IBM i: A Platform for Digital Transformation
Despite a wealth of innovation on the IBM i technology platform, there’s still room for improvement when it comes to digital transformation, new customer experience and efficiency savings.
Corry Hong ,
Despite a wealth of innovation on the IBM i technology platform, there’s still room for improvement when it comes to digital transformation, new customer experience and efficiency savings. Perceived complexity and a lack of quality management information for IT and business leaders are also legitimate concerns to be addressed. Modern digital devices that extend machine learning and real-time predictive analytics are additional capabilities that the IBM i community will require to encourage and drive deployment of a new digital business strategy.
As part of their digital transformation journey, IBM i users need to match the agility of industry disruptors that are exploiting new technology to differentiate service, cut operating costs and build new business models. They must embrace innovation and continuous improvement in order to carve out their own competitive edge. That puts the spotlight on application development teams to ensure that IBM i systems can advance quickly enough to enable the pace of change expected by the business.
3 Challenges for IBM i Developers
Application developers face three important challenges as they pursue the goal of faster systems transformation:
• The transition to Agile development. Development teams want to move away from the rigid structure of a traditional waterfall development model in favor of Agile methodologies that are better suited to delivering the rapid continuous improvement that modern businesses demand.
• Skills shortages. Like many other platforms, IBM i suffers from a skills shortage. Experienced RPG developers, who entered the market decades ago, are starting to retire and the new generation of programmers have learned different languages.
• Increasing complexity. The role of the IBM i programmer is becoming more demanding and complex. IBM i applications now operate in a mixed landscape, including web, mobile and multiple OSes. RPG specialists need to reinvent themselves as multidisciplinarians, equipped with the skills to switch easily between different tools and technologies.
The Need for a Mindset ChangeNegotiating these challenges requires a new outlook and approach. With recruitment, for example, organizations should look beyond the shrinking pool of experienced RPG programmers and seek out candidates with the right capabilities and potential that they can train and mold into the role. IBM i development teams are already targeting Java* programmers, who possess many skills that transfer well into the IBM i arena. Transitioning to Agile development is not just a question of adopting the right tools and methodologies. It is also essential for the organization as a whole to nurture a culture that is ready to accept change and innovation, underpinned by excellent collaboration and communication between business stakeholders, development and the production team.
Embracing A New Wave of TechnologyNew technology can do much to address the transformation challenges experienced by development teams. One of the most exciting advances is the introduction of AI-powered conversational interfaces–or chatbots–to support training, problem resolution and deployment. Experts predict that this kind of AI could enable skills transfer from one generation to the next, as experienced employees move on or retire. This is exactly what’s required by the IBM i community.
Intelligent chatbots are using machine learning to acquire systems knowledge that can help new developers acclimatize quickly to working on the IBM i platform. For example, a chatbot could walk a programmer step-by-step through the process of deploying code within an IBM i test or production environment, and even automate key tasks in the background, eliminating the need for platform specific skills. Equally, conversational interfaces can help IBM i specialists develop skills in other platforms and technologies to build cross-platform best-of-breed solutions.
Putting IT All Together
Modern application development systems play an important role in supporting digital transformation initiatives, while continuing to satisfy quality and regulatory compliance standards. Application lifecycle management frameworks should sit alongside, and integrate with, the other tools and technologies used to build, test and deploy code, such as source control and version management systems. Additionally, dashboard visualization of metrics from the range of tools used throughout the development lifecycle can help organizations deliver better management oversight and identify areas for process improvement.
These are testing times for application development within the IBM i arena. However, the continued strategic importance of the IBM i platform and its key role in digital transformation, along with the potential for tackling development challenges with innovative technologies, also create great excitement and hope for the future.
Corry Hong is the President and CEO of UNICOM Global. Hong founded UNICOM Systems Inc. in 1982. Today, the UNICOM Global group consists of more than 50 entities delivering software and services to enterprises worldwide.
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