What is our primary use case?
We're using it to automate our nightly processing work, such as transfers and the actual integrations into our core banking system. We do a lot of file transfers and complicated job processing. We have a lot of processes that have two jobs that have to run before other jobs can run, and based on the output of one job it may need to do one thing or another. OpCon allows us to build complicated workflows that handle all of that.
It performs flawlessly. We were able to go live the first night with zero problems.
How has it helped my organization?
We're able to complete our nightly processing about 10 percent faster. We've also been able to eliminate manual touches on our systems and we're down to five actual touches to make nightly processing go. The ideal is for us to become a "lights-out" organization at nighttime. We're really close to that. Before OpCon, there was a team of five that was doing nightly processing, almost through the night. It's always difficult when you're changing people's processes and you're changing their work, but they've been able to handle the differences in their jobs. Overall, the reception has been positive.
We've automated hundreds of processes since deploying OpCon. We're up to 78 percent automation of nightly processing. Being able to automate the nightly processing is super-useful. It has been streamlined through the process of automation, which is great. The nightly processing is easier.
For daily processing, we haven't seen results yet when it comes to freeing up employees to do more meaningful work, but eventually we will. It's just a matter of getting through the process. Once we get this down we'll be able to free up more people to do more work in different places.
OpCon has also reduced daily processing times; not as much as I would have expected, but that's because we haven't really optimized anything.
What is most valuable?
The core system is the most valuable part: being able to view the processes that we've never really been able to view as a whole before. That is super-helpful, as is being alerted when issues arise.
For example, we've had problems with a vendor that has not been providing files in a timely fashion. OpCon actually alerts our teams that this file has not arrived yet and that allows us to get on the phone with the vendor, make sure we get the file, and get all of that working so that we have accurate records to start with the next morning.
We use SMA as a managed-service provider to actually build automated processes. It makes it easy for us to build work orders for them to execute. That is useful.
What needs improvement?
The process of getting automations done and the process of testing them is a little complicated. Anything with daily processing and nightly processing, which is something that's very critical for our organization, is always going to be tough. The testing of it can be really difficult.
The navigation could use some work to be able to get to the flow charts. Coming from the high level, all I want to see are the flow charts and where we are at with the workflow. Whenever I go in there, I have to remember how to do it again. It's not intuitive, at least for me.
Also, we could not use the FTP agent it has. Their protocol and that piece has been difficult to work with. It has definitely been a little bit weird. They did figure out a way to get to ServiceNow, but having some plug-and-play integrations to different ticketing systems would be good. They've been responsive. They did put together that ServiceNow integration, but they had to build it.
For how long have I used the solution?
We started the OpCon project in January and it went live about five months ago in June.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
OpCon has been incredibly stable. We haven't had any issues with the core OpCon system. It has not died.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
We haven't dealt with scalability yet, but I think it would scale relatively well, beyond what we have.
We're continuing our automation process. Any sort of data processing will go through this system. Once we're done with that, then we get to look at anything else that could work with it. That's our plan.
How are customer service and technical support?
Tech support is amazingly responsive. We've had multiple times where they've responded within 20 minutes when we've had an issue with a workflow at night. I've been happy with that.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
I've used many automation tools in my career and the time to implement OpCon, compared to some of those other tools, is about the same. This is a specialized job-automation tool, instead of a generic automation tool. The way it works is a little bit more job-like than some of the other automation tools. That's really the difference between OpCon and a full-blown orchestrator-type of tool, like Automation Anywhere. It's important to keep those separate and use OpCon for what it's good for and other tools when you need things to be a little bit more diverse.
Other job-automation tools are not specific to credit unions and financials. There are some hooks that OpCon has that other tools don't, which is why credit unions go to them.
Tidal Workload Automation sits in between OpCon and full orchestrator tools. It's not as fully functional as some of those big automation toolsets, but it does some things very well.
The total cost of ownership of OpCon is quite comparable to other automation tools I've used. For a financial institution, in particular, OpCon makes a lot of sense. We're replacing another tool, Automic, that would have been comparable. There are certain things you can't do in Automic, or it's costly to do.
How was the initial setup?
The initial setup is complex. The first pieces of it, while they weren't really easy, went off well. When we got into the FTP processing, it got a little bit more bumpy. The deployment, overall, was an iterative process. We started in January and went live with the first step in June.
It was pretty easy to put our first processes together. It was just a matter of making sure they were fully tested and that we had the right test environment to make it work.
We have about five people who are working on it right now, since our deployment is ongoing.
I would like to have seen a little bit more of a plan at the beginning. SMA should have been guiding us through the process of automating these things in the most efficient way possible.
What was our ROI?
It's going to reduce the time that data processing takes, certainly. We're also going to see a quality improvement, meaning fewer human errors. I expect we'll see a meaningful difference in another year or so.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
It's not cheap. It's a licensing system. It costs money to put it in and it's a subscription-based system. The managed service costs money on top.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We looked into a tool called Jantz, which is a competitor. They're great as well. But this made the most sense financially, considering our size.
What other advice do I have?
The biggest lesson I've learned from using it is plan really well. Line up your resources and don't be afraid to do a big cut-over to it. It's a stable system. But definitely be cognizant of the fact that there are agents involved, and whenever you have agents involved you need to make sure that the agents continue to be stable.
Consider how well you understand the processes that you're looking to automate. This is going to work the best if you have more traditional types of automations that you need to do, like batches. Make sure that you've already detailed what those processes do, because the more detail you have, the quicker you can actually get to automating the work. And make sure you have complete buy-in by everybody in the organization.
When people are working with the SMA product teams it's really important for both sides to be really clear on what the testing scenarios are like. You need to make sure you're really good at writing your work orders in an accurate fashion and recognize that, as a credit union, or any sort of enterprise, you've got things that you need to do as well to make it work. Any time you deal with agents that are sitting on multiple systems it's going to be problematic because you're always going to have agents that fall apart or something happens to them. Keeping on top of that type of thing is important in order to be successful.
It's not easy to do. I've never seen these types of things be easy. You need to put a lot of effort into it. It requires working a lot with the teams who have some of these processes, who need these types of files, to make sure that everything you automate works and that the output works for them. It definitely isn't simple to implement.
In our organization, there are about 200 people who specifically work with these types of things.
I would rate OpCon at seven out of 10. It's taken a little bit longer than we thought to get it done, but the team on their side has been great.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
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