Focal Point Transitions to Cross-Platform Automation with Fortra


Focal Point Lights, a Chicago-based architectural lighting manufacturer, was feeling the heat in a competitive industry. Camillo Catuara, Applications Development Manager at Focal Point, says “The organization is going through transformation. We’re getting bigger: we need to compete and to be easier to do business with.” 

Focal Point’s computing environment consisted of running EnterpriseOne from Oracle across Windows and iSeries servers, as well as custom apps servers, including VB and .net. Before Camillo came to Focal Point, the organization was scheduling everything manually on the iSeries servers. This method was neither efficient nor versatile enough. Camillo notes that it was an extensive process to prepare for month-end. In addition, there was no way to send alerts for issues unless someone was constantly monitoring the system. 

Camillo remembers that the business would have to put all month-end jobs on hold. “I couldn’t use a regular Windows scheduler. I could schedule things one after another, but I couldn’t make it dependent.” Upon release, Camillo's team would have to monitor the process while it ran all night long. This extra effort required the company to hire consultants just to monitor month-end batch jobs.

Transitioning to Automation

Camillo continues, “We were in a more reactive mode rather than proactive.” He knew that the organization needed to find a more efficient solution to streamline their job scheduling processes.

When he came to Focal Point in October 2012, he knew that he could rely on Fortra products to begin automating the business processes of Focal Point. Camillo had used Robot previously for 17 years at a large iSeries organization and felt confident that Robot could successfully automate the workflows running on the IBM i servers at Focal Point. 

He says, “Robot was something I was familiar with. I knew the capabilities of it. We used it to get things out of the users’ hands, automate them, and start logging and monitoring the servers… things that make it a little easier for me to sleep at night.” 

Cross-Platform Functionality

The next challenge was to automate workflows on their other platforms. Camillo learned about Skybot Scheduler through his conversations with the Fortra support team. Because of Camillo’s long-standing relationship with Robot and the Fortra team, he was confident in Skybot’s ability to automate jobs across servers. To begin, he downloaded the free trial of Skybot. “We were able to make things be reactive with the iSeries, and right there we started seeing the benefits that this would probably be a good thing for us.” 

Todd Tilton, Lead Developer at Focal Point, reflects on the implementation of Skybot, “The big advantage to using Robot and Skybot together is being able to react in either direction. It also gives us one place to manage, and it helps us with a lot of the EnterpriseOne tasks that have to be run. While EnterpriseOne has its own scheduler, Skybot is easier to use.” 

With the assistance of the Fortra support team, Focal Point was even able to develop a unique script to help run their EnterpriseOne jobs. Camillo notes “Anyone that’s running jobs through EnterpriseOne needs to know that the return codes being sent there aren’t the same return codes that Skybot uses—JD Edwards codes aren’t the norm. The support team from Fortra was able to help us write a script that basically translated that code into something that Skybot would use and decipher. And with that, Skybot can properly monitor EnterpriseOne.”

"The big advantage to using Robot and Skybot together is being able to react in either direction. This gives us one place to manage, and it helps us with a lot of the EnterpriseOne tasks that have to be run."

The Ease of Automating 

Focal Point has experienced great success since they began using Fortra enterprise job scheduling solutions. One of the huge ROI benefits is that Focal Point’s IT team saves time since they no longer have to monitor the job processes constantly. In addition, with monitoring capabilities in place, the business knows right away if a job update that is helping a customer fails, and they can take care of the customer immediately. “How do you put a cost on the user experience side of things? That to me is one of the biggest savings right there,” says Camillo. 

By utilizing a suite of Fortra products—Robot SCHEDULE, Robot CONSOLE, Robot ALERT, and Skybot Scheduler—for business process automation, Focal Point has created an efficient and strong automated workflow.