Pandemic and IT–Needing to Achieve Even More with Even Less
The abrupt shift the COVID-19 pandemic forced on enterprises magnified and accelerated the already existing posture for many: how can IT do more with less?
By Jeff Cherrington ,
ASG Technologies, a Rocket Company
Even with reduced volume, though, a certain amount of IT is required to simply “keep the lights on” even as staff is contracting due both to rightsizing and impacts of the illness itself. How can even fewer staff do even more to keep the enterprise operationally poised for the inevitable economic rebound?
Implementing Automation to Ease Pandemic Impacts
A primary strategy is maximizing the use of automation in the data center, particularly for repetitive manual tasks that are prone to human error. Much of the infrastructure management work related to the mainframe is ripe for this kind of treatment, whereas much of it had not been prior to today. This is because, in some cases, there were not appropriate and durable automation tools, and in other cases because there seemed to be no need for automation, with seasoned mainframe professionals on staff who customarily took care of only minor issues.
The pandemic, however, is accelerating the workforce transition from seasoned professionals to younger emerging professionals, as experts leave the workforce for retirement or because of COVID-19 impacts to themselves or those they care for. IT leaders in some enterprises may be finding themselves managing fewer staff with less experience on the mainframe, while still being expected to complete the nightly batch cycle on time and to have online applications available on time.
Forward-thinking IT leaders see this as an opportunity to marry the new with the traditional, to bridge the gap between more with less, by applying digital automation to workflows such as described above. Applying a new class of single-stack, low code/no code, model-driven, actionable automation platforms, staff can quickly and easily automate workflows long handled manually.
Opportunities for Automation
Most mainframe shops have a standing workflow for applying daily changes to the processing schedule for jobs or timings as notified by the users: typically, a scheduling professional receives the email, reads it, then opens a 3270 to access the necessary panel to type in the change. Some job postings indicate this could take as much as 30% of each workday.
Applying digital automation like that described above, the automation can ingest the incoming email, apply optical character recognition to parse it for the requested change, format the change for submission to the API of the mainframe scheduler and even conditionally submit the change or hold it for revenue based on dynamic rules processing.
Another example might focus on extracting needed financial numbers or metrics from a 3270 interface. Using the same ASG-Zenith capabilities noted above—plus its onboard terminal emulation to access mainframe panels and robotic processing automation to simulate keyboard data entry—appropriate panels and data can be accessed without requiring the time or attention of a staff member, and the data harvested is automatically formatted into a spreadsheet, email or other appropriate format.
Extending Automation Across Legacy Systems
Examples are not restricted to interaction with the mainframe, as valuable as that is. The same sort of digital automation applies to legacy distributed applications, such as two-tier client-server applications. While the architecture may be archaic in this current day, many enterprises continue to rely on such applications, as their value guarantees their continued use without rising to the level that makes refactoring into modern architecture an attractive investment. The same applies to repetitive workflows that focus on early generation web interfaces, such as the need to extract content from early generation web pages in the internet user interfaces of a credit bureau or local department of motor vehicles.
Digital automation couples easily and directly with even traditional technology to augment the volume of activity your staff can accomplish, so long as it supports competent optical character recognition, business process automation or robotic process automation. For greatest effect, it delivers in a single platform implemented as single-stack, low code/no code, model-driven, actionable automation. Applying it to your data center lets you and your team succeed even in trying times.
Jeff Cherrington is the Vice President of Product Management, Systems, ASG Technologies. He is a 30-plus year enterprise IT professional, directing ASG’s Systems strategy.
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