I visited two companies recently who, despite having large and complex IT systems, are still using daily IT checklists based around pen and paper. Surprised? I was, although perhaps shocked is a better way of describing it. Certainly, paper-based systems are reliable. The aviation, medical and many other industries still use the traditional checklists. I fly regularly and often see the pilot going through his lists, and it is comforting to know that the plane and systems are being checked diligently.

After my visits to those companies, I began to think about how and when we would leave the paper-based systems behind. Surely that day will come, but what is the evolutionary path for the humble checklist?

Why We Still Use Checklists

First, I wanted to understand why we still use checklists so frequently. Probably the most obvious benefit of checklists is that no task is forgotten. Checking a list item by item ensures that all steps and processes are completed, and in the right order. This benefits the business and the individual, who gain confidence from having a well-defined process to follow. While checklists are effective, they do tend to take up valuable time because of the manual processes.

Why We Should Move Away from Checklists

Digital automation platforms such as OpCon are perfect in relation to enterprise-wide IT, but pilot or service engineer checklists require a different approach.

At a conference last year, I believe I saw into the future. It was a demonstration of voice-activated and voice-controlled systems where a service engineer was guided through a series of steps and responded by voice. As a result, an engineer could complete a traditional two-hour airplane engine inspection, using hands-free voice-only systems, in just 32 minutes. Even more interesting is that a trainee engineer was also able to complete the same inspection to the same quality standards in only 38 minutes.

By automating these tasks, we find ourselves not only saving time, but we are also more willing to delegate and train others in new areas.

How OpCon Can Help

As automation experts, we are on the evolutionary path of checklists. At SMA Solutions, we regularly build IT and business workflows and help our clients digitize their checklists. We do this across multiple operating systems: Linux/UNIX (SUSE, RHEL), Windows (Microsoft), mainframe (z/OS), midrange (IBM i), cloud (Azure, AWS, Softlayer, Oracle) and multiple applications. We also build in notifications for times when human interaction is required in fact, human interference is rarely required.

The return on investment (ROI), in terms of productivity, reduced training costs and quality control is significant, and these systems are gaining wide spread interest, just like our own IT automation solutions.