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Partner TechTip: Bring Your Operators up to Speed

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Manta's IBM i Operations Boot Camp is the fastest way to fill in the gaps in your operators' educations.


What's different about the following scenarios?

  • You just hired a new operator (Steve) with no IBM i experience.
  • You just hired a new operator (Pat) who claims to have extensive "AS/400" experience.
  • You have an operations manager (Sally) who has worked for your organization for 20 years but hasn't had formal IBM i operations training.


Probably the biggest—and most dangerous—difference is in what they think they know.


Steve may be the safest of the bunch. He doesn't claim to know anything about IBM i. He's not likely to guess when he doesn't know the answer to a question. And both you and he understand that he will need extensive training to be productive.


As for Pat, by calling our favorite system an "AS/400," he brings attention to the fact that either he's been out of the game for many years or his previous employer was woefully out of date. Pat may know everything about OS/400 operations circa 1995. But is he familiar with Navigator for i or the Web console (IBM Systems Director Navigator for i)? Does he know what objects in the IFS need to be backed up? Does he even know what the IFS is? If a customer calls to say, "Your server is down," does Pat know how to check the server's status? If you consider how much has changed in recent years, you can appreciate how much Pat doesn't know.


Some of the things Pat "knows" are no longer appropriate and can cause harm to your data center. For example, he may believe that if the main operator's console is locked up, his only recourse is to reboot the system. While this was never a good idea as the first thing to try, it can cause serious problems if Pat is now managing one partition of an LPAR system. Restarting one operating system instance is very different from powering down everything.


In Sally's case, she's been introduced to new things like the IFS and logical partitioning through on-the-job training. Such training is fantastic for teaching your employees about your organization's policies and procedures. It can also be very good in teaching a new employee the minimal steps to handle the day-to-day workflow. But on-the-job training often breaks down when the operator needs to handle a situation she hasn't encountered before.


For example, suppose a new operator is working third shift and has been told that a particular four-hour batch job needs to be done before the first shift comes on duty. It's 2:00 a.m., and the job bombs. What should she do? Call you at home? The answer, of course, is "it depends." Nevertheless, I'd argue that even a new operator should know that it's safe to restart a backup job that terminates because of tape failure, while it's rarely wise to restart a batch program that's updating your customer database. In many such situations, some training on underlying IT concepts can make or break an operator's day.


Moreover, the procedures that an operator was once told to use may not have been the most efficient techniques even when he or she first learned them. I've taught 20-year operators who didn't know that—even if you stick to the green-screen—most of the commands they were forced to memorize are available from the ASSIST menu. They also didn't know that if you don't remember a complete command, you can enter as many characters as you remember, followed by an asterisk. Pressing Enter then gives you a list of all commands that begin with those characters. Or pressing F4 on a blank command line gives you a menu structure listing all available commands. These are simple things that should be taught in any introductory class for IBM i operators, but they're frequently overlooked in on-the-job training.


You can solve these problems by providing annual training for all IT personnel, including operators. For an intensive, week-long experience, I recommend Manta's IBM i Operations Boot Camp. I teach it, and this is where I met Steve, Pat, and Sally. If you cannot send someone away for a week, then try Manta's online IBM i Operations Combination Pack, a collection of 27 courses and exams that covers the same material. With online courses, students can spread the training over two weeks or two years, depending on their schedule and availability.

as/400, os/400, iseries, system i, i5/os, ibm i, power systems, 6.1, 7.1, V7, V6R1


Throughout his career, William A. Hansen, Ph.D., has rarely been able to do only one thing at a time. While a math graduate student at Northwestern, he also worked full time as a computer operator, making him the only algebraic topologist capable of running a System/360. His 1974 Ph.D. thesis, "A Computer Calculation of the Homology of the Lambda Algebra," applied Fortran to an algebra problem. This mixed background led to a college appointment teaching both mathematics and computer science.


Dr. Hansen was an early advocate of multimedia training, spending his free time developing MVS operator courses that used text, video, audio, and scripted lab sessions. The freedom to devote weeks of time to perfect an hour of self-study training led to a permanent position with Deltak, Inc., one of the first companies to produce media-based courses for computer professionals. At Deltak, Bill established the job of quality assurance manager while also serving as the product manager for all operating system courses. His interest in applying educational technologies to computer training led to dozens of magazine articles and the creation (with Auerbach Publishers) of DP Training, the first subscription publication devoted to the art of training computer professionals.


Bill founded Hansen Training Systems, Inc. in 1980. HTS specializes in media-based training for IBM midrange and mainframe systems. HTS has been a leader in the use of personal computers to simulate larger systems since its first CBT course in 1985. Bill's courses have included simulators of MVS, JES2, VM, VSE, the ES/900 hardware console, and OS/400 (now IBM i). With his business partner, John Todd, Bill designed EasyTutor, a PC-based authoring system that includes native facilities for the simulation of both green-screen and GUI applications. Seeing the benefits of EasyTutor for AS/400 training, Bill and John founded Manta in 1994. Manta's 120 courses push Bill's lifetime total to over 300 courses that he has written, designed, edited, and/or updated.


Bill is the current Education Manager for COMMON, the Power Systems users' group. He and his wife, Sandy, have four children and four grandchildren, who enjoy watching him feed the sharks, eels, and rays in his position as a volunteer diver at the Denver Aquarium.



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