What is our primary use case?
We use it for automation of our nightly workflows as well as automation of our internal processes that are happening all day, including moving files, and running jobs on our core system. We also interface it with a lot of the database servers. We use it for a lot.
How has it helped my organization?
We automated our nightly update process and, in doing that, we freed up employees to be able to do something else and not have to worry about that. In my area, we have six or seven who have been freed up, and I've also expanded it out to more of our operations. For example, before, people would tell us that something was ready to be run and we would ask somebody to actually run that job on our core. By using the Solution Manager that OpCon provides, employees can kick that job off themselves. So it has freed up even more people. The employees involved have embraced the changes. They are happy to be able to focus their time on more meaningful tasks. Giving them that button via Solution Manager, they are happy to hit that button and that they don't have to wait on anybody else. It has saved us time. It's more efficient.
It's just streamlined our entire IT operations. Before, we had batch files running on certain servers and they were all over the place; this server did this, another server did that. But now, everything is streamlined into one. All the automation, processes and moving, is happening straight through OpCon. The run of a day is all happening through this one server. In the past, when an issue would arise, we'd have to troubleshoot and figure out where it was running, what's happening, why it was not working. Now we have a central point to focus on to be able to know what's happened and move forward.
We are running 13,935 daily jobs through OpCon, which represent approximately 1,200 daily schedules that we're running over the course of a month. We have automated about 75 to 80 percent of our manual processing. And we're still building and adding things to it every day.
In addition, if a process used to take 20 minutes to do, it may only take 10 minutes now because somebody has the whole process in their control. The nightly update process, that used to take at least a few hours, now that it runs automated, runs in an hour-and-a-half or so. So there are some significant gains. If I had to estimate, I'd say our data processing has improved by 70 percent.
What is most valuable?
The automation of processes is the most valuable feature. One of the major hurdles for us over the last few years, before we found OpCon, was to make our nightly process happen automatically. Being a bank, we have nightly update processes that have to happen for posting transactions, for example, and it was a huge load off our department to have that automated.
It's pretty easy to use. They have help information built right into the program so anytime you're trying to build something and you need help, you just hit F1 and there's documentation on what you're trying to do. OpCon does offer training, and I did attend both the basic and the advanced training, which were very helpful. But if you understand PowerShell and things like that, you could, potentially, build OpCon without going to formal training. I do think it is easy to use.
What needs improvement?
I think that they're working on this, but I wish that there was a more centralized area to be able to see what other people are doing and use the OpCon community, per se. I went to their annual conference and I gained a lot of contacts from that. I keep in touch with them and we talk, but it'd be nice to have more of that be more readily available. They have a community platform for OpCon users, but I want to see more of where somebody is doing this process in that way. They have a great community platform right now, but I feel that it could be developed.
For how long have I used the solution?
We've been using OpCon for almost three years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
The solution is very stable. I haven't seen any stability issues with the product to date. They tell you what exactly what is to be expected. They provide documentation of updates and what you should do and what you shouldn't do. I feel that as long as I follow the guidance from them, I won't have any stability issues.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
We started using it as well for running our database maintenance at night. We have multiple database servers running in-house and we were able to start doing that with OpCon. There are many solutions that it interfaces with and, while we're not leveraging all of them, we're using a good number of them.
How are customer service and technical support?
Their technical support is very good. I called them more in the beginning when we were doing the implementation, but I'll call them anytime. For any of the processes that I'm trying to work with, they always have somebody who will help. It's been a very good experience using their support.
They have very knowledgeable resources. Everybody that I talk to over there has always been a big help. I went out to the conference and met a lot of people that I hadn't necessarily talked to on the phone and they all were very knowledgeable and helpful.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
We did not previously use an automation solution. We had done things like using PowerShell and doing scripting on the servers, but we had not used those things exclusively as an automation platform.
How was the initial setup?
The initial setup was pretty straightforward. We knew what we were getting. When we finally made the decision to purchase it, our rep reached out to us and told us exactly what was going to be happening with the implementation and when he was going to show up. We got that all scheduled, he showed up, and everything took off from there.
Our experience with the SMA tech during implementation was awesome. He was very knowledgeable. He had years of experience in the field that we are in. The gentleman who came out to us had worked in IBM for many years as a programmer, so he knew what we were doing and how we were trying to do it. He was able to take the processes that we were already doing and develop them after we got OpCon in place. He came out for one week of just implementation of OpCon, and then he came out for a second week to develop these things. He was very resourceful and knowledgeable, and if he didn't know the answer, he found it within a reasonable amount time.
Technically, OpCon was up and running on the first day, but we were still moving things into it during that first week. Within a week we had processes that were being automated. It wasn't long at all. We already had a good understanding of what was happening. We just took what was happening and moved it into OpCon. As long as we had file permissions, it wasn't an issue.
Our major focus was on our core processing. Our core has numerous file moves and transfers and hundreds of jobs that run every day. We wanted to automate the nightly process and include the jobs that were running on the core all day. We took those processes and migrated them over from the IBM Advanced Job Scheduler into OpCon. That was our immediate focus. From there, we branched out and started doing the stuff that was happening on the Window Servers. We moved all of that over into OpCon, including FTP from our core vendor, as well as the moving and posting of files.
What was our ROI?
We have absolutely seen ROI in terms of having our update process automated. That was costing our IT department quite a bit of overtime, because employees were working their normal schedules and then they would have to be responsible for the nightly update process. They would be on a rotation of course, but overall, the overtime expenses have gone down as a result of installing OpCon. And the processes that we no longer have to focus on, on a daily basis, allow our employees to be more efficient in doing other things.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
We looked at a couple of solutions a little bit before we found OpCon. We found OpCon at a user group meeting for our core provider. We had looked at others and we hadn't found one that was suitable for all the uses that we'd need it for.
One solution we looked at was iRobot, but that was strictly IBM-driven. It was just running on the core but it didn't have any logic within it. OpCon has the agent on the IBM that can look at like dates and interpret them and give it an answer based on whether things line up or not. And the iRobot program had the ability to kick off jobs, but it didn't have any logic built into it.
What other advice do I have?
The biggest lesson I have learned from using OpCon is that anything is possible. There is literally nothing that I have found yet that it can't do. I've called support and shared with them what I think is a crazy idea, and they'll say, "Oh no, we can do that." We talk about it and figure out a solution and go from there.
When you first look at it and look at everything that has to be done, you need somebody who is going to be dedicated to the product. It looks like there is a lot to do, but the reward far outweighs what it looks like upfront.
There are about 10 users of OpCon in our company. Half of them are in IT and the other half are in operations. In terms of our frontline retail staff, only one person there is using it. The rest are the operations area. They're the ones who kick off the processes through Solution Manager. In terms of maintenance of OpCon, there are three of us who work together exclusively on OpCon.
I have to give it 10 out of 10. It's done great things for us and it continues to so every day.
Which deployment model are you using for this solution?
Which version of this solution are you currently using?
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