Joel Faul, Chief Technology Officer, SMA Technologies
In my role as a member of the Forbes Technology Council, I recently published an article about the role automation plays in digital transformation initiatives. I briefly touched on the importance of recognizing the qualities of a future-proof solution, and I'm going to expand on that today.
There are two universal factors that a Workload Automation (WLA) solution needs to have before you should consider implementing it:
- Be agile in responding to the changing needs of users
- Automate at a pace that keeps up with the rapidly growing needs of existing users, as well as accommodating a growing base of users with more diverse requirements
Your WLA tool controls the cross-platform integration and communication of applications across your enterprise. It's not an operating system or a server stack, but an essential part of your infrastructure. How much can your users do themselves? How difficult is it to create, configure, and implement new capabilities to meet requirements down the road? These are critical considerations for future-proofing.
WLA can look like an imposing solution for some companies because there's a high initial time investment to train employees on how to use it effectively. When you stretch out the timeline, spending time and money upfront benefits your organization immensely. You can dramatically increase your agility by having at least one person on staff who knows how to use the full capabilities of the WLA solution you've implemented.
A point of fear for organizations, particularly small to medium ones, is that they'll be vulnerable to turnover when they have one dedicated person who is responsible for all of their automation. Or they may be in a location where it's hard to attract appropriate talent. The automation solution that some of these clients use to meet their needs is SaaS. With this solution, clients get a remote automation expert who acts as an extension of their IT team to handle their automation initiatives. It's proven to be a popular way to gain long-term expertise, and you should examine the offerings to see if they're a good fit for you.
To extend the value your WLA platform brings to your organization; it needs to enable end-users to execute complex workflows. As employees are expected to be more technology-savvy, new opportunities for automation present themselves. A financial or logistics manager, for example, needs data from multiple apps to pull reports required to do their job effectively. A good WLA platform will let you bundle the processes needed for their reports into a workflow, and present the end-user with a simple UI where they can enter in the data fields required, then hit a button to generate the report. This increased agility from your WLA platform enables your IT team to demonstrate ongoing ROI in the form of productivity and process improvements across the enterprise. Being the person in your organization who helps make life easier for people isn’t a bad situation to find yourself in.
I'll provide a caveat for training because it also ties into maintenance and staff turnover: training shouldn't be a lengthy process or require knowledge of proprietary programming languages. It's not very future-proof if you have to spend three months getting an employee to a basic level of proficiency with your WLA platform. Every team experiences turnover, and it's crucial to get a new person up to speed as fast as possible. A good WLA platform will have an intuitive interface that not only aids in onboarding new operators but also in maintaining existing automation. If it's easy to learn, then it's easier to monitor and make changes to existing workflows. Fundamentally, you should never choose a WLA solution that your operators are afraid to touch. If they're worried they're going to break stuff, then the system is more complicated than it needs to be and is the wrong solution for your organization's long-term needs. Don't let complexity handicap your ability to innovate.
Cost and time are factors that not only come into play during the implementation of a WLA solution but also affect your ability to maintain the pace of automation. Whether you choose to invest in training team members or prefer to create short-term projects for consultants to take care of, your WLA platform is going to significantly influence how much money and time you spend to accomplish your goals. A platform that is resource-intensive to make changes to is a platform that isn't going to have a good ROI over its full lifespan.
Ultimately, you're the best person to decide what platform, or combination of platforms, creates the best solution for your organization. Ask yourself this question: they can solve at least one problem today, but how challenging is it to expand their solution to meet other challenges going forward? When you have an answer that satisfies you, you're ready to future-proof your IT infrastructure.
SMA Technologies has a four decade track record of helping companies transform their business with our client-driven automation solution. Give us a call and let us help you future-proof your enterprise.
About the author:
Joel Faul is the Chief Technology Officer at SMA Technologies. He is responsible for formulating product strategy and the technology roadmap as well as ongoing software development, solution services, managed services and client support. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical and Electronics Engineering from North Dakota State University and further studied Electrical Engineering at the University of Minnesota. Faul is a member of a local running club and enjoys spending time with his wife, three grown children, and granddaughter.
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