Article

The Four Stages of Enterprise Automation: Where Are You in the Automation Journey?

Windows, UNIX, Linux
Posted:
March 20, 2017

Fiction writers have been imagining the possibility of automating manual work since at least the 19th century, and job schedulers have existed in the real world for over fifty years. These days workload automation technology is very advanced and can optimize enterprises of any size in any industry, and yet many businesses still haven’t automated to their full potential. What’s keeping them stuck in the past? Often these businesses have realized the value of automating but are stagnating somewhere along the road to fully evolved enterprise automation.

Businesses transitioning from manual processes to comprehensive workload automation tend to go through several phases: totally manual operations, custom scripting, fragmented solutions, and finally, consolidated enterprise job scheduling.

Stage One: Manual Processes

Hopefully there aren’t too many enterprises left that are operating completely manually, but most are still clinging to this stage in certain areas. It can be tempting to think it will be simpler to just leave the work to employees instead of finding and implementing the right automation solution. If you need a reminder of what can go wrong when you don’t automate, read some horror stories from our HelpSystems experts about life before automation

The advantages of automation are obvious: it saves time and resources, freeing up employees to work on more important projects and increasing scalability. Being able to schedule jobs means that those jobs can run overnight or on weekends without human supervision. Most companies realize this and move on to the next phase, scripting.

Stage Two: Custom Scripting and Homegrown Solutions

In this stage, the company has realized that there are some tasks that should be automated, so they’ve put their programmers to work creating custom scripts. These scripts are each linked to a specific process.  Writing custom scripts is one small step down the path to automation, but it’s a risky one.

For one thing, custom scripts are unreliable. There’s no built-in error handling and no support team ready to solve your problem if the script fails. Maybe you have one employee who knows everything about your custom scripts or homegrown programs and can troubleshoot
every problem. What happens when that person leaves the organization?

Let’s say your company has developed a robust homegrown automation tool that runs without errors and is properly documented for future administrators. You’ve saved a lot of money by creating it in-house rather than investing in advanced job scheduling software, right? Actually, homegrown automation solutions are more expensive than many businesses realize. Their development relies on the labor of talented programmers who could be better used for other tasks. Once the custom tools are in place, the cost of upkeep is huge. What happens when a new version of Windows is released or your business needs a new type of report generated? Your programmers have to put aside their important work and go back to writing automation scripts.

Eventually, most companies choose to put their faith in more reliable solutions. A lot of them.

Stage Three: Fragmented and Disparate Solutions

At this stage, an enterprise starts using some solid, reliable automation tools, but they aren’t all integrated with each other. For example, cron is a commonly used job scheduler because it’s built into UNIX, and Windows Task Scheduler schedules jobs on Windows servers. These tools are fine at managing basic job schedules on their respective systems. However, it’s common for an enterprise to be running both UNIX and Windows, among others.

Then you have your business applications. For example, Informatica is a great data integration tool, and it also comes with built-in scheduling features for automating your Informatica workflows. But Informatica is rarely the only tool an enterprise uses, and Informatica’s scheduler can’t integrate with the other applications used by finance, HR, or sales. Business processes are interconnected and you want to be able to schedule your Informatica workflow to begin based on the arrival of a file on a different system.

In some cases, businesses in this stage have already invested in an enterprise job scheduler to fulfill one specific need, but they aren’t using it to automate all the other tasks that should be automated. These companies are on the right track, but they haven’t reached their full automation potential and consolidated their business processes under a single, centralized, workload automation solution.

Stage Four: Consolidated Enterprise Job Scheduling

In the most evolved stage, a company has an enterprise job scheduling tool and is using it to automate processes across all systems and applications within the enterprise. This gives the business a huge advantage in terms of scalability. Every new process added and every system upgrade doesn’t require new scripting. When your company starts using a new business application, automating it isn’t a drain on resources--you already own the tool to do it.

With a comprehensive workload automation tool, you will be able to sleep easier at night. The job scheduler will monitor critical jobs and notify you immediately, 24/7, if a job takes too long or fails to start.

The key advantage of automation is the time saved. Use the hours you save in the earlier stages of automation to reach Stage Four. Once you have implemented your new enterprise job scheduling tool, we recommend taking some employees who now have more free time and putting them in charge of finding new and better ways to automate processes across your business. For example, this team can look into how to streamline things like:

  • Payroll
  • Onboarding and offboarding
  • Report generation
  • Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP)
  • Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL)

The more processes you consolidate under a single workload automation solution, the more time employees will be able to devote to the tasks you can’t automate, like innovation, strategy, and face-to-face customer interaction.

Bonus: Consolidating with Automate Schedule

Automate Schedule is a flexible enterprise scheduler that automates your workflows across Windows, UNIX, Linux, and IBM i systems from a central console. It offers the advanced features you need to streamline an entire enterprise: event-driven job scheduling, robust notifications, high availability, and business application integrations. It even offers the Automate Schedule Universal Connector, a feature that lets the scheduler connect to any third-party web service. 

So how do you get started consolidating your enterprise automation with Automate Schedule? IT administrators often worry that the switch from disparate solutions to comprehensive automation will be difficult and that existing work will be lost. Fortunately, Automate makes the transition go smoothly.

First, you can easily import your current job schedules from software like cron and Windows Task Scheduler into Automate Schedule. Automate Schedule can even run your custom scripts and incorporate them into your larger workflows. The scheduler also offers built-in application integrations with commonly used enterprise software like Informatica, SAP, Oracle, and web services.

Automate Schedule also integrates smoothly with the rest of the Automate product line, integrating backend and frontend processes and benefitting every department within the enterprise. For example, when the accounting department receives an email, data can be automatically extracted from its attachments and written into an Excel report. The Excel file is then encrypted and uploaded to the enterprise’s ERP software, which triggers Automate Schedule launching a new process within the ERP. None of this requires any manual work. Automate's robotic process automation capabilities allow it to manipulate applications and websites at the GUI level, giving you a great deal of flexibility for automating exisiting processes, no matter how complex or customized.  

Consolidating your business processes under Automate Schedule gives you transparency into everything that is happening across the enterprise. Forecast reports analyze job history to tell you how long a process is expected to take so that any affected department can plan accordingly. If your business needs to comply with Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX), HIPAA, PCI, or other government or industry rules and regulations, Automate Schedule can generate the reports that auditors need to seeAutomate Schedule’s role-based security ensures that each user only has access to the parts of the job scheduler that they need to perform their jobs.

Are you ready to experience the benefits of comprehensive workload automation?

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