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The IBM i Tech Leader's Guide to Surviving a Pandemic

Bill Onion
March 27, 2020 | 10:30 AM

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Is your IBM i / AS400 Team ready to be a remote workforce?

To put it mildly, there's a lot going on these days. The future is in flux, news is changing every day, and on the home front, you're trying to settle into the new normal of a completely remote team. In this time of uncertainty, your team's calendar may have cleared up a bit. So, how can you promote productivity and growth among your IBM i team? We have a few ideas.    

Update Your Documentation 

Have you been waiting for the right time to address your organization's IBM i documentation? Well then, have we got news for you. As projects get paused and schedules free up, why not get to work on updating your documentation?  

You know that the folks on your team have years (decades even) of system knowledge locked in their heads, but what happens when they start retiring? How can you, as an executive, ensure a good continuity of business and system knowledge from your current work force to a future team? Get that knowledge documented and organized so that it's accessible to everyone.  

Learn New Skills 

You more than likely have a few people on your team with some extra time on their hands. Put that time to good use by encouraging them to learn a new skill, particularly RDi. It should be a quick learn for your talented team, and will allow them to work more productively in the future.  

There are plenty of online tutorials out there for RDi and other new skills like XML integration, PHP, Node.js, and others. Or, ask your development partners who know the tool if they'd be willing to do some remote training sessions to get your team up to speed. Human interaction and continuing education? That's a quarantine win.     

Consider a Business Process Review 

Have you considered doing a Business Process Review? We recommend a BPR for everything from uncovering business opportunities and training staff to aligning processes and prepping for a major internal project. But, they do take some time from all of the people involved with every aspect of your system, making now the perfect time.  

Typically, we recommend getting everyone together in one room, but a BPR can still be effective when done virtually. If you have a few days to spare, get your team together and start evaluating your systems and data flow to ensure your business is operating at peak potential.  

Tap into Your Developers 

You know that your development team know your system better than anyone else in the company, so how can you leverage their expertise to improve your organization? Now is a great time to pick their brains and find out how you can help them make improvements. This is also a great time to go through IT backlog and review and re-prioritize these items. Most likely, you’ll find some items that are no longer priorities and will be able to cross some items off the list.    

Determine The Future of Your Workforce  

We get it, this is a touchy subject. A lot of important subjects are. What does the next year look like for your IBM i team? The next five years? If you aren't sure who on your team is looking to wind down and who has another decade to give, you need to get those answers. Use this time to think about your workforce in the long term. Are you training new people and bringing in new development staff? Or should you consider looking into outsourcing some roles in the future? Ask the tough questions now so you can prepare for the future.  

Evaluate Outsourced Services 

It's common for organizations to outsource things like IBM i hosting or Microsoft-based infrastructure and support. Take a peek at those currently outsourced services and right-size where you can or eliminate what isn’t needed. Also, look at items that you are currently doing internally; by outsourcing you can potentially free up some internal resources and reduce costs. Be sure to look at IT efforts like help desk, ticketing system, and overall infrastructure support.   

Assess Technical Debt 

It takes a lot of money to maintain your technology, and over the years certain line items may have been cut from the budget. At some point, however, things will come to a head and that money will have to be spent. Instead of waiting for the end of line, take this time to address your technical debt and determine some strategies to resolve it.    

For example, system clean up in general, but especially data purge, are areas that most companies don't address on a regular basis. If there is a ton of data in your IBM i (we're talking a single file that is 1 GB in size) that's too much data sitting on your transactional system. Another good place to start is old code. You probably have a ton of custom code sitting around, so why not research ways to eliminate it with a third-party tool or newer ERP functionality? Doing some maintenance now will make drastic cuts to your bill in the future.  

Revisit Disaster Recovery and Security 

When was the last time you thought about your disaster recovery or security plan? If you have them, dust them off and give them a test. Make sure your existing plans work with your current environment, and update them if they need it. If you don't have a disaster recovery or security plan, what better time to create one?    

Review Contracts 

You've probably been too busy to look at your IT contracts in awhile, but guess what? You've got the time now! Review your contracts with hardware and software vendors for maintenance and support to see where you can reduce spend or even cut out unneeded support. Now may also a great time to buy new coverage; you might score a good deal.   

Take Advantage of Hardware Offerings 

This last suggestion isn't necessarily a cost savings or way to advance your team, but it's worth a thought all the same. Now may be a good time take a look at your IBM i hardware. If you're leasing, examine your lease agreement to see if you're eligible for a trade up. Any hardware vendor right now should be willing to strike a deal, so you may be able to get newer hardware for the same price you're currently paying. That advice goes for hardware owners as well. Take a look and see if it makes sense for your organization. You may be able to get more for what you're currently paying.  

How Will You Help Your Organization Thrive? 

That's a daunting list of tasks. Maybe some don't apply to you, maybe you can come up with examples for each challenge. Either way, crossing one item off the list is better than doing nothing at all. By taking this time to improve and maintain the foundation of your IBM i team, you'll help your company get through this time successfully. 

Need more information? Contact us.

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