We systems programmers love metrics – and we have a lot of them. But in two areas, we struggle: SLAs and KPIs. Service Level Agreements (SLAs) always exist, even in you never agreed to any. The business and end users have expectations and, in their minds, these are SLAs. We may have set them for online, but rarely have more than a ‘suggested’ due-out time.
We don’t generally communicate well with the business, which means being seen more as a cost center than a value provider. I think we can do better, but perhaps we need to look for another metric, one that is useful in reaching across the aisle to the business especially in the area of batch performance.
We’ve all experienced that dread moment after purchasing an item where we open the box and read the words ‘some assembly required.’ For some, it was the night before Christmas and the item was something you expected would be complete, like a tricycle. For me, it was almost every piece of furniture I got from Scandinavian Designs. The easy part was making sure you had all the parts, never a guarantee. But then, you’d have some confusing diagram that was supposed to guide you through a ‘quick and easy’ process to get to your finished product. It was never quick or easy.
As a child, I was always impressed by how Tom Sawyer got other people to do his work for him. Instead of offering a trade, Sawyer flipped the challenge on its head. He made people feel like white-washing a fence was so pleasurable they should pay him for the privilege. I can only imagine what a speaker and salesman he would have grown up to be. What a gift! I think we all feel overworked much of the time. Between layoffs and retirements, most of us have more than one job we’re trying to manage with too many tasks not to our liking. Even in the rarified waters of complex IT projects, there are still tasks that can feel as unrewarding and uninteresting as white-washing a fence. Either it is a task that challenged you many years ago and no longer does, or it is simply uninteresting to you personally.
A guest post by Denise P. Kalm – I’ve previously talked about the studies showing that multi-tasking isn’t as successful a strategy for getting things done. We don’t tolerate the ‘interrupts’ as well as we think we do. Simply putting your head down and getting something done works better with our brains. But that’s us. It turns out that multi-tasking gives you quite a benefit when software does it. But some software does it better than others.
Work can seem grueling at any time, but especially in summer. You see the years slipping away with no chance to make special summer memories. There’s never enough time. If only you could clone yourself (unrealistic) or manufacture time (impossible). But what if there were a way to do both and get some summer hours back? The answer is making time for a vacation with automation. Rather than fear that ‘a robot will take my job,’ consider that the part a robot does is either rote work you hate, or handling issues that occur at inconvenient times of the night.
Where once it was enough to ‘keep the sucker running,’ sysprogs now need to contribute to saving money for their corporations. This new paradigm presents some big challenges; it requires that you understand a lot more about how hardware and software companies charge you so you can determine the big ‘wins.’ And all this work is added to an increasing workload that you barely can manage.
The best option is to find ways to automatically save money, rather than make it necessary for you to look for opportunities. One interesting way is to better manage the software license costs by controlling where batch jobs run. When you can limit the licensing of expensive products to only certain JESplex members, you want to be sure no one tries to run a job on the wrong processor. As some software will allow you to run where you’re not licensed, but will then charge you, you need a way to ensure this never happens.