The Job Scheduling Journey: Finding the Right Scheduler for Your Organization

wrench with nut in it

How you manage the background processing in your data center says a lot about you as an IT professional. Reports, backups, and other maintenance—these jobs aren’t glamorous, but they are critical and highly visible.

When the completion of IT processes directly impacts the bottom line of the organization or the satisfaction of clients, it is important to maintain an efficient workflow. Choosing the right job scheduling solution can mean the difference between an efficient workflow and one fraught with errors and delays that impact end users.

Unfortunately, sifting through the various schedulers available and selecting the proper one for your organization can be overwhelming and time-consuming. And, once you’ve found your job scheduling gem, you still have to convince decision makers to invest.

This post offers insight into the different types of job scheduling solutions available—rated OKAY, BETTER, or BEST—and how to implement the most effective solution for your business. We’ll also offer advice that may be helpful in convincing your boss to sign that dotted line.

An Okay Solution

Homegrown Schedulers and Free or Native Solutions

Plenty of IT departments still rely on native solutions like cron or Windows Task Scheduler to manually track everyday routines, while others have taken the time to create their own homegrown scheduler. The low upfront costs of these solutions are attractive, but are they truly an effective way to handle the complexities of your IT environment?

To be honest, it’s very unlikely. Homegrown schedulers and native solutions can be effective for small organizations with limited processes running across their systems. However, as your organization and its processes grow and evolve, these solutions can quickly become obsolete, or at the very least underpowered.

You see, these solutions come with a lot of hidden costs, which can add up to eventually exceed the cost of a better solution. Just a few of these hidden costs include:

  • Development: Paying highly trained and educated IT professionals to handle the creation and maintenance of a homegrown scheduler can cost your organization valuable resources and dollars.
  • Operation: Homegrown schedulers are typically more manual to operate, requiring additional time and attention from staff, even after the initial programming and schedule creation processes are complete. Native solutions, on the other hand, require manual scripting, which ties up a staff member whose talents could be better used elsewhere.
  • Updates: As platforms and software advance in complexity and capability, homegrown schedulers and defined native procedures may become ineffective. Updating the software to acceptable standards could lead to additional programming costs.
  • Errors: Whether you are creating a homegrown scheduler or writing scripts for a native scheduler, the process is complex and prone to human error. Re-runs and downtime caused by errors will also lead to additional costs when staff members have to put in overtime hours to correct the issues. In truth, even the smallest overlooked detail or incorrectly written code can cost the organization dearly.

Hidden costs aren’t the only drawback of homegrown schedulers. With the overwhelming pressures of operating an IT department, building a scheduler that offers the full functionality necessary to truly automate the enterprise may not be possible. Your internal developers may need to cut corners, leaving out vital features.

While cron or Windows Task Scheduler do not require the manual running of processes, if you rely on such native solutions, you will still be required to write manual scripts for job dependencies or resource checking to maintain a more complicated schedule. In turn, though open source tools typically do have a user community to rely on, it can take valuable time to troubleshoot issues to support your job schedule.

When so much relies on the performance of your workflow, do you really want to be forced to choose between which features to build and which are “expendable”?

A Better Solution

Full or Integrated Schedulers

Rather than investing in the development of a homegrown scheduler or the maintenance of native scheduling solutions, your organization may turn to the scheduling tools within popular enterprise applications, such as SAP, Oracle, or Informatica, or Microsoft SQL Server.

This option is preferable to a homegrown scheduler or a native solution for many reasons:

  • Simple implementation: Integrated schedulers are preloaded into software you already use, making it relatively easy to put them to work. Time-based schedulers are also usually simple to install due to their relatively simplistic programming.
  • Increased scheduling power: Integrated schedulers may provide greater control over your IT workflow than homegrown alternatives. These solutions allow you to create robust schedules that execute processes within their particular application or platform. Unfortunately, it gets difficult when triggers or dependencies exist outside of a particular application or platform where a native solution’s scheduling power stops.
  • Support: When using a scheduling solution offered by an application vendor, you’ll likely be offered some level of technical support for both the operation of the application itself and the integrated scheduler. However, since scheduling is a secondary focus of the application, the support offered for scheduling issues may be limited, and dedicated support for the scheduling function may not exist.

Unfortunately, while they do offer enhanced control over the workflow, integrated and free schedulers are generally designed for specific platforms or applications. This makes it all but impossible to create a single, comprehensive schedule to manage your workflow. Without the ability to consolidate schedules, you may be left juggling multiple schedules, each regulating a specific platform or application. You will also be unable to access a detailed view of your entire workflow. For many of you, these drawbacks outweigh the benefits of using these scheduling solutions.

All things considered, can you really rely on an integrated scheduler to prevent potential workflow disasters across your entire network?

The Best Solution

Enterprise Schedulers

The process automation market is full of quality enterprise job schedulers. As the BEST solution for your automation needs, these solutions come equipped with cross-platform support, making it possible to merge many schedules into one.

Enterprise schedulers also offer a good deal of scheduling flexibility, including event-based, time-based, and interdependency-based scheduling. Why just designate a time for your process to run when you can set the process to execute based on the completion of related events? Event-based scheduling streamlines your workflow by creating greater reactivity between processes and helps to address inter-dependencies to ensure that processes complete in the  right order. Where processes used to sit idle until a set time, jobs begin immediately after another event, like a file transfer or completion of another process, has occurred.

In short, enterprise schedulers include all the functionality and control offered by integrated scheduling tools, but also provide you with the increased flexibility and reach you need to avoid complications with your IT workflow across your enterprise.

Choosing the Right Enterprise Scheduler

Enterprise schedulers offer the automation power you need to streamline your workflow, but choosing the right one for your organization can be challenging. With so many options available, understanding which one offers you the features you need at the price you can afford can be tricky.

When you are ready to evaluate your options, make sure to consider these important things:

  • Cost: Calculating ROI is important in every organization. In order to understand your true investment, you need to be aware of your costs. In addition to your initial license fees, make sure to factor in maintenance charges and consulting fees associated with implementation.
  • Implementation: When looking for an enterprise scheduler, you want a solution that is easy to install and implement. After all, you can’t spend weeks or months trying to get the solution up and running; you’ve already got enough on your plate. Some options are light enough to have you up and running in days, while others can take months or longer.
  • Usability: The solution you choose should be powerful enough to meet your scheduling needs, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be difficult to use. Make it easy for anyone on your team to catch on quickly and look for a solution that is intuitive and user-friendly. Anything less will leave you frustrated and struggling to maintain an efficient workflow.
  • Support: You can expect some level of technical and customer support from any enterprise scheduling vendor, but it is important to know how much and what type of care you can expect to receive. It is also important to examine the costs of support and maintenance since some vendors charge extra for personalized assistance.
  • Updates: Enterprise schedulers are constantly evolving to meet the needs of modern organizations. This makes it important to consider the costs of future upgrades. Some vendors will offer free or low-cost updates, while others may charge significant sums. Make sure to ask about update and upgrade policies. You don’t want to be one year into using a new solution only to find that an update will cost you nearly as much as your initial license purchase.

Identify Your Job Scheduler Needs

Use the JAMS Job Scheduling Checklist to identify what’s most important for your organization.