If you are trying to choose the best software to help you automate IT and other business processes,
you have come to the right place. This site is dedicated to helping organizations understand the major issues involved in evaluating,
implementing, and getting value from automation software.
If you are considering the purchase of an automation platform, here are some issues you need to consider:
You need to start realizing the benefit of automation immediately. You can't afford to hire script developers, and you don't have time to train your people on an entirely new set of skills. You need to procure automation software that does not require your people to learn a new programming language. Consequently, you need "no code" automation software that provides drag-and-drop, fill-in-the-blank, plain-English tools for comprehensive automation.
You need software that bridges the gap between IT's physical assets - the servers, applications, systems, and networks - and your business processes. Leading software packages include components that allow people to design workflows, or flow charts, of business processes. This greatly helps in understanding current-state business processes and how they will be automated, as well as communicating the desired changes to other team members or non-technical users outside of IT. The best automation packages provide a graphic mechanism for enhanced collaboration as well as tools for managing collaboration between team members.
No-code, graphical automation does nothing if the capabilities are limited. Make sure the package you choose is feature rich. It should contain many tools - in the hundreds - for automating common IT business processes. These include tools for event detection (file, system, event log, etc.), data automation (SQL, XML, data within files, etc.), data and file transport and integration (Windows network, telnet, FTP, HTTP, etc.), and support for commonly used applications (Active Directory, Microsoft Excel, etc.). Don't limit yourself by choosing a package that simply meets your needs now. Allow yourself the flexibility to have the application grow with your future demands and ever-changing business processes.
You need an automation platform that will integrate with your existing environment, as well as support and enable future changes in IT infrastructure. Consequently, it must support the common standards for applications and networks including FTP/SFTP, OLE/ODBC, HTTP, XML, POP3, SNMP, SNMP, WMI, and more. Some applications offer direct tie-ins to specific applications but only support some of the common standards listed above. Make sure you choose a solution that can support your entire infrastructure, not just a few applications.
Chances are that you have more than one server that will be involved in automation, so you will need to intelligently coordinate automated execution across these machines. The platform you choose must enable you to assign and execute the basic building blocks of automation - events, tasks, and decision-points - to the correct resource or server on any network.
You may have a team of people responsible for designing, building, testing, and maintaining automation throughout your organization. You need a tool that helps administrators delegate work and track progress of team members and their automation projects. This also ensures that only authorized individuals are involved in the process.
You don't want automation scripts and batch files floating loose across your organization. It simply isn't secure, and it cannot be controlled. You need an automation package that enables you to centralize automation and its management, but at the same time, gives you the capability to execute automation in a decentralized manner. The only way this can be accomplished is through a sophisticated client/server architecture, whereby information and communication is centralized at the server and execution is performed by the clients.
You need a package that provides you with meaningful and actionable intelligence regarding important automation events. You don't want to be bombarded with noise. You need to quickly detect errors so that you and your team can proactively respond to and fix any problem. The platform you choose should provide alerts for events you define as critical, plus a reporting component that summarizes and synthesizes the wealth of data generated by leading automation solutions.
You want software that has been stressed, tested, and put through the wringer - not only by the manufacturer, but most importantly by thousands of installations with different environments, including those similar to yours. Purchasing software from vendors who have no proof that their software is widely used, scalable, reliable and accepted is extremely risky. You can't afford for this decision to backfire on you given the current economic climate.
Another way to reduce your risk is to look at product reviews from knowledgeable third parties such as trade publications and analysts. You can also ask vendors for case studies showing how they have solved various automation issues. If the vendor doesn't have this information readily available, you will be taking a leap of faith to move forward with their software.
More detailed information can be found on the vendor's websites.
AutoMate Software - Probably the simplest software to use, but very powerful and feature-rich. Automation tools include FTP automation, file automation, email, HTTP, web services, Excel, XML, file compression/encryption, database automation, Active Directory, and a lot more. AutoMate software is moderately priced (around $1,000 last we checked).
BPA Server Software - By far, BPA Server is the most powerful automation software on the market. It is a great choice if you need to automate processes that involve multiple servers/workstations. BPA Server orchestrates automation in a multi-machine environment, but is still quite simple to use. The product is priced in the $2,500 range and scales up with the number of machines in your automation network.
WinTask Macro Software - Great, cheap software for automating very simple tasks. Pricing starts at only $99.
The free trial for WinTask Macro Software can be found here.
RoboTask Software - Another great product for automating simple tasks. A step up from the low end macro software, with pricing starting at only $120.
The free trial for RoboTask Software can be found here.