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OpCon OverviewUNIXBusinessApplication

What is OpCon?

OpCon is a robust and flexible platform capable of scaling up to meet the needs of clients running 140,000+ daily jobs across multiple environments and operating systems. Our proven migration framework helps clients painlessly transition from outdated or cost inefficient platforms thanks to our deep organizational expertise, REST API, and extensive library of legacy connectors. We have a variety of consulting options available for clients and offer no-cost training for the life of the contract.

OpCon Buyer's Guide

Download the OpCon Buyer's Guide including reviews and more. Updated: November 2021

OpCon Customers

LOHR, Carnival Cruise Lines, Herbalife, Digital Federal Credit Union, Synergent, Frandsen Bank & Trust

OpCon Video

Pricing Advice

What users are saying about OpCon pricing:
  • "There are different add-ons, like the Self Service or Vision model. It all depends on what agents you have in your environment. We have a mainframe and Windows, and while I think SQL is free, SAP or anything beyond that has different connectors that might need a license."
  • "SMA is big on free training. They do monthly training down at their headquarter office. As long as you own the product, the only thing you pay for is your employees' travel expenses. The training is free. They are willing to train people and give them the knowledge. That way, you are equipped to do what you need to do."
  • "The cost is just shy of $20,000. That's for two licenses annually, production, and failover. It is a pricey solution. Comparatively speaking, you can certainly find schedulers which are cheaper. In some cases, you can find ones that are free or use free solutions. However, OpCon is by far the superior quality product, and you pay for that. This also has a cost savings associated with an FTE, so you can more than outweigh the cost of the solution if you were to reduce the staff that you have onsite. Plus, this means that you don't need to have someone during irregular hours."
  • "OpCon cost us $80,000 in 2017 money, and that included everything: support, installation, onsite assistance during the conversion, etc. It's been a worthwhile investment by far."
  • "Yearly, it's around $30,000."

OpCon Reviews

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NickWilcox
Senior Applications System Analyst at Frandsen Financial
Real User
Top 20
It streamlined our processes allowing full-time employees to be repurposed

Pros and Cons

  • "We recently did a branch acquisition of another bank, though not a full bank. With that, we had to convert all of their ACH transactions. It was a very complicated product that we received from our core provider, Fiserv, for some translation programs. It was very cumbersome to run through the process, convert it out, get output files, etc. Without anyone touching it, I was able to automate the full process from pulling in the files from this other bank, converting everything needed, and posting it to our customer's account 24-hours throughout the day."
  • "It's not something you can just quickly grab, try, run, and play with. You have to get the knowledge and train yourself. It was easy for me, but I also took the time to throw myself into it. There is a learning curve to a certain extent. You have to learn the rules."

What is our primary use case?

We are an in-house Fiserv Premier bank. This solution allows us to automate a lot of the core processing. 

How has it helped my organization?

This is outside a bit of the day-to-day. We recently did a branch acquisition of another bank, though not a full bank. With that, we had to convert all of their ACH transactions. It was a very complicated product that we received from our core provider, Fiserv, for some translation programs. It was very cumbersome to run through the process, convert it out, get output files, etc. Without anyone touching it, I was able to automate the full process from pulling in the files from this other bank, converting everything needed, and posting it to our customer's account 24-hours throughout the day.

We run the ACH process around the Fed window about four times a day: 2:00 am, 10:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 7:00 pm. We are not staffed all those hours. If someone were to actually run through all those steps, it would take maybe 15 minutes per each file.  This is if someone were to manually do it. So, that adds up. The main thing is we can let it run at two in the morning without staff.  It of course ran in less than 10 minutes, since it was automated. 

The product allows our full-time employees to be repurposed, not eliminated. We turn ourselves from operators who used do everything to reacting or being proactive. 

We have a night operator whose whole evening was just initiating, running everything, and watching it. My predecessor and I have been doing a staggered approach, taking these tasks out of the night operator's hands and putting them into OpCon. This still gives her the control where she can initiate via the Self Service portal. Now, we're hitting that phase where I can start to let it run on its own. She's become more reactive with the handful of things that she's still doing.

Our night operator loves it. Granted, she is one of those people who is always up for change and improving things. The way that she used to run things in the IBM mainframe was more isolated. She would see the output as a whole: That process A and process B were running, but she didn't actually know the details. With OpCon, she likes to have it up to watch it (not that you have to have someone watch it closely). She uses OpCon because it is easier for her to troubleshoot if something were to come up by seeing where things are at, what step it is on, and observing colors change.

The team members' reaction to the change has all been positive. Everyone has a different feel for it, but everyone sees the positive. I do my best to put a positive spin on it. It's not so much taking anything away from anyone. It's just converting it into OpCon, running it, then determining, "Is intervention needed? Can it run on its own?" 

What is most valuable?

Anything that is file movement related is awesome. Whether you are outsourced or an on-prem in-house bank (like us), you're not just fully in-house anymore. There are so many different third-parties that you work with now. With the amount of files going back and forth between end users or simply from the core to different vendors, this is the best part about the solution, streamlining and letting it run. Whether that's constantly throughout the day, certain times of the day or month, or a specific 16th day of the month, that's probably the most helpful because there is no operator that you have to wait on. We can just push it through a traditional FTP or SMTP.

It's very helpful, as we can move quite a few files all at the same time from a server level instead of having someone at their workstation downloading a 100 files. E.g., I created a process with our recent branch acquisition that we did early last year, where files were moving between the acquiring bank (us) and the selling bank. I put on our Self Service portal buttons for execution, that said, "As file's become available..." Then, my conversion team could have access without waiting on me to pull in stuff. If they knew that the selling bank put out some large conversion files, they can go out and simply hit a button. It would go out, grab it, and in a matter of minutes, be available to them on our public shared drive versus trying to pull that down via a secure site. 

What needs improvement?

The solution is what you want out of it. It's not something you can just quickly grab, try, run, and play with. You have to get the knowledge and train yourself. It was easy for me, but I also took the time to throw myself into it. There is a learning curve to a certain extent. You have to learn the rules. There are so many different ways that you can do things in it. If you were to survey five of my peers and me, I'm sure we all work on it differently. There is no one outcome of it. This is not to say that you can't pick it up out-of-the-box, but the way SMA trains you is on their standards of using it. You have to know the concepts of it, the different terms, and how you apply things. If you are using Windows, patch scripts, or mainframe things, it's not always an apples to apples thing. There's a bit of different translation into the product.

There is a current way to help hone in on detail that you are trying to visually show. For example, they have an add-in product (Vision) that we haven't purchased. The way the add-in product works is taking tagged data and categorizing it into a tiled report view.  It's actually live and constantly updating.  I like the visual / workflow side of OpCon, since I take the time to make it viewable from a visual standpoint.  Right now, I have a hard time if I want to translate what I'm doing to show folks who aren't users an overview. While I know SMA has an option for this, it's just more data. How can I show everything without my CIO needing to login to OpCcon and having me showing him the flowchart? A different way to report visually for other people to see processes would be my only improvement.

I would like to see more connectors to other various things. However, this has more to do with other vendors holding back with their applications.

Custom Templates for common jobs.  I do a lot of copying and pasting for jobs, that it would be easier if I could have my own templates.  Also Custom Documentation, that could flood to multiple job types vs. similar documentation on the same job being typed up.



For how long have I used the solution?

A little over two years now.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is good. The only time we've ever had an issue was simply due to internal system issues. For example, we recently had something where our SQL Server had connection issue.  All systems were down. I've never (knock on wood) had an issue with any of the agents or application itself. 

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

70 percent of our manual day-to-day processes have been automated by OpCon. 30 percent of the overall daily and nightly processing take more time to do. Taking individual processes that were standalone and putting them in was one thing, but then taking and tying them altogether is that 30 percent. Basically, if you're taking the human element out of it, you have to build it so you are comfortable with it and can rely on it. That is where the time comes into it. I'm very thorough. I go through it and make sure I can cover common outcomes. For example, "Is this going to make sense? What if this happened?" You build in all this stuff so the way you rely on it, you do not have to worry about it. Whereas, with that human element, they know what to do and where to jump around. Someone who is seasoned will know how to make decisions along the way, and you have to sort of program some of that in. This doesn't apply for everything, but in some cases, it does. 

To get it expanded out to that additional 30 percent, it will probably be done in the next year with everything that is going on. Though, I would love to have it done in the next couple of months, but when an acquisition comes in, that is the priority.

I like going out throughout the entire bank and finding behind the scenes processes that other people are doing which we could help with. If it's just file movements, taking data that they are manipulating, moving things around, or simply just triggering a process, that is the fun side of my job. To sit down, look at a process, take it, and if I can, free up a quarter of someone's day by automating it, that is fun. Working with other departments in the bank, getting to learn a bit about their areas is a fun learning opportunity. Their tasks don't have to be automated either, it can be streamlined by giving them Self Service buttons. It is about making the task more efficient for the user.

The more things that are new and introduced in our environment, they go right into OpCon. It's more understanding, "How do does OpCon help us do that?" and, "Is there a tie in for it?" 

The scalability is huge.

I am the primary who maintains it. There are also two other individuals who are in a similar role to me: my immediate supervisor and another colleague. They both have access. My supervisor just relies on me to train him as needed, then the other colleague is able to jump in and interpret a lot of my stuff. However, we're divided. He's in charge of this and I am in charge of that, but we do cross-train. Beyond that, there is a night operator. She is Tier 1 support. She can help react to job failures and work on smaller things. If it's above her, then she defers it to me.

There are three different departments who use the Self Service besides us. They don't use the automation side of it, though. They use the Self Service to run a process or generate something. This is mainly our accounting department. They are very tied into it, but they don't see the automation side of it. They just know that they need to push a button and things happens. Also, our item processing area and the conversion team use the Self Service.

How are customer service and technical support?

You have to put the effort into the training and learning. SMA is big on free training. They do monthly training down at their headquarter office. As long as you own the product, the only thing you pay for is your employees' travel expenses. The training is free. They are willing to train people and give them the knowledge. That way, you are equipped to do what you need to do. Then, obviously, they're available for support and assistance from there, but it's only for what you need above and beyond on that.

The technical support is good. I don't use it that often because they're very good about training you. It's more if I have a question, or something small comes up, then I can open a case. Otherwise, I have what they call blocks of hours. E.g., if I'm scratching my head or trying to think through how do I want to develop something? Then, I tap into my block of hours with a dedicated specialist who is assigned for our bank. It all depends on what's going on. If it's something brand new or different that I'm doing, then I'll touch base with them and run it by them. Otherwise, the block of support hours is mainly for upgrades and stuff like that.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

Before, we did use file transfer stuff, which was a bunch of "if" and "then" statements. We were executing with that. But, that was very limited to what the application could do. Whereas, OpCon is a whole different game changer of what you can do from an enterprise level.

As a bank, there used to be a lot of full-time employees who would just run checklists all day doing manual steps. Whereas, with this product, we can automate the full day to a certain extent. There is still some intervention or items that are more user driven. Instead of our operators running the day-to-day, they just initiate certain phases of it. Then, we rely heavily on the Self Service portal and building out that stuff for our operators to use. They very much enjoy that.

Prior to OpCon, the organization used a lot of scripting in its own server. A big selling point for OpCon was its automation on an enterprise level. Converting everything to OpCon moved everything to one place. 

