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Sick of Scheduling Cron Jobs? 5 Steps to Changing Your Scheduler to an Enterprise Workload Automation Solution

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Moving from schedulers to an enterprise workload automation solution seems like an overwhelming task, but when taken in small, manageable steps, it pays off big time.

After automation is complete, workers will have higher productivity with lower costs and the company will be able to provide higher quality services.

Also, automation eliminates many of the errors that eat company time and resources on a day-to-day basis.


Step 1: Get a Clear, Complete Picture of the Current Situation

Image via Flickr by jyri

One of the obstacles in moving from schedulers to fully automated systems is that every person involved - from management to the IT department staff to the workers and even the CTO - only sees a small piece of the overall picture. No one person or group of people has a clear picture of the overall process and how each piece fits into the others.

So, the first step in automation is to gain a complete, comprehensive understanding of all the processes. This includes finding and identifying things such as:

  • How do all of the scheduled processes work together in the current system?
  • How do the business' work processes rely on each of the parts of the current system?
  • Who has a vested interest in these processes?
  • What costs are involved?
  • What issues arise from the current working environment?

Only after you know the answers can you begin to select an enterprise workload automation solution to meet all the needs of all the people involved.

Step 2: Create an Effective Blueprint for Conversion

Take all of the information you gather during the assessment phase of step one and decide where you need to go and how to get there. In other words, create a blueprint of the issues you identified in step one and how you're going to go about the process of automation. What automation solution meets all the criteria established in the assessment? What solution meets the needs of all the stakeholders identified? During this process, you'll take a look at all your resources: both physical and virtual.

What solution will be simple to install and update automatically? What user interface best meets the needs of both the IT staff and the end users? Make sure the business priorities are met and all the issues in step one are addressed. For example, IT needs a system that gives it lots of control and flexibility, but the system should not be so complex that the non-technical staff working with it each day has difficulties learning to work their part of the system.

Step 3: Bring Everyone Else on Board with the Conversion Process

Another obstacle in the automation process is how people understand and relate to the changes the process will bring. Getting everyone on board includes making sure senior management has a clear picture of how the new system will benefit the company and generate better profit margins. They'll also want to feel comfortable with the time frame in which the new system can be in place and fully functional.

Mid-level managers need to know how the new system will affect their budgets and resources. Workers need to understand how the new processes will change their jobs. Some workers may even have fears that the automated system will eliminate their jobs entirely. Everyone involved in the process needs to feel like they're a part of what's happening - not just hapless victims of a new system. Getting them all on board is key in a successful conversion process.

In step three, you'll be letting every person affected by the changes know:

  • Why the changes are beneficial
  • What the changes are
  • What they'll gain in the process
  • What the company will gain in the process

Step 4: Assess Risks and Make Plans to Mitigate Them

Every new business endeavor holds an inherent risk, and automated workload systems are no exception. Take another look at the blueprint you created in step two. What risks does the transition pose for the business, the current technologies, and the political environment of the company? Get input from all the stakeholders in the process.

Now identify ways that each of these risks can be mitigated. Are more people needed to get the process done? Do employees need more education in order for the transition from scheduler to enterprise workload automation to be successful? Identify a clear, workable solution for all the risks of undertaking the project. Risks can't always be completely eliminated, but identifying and addressing them ahead of time greatly reduces the chance of a serious risk derailing your project.

Step 5: Take a Look at Your Current Vendor Contracts

At first glance, this step looks like it ought to be a part of step one, but it isn't. The reason you don't start worrying about vendor contracts at the beginning of the automation process is it doesn't have to impede progress. You can go ahead with your plans for automation, regardless of the vendor contracts already in place. However, it does need to guide the process in terms of time tables as it unfolds.

Look at all the vendor contracts you have in place, and find the ones that expire the earliest. These processes are the first ones you'll want to look toward automating so that when those contracts run out, you have those parts of the new automated system in place. Don't worry if some processes are automated before your current contractual obligations run out. The lower costs and tremendous benefits of full automation generally outweigh the value of any unused maintenance contracts.

The benefits of automation are lower costs, higher productivity, and better quality of service - and those benefits are long term. The advantages of automation greatly outweigh the costs and risks associated with hanging onto outdated and less efficient schedulers. For this reason, companies willing to invest in their long-term gains see higher profit margins, greater employee productivity, and better customer service ratings than those who hang on to antiquated systems too long because the process seems overwhelming.

By taking one difficult task and breaking it into small, manageable steps, everyone involved in the process is able to adapt to the new system and understand how it will benefit the company as a whole.

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John Leger has been married for 25+ years and has six children.  He is a self-taught web developer who spends a lot of time learning new technologies and sharpening his skills.  His ability to learn new things quickly has enabled him to skillfully play the guitar, keyboard, flute and bass.  In his off time, he loves to hunt and ski.  He’s also the lead instructor at a Taekwondo Academy in his home town where he teaches classic Chung Do Kwon.
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