IBM i staffing challenges shouldn’t get in the way of making your company more competitive.
By Chris Koppe, VP of Services at Fresche
Competitive companies are always looking for ways to reduce costs and increase revenues – and this business reality strongly affects the IT department. Unless your company uses technology (including your IBM i) to its full potential, your business runs the risk of being left behind by the competition. Unfortunately, some companies only have the resources to maintain the status quo when it comes to their IBM i and are falling short on meeting the needs of a growing business.
With so much value in the data and core applications of the IBM i, relying on the status quo is a missed opportunity. One of the key reasons some IBM i shops struggle is a lack of staff and skills: They simply don’t have the staffing capacity to expand the role of their IBM i. Another growing concern is the risk of the IBM i becoming a bottleneck to growth as many IBM i professionals approach retirement.
Your IBM i can drive business growth with a strong team capable of improving your application management and development. Before we look at how to overcome staffing challenges, let’s look at what you can accomplish with the right pieces in place.
Start shaking up the status quo now
Taking on new projects or adding new staff requires a solid justification. It’s important to keep in mind that the status quo isn’t a zero-cost approach - it carries an opportunity cost. What is your IT not doing right now that could help reduce costs or increase your company’s revenues?
Here are a few simple ways in which proper staffing and using modern tools and efficient processes can improve the bottom line of your business:
Reduce backlog to get enhancements and new functionality out the door quicker – Making your IBM i code easier to maintain can enable you to update your applications quicker and roll out long-awaited fixes, enhancements and new functionality faster.
Make IT more productive – Improving internal processes and adopting modern IBM i technology and automation can increase productivity and reduce errors. This makes IT faster and, consequently, cheaper.
Increase employee satisfaction – Addressing your IT backlog can result in better applications, translating to increased productivity and happier users. With that goal in mind, you can also take on new projects such as digitizing documents or developing mobile applications that further improve business processes.
Improve services to customers – With additional staffing or improved application management, you can free up resources for revenue-generating and customer service projects such as e-commerce, partner portals and other Web and mobile applications. You can also create new services and even new sales channels and markets for your company.
IBM i staffing challenges
The reality is that many companies that rely on IBM i don’t have enough resources to accomplish everything they’d like to. In companies with fewer staff, some of whom are nearing retirement, the situation can become critical. Even when they do have people, their teams might not have all the necessary skills. When they hire someone new, onboarding takes too long. Staffing challenges are preventing companies from exploring the full potential of the IBM i to meet business needs.
Finding experienced IBM i professionals with all of the skills you need can be a challenge, and I understand that. Our customers share these situations with us every day. But there are solutions to this staffing problem.
You can ensure that you have all the necessary skills in your team by recruiting, hiring and training new employees. That, however, is much easier said than done. An alternative that is often more cost-effective is contracting talent from a trusted company or independent professional.
An effective and low-risk approach to staffing
Hiring an external company saves you the time you would have spent on recruitment and training. It also reduces your long-term financial risk, since contracts have expiry dates. To ensure you have a positive experience when hiring external IBM i services, you need to keep your eyes open for certain attributes:
Expertise - A great skill set is not everything you should look for; industry expertise and the ability to learn your applications quickly will make a big difference in the quality of your project and on how soon the external resource can start being productive.
Cost Effectiveness - Full-time employees require benefits and long-term financial commitments that contract developers don’t. When you hire external services, you get experienced staff with fixed-term contracts. Also consider hiring a company that offers both onshore and offshore options so you can choose the approach that best meets your needs and budget.
Flexibility - Your external resource should be a real partner to your business, willing to adjust the terms of the contract to fit your needs now and in the future. More points go to the vendors that can expand and reduce their services when your demands change.
Stability - You don't want to face staff turnover with an external vendor; that's one of the reasons you didn't want to hire your own staff in the first place. Do some research on the company you're thinking of hiring and find out what their strategy is to ensure the continuity of your services if the resource assigned to you leaves them.
At Fresche we have developed a flexible model of staffing and application management services with the goal of meeting all possible needs of any company that uses IBM i. It’s easy for us to leverage our pool of experienced IBM i programmers, system administrators, DBAs and analysts to help customers facing staffing challenges.
Some customers need one system administrator working part-time for a few months, while others need three RPG developers working full-time for two years or more. As projects evolve, companies might need different skills and more or less people. Our flexible model ensures that the industry expertise of the whole team always supports our services.
As for the ramping up challenge, our staff benefits from leading code analysis and documentation tools that drastically reduce onboarding time. This gives them a unique understanding of the customer’s system and assists them in helping our customers meet the needs of the business.
Give your business a competitive edge
Each business will know the best service model to address its own needs. The goal is to take advantage of the extra help (whether short or long-term) to turn IT into a force that supports business growth.
You can’t let IBM i staffing challenges get in the way of shaking up the current state of your IT. Explore solutions, negotiate with the business, make any necessary changes – do what you need to do in order to give your business that competitive edge that it can only get through IT.
Responsible for all services at Fresche, Chris Koppe has led the development of legacy management strategies for hundreds of companies, across a variety of platforms, languages, databases, and technologies. He has accumulated a wealth of best practice expertise that covers everything from discovery and planning through to deployment, project governance, audit and recovery for large-scale legacy management projects. Widely recognized as a thought leader in legacy modernization, Chris's expertise has helped companies worldwide develop and execute successful legacy management and modernization strategies.