Whether you’re just starting to think about an automation project or have one already underway, there are significant opportunities for improving processing. Here’s a list of a dozen items you should consider.
12. Automate the process of monitoring the schedule.
Are you still manually checking off jobs in a log as they finish? There is no reason to do this; you can automate the entire process. Automated job scheduling software can run virtually any process on schedule. With a little creativity, you can create jobs that monitor the status of your batch processes. It’s the best way to meet your service-level agreements (SLAs).
Tip: If you’re trying to stay on top of SLAs manually, you’re using a brute-force approach. With automation, you manage only the exceptions to the norm—a much more elegant solution. Use the Job Monitor feature in Robot Schedule or install the web interface and monitor critical jobs from any desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
11. Automate interactive processes.
Do you have applications that require interactive input? Have you been told they can’t be rewritten to run like batch jobs? Don’t let interactive processes become a stumbling block for your automation efforts.
Tip: Outsmart your system with a keystroke and screen capture tool like Robot Replay. Your IBM i will never know that it’s really interacting with Robot Replay object as part of a batch job.
10. Treat automating your job schedule as a project.
Apply project management skills to break the project into manageable pieces. For instance, you might break out end-of-week or end-of-day as pieces of the project for a single business application. Phasing automation into incremental steps is the most successful approach.
What should be that first step? Look at the pieces you’ve identified and find one that either has the biggest payback or is the easiest to implement.
9. Assign an application name to each business application area.
These labels are a great help when you want to generate reports about specific applications or secure them. For example, as you set up jobs, label all your sales jobs as SALES, all your payroll jobs as PAYROLL, and so on.
Tip: The Application field in the Initial Job Setup window in Robot Schedule makes this step a snap.
8. Turn on auditing.
When you first start automating your job schedule, you can be sure that someone will hold a job or force a job to run too soon. Later on, you may be more interested in auditing because of Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) or other regulatory requirements.
Make sure your job scheduling solution provides an audit trail that tells you who changed what. Some tools, like Robot Schedule, have built in security that lets you lock down who can and cannot change jobs.
7. Use reserved command variables.
Reserved command variables are dynamic parameters—such as today’s date or the date of the end of the month—that you can use with many applications. Robot Schedule ships with many common parameters already defined, and you can create others for your specific needs.
6. Don’t submit jobs to job queues and then have a production control person release them.
The point of automating the schedule is to reduce human interaction and human error. Plus, automated scheduling reduces the amount of time it takes to run a job schedule. Make sure your job scheduling software can handle dependences automatically and knows instantly when a prerequisite job completes to immediately run the next process.
5. Use comments and documentation on as many jobs as possible.
If you know how to put comments in CL programs, you can do the same on the Robot Schedule Command Entry window. You also can add job text or long descriptions as you create new jobs.
4. Include all the servers in your data center.
IBM i might run the majority of your core business applications, but it’s also likely that you have a backup completing on an AIX server that you need to set up as a prerequisite for a job on a Linux server. Or, you might want a file transfer from a Windows server to be the event that triggers a process to run on your IBM i server. Communication and centralization across your environment is key.
Tip: You can create an event-driven schedule across your IBM i, Windows, UNIX, and Linux servers with Robot Schedule Enterprise.
3. You bought an automated scheduler—use it.
If reporting on your processing or forecasting future changes to your workload is important to you—and we know it is!—it can be difficult or even impossible to get a clear picture of the whole if you have entries in other schedulers or CL programs containing batch processes that aren’t being communicated to your various scheduling solutions. To this we say: one scheduler to rule them all.
2. Remember that granular is good.
Avoid simply scheduling one large CL program that runs 50 other programs. Take it apart and schedule each of the 50 programs. Why? If you need to rerun a job, you can go to the exact job without having to rerun the other 49 jobs.
By breaking out each job, you gain a better understanding and better documentation of your processing. It may seem more complicated at first, but it’s easier in the long run.
1. Use naming conventions for your job names.
Whether you’re scrolling through hundreds or thousands of jobs or just looking at your list of exceptions, you don’t want to have to drill into each one just to figure out what it was supposed to do. A consistent and descriptive naming scheme will offer the initial insight you need and help keep your job schedule tidy.
Tip: Each job in Robot Schedule should follow a naming convention. For example, you might call the end-of-week sales job EOWSALE001.
Efficient job scheduling is all about automation, and we hope these tips help get you there.
While you’re on the journey, say curious. Think: “If I’m doing this manually, there must be a better way.” Keep an eye out for additional items that you can automate. Let other departments know that you can run things for them automatically.
Working for multiple groups increases the net worth of your IT department. Your operations team becomes an asset for other departments. People learn that even when they go on vacation or are sick, their reports and queries run automatically.
And remember, it’s never too late to automate!
Your business has changed. But has batch processing kept pace? If not, we can help! Download this guide where we help you assess your processing methods and identify the signs that it’s time for a change.