Think how HWA and RPA together can help your business to:

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REDUCE COSTS

INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY

GAIN REAL END-TO-END CONTROL

INCREASE SLA COMPLIANCE

STAND UP IN COMPETITIVENESS

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Forewords: is Automation the ultimate answer?

IT automation is nowadays pervading the market, especially in conjunction with virtualization. Hence, one may be tempted to consider those two initiatives as the magical solution to reduce IT costs. They may indeed, but let’s start with confirming and arguing few simple statements:

Modern business relies on IT technologies and processes Agree… can anybody reasonably deny it?
Automation of IT processes is becoming an imperative for modern businesses Agree… to the extent that keeping manual or obsolete processing would results in loss of competitiveness.
Automation makes IT processes more efficient Well, you can do things much faster. But is efficiency by itself what you want?
Automation alone makes IT processes more effective Careful, automation is powerful, though doing the same thing automatically, by itself, does not imply you are doing what you need.
Virtualization allows reducing costs of IT infrastructure OK, probably it’s true that a one-to-one cost comparison of each single IT resource yields that virtual is cheaper. But overall there are many costs related to virtualization that should be taken into consideration, such as: security, inventory, overprovisioning, etc.
Virtualization and Automation allow great IT cost savings. Yes but WARNING! Virtual resources give the false impression to be free, but they are not. And you don’t want to automate the waste. You can achieve significant cost savings, provided you apply necessary changes to your processes and practices.

So, should companies go towards automation and virtualization? Definitely yes. Wisely.

Many current processes are the results of years of experience, acquired when tasks were made by people, and are possibly the best expression of a human organization. They may not necessarily make sense, though, when IT automation comes into play.

One example:

Fulfilling a purchase order from your customers, may take several people to perform tasks and revise data for consistency and correctness. It is evident that many of such tasks are repetitive and “purely-algorithmic”. Hence, besides automating the process, you can simplify it since many steps may not be required at all once you get rid of the human-error factor. The following picture gives the idea in a simplified way.

Figure 1 – Processes can be optimized before automating

What is Automation (and RPA and Workload Automation) by the way?

Automation, by itself, is a generic term that can be given a variety of meanings (see for example this post on this community).

Without exploring the many possible interpretations of the term, we will focus here on two subdomains:

  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA), intended as implementing robots that do things that were done, or could be done, by humans.
  • Workload Automation (WA, or WLA), intended as the discipline of scheduling, controlling, coordinating (in a word orchestrating) the execution of IT processes that were never intended to be performed by humans anyway. We will call them batch processes here (please forgive the vagueness of this term).

What’s the difference?  A person can actually fill in a web form, typing on the keyboard, and this a typical task that can be done by RPA. But nobody actually copies the content of a database into another, at the most people would launch the operation and wait for it to complete.

Why both RPA and Workload Automation?

By the simple explanation above, the golden question rises spontaneously:

Can a good RPA tool give me also Workload Automation capabilities?

After all, one of the human actions it emulates could be launching batch processes…

The short, simple and sincere answer is “sorry, but no”.

The reason is that Workload Automation goes far beyond the mere starting and checking completion of batch jobs. There is so much science behind orchestrating IT workflows to deserve the existence of enterprise-grade products like HCL Workload Automation (HWA), whose features allow a comprehensive control of the digital business. These features vary from sophisticated run-cycle and calendar management, to predictive analysis, to automatic recovery actions, to critical path management and SLA reassurance, just to mention few.

There is no RPA tool that can do that, especially on a large scale, and there is no need to have one, given the existence of HWA.

On the other hand, RPA tools also have developed a lot, including things like text and voice recognition, document management, natural language interfaces, and so forth. RPA tools can also be specialized in specific industries or business needs, like

  • Chatbots
  • Mail processing
  • Doc management
  • Application testing
  • Others

For the above reasons, RPA and Workload Automation have minimal or no overlap at all, and both can be leveraged in conjunction for automation purposes.

Integrating HWA, RPA and the cloud

A complete business transaction may encompass interactions among humans, some of which can be replaced by RPA and some may instead be mandatorily assigned to somebody, together with batch transactions.

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Integrating HWA with an RPA tool provides end-to-end control and visibility, as well as bringing considerable benefits in term of costs and productivity.

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The following use cases are not exhaustive, but illustrate such benefits, specifying where virtualization can be involved effectively:

Invoking HWA from RPA

Fulfilling an online request that requires batch executions, requires RPA to trigger HWA workflows. The following is an example that illustrates the idea:

Self-provisioning of virtual resources (Servers, DBs, etc.)

Allow safe and controlled self-provisioning of virtual resources
Pain: Allowing end users to freely allocate virtual resources will bring inventory and IT costs out of control. On the other hand, implementing a strict approval procedure and maintain the inventory up-to-date would slow down operations impacting productivity
Solution: Define and implement a semi-automated flow with RPA and HWA.
Benefits:

  • Operations are kept agile in self-service mode for pre-approved requests. Allowing productivity and cost reductions.
  • Inventory is automatically updated at any transaction.
  • Control is kept by manual processing of exceptions.
Flows of actions: Type Actor
End user fills up and submits a web form to request virtual resources Manual Human end-user
Email with request is generated and delivered to RPA email address Automatic Web server frontend
RPA discriminates pre-authorized requests from those that need management approval.

