I love visiting customers and discussing their automation needs. I can talk to them on the phone, and hold remote training sessions or product demo sessions, but there’s nothing like being in the same room. Communication flows more easily and I get a better idea of how they’re running their operations while sharing a cup of coffee.
I spent a couple hours with a local customer on Friday who is moving from a scheduler that they’ve had in place for several years to Automate Schedule. This move is just one piece of a bigger project moving their data center from one site to another. The project is going to keep them very busy this summer, so what steps can be taken to ease the scheduler transition for them?
1. Become familiar with the new scheduler.
The customer installed Automate Schedule on one of their servers, in order to test and become familiar with the user interface and logic. No two schedulers are the same, yet scheduling is scheduling, not rocket science.
2. Get to know your current schedule.
Because each scheduler has different features and functions, it pays to review what is running. If it isn’t documented well, find the person that knows and start picking their brain. It seems like there is always one person who has been working with the schedule for years and has all the "tribal knowledge" that isn’t documented. Get it written down!
3. Compare the two schedule capabilities.
Our customer last week had many jobs and dependencies set up for file watching, status messaging, and other jobs set up for monitoring various aspects of the schedule.
They had Service Level Agreements (SLAs) that they needed to meet and because their current scheduler didn’t support some monitoring capabilities, they scripted monitoring options for those requirements.
After reviewing, we eliminated about 30 percent of the jobs and much of the complexity of the schedule by using the monitoring features built into Automate Schedule. There was no need to create a bunch of "trigger" jobs and dependent messaging jobs. Our philosophy is "monitor by exception." So, we’ve built many features into the scheduler that assure you will meet your SLAs without adding extra overhead to your schedule or your inbox.
4. Export production jobs from your original scheduler.
Almost every scheduler has some type of export function so that you can create a .txt file or .csv file for reporting or importing to another system or scheduler.
Don’t expect to simply convert your jobs from one scheduler to another, though. They all have different features (such as monitoring, calendaring, or exceptions) that don’t convert well and shouldn’t, really. There’s a reason that you’ve decided to move from one scheduler to another. This move to improved automation is an opportunity to streamline the schedule, wherever possible.
Use the expertise of your staff and vendor to help you include best practices in your job set up. You may want to export all of your jobs just for the sake of speed – get them all dumped into the new schedule – on hold.You don’t want to turn a switch and instantly start running in the new scheduler. If you do that, you’re not getting the added productivity from your new investment. Next step…
5. Stage the implementation.
Start with the easy ones. Take those daily reports, file transfers, and anything that runs on a daily or weekly schedule with no dependencies, and get them running in your new scheduler. These types of jobs usually import with minimal changes. You may want to add features of your new scheduler, such as monitoring for SLAs.
Then move to the jobs with dependencies and again, start with the easy ones. Maybe some of those dependencies can be eliminated, such as the monitoring and notification that my customer was doing with scripts. Include the time for this review in your project plan and it will pay off in the future with less overhead and less complexity in your schedul,e as well as built in documentation.
The last piece is those month-end processes that have their own set of dependencies, in addition to daily and weekly requirements. You may need some assistance from your vendor support. They should have years of experience working with hundreds (or thousands) of customers and have worked through many of the same scenarios that you’re trying to automate. Use them!
Have an expert from your enterprise scheduling vendor visit your data center. You’ll be amazed at what they pick up while discussing your automation needs. It’s good to have a new set of eyes looking at your schedule, especially eyes that have done it many, many times.