The nice thing at Frandsen is management sees the need and results of all the automation. They took an investment with my predecessor buying the product and we continue to see great results.

How was the initial setup?

I was not here for this bank's initial setup, but I was previously involved with the setup of OpCon at another bank.

I've worked at five different banks and each bank operates differently in the way they have things locked down or how things are completed for projects. The setup was pretty straightforward. You just get the database and application up and running, and then, the mainframe agent up and running, which is especially important for a bank,. 

The database and mainframe side of the setup are always sort of tricky no matter what application you're working with, but it was pretty straightforward. It was up and running, then we trained and helped start to set up things for how we wanted to move forward. So, I thought it was good.

The deployment took about a day, but the bank that I worked for was very locked down when, e.g., trying to get things to open up and the right resources from SQL DBA. But, the actual application on the mainframe side, that's a no-brainer and seamless.

It took a couple weeks to deploy our first process because you have to test and get comfortable with it. We only automated a couple core things at the time because the main focus of getting OpCon in the bank was that they wanted a very cumbersome process streamlined.

At my current organization, I know that deploying the first process took them a couple months because they wanted to a lot of testing before they implemented it.

My implementation strategy is going for the easy stuff first to get a feel for it. Then, I can quickly turn things around on a small scale. Afterwards, I will graduate to that larger scale. With each implementation that I did, I evolved myself and how I wanted to do it, what I learned, etc. Because the other bank versus this bank were on two different mainframes, I had to translate a bit and think through things differently. I like doing the smaller things first, but now that I'm two and a half years into it overall, I can chew off the big things right away too. I'm not afraid of them, and they're fun, exciting, and more thrilling than the easier stuff.

What about the implementation team?

We deployed it ourselves.

To deploy OpCon, you just need someone who is fluent on SQL DBA. SMA tells you there are two different approaches: If you want a whole group of people to help or if you want a train the trainer approach. 

What was our ROI?

When you take the human element out of it, someone is not interrupted nor are they delayed. They are not hung up on another thing that they are already working on. That's the nice thing about OpCon. We have the time to react to things and are not holding things up. So, if you add up those 10 minutes 15 times a day for our processes, that's quite a bit, especially for the repetitive stuff. It's easy to automate it, then it just does what you need it to do. It just runs. 

This has overall reduced our data processing times in our environment by approximately 50 percent. The nice thing is we can spread work out. If you need to have employees onsite for the ACH processing, someone has to come in early, then probably stay a bit late on that end of the shift. Now, we're spreading it out. With the ACH, if you're doing it with just an employee, then you're only doing it during working hours. Now, we can run things over a 24-hour span, spreading it out. 

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

There are different add-ons, like the Self Service or Vision model. It all depends on what agents you have in your environment. We have a mainframe and Windows, and while I think SQL is free, SAP or anything beyond that has different connectors that might need a license.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

At my previous company, we did not look at other solutions because we knew SMA was the most well-known within our industry. 

At my current bank, they did look at HelpSystems. It was between HelpSystems or SMA OpCon. Ultimately, they went with OpCon.

What other advice do I have?

Take your time. Think about it. Once you start to create different concepts and learn them, come up with naming conventions, your own rules, and go by them. This way, everything is similar. It's easier for me to train my operators if it all looks the same.

Ease of use depends on how you set it up. It is there, but it all depends on what you want to do with it and how much time you want to put into it. If you just want to move some files around and keep things looking the same, it is easy to use. But, if you want to do some tricky stuff, you have to put some time into it, making it look clean and understandable for you and everyone else. You also have to document a bit, but that is sort of case by case.

I come up with rules, trends, conventions, prefixes, etc. that I'll find sometimes six months later. Then, I'm like, "Ah, I like this a lot better. I'm going to set this as my own standard going forward." I am evolving myself and constantly making it easier for me to use.

The solution expands my creativity when looking at processes.

I would rate the solution a nine (out of 10). It is in its own league. OpCon makes my job so much easier. SMA is a great company and partner.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
TobyFinnegan
Director of IT at Frontwave Credit Union
Real User
Top 20
Reliable, consistent solution that simplifies our processes

Pros and Cons

  • "The solution has streamlined operations. We have written custom jobs to do particular things, but OpCon is definitely the one that manages running them at particular times. Often times, those jobs have to run after hours. So while we still develop and spend time and man-hours writing code, once it's done, OpCon is running that in the afternoons or evenings. This is usually done during off hours when a person would normally be required to be here and do it. Instead, OpCon is available, consistent, reliable and easy to get things in and working quickly once we develop and get them working. OpCon takes care of the entire process, including notifications that we define if something were to happen so we know what to do next. Again, it's simplifies the entire process."
  • "I would like to have an interface with PowerShell. PowerShell has a lot of functionality. We use it a lot because we're a Windows shop. Having a built-in tool or interface with PowerShell would go a long way."

What is our primary use case?

We use it predominantly, and almost exclusively, for core processing with our financial system.

How has it helped my organization?

OpCon makes it so we are lights-out for most of our morning and evening processes. 

It makes it super easy to notify us when something is wrong. It allows us to incorporate a wide range of custom processes or notifications. It's pretty agnostic in terms of how it does things. It doesn't matter how you've been doing things. As long as it can be called and given a command line parameter or interface parameter of some sort, it works really well. The biggest attractor is it allows us to incorporate so many different processes that wouldn't normally work together, making it a seamless schedule of events that happens and is really easy to both manage, update, change, and review. It's just a really slick piece of software that makes things super easy.

From the sixth through the 17th, that is where we have some sort of processes that have been out for the day. We have 324 schedules, 177 subschedules, and 2,996 jobs defined. Everyday, we have about 30 different processes defined. On special days, like end of month, first of the month, etc., we have a lot of stuff to find in there, which means there's no person doing it. It's all done by the system, taking that workload off of having a person. We are able to make sure that we have people concentrate on the things that really require a person and not the remedial tasks. This has been a huge advantage to having the software.

Our manual processing has been automated in the realm of 70 percent by this solution. There are only a few things that we still do which require a human touch.

The solution has streamlined operations. We have written custom jobs to do particular things, but OpCon is definitely the one that manages running them at particular times. Often times, those jobs have to run after hours. So while we still develop and spend time and man-hours writing code, once it's done, OpCon is running that in the afternoons or evenings. This is usually done during off hours when a person would normally be required to be here and do it. Instead, OpCon is available, consistent, reliable and easy to get things in and working quickly once we develop and get them working. OpCon takes care of the entire process, including notifications that we define if something were to happen so we know what to do next. Again, it's simplifies the entire process.

The solution freed up employees to do more meaningful work as a result of automation. However, tasks like managing user credentials, permissions, or access takes a human eye to determine what to do next unless it's something very straightforward. I can't really have OpCon go through and determine that user X needs to be moved to group Y unless it's a scripted piece. That still takes a human eyes and is done by people. OpCon has taken away things that happen repetitively every day, regardless of what's going on. It has definitely allowed us to separate those two process.

We have three employees (four including myself) who have been doing these processes in some capacity in the system. The workload that I would normally be doing, I push a lot of those jobs over into this and define a lot of them. Probably anywhere from 20 to 30 percent of what I do, I've been able to offload in OpCon. For the other staff, the evening and morning procedures are the biggest in terms of freeing up time because these are the things that we do before we open and after we close. Of those processes, nearly 90 percent of what we would normally have done with a person have been moved over.

Our employees are happier doing things that require them to think. When you're doing the same task over and over again, it's pretty remedial. It is nice to have a system take care of that for you. People tend to want to be able to think about what they are doing and have some brain processing going on instead of doing simple data entry. Overall, I expect that they're happier about the piece that they're working on versus doing the things that OpCon never complains about, which is the same thing every day.

What is most valuable?

  • Scheduling
  • Job concurrency
  • Failover
  • Failed job notifications 

The schedule processing is our biggest reason for using it.

What needs improvement?

As you're doing a scheduler, oftentimes you end up doing some of the same things over and over again as you define jobs. There are generally some well-used use tools available that the system can interact with. My suggestion is try to find ways to have built-in interactions with those pieces of software. As an IT person, and I say this with caution because I know what it means to code something to a piece of software you have no control over, I would like to have an interface with PowerShell.

PowerShell has a lot of functionality. We use it a lot because we're a Windows shop. Having a built-in tool or interface with PowerShell would go a long way. At the same time, it's not like I can't do it externally. This is probably more like a suggestion than it is a complaint. 

For how long have I used the solution?

The solution was purchased before I got to the company, which was in April 2012,

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability is near perfect. I won't say it is perfect, but I've never had a database error (knock on wood), corruption, or system loss that wasn't due to something else, like a power failure. The software has always operated. It always returns appropriate messages. It's very reliable.

The director of IT and a data center analyst are the ones who manage it overall. We write the jobs. We do the initial QA, essentially maintaining the system directly.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I know that we use only a portion of what is available. While we do a lot in it, we don't actually do any multinet code. We're very limited on most of our processing, which is sequential, since we are a financial institution. Almost all of our schedules are: job one, job two, then job three. This is versus doing a lot of submitting of maybe hundreds or thousands of jobs at one time every few minutes. We're really linear, so we're not even using the full capacity of the scheduler, which allows for things where you do several different nodes producing different jobs at different intervals which all interact or don't interact. We don't do that. We're pretty straightforward.

We have four people who directly use it. We then have a group of about six individuals who use the extended version. This is an interface that goes through a web browser that then pulls jobs and runs them.

The direct users are called computer operators. They are the ones who run jobs on the core financial system, which is what this is primarily doing. They will interact with failed jobs. They will, in some cases, manually start jobs and review processing to ensure things are working as expected. There are two subsets of those individuals that actually create new jobs and make changes. The additional six people that I mentioned are just users. They will go in and specifically call a select number of jobs to start processing in any particular process.

We have small plans to increase usage. It comes down to whether or not it can be fully automated and does it benefit the institution as well as us to automate it. In some cases, it's a very small task where you're maybe modifying a file and sending it somewhere. That may or may not be easy to automate. In which case, I am less inclined to put it in because it takes too much time to build up. Other times, it's a process that gets filed from a vendor or posted to the core, then sends out an automated report. Those are the things that I like to put in it because I don't want to touch it at all. Therefore, it really depends on the complexity of the process, then the value of automating it. 

Overall, we are primarily focused on things that relate to our financial activity. There are 10 to 15 percent of the jobs that we have defined that don't do something directly related to the financial system. That probably will increase over time, but not nearly as much as what we do for the financial system.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support is very high in terms of quality and response. I have open up maybe four or five tickets over the course of a year. The type of tickets that I open are either clarification on a new feature or a request for support on doing an upgrade, and that's just to make sure I have someone to fall back on since we have never had an issue. The last ticket I open typically every year is a status update on our new license after renewing. So, it's pretty limited on what we ask for. Again, we're sort of a specialty organization. Being a credit union, an automation of jobs is generally focused around the financial system with most of our jobs being linear. This kind of limits the complications that we've run into. For us, the support has been a great resource that we rarely call.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

On a scale of one to 10, where 10 is simple, super easy, and effective, that's what I would give it. At my prior work, we had another scheduler, and it was okay. It did its thing, but OpCon is, by far, super awesome.

The solution I used previously was called ISE, and it was related to another core provider and the solution that they provided. This was probably at least 10 years ago. I switched because I came to this institution who was using SMA before I got here. So, I adopted it simply because it was the resource that we had. I don't regret it one bit.