  • RPA sends email to management if needed
  • RPA triggers HWA for request automatically approved
Automatic RPA
Manager receives email and reply “Approve/Reject” to RPA email address Manual Approving manager
RPA receives manager response and triggers HWA for approved requests. Automatic RPA
HWA submit job-stream with all required jobs to:

  • Fulfill request
  • Update inventory
  • Financial processing
  • Etc…
Automatic HWA

Figure 2 – Schematic flow RPA calling HWA

The above example can be extended to cover other use cases like:

  • Processing Purchase Orders received by email
  • Processing Reimbursement requests received by email or by fax (Healthcare industry)
  • Processing e-commerce requests
  • Others

Invoking RPA from HWA

Many IT flows require human intervention when

  • The process requires special actions that cannot be (or must not be) automated, like signing a document, or authorizing a specific flow
  • The process encounter exceptions that require human attention, like processing files that are coming in non-standard format

Following examples illustrate the idea:

Automate regression test of applications

Allow automatic regression test of legacy features of new version of an App under development
Pain: Agile development methodologies impose strict development cycles, every new release of an App need to be tested and promoted to production in the shortest time possible. This puts at risk the completeness of the test, especially for the legacy features, for which a quick regression test may not be sufficient.
Solution: Define and implement a fully automated regression test that covers all aspects:

  • Deliver SW
  • Install test environment
  • Deploy and configure SW
  • Test
  • Run reports
  • Decommission test environment
Benefits:

  • Development cycle is fastened
  • Less error pass through test
  • Dev cycle costs are reduced
  • Quality of delivery is improved
Flows of actions: Type Actor
Build process (also can be automated by HWA) completes successfully and triggers TEST job-stream Automatic HWA
Virtual resources are created to install the built version of SW Automatic HWA
Test environment is set up Automatic HWA
App to be tested is installed in test environment Automatic HWA
Batch activities for regression test are started Automatic HWA
In parallel to batch regression test, virtual resources for the RPA are instantiated Automatic HWA
RPA is installed and configured Automatic HWA
RPA is triggered to perform GUI testing of the App Automatic HWA
RPA runs GUI testing and returns control to HWA Automatic RPA
Test reports are generated Automatic HWA
RPA is shut down and decommissioned Automatic HWA
Test environment is shut down and decommissioned Automatic HWA

 

Figure 3 – Scenario highlighting HWA aspect

The above scenario also highlights an important aspect of HWA, that is the ability to commission and decommission virtual resources based on dynamic conditions, which is important also when integrating with RPA, since RPA itself can be instantiated and removed on a per-need basis, optimizing virtual resources costs.

Conclusions

Far from believing this was an exhaustive discussion, I am still confident that the examples and considerations exposed allow us to list 5 reasons why you may want to integrate HWA with your RPA tool:

  1. REDUCE COSTS:
  • Being able to minimize virtual resources and RPA usage, which results in lower infrastructure costs and RPA license utilization.
  • Also by triggering HWA job-streams after doing some AI screening in RPA will help optimizing HWA license utilization.
  1. INCREASE PRODUCTIVITY:
  • Avoid waiting time between transactional and batch operations.
  • Optimize parallel executions in a unique flow that encompasses both RPA and HWA.
  1. GAIN REAL END-TO-END CONTROL:
  • By automating as much as you want your complete flow, while keeping the required point of control for human intervention or supervision.
  1. INCREASE SLA COMPLIANCE:
  • HWA predictive analysis, SLA control, and reporting features can apply to RPA flows triggered by HWA.
  1. STAND UP IN COMPETITIVENESS:
  • Decreasing operational IT costs.
  • Improving productivity.
  • Guaranteeing end user and customers a seamless experience with your IT processes

Want to learn more? Contact cristiano.plini@hcl.com or schedule a demo of HCL Workload Automation!

 

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Further Reading
Automation | November 18, 2020
Manage your message delivery system by using Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) with Workload Automation
Amazon Simple Notification Service (SNS) is a managed service that provides message delivery from publishers to subscribers (also known as producers and consumers). Publishers communicate asynchronously with subscribers by sending messages to a topic, which is a logical access point and communication channel. Clients can subscribe to the SNS topic and receive published messages using a supported protocol, such as Amazon SQS, AWS Lambda, HTTP, email, mobile push notifications, and mobile text messages.
Automation | October 27, 2020
Workload Automation and SAP best performance together
​Using Workload Automation integrated with SAP®, you can create, schedule, and control SAP jobs and monitoring you SAP landscape. SAP jobs run on application servers that host work processes of type batch. Critical batch jobs are run in specific time frames, on specific application servers. With SAP Basis version 6.10 and later, application servers can be assigned to server groups. With Workload Automation, you can assign a server group to a job and leveraging the Job Throttling feature it can manages all SAP background processes from several applications on one or more servers in heterogeneous environments. In this way, when a job is launched, the SAP system runs it on an application server that belongs to the specified group, balancing the workload among the various application servers.
Automation | October 23, 2020
Passing Variables from an Event Rule to a Job Stream
Event Rules are an extension of Workload Automation (WA) capabilities that enable events occurring external to the scheduling environment to trigger actions on scheduling objects within WA. An ideal use of this capability is to detect the arrival of a file and then trigger an action to submit a Job Stream containing jobs to process the data contained in that file. This capability has been available for a while and is widely used. In this article, a hidden feature is explored where the name of the file and other properties related to the file are passed as variables to a Variable Table associated to the Job Stream being submitted as ac action where any Job within that Job Stream can retrieve those variables and process the data in the file
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