Continuity is important for business. Firms don’t typically look kindly on instability and uncertainty, whether it is market conditions or internal business processes.
One way that businesses bring stability is with automation; ERP automation can eliminate human error and enforce standards and procedures. But what happens when automation fails?
“High availability is a basic requirement for automating business processes,” “Therefore, many automation vendors propose high-availability solutions in different shapes, often favoring active-passive hardware clusters.”
This sounds useful, “But it is not enough in the era of digital transformation.”
So here’s more ways you can improve your ERP automation continuity beyond active-passive solutions.
Just like system security, good automation continuity requires a systems approach that starts during automation process development and continues through the life of the process.
This means factoring in continuity, high availability and disaster recovery during development and testing, and making sure there is robust automation monitoring capabilities and an audit trail for uncovering when something is broken once an automation is put into a production environment.
“Just like any critical system organizations maintain, automation infrastructure should be designed to meet or exceed five-nines reliability,
Automation of ERP processes is often not just about the ERP itself; the system is connected to data and services from other systems. If one of these secondary systems breaks or encounters a disruption, there can be ERP automation continuity disruption.
Take the financial close process, for instance. This critical business process runs daily, weekly, monthly and yearly, but it isn’t limited to the ERP application; information needs to be pulled from across the business before it reaches the ERP, and can be held in multiple applications or databases. Backup processes often need to be run before the information can be extracted, and this data needs to be driven through multiple modules which have critical dependencies that must be executed in the correct sequence when it gets into the ERP system. On completion, the resulting data then needs to be pushed into data warehouses or analytics platforms for business reporting.
There’s a lot that can break in this chain, disrupting automation continuity. So when hardening your automation against disruption, look beyond just the ERP system and also ensure that these secondary systems and their processes also have high availability.
Automation will break or perform inefficiently, even with good architecting.
An important key for automation continuity, therefore, is a comprehensive log of all automation activity and exceptions so issues can be uncovered and ferreted out for adjustment.
“Ensure an automation solution maintains an extensive audit history,” “All processes, data changes and sequence of activities that have affected a specific operation, procedure, or event should be logged in the system automatically to provide an audit trail that can be followed in the event of an outage or system audit.”
Auditing these logs regularly and making adjustments is just as important, too; logs that go unseen serve no one. So incorporate a regular automation audit process to check up on the health of your ERP automations.
Once challenge around automation continuity is the pace of modern business.
In the past, scheduled downtime allowed for automation infrastructure upgrades and adjustments. But now, there’s a pretty decent chance that your business doesn’t have this window for offline adjustments.
“If you're a manufacturer doing the same business since the mid ‘60s from 8am to 6pm, five days-a-week, your availability schedule allows plenty of time for planned outages,”. “But modern digital companies need 24/7 systems to support 24/7 online sales, for access to retail store inventory, and to support mobile applications. If you’re that kind of digital company, there is never a good time to update your automation infrastructure.”
That’s why a fourth key for good automation continuity is building around systems that can operate continuously and be adjusted without downtime. There just isn’t downtime, and ERP automations that require it will break continuity and businesses processes.
So focus on automation infrastructure that can operate and be adjusted continuously, and start to move to continuously operated systems as much as possible for improved ERP automation continuity.
Cryptic and complex automation processes that are only understood by a handful of employees pose a real danger for automation continuity. When business processes or system changes are made, a lack of understanding of how and why automation work can break workflows and set in motion problems down the line. So document your ERP automation comprehensively, and make this documentation easily available.
Also, make sure that automation developers clearly understand businesses processes by having clear documentation of the processes that must be automated. This visibility aids developers in better crafting automation and setting better continuity safeguards.
“Business processes should be fully documented and easily accessible by the automation team,” stresses B “Documentation should include the scope of your business processes so that if and when an outage does occur, it can be quickly remediated.”
Continuity is never a sure thing, especially when it comes to automation. By focusing more on automation continuity, however, businesses can significantly reduce the odds of disruption.