I'm kind of jaded now because I've been using this solution for so long. My previous solution was obviously an older version, so I'm comparing against something from way back when it was more convoluted. It was harder to get the results that I wanted from the interactions with different jobs. Having used OpCon for the last eight years, I'm familiar with how all the different pieces of how I set something up. It's super easy to set things up. At this time, I don't know that I have a good comparison against another software.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was pretty straightforward. It's a nice piece of software that gets installed. There's a database configuration with a the support crew. 

We scheduled the deployment for a day, and it took just a few hours.

It didn't take so long to put it together. It was pretty simplistic. It took maybe 30 minutes to an hour to get something in there and test it out to the point where we were happy with how it was operating, then using it going forward and making any changes. Initially, it probably took 30 to 60 minutes to get something in there (the first time). That's mostly going through testing as well as developing. It isn't just putting it in there. Putting it in there, you could probably get a reasonable schedule defined in less than 10 minutes. But, if you're talking about running it, fixing errors, etc. related to scripts, not necessarily related OpCon, it takes probably about 30 to 60 minutes. Nowadays, setting something up, it takes me less than 10 minutes to define a simple or basic process.

What about the implementation team?

The deployment was all internal; it was the staff here. We educated ourselves. We didn't even go through any formal training. We had a few remedial schedules that had been built before I started with the help of SMA just to define a few processes. From there, we used those as an example for QA, testing, etc. to find out what worked best for us. We developed those through actual use and best practices internally.

The way it was initially set up, support crew got in and validated the installation that the database was correctly set up and the interaction between the software and database was good. It was pretty straightforward and smooth. We did an upgrade. We paid for SMA to do a review of our system, as well, to ensure the upgrade was good, and there were no issues with that. It was a pretty clean install, and it worked out really well.

Our implementation strategy was mostly to define the processes that required no interaction from a person to begin with and create those jobs and schedules in OpCon, then test them out. From there, we would move onto more complex processes that may have required file drops or something like that. So, there was a trigger. Initially though, it was just to find the jobs that could be done right now that required no interaction and have those all implemented, tested, and working, then move into a more complex mode. Over the course of three to four months, we moved from having basic jobs to adding in a bit more complexity, then flushing out the defined larger shifts, like morning and evening.

What was our ROI?

It has reduced data processing time for some processes in the upwards of 50 percent. This is because the amount of time it takes someone to go in and type something or copy/move something over has exponentially increased. It's faster when the system is doing it because you don't have to wait for user input, so it's not necessarily that the overall process has gotten faster because searching for things or making documents still takes time. It's just the system, when it's through an automated scheduler, can go a lot faster because it can do all these things faster, not necessarily because the process itself has improved. There is definitely time savings.

If we're talking about posting a particular file, then that will definitely be done in the system a lot faster because there is no user input. As soon as the next is available, it is off to the next process. Whereas, if your user were doing it, there's evaluation, checking to make sure it worked right, and looking at some of the output. All this can be evaluated by the system very quickly, so it definitely has increased the time. I can think of one example where a morning process, back when we did a lot of it by hand, probably took anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes. Now, we're talking about 10 minutes flat.

The cost of ownership for what we have now means that I don't have to have another full body. What I pay for this software is at least one-third of what I would pay for a full body. That's a direct cost savings.

Before the solution was fully flushed out, we had someone here until well after closing and at the end of every month when we have special processing. So, there is someone always processing at the end of the month. It was a drag on both staff and personnel because anyone who did processing during end of the month or during those off times would not be here during the week at certain times or come in later. Therefore, the scheduling was sort of off. The morning process is still one where we have some additional things required of them, but the evening is totally lights out. Once we close business for the day, it's about an hour, then the staff member goes home and nobody is here. The system takes care of the rest. We've definitely seen that return, as we don't have to have that dedicated person in the evening.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

It is a pricey solution. Comparatively speaking, you can certainly find schedulers which are cheaper. In some cases, you can find ones that are free or use free solutions. However, OpCon is by far the superior quality product, and you pay for that. This also has a cost savings associated with an FTE, so you can more than outweigh the cost of the solution if you were to reduce the staff that you have onsite. Plus, this means that you don't need to have someone during irregular hours.

One of the things that I run into is when you have staff that work irregular hours, this means you don't have that same staff (or that same availability) during the time when people are here. When people call on the phone, they don't want to talk to a system. They want to talk to a person. I would much rather pay to have a person here than have a person here during off-hours when there is nobody calling. The cost savings, removing the FTE, and having the system process everything automatically, as well as give me notifications in the same way that it does it everyday and I can always expect it at the same time, that is phenomenal.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I came in after it was already purchased and in place. If I remember correctly, the CIO did the evaluation. This product was making the rounds. It was heralded by other institutions and had a good reputation.

What other advice do I have?

The cost is just shy of $20,000. That's for two licenses annually, production, and failover.

Spend time flushing out the processes that you want. Add everything you possibly can so you don't have to do it.

Look hard at the solution that you want. I highly suggest looking at OpCon. Frankly, that's all I ever tell people about when they talk about the scheduling. I ask if they're on OpCon and if they know about it. 

Overall, I don't really have any complaints. The system does exactly what I want it to do. In this current iteration. If it never changed, it still does what I need it to do, and it does it the way I want it to happen. I'm content with the way it operates. 

I would rate it a 10 (out of 10). It doesn't have to have another version increase. It doesn't have to add any change to complete what I need it to do right now. If it stayed exactly the same, I would still be happy.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
Learn what your peers think about OpCon. Get advice and tips from experienced pros sharing their opinions. Updated: November 2021.
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EL
Director of Core Application Services at a financial services firm with 201-500 employees
Real User
Top 20
Four connectors work with KeyStone and allow us to automate every batch-processing task

Pros and Cons

  • "There's also a self-service solution manager... that allows us to enable staff to run complex automation tasks by clicking a button and entering some information. They don't have to have access to the OpCon environment to kick off those kinds of events."
  • "It would be great if you could create physically separate "clients," as I call them. I wish I could have a production client and a testing client and that they would be separate."

What is our primary use case?

We use it to run our core system, Corelation KeyStone, as well as all of our batch processing and file movement, automation, and extract processing. We also use it to automate custom Keystone updates with Infuzion, a third party tool which streamlines input to the Keystone API. 

How has it helped my organization?

It's important to keep in mind that OpCon and KeyStone, together, are a completely different animal than Spectrum and UC4. They are separate systems. They work differently. What we gained with OpCon was the ability to continue to automate everything. That was the real key for us. It's not that we got better at it. We were just able to continue that level of service, which was our goal. I can't tell you what it would be like if we switched from another automation tool to OpCon for the same core system. That's not what we did. It's just that OpCon happens to work so well with KeyStone. I don't think there's another automation tool out there that's going to be able to touch it, although other vendors have since entered this space. Automic now has connectors to KeyStone and offers a viable alternative.

Total automation is our key and Corelation, which delivers the KeyStone product, is not looking at automation. I think they know they have a good partner with SMA, so they don't think about it too much. Their point of view is that they want you to do the batch processing from within the core. SMA's perspective is, "No, you want to automate all of that." Of course, that's what we wanted as well. SMA's vision was the same as ours. What OpCon really gains for you is the ability to have total, lights-out processing in a way that the core vendor doesn't quite understand or have experience around. And it's okay the core vendor doesn't have that experience because SMA does, and that's where its real value is. It will get you to the place where you can have complete, lights-out automation.

We've automated everything that runs in the batch or customization-batch updates for KeyStone. A typical day for us has 70 schedules and 496 jobs. At our credit union, we haven't had an operator since 2003. An operator is in the role where, when someone at a certain time of a day is running a batch job through the system, they're watching to see what happens with it. They're making sure the files are in the right place and the output goes where it's supposed to. We replaced that in 2003 when UC4 it started doing all that for us. OpCon has just picked up where we left off. It handles everything. And whenever it comes time to implement something new at the credit union, we're going to make sure that OpCon's driving the batch-automation on the backend.

If we're running 70 schedules and almost 500 jobs every day, we can't watch all that. There's no way. And we shouldn't have to. Automation tools are so robust, and they have been for 15 or 20 years now, that automation is a given. Any credit union is going to be automating as much as they can.

In terms of freeing up employees through automation, we've also been automating processes for other departments, not entirely with OpCon but with other solutions as well. We haven't eliminated positions as a result, but we've helped free people up to do other work by taking away repetitive tasks. OpCon allowed us to do that. They have been freed to do more challenging tasks. We would never get rid of a position because their stuff has been automated. We would just free them to do other more valuable tasks. By using Solution Manager in OpCon, we've been able to automate tasks for seven departments. Each one of those represents a task that was repetitive that we were able to automate, at least somewhat. We don't look at it as individuals or FTEs, but rather as departments that have we helped become more efficient by our automation process.

What is most valuable?

It's the entire automation landscape that OpCon provides which is valuable. The way it works with Corelation KeyStone is probably unmatched for that core system in the credit union industry. SMA has created four connectors that work with KeyStone in a way that allows us to automate basically every batch-processing or back-office task. That's the true value.

In addition to that, there's also a self-service solution manager, I believe it's called Solution Manager, that allows us to enable staff to run complex automation tasks by clicking a button and entering some information. They don't have to have access to the OpCon environment to kick off those kinds of events.

What needs improvement?

It would be great if you could create physically separate "clients," as I call them. I wish I could have a production client and a testing client and that they would be separate. We have since upgraded our license model with SMA which allows us to license a test server, which will give us better flexibility for separating prod from dev.

I know that SMA is making a push to move everything into Solution Manager, a web-based interface with OpCon. Frankly, I will be sad to see the Enterprise Manager go away. Enterprise Manager is difficult to learn at first, but once you learn it, it's very powerful and very quick to get solutions in place, to troubleshoot, and to observe your production. I really like it.

For how long have I used the solution?

In a production environment, at our credit union, we've been using it since October 2017.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

OpCon has been rock-solid. It works day in and day out and is very robust. It runs on Windows Servers, but it is a very high-availability, robust scheduler automation engine.

In two years, we've had one OpCon database issue that woke people up overnight. It halted production and SMA had a fix for it pretty quickly. That's one time in two years.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I haven't seen any concerns about scaling OpCon to automate what we need. It's been very robust and it can handle whatever we throw at it. I'm confident that as we continue to add processes into our core system, OpCon will be available to drive whatever automation we need.

We don't really plan to increase usage, but as we add new products to our core system, by default, we'll use OpCon to automate whatever we can. For example, we added mobile check deposit last summer as a product for our consumers. I realize that most financial institutions have had that for a long time. On KeyStone, our new core system, that became possible. OpCon has automated quite a few pieces of that for us, such as eligibility and sending restriction lists to the different vendors, picking up posting files, etc. We never thought otherwise, that we were going to use something else. We just said, "Okay, how are we going to get this into OpCon?" 

That's how we approach every new product that we add to our KeyStone system for our members. How are we going to automate it? Anything we can put into the automation tool, we're going to.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their support is excellent. It's one of the best I've worked with, for an automation tool, in my career. They'll pick up the phone when you call them. If you've got a simple question they'll answer it. If it's more complex, they pass it along to the right people. If you have a technical production issue, they jump on that really quickly. They do have after-hours support that we've taken advantage of. All of those things have been very valuable for us.

