What is workload automation?

1. Definition of workload automation

Put simply, workload automation is software to automate business processes. It eliminates the need for human intervention (and the related need to correct human errors) to schedule, run and manage the tasks that make up a business process or transaction across different systems and computing environments within an organization.

Whether it’s to fulfill orders, drive a supply chain or process information in real time, workload automation solutions need to be able to coordinate and perform activities that move millions (or trillions) of data points across tens of thousands of processes within a complex landscape of on-premises and cloud-based applications and services. It’s ultimately about having reliable, flexible and highly capable automation at the core of the business.

Workload automation versus job scheduling software: From batch-driven to event-driven processing

Workload automation is sometimes used interchangeably with job scheduling, but there are differences. In fact, workload automation is widely seen as the evolution of, or successor to, traditional job scheduling. As Dan Twing, president and COO at industry analysts Enterprise Management Associates (EMA) puts it in his EMA Radar Q4 2017 report: “Workload automation has come a long way from scheduling batch jobs on mainframes. Recent years have seen an increase in advanced features and broader integration.” [1]

 

Traditional job scheduling is more commonly associated with batch-driven processing or New Day schedules, where tasks are scheduled to run at a particular time, often overnight, or paused while old job activity is cleaned up or purged.

Many legacy scheduler tools are tied to these outdated time- or batch-driven new day automation schedules that are not fit for purpose for the needs of an agile and highly responsive, always-on digital business today.

The digital world has set expectations—both personal and professional—for immediate responsiveness. To support this, IT needs a process-centric view that can run tasks at any point, whether in the system of record or according to release management based on DevOps.

A scheduling tool that bases planning on a daily model simply cannot adapt to the current dynamic environment that changes by the minute. The ongoing lag these task scheduler tools bring means times and dates for planned automated processes can slip.

Operations teams often must introduce manual workarounds to avoid scheduled pauses to processes and to support business logic unique to their organization. The additional jobs to work around these limitations also cost money, due to additional licensing fees.

That’s why modern job scheduling and workload automation software use event-driven processing to orchestrate the integration of real-time business activities with background IT processing. This makes workload management according to business rules and requirements simple and intuitive.

[1] “EMA RADAR for Workload Automation (WLA): Q4 2017”

2. Workload automation trends

Workload automation adoption

The use of automation by enterprises is growing. A survey by analyst firm EMA found that over three-quarters of respondents agree or strongly agree that both their need for and use of automation is growing. [2]

And the survey also revealed that workload automation is the most used form of automation in the enterprise, at an average of 45% across IT and business processes. That’s ahead of specific automation for a process (27%) and robotic process automation (RPA) at just 12%.

Perhaps more importantly, the survey shows the role of workload automation is becoming more strategic. While many users (54%) still see workload automation in its traditional role as a key tool for IT operations, over a third (34%) have recognized workload automation as vital to broader automation and digital transformation.

 

Workload automation as a driver of digital business transformation

EMA analyst Twing says workload automation is now a “critical component” in supporting a broader digital transformation effort. He explains:

“Digitalization is changing the IT game in terms of the volume of IT- and business- related tasks and the speed required. Business needs have started to pull automation past IT functions and directly to business functions. Workload automation tools are beginning to morph into digital business automation tools. This is just beginning to take shape and will have a much greater effect in the coming years”[3]

Constellation Research analyst Dion Hinchcliffe has already predicted that 90% of what a CIO is responsible for must be automated by 2025, just to maintain existing service and staffing levels. In his CIO Predictions, Hinchcliffe adds that automation for greater agility will become a required component for successful digital transformation for organizations. He explains that automation will become “…a widespread priority with the most internal stakeholders to date. It turns out that a key strategy to achieve a lot more in IT while experiencing relatively flat budgets is simply to automate more of what IT does.”

Another report by EMA, “Modernize to Digitize,” says that digitization of business processes is now table stakes in the modern economy. That means IT infrastructure must be modernized to support agile development and the transparency and speed that digitized organizations demand. And modern automation software can do wonders for the development process, speeding digitization efforts and supporting digitized processes.

Twing says in the report: “Digitized processes allow employees, customers, and trading partners to be more self-sufficient through increased transparency and self-service. The entire organization must be ready to respond and react quickly since problems and delays are more exposed to digitized stakeholders. Automating everything end-to-end is necessary to maintain the pace and deliver the desired experience.”

In "Automation: The next frontier for IT," Gartner research vice president, Milind Govekar, argues that automation software is key for IT infrastructure and operations leaders to be able to achieve the digital business expectations of both managing growth and taking out cost. To do that, IT organizations must move from opportunistic to systematic automation of IT processes.

The legacy problem with outdated job scheduling tools

While modern workload automation software can help drive successful digital business transformation, many organizations are still stuck with a patchwork of legacy job scheduling tools accumulated for different purposes over many years.

