Automating Routine Processes
One of the hardest things about implementing an automation solution is figuring out how to start. Should IT departments target the most time-consuming manual processes or should they go after smaller tasks that turn into quick wins? After years of working with hundreds of companies in various industries to fine-tune their automation strategy, we’ve gained insight into key processes that can benefit from an automation solution.
In particular, energy companies often deal with a high number of very repetitive processes like price forecasting, file transfers, and reporting. Having the ability to take these repetitive, time-consuming manual processes and turn them into automated, dynamic workflows translates into big time and resource savings.
Let’s take a look at some of the most common processes energy companies can automate to realize a return on their automation investment.
For most energy companies, price forecasting is probably one of the most essential business processes that sits at the center of operations. Without an automation solution, organizations typically rely on a custom script or a combination of in-house developed programs and external applications to gather and analyze data.
Using IT automation, organizations can create price forecasting jobs that interact with in-house forecasting tools or external websites to compile and deliver data to various business units or individuals. Coupled with in-house analytics on consumption and pricing, energy companies can ultimately better forecast demand and pricing. The result is a streamlined approach to price forecasting that is faster, more reliable, and far less time-intensive.
In addition to these price forecasting operations, energy companies can benefit from custom reports. Reports can be automated to be delivered at certain times of the day or after certain tasks are completed. For example, let’s say the billing department must wait on the modification of a certain file to be made before it can run a certain report. Instead of manually checking for the appearance of the file or writing a script that will poll the system every hour, you can create an automated job that will kick off upon the modification of the file and run the report for the billing department. In addition, reports can be customized based on department or individual in various formats for improved analysis.
File transfers are very common in virtually every business. Today, businesses have a variety of options for managing file transfers such as using FTP specific tools or in-house developed systems. What many organizations don’t realize is that they can use automation solutions to manage file transfers, and even benefit from built-in capabilities like file triggers and variables.
For example, let’s say an energy company wants to send 300 files to 300 different customers every week, but the information in each file must be personalized to that customer. With traditional methods or tools, organizations would need to create 300 different jobs or manually customize each file. With an automation solution, an organization could simply create one job with a variable field that personalizes the file based on the unique customer.
A quick win for most energy companies implementing automation is in the area of file archiving. Many organizations still perform file archiving manually, setting aside a day or more each month to perform routine clean up and file maintenance. Using a workload automation solution, organizations can create automated archiving and backup jobs that can simply run in the background without any manual intervention and will perform essential data cleanup and backups.
Many energy companies are either publicly owned or cooperative-owned organizations that have financial auditing requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley. Oftentimes auditors will ask to see reports confirming certain jobs ran on certain dates or that certain processes were performed. ITPA and workload automation solutions come with built-in audit and security features that automatically track job execution, modifications to jobs, and more. As a result, IT professionals can easily find and show this information via log files or custom reports of job execution.
When implemented correctly, automation solutions can deliver a number of benefits and quick wins to energy companies in the form of improved agility, more reliable operations, and less manual work. As a result, companies gain more flexibility as IT professionals can allocate more people and time resources to innovation and value-added areas, and reduce the time sink on manual, repetitive tasks.