With UC4, our prior core system, we had to go through a core vendor and, if there was a software issue, it would take a little while for UC4 to have a fix. I don't know if that's changed with Automic, but support definitely felt once or twice removed, whereas with SMA it's very immediate.

In addition to that, SMA's development is also aggressive. They're very good. If you've got something that you want to automate, they will help you get there. They'll make a connector for it. They will enhance the connectors they do have. They will come up with a solution. That's where I think they are definitely best-in-class: their support and their development.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I wanted to see if Automic was going to work with KeyStone, our core system that we were converting to. Automic pledged to help us support that and come up with a connector for it. But in doing my due diligence, I read over what OpCon provided for KeyStone and, just by reading the documentation, I realized that we probably should go with OpCon, even though it wasn't something that I knew and it wasn't a bench strength for our organization. I realized that we weren't going to find a better partner, with robust features for KeyStone, and that we should switch.

How was the initial setup?

If I had been coming into automation cold, and OpCon was the first thing I had seen, I think I would have found it a little complex to understand. But since this is the third automation tool in my career, it was a matter of just applying what I already knew, as fundamentals, to how OpCon does things.

One thing that really helps is that SMA sends a technical account manager onsite to help you do the installation and do your configuration. They give you a block of days and you can split that up so that they will come back. Our technical account manager came out three times and, each time, we did something a little more complex with OpCon. By the time he left, the third time he was here, we had not only the basic stuff installed and ready to go, but the more sophisticated stuff, like LDAP integration, the Solution Manager, Self Service, Resource Manager — the different pieces of OpCon that were more complex or more subtle. The value is that SMA guides you through that. They provide that kind of onsite assistance.

Our deployment started in February of 2017 and we went live in October of 2017. After the initial deployment, it took us just a couple of minutes to automate our first process.

What was our ROI?

We've definitely seen return on our investment by going with SMA. When we went live with KeyStone back in October of 2017, all of our batch production was automated. In fact, we had to convince Corelation, our core vendor, to let us turn it on. They wanted us to run things manually and I said, "No. We're ready. Let's turn this on and let it do what it's supposed to do."

These are ballpark figures and the ones for Automic are pretty old. Back in UC4, we converted to version 8 in 2012, and that cost us on the order of $50,000 to upgrade. 

OpCon cost us $80,000 in 2017 money, and that included everything: support, installation, onsite assistance during the conversion, etc. It's been a worthwhile investment by far. I don't recall how much our yearly maintenance is, but it is worth the money because, when it comes time to do an upgrade, we can do it ourselves and they'll support it. We don't have to pay anything extra for it. And training is included. If I want to send some of my team members to go to training, I just have to pay for travel and expenses. So the cost of ownership has been very worthwhile.

The only additional cost with SMA would be if we need additional licenses for agents. They provide 10 licenses with the standard installation. We're using seven of them. We have three left to use. After that, we'll need to buy additional licenses for agents. We haven't gotten there yet.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

In my career I've used three automation tools, going back to something called Maestro made by a company called Tivoli, and then UC4, which is now called Automic, and now OpCon. Of the three of those, UC4 was probably the most intuitive and easy to use. OpCon, once you learn it, is easy to use, but it's a little bit of a harder interface at first. If you've come from an environment like UC4 or Automic, you don't quite have that ease of adoption that you might have had with that tool.

Once you get to know OpCon, you realize that it does all the fundamental things an automation tool should do. It does all the things that UC4 does. The fundamentals are there, and it's the same thing with Maestro.

Something that UC4 does better is something I've told our technical account manager at SMA when he came up to visit. During our implementation, our technical account manager asked, "What does UC4 do that OpCon doesn't?" One of those things is that it offers logically separate clients for doing production. UC4 allows you to set up a production client and a test client and a training client and a development client. These are all physically separate logins with separate containers. What that means is you can point your production environment to entirely production agents, and you can point your testing client to entirely testing agents. And then you can make a logon such that you can't ever cross over between areas. So there's greater safety when it comes to non-live environments.

OpCon is one database. Everything exists in one bucket, so testing schedules are there alongside development and production. So we have to be much more careful about where a given schedule is running. SMA's solution to that is that you buy a separate server and separate licensing and do that same thing. Why? I could do that with UC4 by spinning up a separate client. That's one area that UC4 has a better design than SMA, in its architecture for the system. This isn't going to change anytime soon, so we have since upgraded our license model with SMA which allows us to license a test server. This will give us better flexibility for separating prod from dev, and is something we'll work towards this year. 

Another area is running processes in an ad hoc fashion. UC4 was better at that. I could execute a job plan or a job any time I wanted to, outside of regular production and it was not a big deal. I could execute it and say, "Don't run until two days in the future at 1:30 p.m.," and it would sit out there and wait and then run. UC4 did that better.

On OpCon's side, it does all the same things that UC4 will do but its connectors to KeyStone are the real keys for us in our environment. That's what makes it so valuable for us. The best differentiator is SMA's support. Their support is unlike any support I've had with an automation tool in my career, so that is the real advantage.

It's been a while since I've used UC4/Automic. That was the last automation system we used with our prior core system. It matched our core system, at the time, very well. It was all script-based, script-driven, so if you are comfortable writing scripts that drive programs, UC4 was the solution for you. We were very adept at writing script-based solutions with it. That's definitely one of is pros. I have no idea about its support. We didn't really have to contact them very much, but then, of course, we were using a static version of UC4 for five or six years. Whereas with OpCon, we can take advantage of what they're developing every year if we choose to. Some of those advantages would be such things as connectors directly into the SQL database. That's something that's new that SMA is working on. It's a pretty valuable connector.

What other advice do I have?

The biggest lesson I have learned from using OpCon is that it is perfectly suited to Corelation KeyStone. Automic entered the KeyStone arena in 2020 with their product, which has the same connectors now that OpCon has. Although I haven't seen it in action I know of one credit union who coordinated the integration and uses it in production. I'm sure for 
CUs converting to KeyStone who already are enterprise with Automic, this will be welcome news. For us, though, we decided to go all in with OpCon for KeyStone and do not regret the choice.

On my team, we have seven people and all seven are at least familiar with logging in and observing production with OpCon. Three of them are tasked with implementing new solutions into OpCon and supporting configuration and troubleshooting of existing solutions. We've also got seven departments using it through Self Service, with multiple people in each department using OpCon. One department has almost everyone in there. That's a lot.

SMA has a real vision and they support it. They've got the development team and the support team behind it.

I give it a nine out of 10. That one issue about a blurry line between production and development and test is the one thing that might slow us down a little bit when we are testing. We have to be very careful. Otherwise, the product itself is rock-solid. It's got everything in there that you need. Their support is excellent. Their development is aggressive. There's really nothing more that you could want from this vendor. It really is one of the best out there that I've seen in my career. It's perfectly suited for KeyStone. Now, if I looked at Automic for DNA, I might have a different opinion, but those are completely different systems.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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Janice Scott
Associate Dean of Enterprise Systems at a educational organization with 501-1,000 employees
Real User
Top 20
Enabled us to run a dark data center and reassign staff to other projects, and our productivity has increased with automation

Pros and Cons

  • "The whole product is valuable to us because of the integrations that it has with the MCP and the Windows environments. You have to have the agent on each one of them that you want to monitor. The integrations that we have created are along the lines of extracting files and sending them through SFTP to another vendor. Those are the things that were taking a lot of time away from my staff."
  • "Stability is an area for improvement. There are FTP agents that run on the MCP and they are there so that we can transfer a file from the MCP to the Windows environment or vice versa. Sometimes, and nobody has been able to figure out why, it just goes down, and all of my jobs that need it are hanging or failing... It would be very helpful if they could figure out what in the world is happening with that FTP client that's on the MCP."

What is our primary use case?

We have a very small IT shop. I have two helpdesk people, three programmers, and an assistant director. We were running all of our jobs manually. I had a nighttime person and a daytime person in the operations area, and we started getting into more integrations and it was taking a lot of time away from staff to upload data to other vendors.

We also use it for resource monitoring when we are waiting for files to come in from other departments. As soon as they come in, we pick them up and process them and that's been a lifesaver, as well, for both the user department and for our department. 

We also use it to monitor emails.

We have the dependency with the Unisys MCP product and two Windows boxes that we have the agent on. So it's for multi-platform dependencies. We're trying to use it to the hilt and get as much bang for the buck from it as we can.

How has it helped my organization?

We now run a dark data center. All of our processing is done at night without anybody there. The majority of our jobs are automated. We couldn't do without it.

We had a sister institution that is on the same platform, the Unisys platform for MCP. I tried to get them to understand the benefits of it because it was just so hard not to have it. If we were to do away with it, it would be crippling.

It has enabled us to do other things. By not having to run jobs and submit data to other vendors, it leaves us with all of that free time so we can work on other projects. For instance, a person who was an operator can now start helping us with developing forms online, with workflows, or with some other integrations. It has changed the nuances of people's jobs. And it really has benefited the college because we don't have to have a nighttime person. We can reallocate those resources in another area.

It has saved IT staff time. It's also monitoring if a job fails and we get notifications immediately so that we can react, rather than having somebody sitting here watching the machine run and worry, "Did I miss something? Did that job fail?" It's actually monitoring all of those jobs, and letting us know if they succeeded or failed. And if you think about the nighttime staff that we don't have anymore, and the other monitoring that we would be doing during the day, it's probably saving us a good eight hours a day.

The automation of manual tasks using the solution reduces human error. Nobody has to think about, "Oh, did I do this check?" It's all within the workflows that we created. If there's an error, it could cost two hours of time in the morning to research and correct the problem. There still are errors, but they're more along the lines of, "I forgot to put it in the correct date," or something like that in the parameters. In making sure that everything runs step by step by step, it probably saves a good two hours, as far as error checking goes.

The Self Service feature is used by the payroll department. When they're ready for a payroll, they have a product called SMA Selector, a little dashboard we created to run payroll proof, and run the final. They can run it themselves when they're ready. That has helped a lot because they don't have to call us up and say, "Okay, we're ready for payroll." 

We also have a document management system and the reports go right into it through OpCon, after they finish, because of the automation of moving files back and forth. It's really saved on the payroll process as well. In terms of the Self Service feature reducing the complexity of the technical aspects of the workload automation, we still had to set it up, although that was very simple. And it has eliminated that hand-holding with the payroll department. They have everything at their fingertips. They can create the payroll and then they can run the payroll. Having everything there, they're in total control. They're self-sufficient.

OpCon has increased my department's overall productivity because of all of the things that we're doing through automation, and with all of the integrations with our LMS, our learning management system. We would not have been able to do what we are doing today if it wasn't for OpCon because things were so manual. Users outside my department don't know that prior to having OpCon, back in 2002, I had to have an operator run a job and then submit a file or files to a company every two hours. And each time it would take 15 minutes of their time. The users just knew that we had a schedule of things we we're doing. Now, since 2004 or 2005 with OpCon, that schedule has been automated and they don't know the efficiencies that we had in the IT department. The productivity increase was a good 50 percent.

What is most valuable?

The whole product is valuable to us because of the integrations that it has with the MCP and the Windows environments. You have to have the agent on each one of them that you want to monitor. The integrations that we have created are along the lines of extracting files and sending them through SFTP to another vendor. Those are the things that were taking a lot of time away from my staff.

Also, being able to push files through in different ways to different vendors, including FTP, is helpful.

