Job scheduling, a fundamental aspect of IT operations, has evolved from a tool for batch jobs to a business solution for automating and managing on-demand business processes. This article discusses how job scheduling is further evolving to help drive end-to-end Business Process Management (BPM).
In its conventional form, a job is a single process batch operation, such as a payroll process scheduled to run on the 10th and 25th of every month, or a business report that runs the same time every night. While many aspects of this model apply today, job scheduling is beginning to change as companies attempt to better align IT with the business.
According to Michael Buchheim, senior vice president and research director, META Group, “As the lines between business and IT continue to blur, approaches to traditional IT functions need to evolve. This requires a change to the way vendors develop their products. One example of this is job scheduling. The notion of jobs being executed according to a calendar event must change; jobs must be driven according to business events and end user needs, requiring job scheduling products to become more intelligent and integrated into business processes.”
Today, organizations need more visibility into the execution of batch processes that affect their workflow and competitive position. They need to act on processes with the assurance that back-end scheduling systems have knowledge of priorities, system capacities, and system resources.
The jobs of modern business flows span multiple applications and platforms. They are comprised of different types of work—from mainframe batch jobs and Unix scripts, to Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) processes and newer job types such as Web services and Java 2 Enterprise Edition (J2EE). If jobs can’t be connected and controlled as a single process, IT will be hard pressed to achieve organizational goals.
To become more closely aligned with business operations, IT needs to successfully manage processes comprised of various job components. These include programs and scripts that are integrated to form an underlying framework for a process that is driven by a particular event.
IT also needs to understand more about the processes that the job scheduling function supports, not just the related application system or technology. By taking a process-centric approach to the scheduling function, job scheduling helps IT accurately assess the risks and priorities associated with job outcomes.
This approach is critical for elevating job scheduling to a business tool. Since users will rely on the scheduling tool to manage their processes, job scheduling solutions must become more self-managing, user friendly and less complex.
In addition, the technology framework used to manage jobs and processes needs to be invisible to the user. The job scheduling function needs to be even more intelligent, reacting to significant events and transactions. If businesses are unable to react quickly to changes in customer demand, the likelihood of losing out to a more adroit competitor increases significantly.
At its core, job scheduling ensures that batch processes run on a regular, predetermined schedule. Consider a process that supports a company’s supply chain management system, including checking and updating raw material inventory levels, running inventory reports, and producing replenishment orders. The job scheduling system ensures these tasks run sequentially at a specified time every night. Should a component or task fail, the job scheduling function takes corrective action.