Keeping the Lights Off!

Keeping the Lights Off!

Once an automation has been developed and deployed to production, benefits start to flow.

In many cases the automation is scheduled to operate overnight now that the activity is freed from requiring human activity.

Work gets done, but the office lights are off. Good for the business and the staff.

What is needed to keep the lights off?

Planned Maintenance

Every automation will need to be updated with software patches to keep it operating safely and securely.

Over time, there will also need to be upgrades to the versions of the automation software to ensure on-going support from the vendor as well as compatibility with other software products operating in the environment.

The work to perform this planned maintenance can usually be completed during the working day, so that tests to verify the impact from the activity can be completed.

To deliver confidence in the outcome from such maintenance, the approach of applying the changes to development and test environments first can be followed. Naturally, for this to be effective, appropriate test data and test activities will need to be used.

Change Management

Automation solutions by definition, work with one or more applications and technologies. Change Management is required to ensure that planned maintenance and enhancements in such applications is considered with appropriate regression testing of the automation functionality so that any consequential impacts are managed.

Skills currency

When automation solutions are introduced, appropriate skills for the implementation are assembled from external partners and staff resources. In large enterprises there may be an on-going programme of work with the creation of a “Centre of Excellence” (COE) team which becomes the custodian of the knowledge and skills that remains in place as a variety of automation projects are completed.

In many mid-market businesses, the level of automation activity drops after the initial implementation. There is a period of time to assess the benefits of the automation and there can be an elapsed period before the next automation is top of the priority list for the available staff.

In such circumstances, the currency of the skills in the automation technology will decline. Where external consultants contributed to the implementation, they will be focused on other projects unless an appropriate support service has been engaged.

Enhancements worth more

By performing minor enhancements to existing automations on a regular basis, there can be additional benefits other than the feature being added. The regular use of development and test environments will ensure that they work when required. That will include both the automation aspects and the development & test versions of the applications used by the automation. It can also act as a refresher of automation skills to the staff involved.


With automations that execute overnight there needs to be monitoring mechanisms put in place and during the design consideration will be required to the handling of any errors or if processing gets halted.

Once a decision is made to operate an automation out of hours, the concept of also executing the automation during normal working hours should be looked at. By performing additional executions of the automation, it could provide a route for handling any individual data issues to be resolved by a person and for the automation to pick-up the corrected entry for re-processing.

Working day execution of the automation might need to occur if there is an issue (e.g. Hardware or Network or other application) that leaves potential work not performed by the automation overnight. A good contingency plan will look at “Recovery Time” both as an elapsed period for resumption of processing capability and the time to “Catch -up” with the outstanding workload.

Capacity Planning

The implementation of a single Robot executing as an “Un-Attended” configuration delivers 24 x 7 = 168 hours of processing capacity per week. The Robot can only perform one task at a time. The tasks for the Robot can be scheduled and assigned a priority.

For the first automation being deployed, there is normally plenty of capacity from a single Robot but as additional tasks are automated the capacity will get used up.

If the volume of work for the Robot is stable it is easy to plan the capacity but if there are significant variations with real peaks and troughs, it is much harder to predict. Of course, this is further complicated by any time constraints such as “Service Level Agreements (SLA)”.

Adding additional Robots to process automation workload is relatively straight forward but licences do need to be purchased and configuration work undertaken. Such changes are not instantaneous.

Once multiple Robots are involved, consideration needs to be given into how to share the workload, for example, examining the length of time each automation typically executes and the priority of the automation.

The availability of multiple robots also provides the potential to consider resilience through the deployment of the Robots across multiple servers in case one server fails.

Keeping the Lights off

The potential to continue to Keep the Lights Off following an initial implementation is possible but as discussed there are some activities to do for the objective to be achieved.


Article Author

David Martin

Managing Director, Ether Solutions

About The Author


WORKSMARTPA – NEW IDEAS, NEW FRONTIERS The year 2021 sees our business celebrate 21 years of - a community supporting office professionals since our very first newsletter way back in May 2000. As we look forward to greet a new world of change beyond the pandemic, we are extremely excited to announce a new brand; a new look; and some new directions for our much loved, long-standing web site and communities to explore. It is time for change. To better reflect now what we do best for you, we have a new brand, web site and activities – a new name and web site that will be full of new ideas for a new business age and new working trends as we all seek to grow, expand and explore new frontiers.

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