One of the other features that we have is a smart starter so that users can start their own jobs from a little GUI pad that we developed for them.

But really, the whole product is valuable. If it lost any of the functionality we're using it for, it would be sad. Everything is beneficial to us. Everything that we need is here. There's already functionality for the things that we've wanted to do.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using OpCon since about 2004. We're a long-time customer.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability is an area for improvement. We just went to the new release. You have an agent that runs on the MCP, and you have an agent that runs on each Windows environment. You have SAM which is the manager of all of them, and it has to communicate with all of them.

There are FTP agents that run on the MCP and they are there so that we can transfer a file from the MCP to the Windows environment or vice versa. Sometimes, and nobody has been able to figure out why, it just goes down, and all of my jobs that need it are hanging or failing. It happens about once a week. They have not been able to resolve whatever the problem is. If we see that the job failed, we have to restart it. If it happens in the middle of the night, we're not going to know about it until the next morning. It would be very helpful if they could figure out what in the world is happening with that FTP client that's on the MCP.

Also, every now and again, the schedule builder, which builds out your schedule for the next day or however many days you're building it out for, fails. It has something to do with our virus protection. Because their customer service is so good, we're working with them and trying to figure out what the actual problem is, to get a resolution to that. They know about it and have been trying to figure it out, but it's been years and it's just one of those difficult things to troubleshoot.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We have not scaled it. We haven't needed to add anything to the system. But you can add multiple agents. You have one main server that's monitoring all these other servers. The scalability is there but, of course, it's going to cost you to get additional licenses and to have other servers being monitored.

How are customer service and technical support?

Their customer service is really good. If we have any issues we can email them or we can call for support and they're there. They're our partner. They want us to be successful. Their turnaround time and knowledge are very good.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I was at a Unite Conference and SMA was there. I went over to their booth and started talking to them and learned that it was cross-platform, which I really liked. We gave it a trial for free for three months. They came out, they installed it, and they trained us. And we found that, wow, this is really great.

I report to the VP of finance. I don't even remember what the cost was back then, but I had to sell him on it. I was going to have to sell him on anything that was going to cost over $10,000. I told him about it and I told him what we were going to be doing with it and he said, "Yeah, let's do it. Let's see what it's like." After the initial three months I said to him, "We have to have this product because of all of the benefits that it has." I shared all of the benefits with him and that's when we purchased it. We were then able to move forward with automating all of our jobs on a daily and monthly schedule, or whatever schedule was needed.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was a learning curve. We had that three month trial and SMA sent somebody for three days to come out and train us and to do our initial setup. We told him this is what we want to do and these are the jobs that we want to automate. He sat with us and mapped out a solution. We worked with him and got hands-on knowledge of it.

It was pretty straightforward after we got through the learning curve. I'm a mainframe person and I come from a world where there is a terminal emulator and you're setting up workflows that are writing code, and that's how you would set up your job. When you go to something where you can just point, click, point, click, and add a few lines, that's totally different. So we had to be retrained and retooled when we first went to this product.

They have extensive documentation and training materials, right down to error codes and troubleshooting.

Our initial deployment was a matter of a week and we were running automations. As we moved forward, after we purchased the product, we expanded it and put more automation into the tool.

Our implementation strategy was based on the use cases that we wanted to solve. I saw how bogged down the operations staff were. When we were looking at the strategy of what we were going to put in the automation for the trial period, we focused on our biggest jobs and the ones that were most time-consuming.

What was our ROI?

We have definitely seen ROI. Being a dark data center, we don't have to have nighttime staff and we can reallocate our resources. That's significant, especially when you're talking about a small organization. Our organization has 500 permanent employees and we span five campuses spread out within a 30-mile radius. Running a multi-campus facility is very expensive. Over the past 25 years I have added two employees to the MIS staff. That's it. Having SMA, which costs me $10,000 a year, means I can shut down my nighttime staff and run that dark data center. Then, the people that were doing that night work can move to day and be more productive for me and do other things and improve their skill sets as well. The return on investment is definitely there.

And I had to prove it to my finance officers, too, before we purchased it.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

In my last contract with Unisys, they tried to put SMA underneath my contract with them and I told them I do not want that. I want to deal with SMA by myself. I feel that I can negotiate better with them.

The price is the price. They offer architects and other people to come and install upgrades and such for you. What that has done for us is that it has helped us maintain a good relationship with them and also to get at their technical expertise and ask a lot of questions and such while they're on campus doing the installation and training.

The only cost beyond the standard licensing fees is when we need them to come out and do an install. We have to pay travel costs and for their technical expertise. But I do want that because we get their expertise.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I did evaluate another option. It was not at the scale of SMA because it was more an automation tool for just the MCP environment. It didn't take into consideration cross-platform dependencies. OpCon was unique in that it not only worked on the MCP environment, but also on the Windows environments, which made it a much richer solution for us.

We haven't evaluated solutions since then. In Florida, you can stay with the same vendor. You don't have to go outside and look for other vendors. Just because the contract may end, say, every two years, you don't have to go out and search for another product. And there has been no reason for me to switch. I'm not unhappy.

What other advice do I have?

Make sure that you know what you want and that you understand what the product does so that you don't purchase more agents than you need or, on the other hand, that you don't purchase fewer agents than you need. Understand what you're trying to solve before you purchase the solution. That way, you know what you want to do. And if they still offer the trial periods or the pilots, take them up on that offer.

The biggest take away from using the solution is, "Why didn't I do it sooner?" when I think about all the time that was wasted. If I had known about it sooner, I would have purchased it sooner and saved even more.

As for integrations with our own products, such as our ERP, those are with our ERP. They don't have to come out of SMA at all. One of the things that we're currently doing is extracting the enrollment information for our LMS and that's through flat CSV files. We create user files, enrollment files, and course files and send them up through SFTP or cURL. Now that we're moving to a new ERP, that integration is going to be more real-time, so we're not going to necessarily need those within the SMA product anymore. It's going to be real-time to the LMS. I'm not saying that OpCon is going away, because it's not. We're still going to need other things that it provides, that our new ERP is not going to provide for us.

What we're going to be using OpCon for will be a little bit different than what we're using it for now. Payroll won't be using the Self Service anymore, once we go live with the new HR payroll system. It's going to be totally different. What we're going to be using OpCon for is more the integrations with other vendors that are not going to be out-of-the-box with the ERP. We're going to be creating command jobs to extract data using their APIs to create CSV files to then send to the vendor through SFTP. It's not going to be as significant on the running of jobs. It's going to be more of an assistance with the integrations that we're going to be running through the new ERP.

Overall, I can't say enough about the company and the product. It's amazing.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
TF
VP IT at a financial services firm with 11-50 employees
Real User
Top 20
Automation reduces our FTE requirements and enables us to work on more interesting tasks

Pros and Cons

  • "The most valuable feature is being able to schedule tasks so that they reliably occur each day, each week, each month, or sometimes several times a day... The scheduler works as it should."
  • "It is a complex product to use. Programming the schedules is complex. It does require training from OpCon... I would like to see some online training, some videos. When I bring in a new employee... it would be nice if there was some basic information for her to look at to understand this program. Even for my systems administrator, it would be helpful if there were tips and tricks available."

What is our primary use case?

We use it as an automation tool to send and receive files and process batch jobs on our core banking system. It can also archive files for us. We use OpCon to automate anything that we can automate.

How has it helped my organization?

If I did not have OpCon, I would have to hire full-time employee to do all of the work that OpCon does. We probably save about $40,000 to $50,000 a year by being able to schedule everything. Plus it's reliable. If an employee doesn't show up for work, someone else has to fill in, and things might be late. OpCon works. I wake up in the morning and the first thing I check is my text messages. I see a text message from OpCon that End-of-Day was successful the previous evening. That way I know people can come to work and everything is on schedule.

Another benefit is that, in the past, employees would have to call the IT department to run certain batch jobs in our core banking system. We don't want to give the privilege of running a batch job to an accounting clerk because they could accidentally run a batch job that they shouldn't and cause serious problems. We were able, with an additional piece that we purchased from OpCon called Self Service — a web-based platform — to create a button for the accounting department to click. 

As an example, we have to process ACH and when an ACH file comes in, the accounting department needs to look at it for certain exceptions. And then our support services department needs to look at it for certain exceptions. When each person is done with their job, they go to their Self Service page and push a button. When OpCon sees that two buttons have been pushed, it knows it can continue with the job. So the employees don't need to call IT. We've programmed OpCon to take over the job when it knows the employees have done their jobs.

We have about 40 schedules on an average day and, within some of those schedules, multiple jobs are done. When we moved to our new core banking system, we had to do everything manually. Once we put OpCon in place, it took over doing close to all of that; about 99 percent.

We continue to look for things that OpCon can do. There might be a scenario where an accounting clerk has to download a file and open it up and put files in certain places. When we find something like that, we see if we can work through the process and let OpCon do it for them, or do part of the job for them. I know there are still things out there that can be automated.

OpCon has definitely freed up some employees to do more meaningful work as a result of automation. During our first month on our core banking system, because I was responsible for that system, I or my systems administrator pretty much spent all day manually downloading files, running batch jobs, uploading files, processing things, and moving them to archives. That was good because it was a new system. Neither of us had done those kinds of tasks. So we now understand what's involved. When it came time to program OpCon, we knew exactly what we wanted done. It was very nice to move those jobs to OpCon, one-by-one, and free up our time to go back to our regular work.

We're a small organization, there are only 35 of us. OpCon freed up three people in IT and probably the equivalent of another FTE. Someone else had to deal with getting files from the Federal Reserve and sending files and they don't have to do that anymore. OpCon does it. We're now free to work on other projects or other problems. The things that OpCon does, they're routine; it's the same thing day in and out. Go to this credit card processor and get a file, bring it over here, upload it here, run a batch job, and send out an email. It gets very boring doing that every day. There's more interesting work we can do.

We also have some jobs that take a lot of network bandwidth and we use OpCon to schedule them to run at two in the morning and they're done by four. That way, people aren't affected during the day, so we've made better use of our bandwidth.

Finally, we're in Oregon, so about once a year we might have snow to the point that they shut the city down. My SA or I can remote into the credit union and check on OpCon and make sure that all the jobs are running. We have a couple of managers who can remote in and do their pieces and push the OpCon buttons to tell OpCon to finish up the job. In the past, we had to have at least two people come into the organization to process ACH or payrolls, etc. Now, we have the ability to work remotely if necessary.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature is being able to schedule tasks so that they reliably occur each day, each week, each month, or sometimes several times a day. We are a financial institution so we need to have our core banking system up to date. We also want to make sure that the work gets done. For example, we use it for ACH deposits and payments. So if you are depending on your paycheck to be there on a certain day of the month, OpCon makes sure it's done. The scheduler works as it should.

What needs improvement?

It is a complex product to use. Programming the schedules is complex. It does require training from OpCon. As an example, I went away for a week of training. The week after I came back from that, OpCon was onsite to set up our initial schedules. At that point, my systems administrator really took over. I should have sent him to the class, but it was good for me to learn the basics. A year later, my SA ended up going to an advanced class.

I haven't been on their website in a while, but I would like to see some online training, some videos. When I bring in a new employee — as an example, my helpdesk person is going to be moving into some network tasks, and she'll be working within OpCon down the road — it would be nice if there was some basic information for her to look at to understand this program. Even for my systems administrator, it would be helpful if there were tips and tricks available. We're always looking for more learning and more education on how we make the most out of this product. Whether it's online videos or periodic webinars that are accessible online at a later time if necessary, that would be great.

