Founded in 1981, Heartland Financial USA, Inc. is a $5.7 billion multi-bank holding company out of Dubuque, Iowa. Heartland delivers high-quality financial products and services to clients in the Midwestern, Southwestern, and Western United States with 10 independently chartered banks serving more than 60 communities from 81 banking locations.
Heartland has operated on the iSeries from the beginning, and they've been using Fiserv Signature banking software for 20 years. All background operations happen in their Dubuque data center, and they use iTERA to replicate to a secondary data center in Colorado in real time. With a goal of doubling in size every five to seven years, they needed a systems management tool that could grow with their business.
They started using Robot CPA (job accounting software) to help allocate costs across all their banks. The disk accounting component of Robot CPA soon led them to Robot Space (disk space management software), followed by the Robot job scheduling solution (Robot Schedule and Robot Schedule Enterprise) and monitoring tools (Robot Console and Robot Alert).
Temperamental Task Schedulers
Before Fiserv and Robot came on the scene, Heartland was struggling to manage manual processes compounded by frustrations with native schedulers. Charles Bertsch manages computer operations at Heartland.
"We have a lot of extracts that feed third-party systems," says Charles. "There were a lot of manual jobs that we had to run after nightly processing, and operators had to physically watch those jobs. Our nightly workflow never ends at exactly the same time so it was complete guesswork to schedule subsequent jobs in the IBM scheduler and then go to the Windows server to set up a download in one of the Windows schedulers."
Robot to the Rescue
As Heartland continues to grow, the processing window is a concern. They process each bank sequentially and all their banks have to be up in the morning. "Automation is huge for us to maintain that window so we have time to run the extracts on a consistent basis," says Charles. "We also want to make sure we can function at twice our size in a few years with the same application. With Robot products that's not an issue. In fact, you guys help us automate other processes."
Heartland relies on the iSeries for their big jobs. With over 400 separate jobs, it was tough to manage without reporting or notification. "The thing that really intrigued us about the Robot products was being able to control jobs not only on the iSeries, but on Windows as well. That's been huge for us," says Charles.
Since they went to Robot, they've found it easy to add more jobs and are even using Robot for some Windows exclusive processes. "Upgrades were a nightmare to manage on the Windows scheduler side," says Charles. "We used to go through and take 15 screen prints of which jobs we put on hold in the scheduler! Now we can keep track of them on the Robot dashboard."
"When I first started, month-end was this huge deal. Now, it's just another day."
The Robot dashboard or Schedule Activity Monitor™ (SAM) also helps with the first month-end after Fiserv upgrades. Charles explains, "It's tough to proactively step through all the queries on the system. With Robot Schedule, I can easily look at the SAM, find the handful of jobs that didn't run, see what queries they're calling, step through them, and then kick them off again. It's one of the first things that we have our operators check. They look for the red 'X' and the first thing they do is run it again."
Putting Robot to the Test
Paul Duval is the computer operations application lead at Heartland. Paul recently completed a Robot rollout to all test partitions, which has helped Heartland automate testing and upgrades.
When setting up their test environment, Paul says he used the export and import feature of Robot Schedule quite a bit. "When I create a job on one system I’ll export it to the desktop and import it to the other partitions." The feature saves Paul from manually entering duplicate jobs across all their partitions.
Charles explains, "We're doing more development than we have in the past. We've found that if we have third-party applications set up in a production environment, it's difficult to have a true simulation in the test environment unless they're there as well. It's smart to have identical test and production environments."
Robot Reporting for Duty
Heartland now has Robot Console installed on all their partitions. "There were points in the batch process where the operator had to manually respond to a message for that process to continue," says Charles. "Now, we have those running in Robot Console and they just get answered automatically. Our operators don't need to sit and watch for those messages, and there's no extra lag time between processes."
Paul was also able to find a creative use for Robot Console. The Fiserv Signature application does not generate a report confirming that all backups and batch jobs completed, which is what auditors want to see. Paul explains, "I was able to use OPAL (OPerator Assistance Language) programming in Robot Console for that. I set up specific message IDs so it would look for each specific bank and know when that bank is done." Robot picks up the Fiserv messages and emails them to the operations group who archives them for future audits.
Ready, Steady, Robot
For Operations at Heartland, the stability and consistent processing that Robot provides is key. Not only product reliability, but company stability as well. Charles explains, "You’re putting funds back into development and enhancing products. We've watched the products—there just isn't anything else on the schedule side that touches what you guys do. It was a no-brainer."
Even Fiserv Support has grown used to seeing Robot references in their customers' jobs. "I've talked to some of the other banks," continues Charles. "Most of the time, if they're on the iSeries, they're using Robot."
We spoke with Heartland on the first of the month and, as we were signing off, Charles gave us an amazing parting gift: "Everything ran so well last night in Robot Schedule. When I first started here 15 years ago, month-end was this huge deal—you had all this extra stuff you had to do. Now, it's just another day."
We're a pretty aggressive, fairly fast-growing company, so when we put in an application we want to make sure we can function at twice our size in a few years with the same application. With [HelpSystems] that’s not an issue. In fact, you guys help us automate other processes.
Charles Bertsch, Computer Operations Manager, Heartland Financial USA, Inc.