In fact, according to the EMA “Modernize to Digitize” report, 60% of organizations have more than one workload automation product in use. And running this mixed bag of schedulers creates challenges. Of those organizations with multiple workload automation products, 77% have cross-platform dependencies and these cause regular problems for many organizations. That’s why 88% of those running multiple workload automation products plan to consolidate onto one solution.

The core problems with legacy schedulers are that they don’t scale easily (or at all) and they add complexity and they require inefficient workarounds to keep them running. Further, they hide undocumented processes that hinder the collaboration and cross-system interoperability needed to support today’s digital businesses. That collaboration is critical to success.

 

The future of workload automation

As the EMA research shows, the traditional uses of workload automation in IT operations will continue to be important for many users, but there are a growing number of use cases of workload automation for broader IT and business process automation.

In a comparison of workload automation against RPA, the verdict from EMA is that workload automation includes better end-to-end process management with audit controls and change management, and more developer integration. The analyst goes as far as to say more than a third (35%) of RPA use cases might be better addressed with workload automation.

Modern workload automation solutions are built using a flexible and adaptable architecture. Current trends show that organizations are moving towards using fewer automation tools that have broader capabilities. 

 

The next generation: Workload automation as-a-service

One aspect of digital transformation has been for organizations to continue to move IT resources to public and private clouds while maintaining others in physical and virtual environments. Cloud computing solutions work alongside a wide range of other applications in the modern enterprise. This hybrid cloud approach removes some of the heavy lifting for IT operations but adds some complexity. Many leading organizations have achieved the greatest value along with a reduction in IT complexity so by implementing identifiable components of the IT enterprise as-a-service, including infrastructure and platforms as-a-service.

Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivers software (usually an application) to users over the internet for a subscription fee--just like a utility such as electricity or water. SaaS doesn’t require installations, security management or updates. It reduces the costs and work of much of what IT manages in an on-premises environment. This eliminates all the infrastructure, platform and software management tasks required for on-premises, virtual machine or cloud-based IT solutions. It's all about delivery of results.

For these and other powerful reasons, SaaS is also where the next generation of workload automation (WLA) and scheduling tools are going.

Dan Twing, President and COO of Enterprise Management Associates® (EMA™) explains that workload automation that is purpose-built for SaaS has enormous benefits. He says: “SaaS WLA can deliver improved security, availability, and scalability. Let the experts on the software operate the core system for you and let your team focus on what is important to your operation. When it’s delivered as-a-service, organizations achieve the greatest benefit.”[4] Watch his brief video for more.

 

[1] “Modernize to Digitize” (EMA, 2019)

[2] “The Shifting Role of Workload Automation” (EMA, 2018)

[3] “EMA RADAR for Workload Automation (WLA): Q4 2017”

[4] “Modernize to Digitize” (EMA, 2019)

3: The benefits of modern workload automation

Modern workload automation software improves business performance in many ways, but there are three ways that support business and IT like nothing else.

Fast and Reliable

To start, adaptable, modern automation for IT and business processes offers the fastest execution of complex process steps possible with absolute consistency. There is simply no other way for an organization to manage large numbers of processes and process steps with a greater level of accuracy and control at the same time. Human beings performing repetitive tasks generate greater risk of error with a longer list of processes they must complete. Once created, automated processes perform tasks with 100% consistency—according to compliance, business and/or technical rules—every time.

Legacy workload tools don’t offer this kind of certainty. They require multiple manual fixes and workarounds to accommodate their batch-based limitations. As a result, those old legacy tools bring huge amounts of technical debt to the enterprise and result in disconnected process silos that become harder and harder to manage. And that’s not even considering if they’ll continue to be supported or updated, which is often a serious concern.

Connect to Everything

The best modern workload automation solutions come with connectivity to all technologies, platforms and silos in your enterprise—right out of the box. Top solutions include API connectivity so there’s never additional work to connect automated workload processes across the entire complex enterprise—from the mainframe to the cloud.

Outdated schedulers require manual configuration of agents and connectors for each automated task. This means teams must build software deployment scripts for each separate production instance within a scheduled process. Each additional manual step increases the risk and likelihood of errors and inconsistency. And each additional agent means more space is taken up in the company datacenter. Many older pricing models also make you pay for each connector separately, too.

Completely Scalable

Modern workload automation solutions delivered as a fully managed service bring even more benefits. As with any utility, this kind of automation is easy to scale up or down based entirely on your real-world needs. You don’t need additional expenses for infrastructure. You don’t need to increase your workforce, and you don’t need to roll out additional training. With an enterprise-level workload automation solution delivered as a service there are no limits to scale.

The as-a-service approach to modern automation means that users can take advantage of economies of scale unlike anything that can be accomplished by any other means. it’s easy to see the old limits simply disappear and improved business outcomes become the norm.

