IT Management

Weak economy, budget cuts, credit crisis . . . . Is there any good news? Actually, there is. You can leverage your old standby, the mainframe, to help you improve efficiencies and increase IT staff productivity.

Most companies have already re-engineered their business processes to improve economies of scale and increase productivity. It’s time for IT—the primary enabler of automation that makes the overall business more productive—to focus on improving IT processes. Why? Because despite the fact budgets are steady or declining, IT must continue to meet the service levels required by the business. To meet these challenges, start by leveraging the mainframe.

However, the job of the mainframe staff has become more difficult over the past several years. Today, your mainframe team must be able to perform batch runs, backups and restores, and other maintenance work—all while facilitating 24x7 transaction processing.

It’s time to make IT more productive, more scalable, and ultimately, more adaptable so you can continue to meet service levels and contribute to the bottom line.

IT faces challenges when it comes to creating a nimble, adaptable organization. For example, some companies continue to use traditional IT processes and tools, resulting in situations where they’re unable to determine how an outage truly affects the business.

Also, many IT companies are being asked to accommodate business growth without adding IT staff. IT organizations need a way to cost-effectively and quickly scale.

Finally, many applications today pass through multiple processing platforms. Often, transaction performance may become unacceptable, and yet every group within IT claims (correctly) that its system is running within the required service level. In the meantime, the business can lose hundreds of thousands—even millions—of dollars per hour while IT tries to resolve the issue.

IT needs to develop a common process methodology for managing these complex applications. Creating efficient processes that map back to the business also will help organizations overcome some of the challenges associated with limited staff.

A Solution: Evolving Process Automation

Mainframe process automation is nothing new, but there are still more areas to tackle. For example, advisor technology can intelligently automate many tasks and processes, optimize performance, increase staff productivity and scalability, and reduce errors.

Advisor technology can help decide if and when to run jobs, and often can automatically run the jobs. Because it eliminates so much mundane work, the technology raises the productivity of mainframe staffers, enabling them to focus on more valuable, innovative projects. It also allows people who aren’t experts to reliably run jobs. As a result, staff can be effective beyond a single platform and to some extent can become more interchangeable. In other words, these resources can become more scalable. While you still will rely on your mainframe experts to handle the complex issues, your general staff can triage problems and call in experts when needed—conserving the experts’ time.

Advisor technology also facilitates scheduling. Software that includes advisor technology can look at all the job steps, identify the critical path, and determine (based on history) how long a job will take. If it finds a problem, it also can determine its business impact. With scheduling software, the staff knows if all the jobs can be run in the required timeframe so the business will not be disrupted. The software also can look at the batch window and determine, based on dependencies and interdependencies, the best order for executing jobs. Manually, this analysis would be a nightmare.

A tool that includes a Graphical User Interface (GUI) can provide a familiar format in which to manage and resolve mainframe problems. Without a GUI, no single person could keep up with the volume of alerts and exceptions that occur. But with a GUI, you can boost staff efficiency, minimize errors, and groom new expertise.

The right technology can dramatically improve the efficiency of your processes, improve system performance, support continuous availability, and even fix issues on the fly. IT can accomplish much more without increasing staff.

Automation at this level enables mainframe operations to be much more adaptable to business change. With increased adaptability, IT can help the business rapidly introduce new services and generate increased revenue. And that’s what it’s all about.