Keep On Scripting In The Free World

Posted on behalf of Scott Anderson, Manager, Quality Assurance
Scripting & automation. (AKA Robotic Automation – RPA)  What does one think of when these words are uttered from a colleague or managers lips?  I’m not sure about you, but personally I think of less manual labor and more robotic systems.  Some people may think of “The Terminator” and its clever Hollywood taglines.  Others may think of “The Matrix” and the war versus the robots.  Yet others may think of replacing a human body/worker with an entirely automated system.  In some ways they would all be correct.
The text book definition of Automation:
noun: automation; plural noun: automations
the use of largely automatic equipment in a system of manufacturing or other production process.
“unemployment due to the spread of automation”
However, in today’s fast paced IT world with almost non-existent global boundaries and tweets of 140 characters or less, scripting & automation is more about saving time by creating reusable automated processes.  Maybe one day it will lead to a large-scale war where the sun is blocked from the sky, Skynet has come online and Keanu Reeves saves us all from annihilation?  Until that day arrives, enter Automation!
In today’s fast paced global business world it is critical to ensure that processes are running as efficiently as possible with as little waste as possible.  Just because business hours are published as being between 9AM and 5PM does not mean that business just stops in its tracks when the ending bell sounds.  This is when utilizing automation can lead to further your efficiency and better the overall time management in your day-to-day business operations!  You may be asking yourself, how do I find the automation tool that is the best for my business?  Great question!  This entirely depends on the tasks to be automated and the systems that will require the interaction.  There are multiple flavors of scripting and automation solutions in the market.  These arenas range from the Software Quality Assurance market to the most basic day-to-day operations such as data entry.
For example, in this day and age of global business, many companies are utilizing a Citrix model for easier application rollouts and virtualization.  While this is a fantastic, scalable technology it does have drawbacks when it comes down to using some type of scripting software or tool.  Specifically, the need to have automation tools installed directly on the image itself.  This limitation can be a significant roadblock when attempting to script or automate tasks.  Don’t fret!  There IS a solution!  Some companies can utilize other connection technologies and read methods to provide the ability to automate items in a Citrix system.  One flavor, currently used by Summit Healthcare’s Summit Scripting Toolkit 8, is via “OCR” or “object character recognition.”  This functionality can read from a screen and then based on what is returned take “some kind of action” from there.  It is truly a fantastic function that can be very reliable when employed in the proper fashion.  Please don’t think that automation is a wholesale replacement for a human body.  It isn’t.  Automation will augment and support the work force, not replace them.
There are other automation tools available.  However, something to keep in mind is ease of use.  Many other tools may require some type of programming background where as some are more GUI based such as Summit Scripting Toolkit 8.
Keep in mind that the requirement for these automation tools are targeting different automation tasks and markets.  Some companies may need to automate testing while other businesses may need to automate scripting of data into some repository.  Each need is entirely unique but the underlying core principles are not.  Each strives to achieve the same goal; maximum efficiency by automating repetitive tasks.  With some practice, know-how, trial and error you too can start automating repetitive tasks.  Make yourself look like a Rockstar to your manager by replying “No problemo!” when asked if any processes can be automated.  Until Skynet comes online and the human race is in danger of saying “Hasta La Vista, Baby!”, there will always be a need for scripting, automation and the human element.  And maybe if we’re lucky, Keanu Reeves will save us all before we blot out the sun so we can all keep on scripting in the free world.