In spite of some understandable reluctance to switch from tried and tested legacy job scheduling tools that – on the surface at least – seem to do the job, evidence shows that switching to a modern workload automation solution is worth it. Automated migration tools and proven processes make the move fast, simple, and completely transparent. In fact, the risks of staying with legacy products may be higher than the risks of migrating.

For most, the perceived risks of migrating are certainly higher than the actual risks. When asked, many reported that migrating to new workload automation software was easier than expected or a non-event, the EMA research found. While 45% admitted the migration was more difficult than expected, they also said that the disruption was worth going through. In other words, the benefits outweigh the effort.

 

Supercharge digital business transformation with SaaS-based workload automation.

While on-premises installations are still the right choice for some, workload automation delivered via software-as-a-service (SaaS) is the best choice. Not only does a SaaS solution increase availability and accessibility – easily providing automation when and where needed – but it also makes it easy to control and plan costs when it comes to increasing automation levels as an organization’s needs evolve.

Legacy on-premises job scheduling tools can quickly get expensive with opaque licensing and per-definition charges. For initial deployment, this doesn’t present too much of a problem, but as time passes, the cracks begin to show. Scaling automation solutions based on the number of process definitions in use can quickly send project costs spiraling out of control. And that’s before unexpected license audits and all the definitions built during testing.

It’s an out-of-date pricing model that’s ill-suited to today’s cloud- and service-based world. It’s one that all too often means customers end up paying more than they expected.

 

About Redwood’s RunMyJobs® workload automation Software-as-a-Service

Redwood’s RunMyJobs is the only award-winning, fully enterprise-level workload automation platform and job scheduling solution delivered through Software-as-a-Service. In fact, RunMyJobs was initially designed to be delivered as-a-service—unlike any other technology available. It significantly lowers technical debt, increases productivity and empowers IT and the business to drive digital transformation.

In EMA’s “RADAR for Workload Automation (WLA): Q4 2019,” Redwood’s RunMyJobs solution was rated as a value leader. EMA’s Dan Twing says:

“EMA believes Redwood’s RunMyJobs (RMJ) solution to be the best WLA SaaS offering available because it is the only one purpose-built for that delivery model. It features a simple interface and an extremely flexible operational model that enables IT and business stakeholders to share a single point of visibility and control. With SaaS delivery, updates are automatic and remote administration is secure. Minimal effort is required to expand the size and scope of process automation.” [5]

[5] 2019 RADAR Report for Workload Automation (EMA, 2019)

4. How to get started with workload automation

Given the continued growth of automation technologies, many organizations don’t know what they already have. Gartner’s advice is to first identify what automation already exists within the organization and rationalize as much as possible.

 

“The more you standardize the environment before automating it further, the better placed you will be,” says Gartner’s Milind Govekar. “Don’t automate the mess – get rid of the mess first.”

 

There are three steps to harmony for automation and business:

• First, define the process: What are the goals? What needs to take place? What is the outcome of the task when it completes?

• Second, add context and data to that process: What data needs to be imported first? When should the process run? When shouldn’t it run? What needs to happen when it’s complete?

• Third, schedule jobs and repeat as necessary.

5. Workload automation case studies

Redwood customers offer many examples of how modern workload automation provides the fast track to advantages organizations can’t realize any other way.

For example, the giant Swiss multinational investment bank and financial services company, UBS, manages trillions of financial transactions daily with our automation technology. Redwood is the heartbeat of their operations. Read the full story here.

B/S/H is the largest manufacturer of home appliances in Europe and one of the leading companies in this sector worldwide. The organization operates more than 40 factories worldwide. To keep these factories working and profitable, B/S/H must run and coordinate more than 250,000 different automated tasks each day—eight million per month—to maintain their constant supply chain through production. Redwood automation keeps their entire production process running with complete accuracy.

Whitbread is the largest operator of hotels and restaurants in the United Kingdom. The organization managed 800 servers with 1.3 million business-critical file transfers each month that are key to hotel room bookings, ordering food and providing superb customer service. The company successfully transitioned off of two tools that were at end-of-life in a period of five months with zero disruption to their business. Read their story and watch the video here.

Alight | NGA HR (formerly NGA) is a global leader in HR outsourcing. The company administers 3 million employees in more than 100 different countries. This organization uses RunMyJobs to automate consistent HR processes that follow a wide variety of compliance rules and regulations on a 24-hour basis including payroll and tax provisioning. Without Redwood automation, this level of complexity would be prone to error and, ultimately, unmanageable. Read more here.

Halliburton is one of the world’s largest oil field service companies with operations in more than 70 companies and 50,000+ employees. Redwood automation enables the company to manage and orchestrate complex 24-hour logistical activities based on real-time feedback to applications—with no delays.

AMD (Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.) is the second-largest supplier and only significant rival to Intel in the market for x86 microprocessors. The company uses Redwood automation to monitor, alert, and fully automate its month-end close, inventory management electronic data interchange (EDI) and more—connecting business users and focused teams to solve any issues as they arise.