The only thing that OpCon cannot do is the following. OpCon runs a batch job on our core system that creates a file. That file needs to go to a third-party vendor. The only way to get it to that vendor is through their website which has a secure login. OpCon cannot log into a website. It only uses secure FTP. So every Wednesday morning, one of my employees has to take that file and manually log in to the website and upload it. We're waiting for that third-party company to come up with an SFTP solution. Once they do that, then things will be completely automated. I don't know how complex it would be for OpCon to log into a website, but pretty much everyone uses SFTP for file transfers these days.

For how long have I used the solution?

We have been using OpCon for a little over three years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

It's a very stable product.

The only time we have to be careful of is if we have an extended power outage. We've learned that we have to bring our SQL database server up before we bring OpCon online. That's true for several other systems that we run. But otherwise, OpCon tends to work as expected.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I'm sure there's a lot of scalability, but as a small organization, we're using it as much as we can. We've not experienced any problems. 

Our company has about $130 million in assets. I know credit unions that are billion-dollar companies and they use OpCon. So I have no concerns, as we grow, that it will continue to meet our needs.

How are customer service and technical support?

The support is good. When we run into issues, we can rely on SMA to walk us through how to correct any problems or do something in a more efficient way.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We did not have a previous solution. One of my requirements, when we decided to go with our new core banking system, was that I did not want to spend my time doing these routine jobs and tasks every day. So I went out to my colleagues at other credit unions and asked them how they were managing these things. Everyone said, "You must have OpCon." I researched a little on OpCon. Our core banking platform, Corelation Keystone, put me in touch with the OpCon salesperson. They did a demo for me and I was immediately sold.

How was the initial setup?

Because we had an expert here from SMA, it was somewhat straightforward. He knew what he was doing and we had confidence in him. We didn't have any problems that I recall.

We started automating our first process on the second day of the deployment. We created some schedules and jobs that ran so that we could make sure that they worked.

An example is End-of-Day. That is a program that's done on the core banking system at the end of the day and it closes out a lot of information for accounting purposes and so forth, and then sets the date to the next day. For example, certain accounts might need dividends applied to them or loan interest charged on loans. Late notices and certificate notices need to be prepared. If it's the end of the month, there may be a statement file that goes to another vendor. We need to make sure that End-of-Day is successful. We could see the next day that yes, it was. We immediately kicked in and started getting things done.

After the OpCon person left, my systems administrator started to create new job schedules for some of the other processes that we did. One-by-one, we started moving our manual processes over to Keystone until they were all done.

What about the implementation team?

OpCon assisted us in our initial setup. They were here for three for four days. That's how long it took us to deploy the solution.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

OpCon is expensive for us as a small organization, but on the other hand, it's a lot less expensive than hiring another full-time employee.

We pay for licensing annually, including the Self Service module, a connector license to our Corelation Keystone banking platform, and for a license for each server that it's on. A lot of these are rolled up into one, but the initial implementation was a chunk of money. Now, we just pay annual maintenance.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

I did not look into other products. The recommendation for OpCon came from most of my colleagues in my industry working at other credit unions. I did not find another solution. Everyone used OpCon, and everyone really liked it and highly recommended it. So it was an easy decision. 

And SMA has a good working relationship with Corelation. They worked with Corelation to write unique jobs that run in OpCon for credit unions. That was also a very good selling point.

What other advice do I have?

The biggest lesson I have learned from using OpCon is that you really need an individual like my systems administrator who understands how a program like this works. Creating these schedules and working with the language that's required to get things done is very specialized. You have to have someone like that. Could I do it? I could, but it would take me 10 times the amount of time that it takes Sean. You do need someone on staff who understands systems, system deployment, systems operations. That's how you're able to make the most of it. The programming side of it is very basic. It's not that complex. But you have to understand how to tell it what you want to do.

Our primary user is our systems administrator; he programs everything in OpCon. I can access it when he goes on vacation and make sure that all of the jobs are working fine. At times there might be a job that failed. For example, a person is supposed to prepare a file from a third-party vendor but if they don't rename it appropriately, OpCon doesn't know what to do with it. Another example is that one of our third-party vendors will send us a file that is incorrectly prepared. OpCon won't process it. It will catch the problem and then we have to reach out to the vendor and ask for a new file. OpCon allows me to catch any mistakes that a human being makes.

We have two people using OpCon. Sean programs it and has overall responsibility for it, including deployment and maintenance. I fill in when he's not here. Luckily there aren't too many issues. I'm going to get my third IT employee involved with it more next year, to do what I do. And 10 or 12 other employees each have access to their department's site in the Self Service program. So if they're responsible for looking at the bounced-check file or ACH exceptions or paper payroll that we receive from small companies, they can do their work and push their button and that allows OpCon to finish the job.

We've been very happy with it. We're always looking for ways to use it more. We ask, "Could OpCon do that?"

I am always careful about giving someone a 10, because there's always room for improvement. But I hate to give OpCon a nine. I give them a 10.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
MT
Director of Production Control and Operations at NYSDOT
Real User
Gives us the ability to schedule dependent jobs across different mainframes

Pros and Cons

  • "There are three features which are valuable: the automated calendar functions; the notification process for failed jobs or unscheduled events occurring, via email and text messaging; and the ability for the scheduling package to communicate across multiple platforms."
  • "The calendar interface and the frequency interface is a very powerful, yet complex, section of OpCon in which all our staff have made mistakes. They have implemented what they believed was logically correct and then afterward discovered that their logic was flawed because OpCon did it a different way. That part, which is incredibly useful, is also incredibly dangerous. The interface or the ability to directly do more functions within the frequency definitely has room for expansion. As good as it is, it can be a lot better."

What is our primary use case?

We chose OpCon to replace a scheduling package that was controlling approximately 10,000 batch jobs every day. So the main purpose of OpCon, for us, is to replace an aging homegrown solution with a more advanced scheduling product that has more bells and whistles. We use it for job control. We have Enterprise Manager on desktops communicating to agents that are on our mainframe computer.

We haven't yet completed the conversion. We are about 30 percent converted right now. We still running 70 percent of the work through our old scheduling package. We have two main shops. One of them is an upstate shop and one is a downstate shop. I run the downstate shop. We have about 10,000 jobs, of which 5,000 to 6,000 are in that downstate system. We have deployed about 2,000 jobs out of a total of 6,000 jobs, downstate.

How has it helped my organization?

The part that jumps out is the notification process. The agent can now notify us, by email or text messages, when any jobs have failed or when any groups of jobs have finished successfully. Previously, it was a manual process where somebody would say, "We finished the work now," or, "A job has failed," and then they would have to start sending out emails or calling people to notify them when we received certain errors or reached certain stages in the work. That part has been automated.

We anticipate, in the future, that it will save us time mainly because, with the old scheduling package, we would have to manually identify and calculate dates for the next 12-month period. We would have to do that every single year. That's a very lengthy and accident-prone area and, by automating, we expect to see a reduction in effort from the staff.

What is most valuable?

There are three features which are valuable: 

  • automated calendar functions
  • the notification process for failed jobs or unscheduled events occurring, via email and text messaging
  • the ability for the scheduling package to communicate across multiple platforms. 

We have three mainframe computers and our previous scheduling package wouldn't communicate across the mainframes. OpCon gives us that ability to schedule jobs on mainframe A and a job on mainframe B and the latter can be dependent upon a job on A. 

Those are the key components that we've found to be beneficial.

What needs improvement?

There's a large learning curve which, for some of our less technical staff, has been an issue. It's still new to us. Every week we're finding new ways of doing things with the product. What we miss the most is having an in-house expert whom we can call upon every single day. Literally, every single day, I or my staff have to go to the documentation and work out how a certain function works or why it reacted in a certain way. And that can take a lot of time and effort. But what has been beneficial is having SMA's 800 number which we call if we can't work it out ourselves. But many times we try to work it out ourselves rather than calling them up five to ten times a day.

We're converting 200 jobs at a time or 500 jobs at a time. We'll find out, once they're in place: "Oh, wow. There's a better way that we could have done that." And then we have to go back a little bit and figure out if we should have done it this way or scheduled it that way. It's a very powerful tool and we're not always choosing the right choice the first time through, when scheduling our work. That's why we miss having somebody onsite to say: "No, you really shouldn't have done it this way." We're actually finding out sometimes the hard way.

The calendar interface and the frequency interface is a very powerful, yet complex, section of OpCon in which all our staff have made mistakes. They have implemented what they believed was logically correct and then afterward discovered that their logic was flawed because OpCon did it a different way. That part, which is incredibly useful, is also incredibly dangerous. The interface or the ability to directly do more functions within the frequency definitely has room for expansion. As good as it is, it can be a lot better.

For how long have I used the solution?

It was first installed in 2018 and we started using it for production work at the beginning of 2019, so we've been going for 10 or 11 months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability has been very good.

The downside is that when something does go wrong, most times it's a networking issue, which tends to get lost in the mix. OpCon will say, "Unable to communicate," and now we have to try and track which part of it has failed. Is it the agent that has failed? Is it the Enterprise Manager that has failed? Is it the network backbone that has failed? Or is it the SQL Server that has failed? A way in which OpCon could be improved is to better analyze things when a failure is occurring to point us in a better direction without our having to check all the different paths.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

I love the idea that we can scale it, but what I don't like is that every time I consider wanting to scale it to something else, it costs a lot of money and then I have to jump through hoops with all of my hierarchy in order to get it. So it's good and it's bad. I actually haven't seen any scalability yet because nobody has approved the enormous amounts of money that are needed to put another agent in another area.

We have about 24 active users and their main function with OpCon is purely to monitor and schedule the work on the different platforms. What I would like to see happen in the future, and I know this does exist, is to expand the user group to the client base or to the development group so that they can then see the results of their work in a read-only manner. Because we're concentrating our efforts on deployment, I haven't yet gotten around to getting that part implemented.

Ideally, I'd like to see three people on it on every shift to monitor this amount of work. Their role would be to monitor the workflow, to implement new applications into OpCon, and to ensure the frequencies and calendars are working as expected. As good as OpCon is, we still need to verify that it's interpretation of when we've told it to run the jobs actually matches up with what we really expect it to do. We just don't trust it completely yet.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support has been excellent. We had two people from SMA who were part of the project to do the conversion. Now that they're no longer available to us we miss them tremendously. But we also understand that they had to move on to other projects.

What has been beneficial, and I have no complaints about, is that every time we do encounter a hurdle of any kind, when we call the 800 number, whatever technician we speak to at the other end is extremely knowledgeable and walks us through it. But the hard part many times is that they don't necessarily know how we are set up so there's always that 10 or 15 minutes as we explain, in our terms, how we're doing business so that they can understand what it is that we could have done better or what we're doing wrong. Having an in-house expert would be extremely beneficial but that's too costly.

Having a dedicated tech from OpCon, about three months ago, would have been extremely beneficial. We used up an awful lot of the time and resources of the dedicated people who were assigned to this project when we weren't even fully aware of the questions that we were going to ask because we hadn't implemented anything yet. We had them available to us during a stage when we were still putting all of the jobs into the test system and not into the live system. That's just the way it worked out. And again, when you're trying to convert so many jobs that are mission-critical, it's very difficult to take the risk of it not working correctly, so we're being very cautious about how we implement all of our work.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup was complex. We had a training course that was given to us back in August but almost everybody who attended the course didn't actually get to use the product, hands-on, for about six months after the course. Nobody could really fully comprehend OpCon when we were first given the course. It was a very different product to what we were used to using. As a consequence, it was like a brand-new language and many of our staff couldn't wrap their heads around. It's not until you actually use it that you start to understand how this thing works.

