Candy, Vitamin, or Painkiller?

The start of the new year is a time of reflection – reflecting on past new years’ resolutions and now considering new resolutions. Consider your automation initiatives during this reflection. Were your prior initiatives successful, and if so, what truly was the value they created? Were the results satisfying and long term? What new initiatives do you foresee and is your current strategy and automation technology up to the task? What can you do to improve your success?

Enterprise Management Associates, in their latest Workload Automation industry research, has noted that many of the enterprises they have interviewed are not entirely satisfied with their current technology or the results of initiatives these technologies support. Complexity, vendor support, and flexibility are all key pain points with existing solutions. If you are charged with evaluating (or perhaps re-evaluating) your workload automation needs and value, carefully consider whether the evaluation process, both for workload technology and workload initiatives, is incorporating a review with a “Candy, Vitamin, or Painkiller” mindset.

What does the phrase “Candy, Vitamin, or Painkiller” mean? Kevin Fong, a well-known venture capitalist in the Bay Area, is quoted as saying: “We divide business plans into three categories: candy, vitamins, and painkillers. We throw away the candy. We look at vitamins. We really like painkillers. We especially like addictive painkillers!”

Candy projects are distractions from day-to-day tedium – interesting but not essential to day-to-day activities. They tend to be highly-engaging with lots of “shiny things.” (some would say “sugary and sweet”). Vitamin projects are those that help extend life, improve productivity, or enhance quality. Painkiller projects are the simplest in their motivation – they remove pain. It is interesting to note that Mr. Fong never considers “vaccine” projects, those that prevent pain, obviate the effects of candy, and eliminate the need for certain vitamins!

While the above selection process may work well within Mr. Fong’s VC firm, his culling process is not universally appropriate. Excluding candy and vitamin projects from your portfolio of projects is not always justified. Candy projects can be very lucrative. Video games and multi-player web-based games (with lots of “candy”) have generated billions in revenue. Vitamins such as on-line search, augmented help, and data analytics have opened new markets and revenue by making core business activity more visible, productive, and flexible.

Workload automation projects can fit any one of the above categories. For those organizations new to workload automation most initial projects are painkillers. The pain of too many failed jobs, too much recovery and restart activity, and too much lost productivity will trigger these efforts.  These projects distill the knowledge of staff into graphical and/or documented repeatable executions with embedded restart, failover, and error recovery capabilities for essential or mission-critical processes.

Vitamin projects look at better exploiting existing resources, distributing processing, and opening new services to internal and external customers. Candy projects offer opportunities to explore new technologies and services that may yield new vitamins or painkillers or entirely new revenue streams.

But regardless of your project category, there are attributes of each category that should gradually make its way into your workload automation technology efforts. Carefully consider how to mitigate the pain of failed, slow, or misbehaving processes using failover, distributing processing across remote servers, and intelligent default error handlers and automated recovery. Vitamins such as reusable templates, runtime substitution of values, and concurrency/dependency controls should be explored and exploited. And as the capabilities become available, add in some candy such as visually stunning graphics, interactive simulations of current and future workloads, and AI autonomous driving of your workflows.

Happy New Year from the Geeks at Flux!