Obviously, Automated configuration management and deployment makes sense at large scales when you need to manage hundreds of servers and you need those servers to be identically configured to a consistent standard.
However, in situations where systems are small and need only 2, 3 or 4 servers, it can often be faster in build time to simply stand up a first instance and clone subsequent instances - changing IP addresses and hostnames by hand.
The theoretical advantage to automated deployment and configuration management is that code can be deployed faster, tested faster and services are provided more reliably by automating out the problem of human error. Future upgrades of the underlying OS (eg, CentOS 6 -> CentOS 7) are better/faster and in the long run the above benefits outweigh the initial larger investment of programmatically automating deployments using a configuration management system?
Are there any real-world non-anecdotal studies and data-points to back each of the above claimed benefits to small shops with very low numbers of servers to manage?