Our deployment is still going on. I would say it's been a 12-month deployment with about another three months to go before we complete it. We're anticipating having it fully deployed by February of 2020.

The first part of the implementation was that we took a flatfile database dump of our current scheduling product and that was provided to SMA support, to Kevin Adams and Ben Adams. They loaded that into the OpCon database. Then we would project future schedules within OpCon and compare them to future schedules in our in-house scheduling package to see if the conversion had gone as expected. Once we found all of the different nuances, the different parts that had been interpreted incorrectly — meaning either their schedule dependencies or frequencies, probably because we exposed to them wrong — the next phase was to do parallel running.

We continued to run all of our work in our existing scheduling package and each day we would run the same schedules in OpCon but convert all of the jobs in OpCon to null jobs so that they performed no functions. They wouldn't start anything. They would just run and hopefully run in the same sequence as our live system.

The third phase was to actually start the conversion. We identified the least mission-critical jobs, the low-hanging fruit which were the least damaging jobs, and converted those. We turned them off in our in-house scheduling package and turned them on within OpCon. Once that proved to be successful, we then broke down jobs into groups to be converted, initially starting out with groups of about 100 to 200 at a time.

We've now reached the final phase, which is the remaining 3,000 or so jobs. It's a very complex schedule. We were going to implement it in stages and we're finding that it's very difficult to implement jobs that are running it OpCon while still running our old scheduling package when we have dependencies between them. So the final phase is proving to be a little bit more daunting but we're getting there.

After deployment of OpCon, it took about two-and-a-half to three months to automate our first process, between when it was communicating with the agents on the mainframe and when we actually started to run jobs.

What was our ROI?

It's too early to tell about ROI.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated Control-M from BMC. Both OpCon and Control-M were going to provide us with the solution that we were looking for. The decisions were then out of my hands because it was then left up to the money people. The final selling point was that there was another state organization that was already using SMA. I believe the Civil Service Department is using SMA. That was the final factor: If we were going to purchase something, let's try and keep them looking the same.

What other advice do I have?

I would highly recommend an onsite evaluation of OpCon that has already been deployed and seeing it fully in action, so that you could be better prepared to ask the right questions prior to getting it. All we saw was a remote demo and that, to me, was a big mistake on my people's part and probably SMA's part. We never got to see it in action so we didn't know all the right questions to ask.

My biggest lesson in using OpCon is that I wish I'd been more involved at the beginning of the project, when they were estimating the need for support. We should have budgeted for a different type of support during the early days.

The second big mistake was that there is a latest and greatest version of OpCon, which I believe is called OpCon Deploy, and we didn't budget for it or know of its existence until after we were doing our deployment. That would have made such a huge difference, because everything that we were doing in our deployment was manual: We had to extract the information from our scheduling package provide it to SMA support. They would manipulate the data, put it into our test system, and then, to roll it across from our test system to our live system, they would have to export the database or export the schedules and import them into production OpCon. Whereas Deploy is fully automated. That would have made a huge difference. We didn't pay for it because we weren't told about it and as a consequence, this is what we got. 

We still wish we could get it but now we can't get it because we have to wait for the budget people to approve it. And to get the budget people to approve it, we have to give them the same explanations as when we were going from our old scheduling package to the new scheduling package and they're not buying it. They're saying, "No, no, you already used that as a reason for us spending a half a million dollars. You can't use it again."

Right now, I'm going to rate it as an eight out of 10, but I believe it's going to be a 10 for us.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
JD
System Analyst at a financial services firm with 51-200 employees
Real User
Enables users to check the results, review, work any exceptions, and then continue the process just by clicking a button

Pros and Cons

  • "The biggest example in which OpCon has improved my organization is that we have to download and process files from the federal reserve several times a day. If we don't do it in a certain timeframe, we can be penalized. It's the fact that we can download these files, process them, get our accounting teams the information they need to work the exceptions that is one of the most important roles."
  • "The initial setup is very complex, but that's not necessarily something that needs to be improved. I'm told that in the next version they're improving the upgrade process. So that's in the works already."

What is our primary use case?

We host OpCon on a virtual server onsite. We do not replicate to a backup database. There are some other redundancies built-in, but we just have a single production server.

Working at a credit union, it does all of our back-office processing. We have a smallish IT staff and we wanted to relieve the IT staff from having to do the daily manual processes that were in place at the time.

OpCon handles all of our automated loads, uploads, and integration with our core financial application. We have expanded it to use their self-service options so that users may generate reports on the fly, or they might have manual steps along the way in their process. It allows them to check the results, review, work any exceptions and then continue the process just by clicking a button. They really like that part. It also has given us the opportunity to allow users that don't have access to the core to generate reports from the core and have it usually placed in a network share for them or emailed to them.

How has it helped my organization?

The biggest example in which OpCon has improved my organization is that we have to download and process files from the federal reserve several times a day. If we don't do it in a certain timeframe, we can be penalized. It's the fact that we can download these files, process them, get our accounting teams the information they need to work the exceptions that is one of the most important roles.

It's also nightly processing. When we do our overnight processing, if there is a delay to a job, we can set up alerts to let us know that a particular job is running longer and the person on-call can log in, take a look at it, and see if everything is progressing normally or if there's a problem before it becomes a big issue the next day.

Having the ability to monitor the process along the way with checks on a job when it's too long, it didn't finish on time, or a dependency is missing has been very helpful.

OpCon saves our IT time. We eliminated our backroom processing, which would be all of the IT-related functions. So most definitely it saves IT time. Conservatively, it has saved two and a half hours daily just because of some of the things that we were doing for other departments and now the other departments can do that themselves. 

Since we implemented it in 2016, a lot of other tasks have been incorporated into it. So if those other areas would have wanted us to do those tasks, it would have added to our burden. If we have free time, they're going to find a way to fill it. It does free our time to do other things, to concentrate on things that require brain power rather than just entry.

Our overall productivity has also increased.

What is most valuable?

At its core, OpCon is a scheduler, but it can do so much more than that. The fact that it integrates with the core was the primary motivator in choosing this product. I was recruited for the position I'm at because of my experience with OpCon and my current company wanted to implement it.

Its flexibility would be the greatest benefit to it. You can really come up with some creative scheduling solutions. You're only limited by your imagination with some of the stuff. There are some limitations to it, of course, but I would say the biggest plus is the flexibility that it offers and its integration to the core. 

We use the self-service feature. We use it in our IT department, our mortgage department uses it, and our accounting department uses it. We're slowly introducing the features to other areas. As more users see it, I'm hoping more users will embrace it so that we can expand it even further.

Our mortgage servicing users use it to run their daily processes. We have an integration with FICS, which is the product we use for our mortgage servicing. So they're able to utilize it to generate reports and do their daily postings.

Our accounting department uses it for ACH and even to set the prompts to close the general monthly general ledger. Our lending department also uses it for some of their jobs to process uploads that go to other vendors.

It's very helpful for reducing the complexity of the technical aspects of workload automation. It can be used as a simple checklist where you click the button. There are some things about it that might be improved upon as far as adding some features. That would be some nice things. SMA has always been very responsive to those types of input.

The self-service feature increases users' productivity because some of the tasks that they still have to do manually are automated, but those manual checks give them a place to stop the process rather than having to do each step along the way annually. They still have those manual interventions that they have to do, but the self-service button allows them to put that check-in there so that they can do what they need to do and then begin a certain process rather than having to do the whole thing.

It has also reduced calls to our IT department with the way we're using it. Previously a process might require the user to email IT staff to have us do the next step, to upload a file, something like that. Now we're removed from that situation and they just do it themselves.

The same goes for the closing of the general ledger. It used to require notifying IT and then we'd have to set the job accordingly. Now IT is taken out of the mix. So the end-user department has control over that process.

The automation of manual tasks has without a doubt reduced human error. Whenever you can automate something, as long as you have it set up correctly, to begin with, you totally reduce the chances of transposing a number or something like that.

At my previous employment, once we implemented OpCon we pretty much eliminated one FTE position. The person didn't lose their job, but he had other tasks that he took on. They reduced the amount of workload by one person. That was a much larger credit union.

If we had to do all of this manually, it would add up because we've added more tasks than what we originally had.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using OpCon at my current employer for about five years and at my previous company for another four or five years as well.

We're on version 18.3 and we're looking to upgrade to the 20.0 version in the next month or so.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

In the time that I've worked on it, I've had one problem where the transaction log locked up. That was seven years ago. It was a while ago. It's solid. You have to do your due diligence with your typical maintenance and paying attention to things, but it's a solid product.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It seems to scale well, but then again we're limited. We only have one server.

We have people in our indirect lending who use OpCon. They deal with our auto loans. We have our mortgage department servicing mortgages. We have our accounting people that manage the ACH and they rely on it also for downloading reports from various vendors that we use. Our contact center uses it to run reports and retrieve reports from the core.

IT, of course, uses it. We manage everything for it. I use it for a variety of things from downloading reports to emailing to notifications. Most of our stuff is centered around the core. Most of our usage is centered on the core, but we're slowly branching out.

We have plans to deploy a failover server, and we also anticipate doing more with our order servicing software, automating more processes for that.

How are customer service and technical support?

Technical support has been great. They've come up with solutions and they're very timely. They seem to be good people too.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is very complex, but that's not necessarily something that needs to be improved. I'm told that in the next version they're improving the upgrade process. So that's in the works already. 

It integrates fairly well with things like basic scripting programs which is good. 

OpCon is very powerful. That means it tends to be very complex. It doesn't always translate to usability. You can do anything in any way if you have the time and the knowledge, but it can be tricky figuring out how it's done. I haven't used much of the APIs other than some of the connectors, but I hear they've got some good support that way. I don't have any one thing that I'd say would be an improvement upon it except for perhaps making the calendar, the scheduling functionality a bit more intuitive. Some of the ways that they implement the calendar functions aren't as intuitive as they could be.

For some jobs, the setup is very straightforward. For others, they required more complexity. I have some that when we first set it up, the complex ones were downloading our federal reserve files and processing those, but the technical account manager that assisted was great with working with us on that. 

Having them there with implementing it certainly is required. But beyond that, the people that I've encountered, even when I was at a previous employer, were always very good at helping us get through what we needed to do.

There have been times that I've sent in a question to their support and I'll get a couple of different people emailing me back saying, "Oh yeah, I heard about this. Have you tried this?" Everyone's very active in trying to assist clients if they have some expertise there.

We worked with both our SMA technical account managers and then we were assigned someone through Jack Henry Symitar Episys, through their automation group. 

Once we got everything implemented, I had time with my technical account manager to set things up, but prior, I had time with our core provider and their implementation specialist to go through our nightly processing the critical stuff and making sure we had everything set up. That was the baseline process to get us started. After that, it was up to us what we wanted it to automate.

They took care of our nightly processing and then our account manager helped me do some of the daily processes. Since I already had previous experience, there were a lot of things I felt that I could do. He'd come up with solutions for the things I didn't feel that way for.

