Charles Bertsch and Paul Duval are part of the operations team at Heartland Financial, a multi-bank holding company based out of Dubuque, Iowa. These guys were excited to share how Robot job scheduling and monitoring software has helped them manage their processing needs across platforms from their iSeries. With a goal of doubling in size every five to seven years, the processing window was a concern. They needed tools that could grow with their business and came up with some creative solutions using Robot.
#1: Centralize Scheduling on the iSeries
Prior to Robot, operations at Heartland Financial involved a lot of manual processes and problems with temperamental built-in task schedulers. Their third shift would run nightly processing until 1:00 a.m., and then run manual jobs afterwards because operators had to physically watch them. They started using native schedulers for some of those jobs, but the challenge there was that their nightly workflow never ended at exactly the same time. Due to the amount of guesswork in timing, managing nightly processes and 400 separate month-end jobs on the IBM scheduler and Windows scheduler was tough.
What really intrigued Heartland with the Robot products was being able to have the iSeries applications control all their jobs, not only on the iSeries but on the Windows scheduler as well, using Robot Schedule and Robot Schedule Enterprise. Following an update to their Fiserv Signature software, they were able to use the Schedule Activity Monitor (SAM) in Robot Schedule to spot the handful of jobs that didn’t run, see what queries they were calling, step through them, and kick off the jobs again, all from a single dashboard. The SAM is the first thing their operators check—they look for the red “X” and attempt to rerun the job.
#2: Establish Fiserv Message Archive for Auditors
The Fiserv Signature application does not provide a canned report confirming that all jobs completed, and that’s really what their auditors expected to see. When Heartland kicks off a nightly process, it runs a batch job stream that spawns several different jobs and messages, which the operators watch to make sure it completes before moving on to the next bank. But try to explain that to an auditor! They’d say, “How do you know they watched it to completion?”
Paul used the global programming in Robot Console to look for specific message IDs from each bank. The messages confirm when backups and batch jobs are complete. Robot catches these messages from Fiserv and emails them to the operations team, who archive them for auditors to prove that any given job or backup finished without digging through job logs. All they need is the message from Robot Alert, which says exactly what auditors need to hear.
#3: Track Disk Space Usage for Cost Allocation
Before Robot, Heartland lacked disk accounting services across their 10 independently chartered banks and 81 banking locations. Changes in library size for their many banks needed to be tracked so they could allocate costs.
Using Robot Space, they’ve been able to monitor library growth and analyze existing trends to make space for new data. They also use the size of their data libraries to do allocations. After jobs run the first of the month, for example, Charles can go back and graph out their status, how big the libraries are each month, how they change and fluctuate. Heartland just concluded a rollout project putting Robot scheduling and monitoring products on all their test partitions to create true simulations of their production environment. They have storage thresholds and notifications in place for the production environment and look forward to pushing out Robot Space to their test partitions to help manage disk space there, as well.
#4: Optimize Existing Staff
When they were smaller, Heartland had more time to deal with the eccentricities of native schedulers. But with recent acquisitions and more planned for the coming years, their growth strategy demanded a scalable solution. Reliable processing was even more mission-critical. If things continued to err out as often as it did before Robot, the only solution would be to have somebody watching the system at all times. As they add banks and processing, their goal is to position themselves to handle the rapid growth and fold in additional banks, while maintaining the same processing window without adding staff.
Automation was huge for them to maintain that window so they would have time to run their extracts on a consistent basis. Without Robot, Heartland would have had to add staff to monitor jobs overnight. Robot jobs run unattended and do what they’re intended to do. When the operations team arrives in the morning and checks the dashboard, the jobs are consistent.
#5: Leverage Robot Tech Support
When they first began using Robot products, Heartland was coming away from manual processes and built-in schedulers on the iSeries and Windows. They had a lot of entries to move over and, on the enterprise side, they had to make sure the services were running on specific servers. Naturally, they were a little apprehensive about making sure the conversion went well.
The migration tool in Robot was helpful, and they did some training for their core group to get them familiar with the products. They also spent a lot of time working with Roxanne Callan, a technical consultant at HelpSystems. Paul tells us she was really helpful and that they pretty much had a direct line to her phone! In comparison to their other software vendors, Charles ranked Robot support services “definitely above average.” Heartland is comfortable calling or using the online chat option to get the answers or assistance they need in setting up anything they’re trying to do.
We asked them to sum up their experience with HelpSystems and the Robot products in ten words or less. They did it in three: Great support. Simple.