed up software development by reducing time spent on administrative tasks. Scale and minimize risk with DevOps by ServiceNow.

There are many benefits to using DevOps automation, but some of the most notable advantages include greater consistency, speed, and scalability, which we see pay off in the following ways:

  • Promotes collaboration and communication
    Automating processes empower team members to place repetitive and routine tasks in the hands of trusted automated systems, so that they can instead focus on the more collaborative and strategic tasks.
  • Improves productivity
    Automation gives time back to developers to focus on details in the coding, allowing them to produce their best work. This increases developer satisfaction and boosts production.
  • Streamlines processes
    There are so many production and quality-assurance steps involved in software development. Automation helps run observability and improvement practices to relieve some of that pressure from the team and creates more standardized, straightforward processes.
  • Faster solutions
    Automation goes hand-in-hand with declarative configuration management, which helps improve systems and processes. Automating stages in DevOps means significantly reduced time to deployment, which in turn improves customer satisfaction.
  • Greater capacity
    Working at scale is a modern challenge in all industries, but especially for DevOps teams that need to handle multiple applications and deployment environments. Automated systems have no trouble addressing disparate processes accurately and efficiently. And, as demand fluctuates, these same systems scale easily without reducing performance.
  • Removes manual errors
    Humans have near limitless capacity for creativity and innovation, but when it comes to accuracy we sometimes fall behind—particularly when it comes to repetitive tasks. Unfortunately, in the complex world of software development even the smallest mistakes can mean big problems. Automation reduces the human element at key points in the DevOps process, eliminating the risk of human error and ensuring accuracy throughout.

What are the best practices for DevOps automation?

Some of the most effective ways to successfully implement automation on your DevOps team is to continuously collaborate with engineers as you unify your toolchain and pipeline. Consider these best practices as you create your DevOps automation strategy:

Focus on CI/CD

For most DevOps teams, CI/CD is the core component that needs to be automated the most in an organization. Automation can take care of several key elements of CI/CD, such as deploying packaged applications in the right production environment, builds, etc.

  • Continuous integration (CI)
    This process ensures that tests occur on every change and helps users see if those changes break anything in the environment.
  • Continuous delivery (CD)
    This is the method DevOps teams use to build software that allows them to deploy a successful release candidate to production at any time.
  • Continuous deployment
    This process takes continuous delivery to a new level where every successful change is automatically deployed to production, which is especially helpful for functioning at scale.
Automation in these processes helps foster a collaborative space for engineers, ensures automation control, and keeps updates and new features consistently implemented.

Don’t neglect change management

Constant updates and deploying new features are essential factors of any successful DevOps strategy. They can also be among the most difficult elements to keep up with. That is why change management is a key feature of DevOps automation. Version control, change control, and configuration management all help facilitate changes made to your code and manage deployments with the most control. Properly implemented, change management acts as both digital record and safety net, detailing the journey your software has taken and allowing you to jump back to previous points in that journey when needed.

Collaborate closely with engineers

As previously stated, DevOps should try to automate wherever possible, but that does not mean that automation can drive the process all by itself. For those times when human intervention is required or an automated process demands an additional layer of review, engineers play an essential role that should never be understated.

Monitor constantly

Finally, automation greatly simplifies software monitoring and updating, which makes troubleshooting, feature improvements, debugging and patching, and other potential security measures much more efficient and effective. As such, constant automated monitoring of deployed assets should be integral to your ongoing strategy. The following DevOps monitoring principles are particularly well augmented using automation:

  • Logging
  • Monitoring
  • Alerting
  • Tracing
  • Auditing

Sometimes it seems DevOps is engaged in a tug of war between adapting to change and standardizing practices to increase efficiency and function at scale. DevOps streamlines the development process, but you don’t want to miss out on the ability to creatively address new circumstances. Thankfully, the two ideals are not mutually exclusive; Automation can help you focus on standardization while still prioritizing adaptability for a ‘best of both worlds’ approach to DevOps.

Standardization is most important when:

  • Multiple teams or departments need to collaborate despite different processes, vocabulary, or metrics.
  • Regulatory compliance issues demand increased control over how various processes function.
  • Budgetary demands necessitate closer management of resources across all involved groups.

However, too much standardization can make your systems and processes too inflexible, to the point where your team suffers from issues like:

  • A lack of innovation or a prescriptive solution to every problem—even when the solution does not effectively serve the outcome.
  • Slower solutions or processes that can be quickly handled by a team instead of waiting on a standardized system to implement a solution.

Automation provides the answer. Customizing your automation to the right processes is key so that your team isn’t caught up in sluggish manual tasks that could be automated. Selectively automating also prevents teams from becoming mentally complacent or reliant on their automation software for tasks that are better suited to human innovation.

For example, many DevOps teams speed up governance tasks by using a ‘standard change,’ an accepted change that is low risk and common enough to be standardized. By their nature, code changes can’t really be ‘standard’ since almost any change can create problems in production, ranging from minor usability issues to major outages. Not every step can be automated, but a ‘standard change' can be set with specific automation applications and rules with governance (change management) processes; this should result in code being accurately changed while the update release is not unnecessarily slowed.

Through It all, the ‘automate where possible’ mandate still applies—just with the understanding that those processes that demand more human ingenuity fall into the ‘not possible’ category.


Every enterprise should try to manage their DevOps processes with the best automation software, but not every platform offers the same tools, resources, or functions. DevOps automation should have the following features to be competitive and useful:

  • Data validation
    Inaccurate data and code changes can damage your entire strategy. Automated data validation catches these mistakes before changes are deployed.
  • Audit, history, and comparisons
    The right DevOps automation platform will track, audit, and store all changes in the configuration data lifecycle.
  • Access control
    Not every person should have access to the same settings or data, so a platform should also be secure with access control while still allowing data to be shared with authorized team members to keep projects moving. Automation helps provide secure access to sensitive data without slowing down any processes.

No matter your industry or operations, DevOps is simplified and streamlined with ServiceNow’s automation platforms. More and more businesses and industries are focusing on going digital, which means software and the user experience are some of the top priorities for companies. This makes DevOps and cloud technologies a core function of business infrastructure, and automation is how DevOps can be successfully implemented at scale across any enterprise.

ServiceNow’s ITSM Pro uses the power of the Now Platform® to speed up administrative tasks, provide more insight and connectivity for your team, and minimize risk during both the development and deployment phases. This is all done through automation in change management processes – whether the changes are in code or in configuration parameters – and by providing managers and operators with reliable data for insights and auditing that is automatically populated and connected.

Consistent compliance, team alignment, greater insights and analytics across the entire value stream, and faster release readiness are all a part of the ITSM Pro ServiceNow experience. Scale your enterprise with DevOps from ServiceNow. Click here to get started!

Capabilities that expand with your business

Expand DevOps success across the enterprise. Take the risk out of going fast and minimize friction between IT operations and development.
Loading spinner