The deployment took a week.

What about the implementation team?

It was through our core provider that we got the product. Since we went through them, that was the primary thing to get automated and they provided it in collaboration with SMA.

The people at SMA have been great as far as working with them. They're responsive. When I've interacted with them, they've always been great. The company has been very good.

What was our ROI?

ROI has been great. It does keep me busy because I'm the one who manages it, but it eliminates work for a lot of others. And my goal is to automate a lot of stuff so people can spend their time thinking about how to fix the complex stuff, not remembering that they have to do the little stuff.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

The licensing has just changed recently. They just moved over to a new tiered pricing model and so I'm waiting to see what shakes out with that.

When we got ours, we had bought add-ons at the time, but with the tiered pricing, a lot of those add-ons are included. I'm not aware of any additional costs at this time.

The company had been recently sold and there were some hiccups with their new pricing, their tier pricing, but our salesman worked with us. Our account rep worked with us and got us something that both sides are agreeable to. OpCon does very well trying to do right by its client base. I can't fault that.

What other advice do I have?

Advice that I would give to people considering OpCon would be to really understand what your needs are, understand how OpCon can fit into your environment, and realize that it can be very complex and can become very cumbersome if you're not careful. You can automate a lot of things and have a lot of different processes automated, but you still need to document and have a clear goal as to what you're doing and why you're doing it.

Take the free training that they have. Go to the biannual conference they have. You can pick up a lot of information that way. Immerse yourself in the product, in the documentation, and understand what's going on with it.

Have a clear plan before you start doing anything on how you want to handle it if a job fails. Do you want to have it restarted? Do you want to have it notify someone? You have to have a clear plan on what you hope to accomplish with an automated task before you put it into production.

The biggest lesson I have learned is that error checking is important. When you have a failure, you need to know. You should have a plan on how to handle job failures so that, if the primary person is available, the backup can either take care of it or the process will automatically self-recover.

I would rate OpCon a nine out of ten. It's not perfect, but it's pretty good.

Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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ArturoRivera
IT Manager Business Solutions Delivery at CBC Federal Credit Union
Real User
Top 20
We automated our first processes within a week of deployment

Pros and Cons

  • "It has also helped to streamline our operations. We contract out our collection department so they are no longer housed on our system. They're housed on another platform. OpCon is able to not only pull in our data, but it also, on a daily basis, updates that third-party."
  • "Usage is a little complex. It's not like you can bring somebody in and they can just use it. They have to be trained... As far as complexity goes, it's right up there."

What is our primary use case?

We use it to automate multiple platforms: our mortgage platform, our core platform, and other instances where we're working with third parties to whom we have to move data. It does about 90 percent of our automation. Very rarely do we do anything that's not automated. For example, we do not manually upload anything. It's all done through OpCon.

How has it helped my organization?

The biggest improvement is the batch automation. We don't do anything manually anymore; everything is automated. We did have a very highly skilled employee and the job he left for was a job with a bigger credit union to run their OpCon shop. That's how good he became at it. His skill set was at a very high level, where he automated up to 90 percent of what we do. We very rarely have to manually upload.

We've automated about 50 to 60 processes, and that number is growing. We are adding on our mortgage platform to automate that. And that number does not include the OpCon buttons they also use for on-demand stuff.

It has also helped to streamline our operations. We contract out our collection department so they are no longer housed on our system. They're housed on another platform. OpCon is able to not only pull in our data, but it also, on a daily basis, updates that third-party. In addition, if there are any updates coming back, OpCon will check on a daily basis and send it back. That's just a sample of how it automates. 

Another example is how we automate our daily FedLine. The most important job files that we run are our ACH, our Federal postings for credits and debits. We totally automated that where there is no longer any manual intervention. We upload the Fed file; it comes in and OpCon is smart enough to know where to place it and how to run the edits. It's also smart enough to know that there are delay times. Before OpCon, we were posting them the next day, manually, one after the other, because there are four to five that come in and out throughout the day. Because we were able to automate it through OpCon, we can now post them when they actually come in. They are posting throughout the day now. For example, at 12 in the morning there is our major posting, and it's posted right when it should be. Members are actually getting their paychecks or debits and credits right when they should happen. That was a big one which was very member-impactful.

OpCon has also freed up employees to do more meaningful work as a result of automation. They're not having to go into Symitar and run a job. Instead, they can simply run something. They've also found innovative ways to use it as well: "Hey, I have this thing that produces an Excel file. Can OpCon just grab it and send it out to this other vendor for me?" And the answer is, "Sure, that's not a problem." Our employees are thinking outside the box, as far as utilizing it goes. Even though they don't generally know OpCon, they know what it's capable of. In some cases, they're building their own little building blocks of automation themselves.

The main employees who have been freed up are in our accounting, item-processing, and lending departments. In those three departments there are about 15 employees. All depend on OpCon to do something for them. We're not that big of a shop. We have about 100 employees in total.

Our employees expect automation now. Prior to that, it was nice to be able to run something and for them to get their data. It was awesome. Now, as they know that it's a standard process, they're not as excited. They just expect it now. If you would tell them: "Oh, no, you have to manually move this from here to there," they would probably come back and say "Wait a minute, my other thing is automated. Why can't this be?"

If we're counting all the manual intervention, as a percentage, I would say that OpCon has reduced data processing by 90 percent, through automation, the efficiency, and the eliminating of manual errors.

What is most valuable?

There are a lot of areas that are valuable. Perhaps the most valuable would be the OpCon button that users can select so that instead of having users going into Symitar, they can now just run an OpCon button that works on-demand. That's probably the one that has made the biggest impact. We no longer have users running job processes in Symitar. Everything that they need, we simply have them run on-demand, so there's no access into Symitar. That is one of the most valuable tools we have. Obviously, the batch-automation is a big one, but that button functionality would be the biggest feature.

What needs improvement?

Usage is a little complex. It's not like you can bring somebody in and they can just use it. They have to be trained. Our main OpCon person left and it's a lot harder for a lot of people. Once you have somebody leave, the next person has to step up and it is a little difficult. As far as complexity goes, it's right up there.

Once you get to know the platform, you do know how to troubleshoot. But there's just so much to learn. If you are properly trained, it is fairly easy to figure out problems and troubleshoot. SMA does offer certification and they also offer consulting hours, which we are using right now.

There is always a percentage of jobs where the batch automation doesn't work or something critical happens within the OpCon server that causes something to stall, and we have to troubleshoot.

Another area for improvement is within the notification and alerts. I'd like to see it get smarter with script-writing within OpCon to make it do more. There is some room for improvement there and that's why we got the consulting hours.

For how long have I used the solution?

We've been using OpCon for the last five years.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The stability, on a scale of one to 10, is about a seven. We are having some issues with logs. We did reach out to OpCon, but they didn't have a solution for that, so we're having to manually handle that on a daily basis. That was a little disappointing. I'm hoping that one day they will have a list-serve where we can reach out to other OpCon shops. That way, we can reach out to other OpCon users who have a high level of OpCon skills and say, "Hey, we ran into this problem. How did you guys figure your way out of it?"

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

It's pretty scalable. It can go virtual. They have a lot of options. Right now we are on-prem, but we would definitely look at going off-prem and having it hosted in the future. That's what we'd like, and they do offer that capability. They also offer managed services, which is something we're going to target in the near future, simply because we're a small shop. so they do offer a variety of things that we could definitely take advantage of.

We only have one user using OpCon because the main one left. She is training our other two who are brand-new; they are literally brand-new, even to IT. We are very shorthanded right now. That is why we bought the consulting hours, so that we could get these other two up to speed.

Similarly, only one person is doing maintenance of the solution, which is why we're going to contemplate shifting over to OpCon's managed services. That kind of solution is probably a perfect remedy for a shop like ours. I wouldn't be surprised if, this time next year, we're not even managing it and that they are.

How are customer service and technical support?

When we had the log problems they weren't very helpful on that. It felt that it wasn't a very helpful solution. From eight to five, they will help. They have some really good people. But if there are really complex problems like the logs, it feels like the front-line support doesn't know, or at least didn't on that one occasion. Thankfully, our network guys figured out the problem. Otherwise, we would have been out of luck. I'd rate technical support at six out of 10.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

We didn't have a previous solution. We were doing things manually.

How was the initial setup?

I didn't participate in the setup, but I believe that it was straightforward. OpCon came onsite for training and it seems that soon after my staff got the training they took the ball and ran with it. They got the building blocks in the training and, after that, they caught on fairly well and were able to start automating a lot of the manual processes, one by one.

For the implementation, we had to load the server and we had to have a backup for that OpCon server, which goes out to our Branson site. Any changes to OpCon get passed on. But when OpCon come onsite, they pretty much got everything loaded for us. We were paying them to do that, which is what I would recommend to anybody. It helped us, a company that was brand-new to it, to bring us into it. When they were onsite they handled 90 percent of it.

It wasn't long after the deployment that we automated the first process. Within a week we were already automating some things that we had been manually moving over. And then we road-mapped big ones like the ACH stuff that I mentioned elsewhere. One of our first projects was automating our ACH to the Feds. We had an idea of what we wanted to do once it was implemented.

What was our ROI?

We have definitely seen a return on investment. The big return on investment was the fact that we lost three OpCon people from our staff and nobody even knew that we had. We went on without skipping a beat. We literally had the worst-case scenario that can happen to an IT staff and we came out smelling like a rose. Everything ran and we were able to continue with a small staff and we did not have to worry about our batch automation.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

Yearly, it's around $30,000.

We bought consulting hours for a year at an additional cost. We're getting 85 hours a year for consulting to help us through, for example, with a complex process that we want to get done. Some of those hours might be spent for them to actually come onsite and give one-on-one training to some new people being introduced to OpCon.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We looked at two other vendors. It's been a long time so I don't remember their names. They were enticing because they were definitely a lot lower in cost, but ultimately OpCon had more of a service to provide. OpCon offered more services and more automation. It was a no-brainer after we learned that.

What other advice do I have?

Do your homework. Definitely look at other vendors and consider your staff size. In our case, because we have a small staff, we don't have a lot of programmers. We don't have the luxury of having 10 programmers who can write their own batch scripts. If you're a small shop like us, really do your homework on it because, in the end, if you rely on somebody writing batch scripts to do things and they ultimately leave, you own that. You really need to make sure about your road-mapping. Are your employees going to stay at the credit union? If they are, that that makes a big difference. 

What happened to us was that we lost two valuable OpCon employees within a span of two months who knew how to solve OpCon problems. The third person, who was average but knew it, went down with an ankle injury for a month-and-a-half. We had nobody who knew OpCon for almost two months. The only thing that saved us was that the process was so automated that we didn't have a problem, thank goodness. Everything just ran and we never had an issue.

You have to know your staff; you have to know whether they're content. Are they going to be staying? If you know they're going to leave, you better plan ahead. You don't want to get caught like we did.

But our situation tells you how well OpCon is programmed.

The biggest lesson I have learned from using OpCon is that we have to stay on top of the releases. Every year there are software releases that you have to get done. They are key. But there are also updates, SLAs that come out. We definitely try to keep on top of that because our batch automation is a critical platform. So it's critical that we make sure that everything is up to date. The SQL portion of that is also important. We also use third-party FTP software and that is another thing that we've got to make sure is up to date. It's a definitely a solution with moving parts.

Which deployment model are you using for this solution?

On-premises
Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.