Workflow Management & File Transfer Automation
Before we delve into the concept of Workflow Automation, we first need to start with topic of file transfers (sometimes referred to as data transfers).
File transfers can sometimes be an overlooked and underestimated function within businesses. In many companies it is something that is just left to the IT department to worry about. However, file transfers can play a critical part to the day-to-day running of business processes and operations. With the proliferation of the digital era and big data, vasts amounts of files in a plethora of formats are being transferred every day.
There is a pressure on IT teams and professionals to ensure these transfers are executed successfully, securely and in a timely manner. This is where time and resources can be strained and exhausted. An ever increasing problematic area that companies are experiencing is that from homegrown, custom scripts (sometimes referred to as D-I-Y Scripting). For example, a solution crafted by a technically talented IT team member may have worked well 5-10 years ago. However, are these manual, DIY scripts still fit-for-purpose and a match for the demands we face in 2022? In modern day business, aspects such as data security, compliance and accuracy are of paramount importance. In an attempt to minimise business risk it is important for companies to take a step back and assess their current file transfer practices.
So where does Workflow Automation factor into file transfers? A workflow is essentially a series of predefined tasks that run in a particular sequence. In other words, when we have a desired end goal, our workflow would be the set of actions or steps to achieve this goal. Transferring files is a process that involves a set of tasks. If we analyse these processes more than not we will be able to identify common triggers and predictable patterns that could be transferred into workflows and then in turn automated.
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What is Workflow Automation?
Workflow automation (in a file transfer context specifically) is a programmatic process that allows the movement of files independently, free from human interference and involvement. It allows users to program when files should move between internal systems, users, or trading partners.
What are the benefits of MFT Workflow Automation?
The best way to illustrate the benefits of an automated workflow is to compare it to a manual file transfer. A manual file transfer process may require an individual to wait on transfers before they are able to initiate the next step in the sequence of tasks or it may require them to process data from one format to another. Also, human error is a factor within the process to account for whether steps are missed which can lead to transfers failing and time required for troubleshooting.
By utilizing workflow automation effectively it can lead to time-saving, cost-savings, increased productivity as well as minimizing risk and freeing up valuable resource.
What are the risks of FTP Custom Scripts?
In the past it has been commonplace for IT departments to adopt a DIY approach to file transfer processes and we can’t blame them. Particularly for a business function that may have been overlooked, under resourced and poorly understood. Early days these may have started with manual processes then evolved to legacy FTP scripted solutions.
These homegrown scripted solutions are trying to handle an ever increasing number of files transfers and contend with a number of complex integrations.
In addition to a loss of productivity, this can invite a range of issues including a lack of control, data security, compliance and visibility. Ultimately, these will impact on a businesses time, resources and costs.
What is the difference between workflow automation and RPA?
Workflow automation and RPA can be often confused and used interchangeably but there are differences. RPA differs to workflow automation in that it can automate entire workflows from beginning to end, without the need for human input, through a series of rules set by the business.
A real-world example of this would be invoice processing, for example, with RPA, you can create rules to send invoices to the right person for approval automatically. You can also automate the PO-matching process to mark any errors for further review before submitting the payment.
Whereas, workflow automation automates specific tasks within a business process or workflow which could be transferring client data to a trading partner, which is a very specific task. Typically, RPA would be considered a more versatile solution but that does not necessarily mean it is the most suitable solution.
How does cloud migration and storage impact on file transfer solutions?
In the past, manual FTP may have been sufficient, particularly when businesses housed their own servers or datacenters. Many businesses have seen the benefit from offloading various IT services to the cloud (Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud etc). What this means is that your businesses data no longer resides locally within the local network. The challenge this poses is that companies data is stored in different places, in a number of different repositories and this may require synchronisation. Also, as we deal with more complex integrations, it highlights the need for greater protection, encryption and security of business data, especially while in transit. It’s not surprising that areas such as encryption, cybersecurity and data loss prevention (dlp) feature heavily within IT Roadmaps and Business Strategy. Coviant Software provide best-in-class PGP encryption of data. Also, with Diplomat MFT, you can also initiate, terminate, and monitor file transfer jobs and more from app servers or using your DevOps tools or enterprise job management platforms.