Robot Job Scheduler Gets a Fresh New Look
July 15, 2015 Alex Woodie
In the world of Web design, a user interface built with a “responsive design” is equally at home on a smartphone as a Windows PC. HelpSystems took responsive design to heart with the latest update to Robot SCHEDULE, which now features a Web-based user interface that will give customers deeper insight into how jobs are running on the IBM i server.
With the new interface, Robot SCHEDULE users will be able to see IBM i jobs as they’re running, and interact with them through a mobile device. If a problem crops up with a job, the interface will notify them through alerts color-coded with regard to job status. And if permitted by the security controls, they’ll also be able to take action, such as killing a job, holding it, or restarting it. Through filtering, users can see the 10 or 20 most critical jobs, and they can also see the immediate job forecast through the Schedule Activity Monitor.
The new UI particularly excels at giving less-technical users, such as executives, insight into what’s happening with IBM i jobs, says HelpSystems Vice President of Technical Services Tom Huntington.
“People often forget we have large organizations where IBM i is in the background running critical processes, particularly in the banking and healthcare industries,” Huntington says. “Some people’s careers depend on IBM i, but they don’t actually sign onto it.”
Giving them a dashboard will help these users ascertain their adherence to service level agreements (SLAs) and generally make critical business processes more visible to stakeholders. “People have asked for the critical ‘PERT’ chart, where you can see things as they progress,” Huntington continues. “This is an active flow diagraming how my job is running. And they’ll turn green or yellow or red as they finish. And they pulsate too. We could make your cell phone vibrate, but we didn’t do that.”
Upping the “wow” factor of job scheduling software was definitely a design goal, says HelpSystems CEO Chris Heim. “It looks really cool. It automatically sizes to the mobile device,” Heim tells IT Jungle. “The big picture for me is the iSeries has always been such a solid system, but perceived as a boring UI. This is not a boring UI. This is a UI that’s as sexy as anything that I’ve ever seen.”
Robot SCHEDULE is technically the second product to get this treatment. An update to Robot NETWORK last year was the first time the company tried out the response design, which is based on a new framework the company is calling the HelpSystems Web Server. Eventually, most (if not all) of the Robot family will get this treatment, as well as other HelpSystems properties, such the PowerTech security software and Automate, the Windows-based automation suite.
“A big piece of the responsive design is supporting mobile,” Heim says. “If you think about how many people are mobile and using tablets to access software, the concept of being able to access it anywhere is liberating.”
The company has offered Web browser interfaces before, but this is the first time HelpSystems has supported a mobile interface with Robot SCHEDULE. And while the product will retain a 5250 interface for green-screen diehards and the Java-based fat client will still be used for setting up jobs and workflows, the company is counting on the new Web interface and its customizable dashboards to make it easier to get critical IBM i job data without requiring a steep learning curve on the product or the platform.
“If you think about the macro problem of skill depletion on the iSeries, this is a step toward lessening the burden that you have to know to run iSeries software,” Heim says. “I would submit that anyone with a little bit of training can run this application and monitor jobs and start jobs and things like that. You don’t need to have the full iSeries background to do it. That’s one of the macro problems we’re trying to solve here.”
Making IBM i jobs’ data more available will help with the planning process, Huntington predicts. “You can literally be in a meeting with a tablet or a laptop, bring up the browser, and see the current business process flow for an evening or for a month, and then be able to make decisions: Do we want to add it here or there into our night processing?” he says. “It’s just so much easier to communicate. In the past, if they’re not using our GUI, we’d say ‘Let’s look at our green screen to see the schedule.’ And executives don’t want to see that! They want the nice look.”
Legacy modernization is a big topic that IBM i shops and ISVs are tackling, however the discussion has largely been confined to line of business applications. But Huntington says it’s also important to keep back-office applications like Robot SCHEDULE looking good. “People don’t realize how critical the business processing and batch processing part of the world is,” he says.
HelpSystems is basically giving this software away to existing customers. There’s nothing to purchase, and it will support the three most recent versions of Robot SCHEDULE, including versions 10, 11, and 12. For more info see www.helpsystems.com.