It’s easy to come up with excuses for not doing something, whether it’s doing homework, taking out the garbage, or automating your computer operations. Here are some of the most common excuses IBM i shops provide for not moving to automated operations.
Excuse: Our computer system needs to wait for a professional IT operator to enter information. There are critical dates, business cutoffs, and numbers of copies that someone must input interactively. Without an operator, the application would not function properly.
Response: Use reserved command variables to plug dynamic dates into a call statement or in an interactive panel.
Excuse: Our night processing is too complicated. Our IT operators need to check if backups are running or if a certain user is logged on. We can’t risk running our night processing differently.
Response: Use a custom scripting language to check for object locks, active jobs, active subsystems, and more before running a job. This ensures that you can run night processing without interfering with end users.
Excuse: We’ve worked hard to grow our staff of around-the-clock operators. Within the IT department, our team accounts for half the budget. If we automate operations, we’ll lose the large budget that we’ve worked so hard to acquire.
Response: Budgets are important for planning expenditures, but they should not justify staff sizes. Money should be spent on improving the quality of life, skill set, and productivity of the operations staff.
Excuse: I’ve gained respect in my company for my ability to manage people. Because of my large team, I have senior management experience. Why would I want to lose staff to automation?
Response: Management experience is not just about managing people. Your seniority comes from moving the company ahead with technology that brings dollars to the bottom line. Automating computer systems allows your company to move talented staff to other areas.
Excuse: Our business runs 24/7, so an IT operator needs to be there! Operators make sure that printers have paper, batch jobs complete on time, tape drives function properly, and the network is available.
Response: One way of managing computer systems is to have operators manually checking these items. However, automation software and some extra hardware let you consider another way.
You could eliminate central printing through electronic distribution of reports, automate your batch jobs through scheduling, run backups unattended with high capacity backup hardware, and use monitoring software to alert you if anything goes wrong.
You can make a gradual transition to one operator per shift or even eliminate shifts. You’ll always have someone on call, but you shift the focus of the team to automating operations. Study after study has shown that automation reduces errors and crises.
Excuse: Our team is too busy fighting fires. There just isn’t enough time to dedicate someone to automation.
Response: Firefighting is not good for morale—it creates stress and builds barriers between departments. Automate your mundane tasks first to free resources for tackling the more difficult areas.
Automation happens with small steps, not big leaps. Some customers automate daily jobs, then weekly jobs, and finally end-of-month jobs.
Consider hiring a consultant to get the ball rolling—consultants can work on automating your systems while your team resolves issues. Once you’ve automated, your fires will go away!
Excuse: The rest of the company doesn’t really understand what the data center does. No one is demanding changes. This environment is good for employee morale because people don’t like change.
Response: It may feel safer not to change, but eventually someone will push your team to accept change the hard way. It’s better to lead than to be pushed.
Many of our customers have won awards within their companies by automating and reporting the project to the rest of the company. They’ve saved money or increased system availability through automation.
Once the data center is automated, you can look outside your department for more opportunities.
Excuse: Our development and network teams aren’t responsible for the day-to-day computer operations. They are in separate areas of the department and rarely speak with the operations team.
Response: This can be a big problem in larger corporations. Some development and network teams don’t worry about who is going to run or execute new tasks; they just give it to operations.
We’ve seen millions of dollars wasted by development groups trying to use a small scheduler in development projects when they could have spent much less on a robust scheduling tool.
In an ideal world, operations should get involved in all new development projects and ask the question, “How can we run this unattended to be more efficient and save the business money?”
Excuse: Our operators aren’t allowed educational opportunities. Upper management doesn’t spend money on educating IT operators because they just quit anyway. Automation is out of the question.
Response: It’s a shame that some management teams feel this way. Being an IT operator can be a comfortable job and often the people in these jobs do not question what they’re asked to do.
Yet, when given the chance, many of those operators can save their companies thousands of dollars by implementing automation.
Empower your operators. When you have people who believe in automation, watch out! A fired-up team of operators can automate a lot of manual tasks. You’ll find that they know exactly what needs to be done.
Excuse: We’ve consolidated our IBM i down to a couple data centers with multiple partitions. It’s crazy to think that we could manage all these partitions without staff watching over them.
Response: With an automated system monitoring solution, you can monitor multiple IBM i systems or partitions from a central location. By implementing a message management product on each system, you can screen messages and send only the most important ones to the central host.
Excuse: All of our previous requests for automation money have been turned down. We don’t want to go back to upper management with another promise to do more with less.
Response: In today’s tight economy who wants to ask for more money? More and more customers ask us to help them calculate the return on their investment (ROI) in automation.
Each piece of automation has different paybacks. We have formulas to help you communicate the benefits of automation to upper management in terms of the bottom line.
A successful automation project requires commitments from upper management, development, systems administrators, and everyone in the data center.
Excuse: Our operators are too busy handling changes from the user community: users want more report copies, users don’t want to run this report tonight, users want special selections of reporting data, etc. Many of our applications are manual in nature. IT operators enter the number of copies, specify a printer, and indicate a date range.
Response: Your current operations staff can use an automated operations solution to handle this. Even fully automated shops make changes to their automation software, often daily. They are constantly creating automation rules to keep up with their business.
Getting your schedule and reporting schemes into automation software is a big effort, but you’re in maintenance mode once it’s done. You can modify your rules interactively without worrying about whether each shift has seen your latest changes to a run book.
There are plenty of excuses for not automating operations, but when you consider the benefits and ROI, none seem valid. The right combination of hardware and software can run backups unattended, dynamic parameters can handle dates and cutoff periods for night processing, modern report management software can take care of report bursting, bundling, and distribution, and good monitoring and notification software takes the worry out of leaving systems unattended (whether at night or at remote locations).