Many shops use the native IBM i job scheduler for scheduling and managing batch jobs, rather than purchasing a third-party IBM i job scheduler that provides more benefits over using the native scheduler.
The native IBM i job scheduling software is accessed by using either the Management Central Scheduler feature in the IBM Navigator for i Web application or the Work with Job Schedule Entries command (WRKJOBSCDE). The problem with the native job scheduler is that it’s generic. It doesn’t have many advanced features. It schedules jobs that run at certain times on certain dates, and that’s it.
While many shops need the more advanced job scheduling features included with third-party IBM i job scheduler software, they don’t get them because the native IBM i job scheduler is included with the i operating system. Purchasing third-party IBM i job scheduler software usually requires a Capital Appropriations Request (CAR) that also requires a Return on Investment (ROI) to justify the purchase.
To help with CAR planning, here are three different ROI measurements you can use to justify purchasing a third-party IBM i job scheduler product, such as SEA’s absScheduler package.
Three Ways to Justify Purchasing a Third-Party IBM i Job Scheduler
Third-party IBM i job scheduler packages provide three valuable benefits over using the native IBM i job scheduler software.
- Third-party packages free up programming resources
- Third-party packages provide compliance and audit reporting
- Third-party packages provide automated monitoring for scheduled processing
Each benefit creates programming and operational savings over using the native job scheduler. Let’s talk about each benefit and how they create an ROI to justify using third-party scheduler software.
Programming benefits of job schedulers
While the native job scheduler is very good at running single process jobs, there’s a lot it can’t do. Here are the most significant problems in running the native IBM i job scheduler that can be solved with a third-party scheduler package.
- The native job scheduler can’t execute more than one statement in each job entry. It’s a single command solution. Multiple commands can’t be run in the same job scheduler entry.
- The native job scheduler can’t create dependent job streams, where new jobs are submitted based on what happened in another job entry. The native IBM i job scheduler is an individual job scheduler. It can’t submit a series of connected jobs or submit jobs based on what did or didn’t happen in another job.
- The native job scheduler can’t run jobs on an irregular schedule. The native job scheduler doesn’t have a calendar for job processing. There is no way for a job to run only on holidays or on specific days of the month (such as the last business day of the month or the first Tuesday of every month).
- The native job scheduler can’t view and schedule jobs running on other IBM i servers. It can’t be used to coordinate processing between dependent partitions such as a Web serving partition and an order processing partition.
IBM i shops compensate these native job scheduler limitations by using custom programming. They write custom programs to perform calendar-based processing, execute multiple steps in a single job, and coordinate processing between different jobs and between different i servers. All the advanced tools that third-party job scheduler packages provide must be recreated by programmers when using the native job scheduler.
Productivity is the first ROI justification for purchasing a third-party job scheduler product. A third-party scheduler frees up expensive programming resources to work on line-of-business projects. Operations staff can take over job scheduler functions that previously needed a programmer to create.
For ROI purposes, you can collect the amount of programming time spent on IBM i scheduling projects and use that as a baseline for required scheduler programming when using the native job scheduler. This baseline can be compared against the cost of the product, providing an ROI measurement for purchasing a third-party scheduler.
Compliance and auditing benefits of third-party job schedulers
The native job scheduler has no automated compliance and audit reporting. Most third-party IBM i job schedulers collect comprehensive information and produce pre-written reports on scheduled job performance and maintenance history (job entry creation, modification, deletion, and run history). This information creates an historical record for your scheduler, providing a forensic audit trail for auditors and other personnel needing to understand job history.
Compliance and audit reporting can also be used as an ROI measurement for purchasing a third-party package. You can create a ROI baseline for compliance and auditing programming savings by totaling the amount of programming hours used to manually create compliance and audit reports.
Automated monitoring benefits of third-party job schedulers
The native IBM i job scheduler software doesn’t contain any features to automatically alert on-call responders when a scheduled job has errors or to schedule remedial actions when a problem occurs. The only way you know if a scheduled job has a problem is if it throws an inquiry message in an IBM message queue (such as QSYSOPR).
Third-party packages have several functions for monitoring and dealing with running jobs. Schedulers can alert on-call responders by text message, email, tweets, or other means, when a problem occurs, decreasing the need for dedicated personnel to monitor the system. They can also send attachments with an alert, containing notes or instructions for on-call personnel to fix the error.
Third-party packages can also automatically kick-off remedial actions—such as executing corrective processing, ending a job, or flagging jobs for errors–when problems occur. Automatic remedial actions can respond to scheduled job errors without manual intervention, and then send a message to administrators as to what happened with a running job and how it was corrected.
From an ROI viewpoint, automated monitoring and correction can save programmer, administrator, and service desk time in detecting and correcting malfunctioning scheduled jobs. Like our programming and reporting ROI measurements, a baseline for resources spent monitoring and correcting job issues can be created by pulling historical data out of your ticketing and logging system. An ROI calculation can be arrived at by determining how much of the baseline time and resources could be saved by replacing a manual monitoring and response system with the automation capabilities of a third-party job scheduler package.
Putting it all together for an ROI
As noted above, you can create an ROI that tells management how long it will take to recoup an investment in a new third-party IBM i job scheduler package. This can be done by creating baseline savings for the following items and comparing them against the purchase and maintenance costs associated with the new software.
- Programming resources saved over scheduling jobs in the native job scheduler
- Programming resources saved for producing audit and compliance reporting around job scheduler activities
- Operations costs saved by implementing automated problem detection, on-call alerts, and automated job corrections when a problem occurs
The real ROI in implementing a third-party job scheduler lies in Programmer and Operations productivity. Programming resources in particular, are extremely expensive and a third-party scheduler allows you to shift programmers from support and operational activity over to line-of-business activities. You also save Operational resources by switching to a third-party package. Taken together, you should be able to show a decent ROI in order to purchase the new software.