To make informed, strategic, decisions, an organization needs data. Most businesses know this and are collecting data from more sources than ever. However, just collecting the information isn’t enough—sometimes there are logistical obstacles to accessing and using critical business data. For example, data can be tied up in PDF documents, which are notoriously hard to manipulate. Another obstacle to making full use of your data is if interacting with databases—entering the data, extracting it, moving it—is too time-consuming. Employees’ hours should be spent on analyzing your data and acting on the information, not on keying it manually into a database.
The Automate webinar below, hosted by Richard Schoen and Pat Cameron of HelpSystems, demonstrates how you can do database automation without writing a line of code.
Do I Need Database Automation?
If you have any kind of repeated processes that involve databases, the chances are you can save a lot of time by automating them. In the webinar, Richard gave a few examples of business challenges we hear about often. One common case is when a business needs to read incoming data from files received by FTP, attached to an email, or downloaded from a trading partner site and write that data into a corporate database. Done manually, the collection and entry of all the data would be very tedious. Many companies also need to distribute data from their databases to end users, trading partners, or customers.
Both of these processes and many more can be automated and streamlined from beginning to end with the business process automation platform from Automate.
What Can Code-Free Database Automation Do?
Automate can access just about any database with an available driver (including Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or IBM i among others) and automate actions like:
- Opening or closing an SQL connection. It’s possible to have multiple connections open in the same task at the same time if you need to connect to more than one database.
- SQL query. Query a database.
- Call a stored procedure. This lets you use a pre-defined piece of logic as part of your automated task.
- Loop through a dataset line by line to process it. You have some control over this—for example, you can limit it to the first X results. The loop action can also process text files or in-memory strings.
With the release of version 10, Automate added a database trigger, allowing tasks to start based on an update or deletion in a SQL server or Oracle table. A practical use of this trigger is to get immediate notifications of important changes.
If an SQL server string changes—for example, due to an IP address change—and you have multiple automated processes using the same string, you won’t want your team taking the time to update each of them individually. Automate has the ability to store database connection strings encrypted in a single location and pass them to any task or workflow. If the SQL server string changes, all tasks will be instantly updated.
As with all Automate solutions, the database automation actions are most powerful when used in conjunction with other types of automated tasks. For example, you can automate scraping data from unstructured sources, including websites, before it’s entered into the database, and you can automate generating a variety of reports from information taken from your database.
How Do I Get Started?
Richard recommends first asking which tasks you or your team spend the most time on. In the case of database tasks, this could be something like creating daily summary reports or entering data into multiple applications. For the process you hope to automate, evaluate whether the process is consistent and whether it follows a generally predictable pattern. If so, it’s probably a good candidate for automation.
It helps to create an outline of the manual steps in the current process. Automate uses an intuitive drag-and-drop interface that enables users to easily automate tasks without needing any programming skills. However, if you don’t feel your internal team is able to automate your database process, we offer a variety of training and services. If you're looking for some education to get started, try our free online training, Automate Academy.