Operations

Job Scheduling: More Important Than Ever

2 Pages

This offline ES B could provide an extremely efficient way of moving large volumes of data between services, and for executing service-oriented processes that aren’t time-critical.

Job scheduling also plays a critical role in integrating these new applications and platforms with existing systems such as System z. The common interface enables one skill-set to control operations on new or different platforms. For example, Unix specialists can operate System z, and System z specialists can manage Unix or iSeries. Job scheduling also provides several organizations with Electronic Data Interchange (EDI)-like integration points for outside the organization—such as with suppliers and agents—by providing secure, Web-based interfaces to internal processes such as inventory and production.

Compliance to regulations and best practice standards is another major driver. Job scheduling can provide essential control and audit capabilities for access to sensitive systems and information, whether in healthcare, finance, or government. Job scheduling solutions can formalize and standardize system and application processes, by transforming ad hoc and manual operations into tightly structured procedures that are centrally secured, controlled, and audited.

For example, scheduling batch jobs for system maintenance allows administrators to manage data files at arm’s length, without having any personal access to them. This functional isolation helps ensure data integrity and enables regulatory compliance. In one example of how job scheduling addresses compliance, consider a Wall Street trading firm and how they must meet settlement deadlines to avoid potential breach of contract risks and adhere to strict Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC ) regulations regarding settlement times. Their risks range from customer service complaints, through litigation payments and fines, to delisting and criminal prosecution. However, they certainly don’t want to settle too early, as they want to keep as much cash on hand as possible to maintain other positions and to accrue short-term interest. They can’t afford human errors, just as they can’t afford exposure to processing failures. This firm relies heavily on job scheduling to conduct settlement transactions on specific, strategic timetables.

Job scheduling also addresses specific service-level issues. Many manufacturers use event-driven job scheduling to help with Just-in-Time (JIT) inventory and stock management. In manufacturing, there’s a delicate balance of inventory (both inputs and outputs) with production. Excess inventory reduces profitability by increasing the costs of processing, warehousing, and administration, and by reducing cash flow. Avoiding this problem by keeping inventory down often leads to under-fulfillment— not enough inventory to meet customer demand and production requirements, which leads to production lines standing idle, workers being paid to produce nothing, and customers being lost as orders go unfilled. This delicate equation is addressed by JIT processing, where inventory levels are based on real-time events such as processing capacity and stock depletion, and driving production based on real-time events such as customer orders and invoice processing. With event-driven job scheduling, manufacturers take existing customer orders in real-time and drive them through the entire value chain to automatically fulfill but not exceed customer demand.

As with many IT automation systems, job scheduling provides significant benefits as smaller companies grow, either organically or through Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A). Automation in general and job scheduling in particular let companies add new applications and handle larger customer volume without a linear increase in headcount. Companies going through M&A also benefit from being able to integrate systems quickly and easily with minimal disruption to existing processes. For growing companies, job scheduling provides an ability to meet market requirements faster with packaged batch processing. Whether companies deploy new applications, Internet-based applications, J2EE or Web services, every new application and server needs a common set of processes from day one—such as data archiving, backup and recovery, and user management, to ensure things don’t break. Job scheduling systems can automatically provide this baseline maintenance, bringing applications online faster, and with a lower setup cost.

Best Practices

Here are some recommendations, gathered from interviews with vendors, enterprises, and system integrators, for implementing job scheduling solutions:

  • Make sure you’re adequately prepared. This includes assessing the environment, quantifying the deployment, getting business and executive buy-in, assembling the right skills, and determining your ROI and Total Cost of Ownership (TCO ) goals beforehand to ensure you don’t over-deliver.
  • Develop baseline implementation standards that will fit long-term needs, across multiple environments (test, development, acceptance, production). Remember to plan and regularly test a failover environment, too.
  • Implement in measurable, achievable phases, and continually review your progress. Consult with experts such as user groups and professional services, and listen critically to the vendor, as you start and complete individual phases.
  • Apply the same discipline as you would to an application development project. Use an object-oriented approach, implementing reusable definitions and processes wherever possible. After implementation, establish a continual review process.
  • Avoid the trap of thinking, “This is the way we do things, so this is how we will continue to do things.” Focus on the results and business goals, understanding what’s happening and why, while realizing that new systems won’t do things the same way they’ve always been done.
  • Beware of custom code: both your own and the vendor’s. You’ll sometimes be unable to avoid customization, but you should try to deploy out-of-the-box functionality.
  • Make sure you understand the full investment cost upfront. There are often “hidden” costs, too, such as the costs of additional software, hardware, resources, or upgrades.
  • Avoid the assumption that everything is critical. Make a distinction between “important” and “critical.” Ask yourself, “If this process doesn’t complete, can I still do business?” Schedule your processes accordingly.
  • Make sure your chosen solution will fit your existing and planned technology environment. Environmental support (or lack thereof) can have a significant impact on implementation cost and long-term ROI and TCO .

Conclusion

Job scheduling can provide a wide range of benefits for IT and users. From typical mainframe process automation to sophisticated support for J2EE, EJB, messaging and SOA applications, job scheduling continues to prove its relevance. If vendors and enterprises recognize that, job scheduling will further expand its business relevance and value and remain a core part of IT process automation for another 25 years.

2 Pages