OCEAN's 17th Annual Technical Conference focused on modernization and the need to keep abreast of new technologies.
Looking back on the recent OCEAN Technical Conference this summer, it's clear that PHP is one of the core technologies permeating changes in the IBM i world today. Of the 36 educational sessions, eight had direct references to PHP applications, frameworks, utilities, or middleware. Whether an oversight or a mere reflection of user interest, nothing related to EGL was included in the conference.
As author Bob Tipton notes in his new book, Jump! Get Unstuck: Extraordinary Life Breakthroughs Through Innovative Change, thriving is better than surviving. For developers to thrive in today's changing IT environment, you will have to love change, understand change, and embrace change, not be paralyzed by fear and uncertainty in the face of it. Tipton was at the OCEAN conference and had a table next to our MC Press Bookstore, so I had a chance to speak with him for a few moments. I also sat in on his presentation based on his new book, where he outlined stage one of what he calls the Jump! Innovative Change Model, which describes how change occurs and gives insight into how to control it within the organization. Afterward, we retreated to one of the unoccupied classrooms at National University, where the conference was held this year, and Tipton was kind enough to express his thoughts on video for readers of MC Systems Insight.
Some of Tipton's ideas are complex, but they're certainly are not beyond the level that most programmers can comprehend. I did notice that most of the people in the audience attending Tipton's presentation appeared to be in their fifties, typical of the demographics for the IBM i developer community today. I couldn't help but think that young people naturally embrace change—in fact, most of them want change; we older folks not so much. We feel as though it's being forced upon us. The message that Tipton brings in his book is that it's possible to do more than just survive in the face of change. What you want to do is set your goal to thrive in the face of change.
Much to his occasional chagrin, I enjoy quoting Jon Paris of Partner/400 and System i Developer. It has less to do with his and Susan Gantner's generous assistance to the MC Press editorial team by sitting on our Editorial Review Board, but more to do with the fact that both Paris and Gantner are true change agents during what I perceive to be a difficult time in the IBM i community. Change is not racing toward us; it's practically running us over. And for folks in their forties and fifties, it's asking a lot to keep learning new techniques, methodologies, languages, and solutions for a seemingly never-ending array of mystifying and difficult challenges. Paris gave a presentation at OCEAN on Application Modernization, and he notes in the presentation description: "There are many modernization options available to IBM i users these days, so many in fact that it is hardly surprising that many [people] have become frozen like deer in the headlights, unable to move for fear of making a wrong decision. In our opinion, there is only one bad decision—to do nothing. There is no silver bullet, and the likelihood is that there never will be…."
The bottom line here is that you have to be familiar enough with what's going on to make your own decisions, decisions that will affect not only you but your entire organization for years to come. Developing the skills and knowledge to make those decisions in the face of change will require more time, education, and exposure to new ideas than many of us really want. However, you only live once. Do we really want to exhibit what Bob Tipton calls "the status quo bias," a "deadly condition" pervasive today within many organizations and companies? Another video we captured at the conference that addresses this issue is an interview with Eamon Musallam, product manager with looksoftware, a company that is on the leading edge of modernization and is developing its own universal handler to take advantage of RPG Open Access.
According to Bob Langieri, OCEAN past president and this year's Technical Conference chairman, more than 200 people attended this year's conference with some 140 paid attendees. It was a good turnout for the user group and will mean the event turns a profit to help fund the group's ongoing regular monthly meetings throughout the year. MC Press Online covers OCEAN more than some of the other user groups (other than COMMON) simply because I live on the West Coast and can go to the meetings. We would like to hear more from other IBM midrange user groups around the country and around the world. We believe, as do the stalwart user group volunteers, including OCEAN president Margaret Matthews and vice president Carole Comeau, along with the other OCEAN board members, that the path to survival in the IT industry today is through embracing change. This means education and training, which is at the heart of every conference sponsored by COMMON, System i Developer, OCEAN, IBM, and every organization brave enough to assume the financial risk that users will show up and take advantage of what is being offered.
Users, however, and the companies for whom they work, must not be stuck in the "status quo bias." Yes, budgets are tight—including budgets for training—but failing to fund education for key IT people is a sure way for a company or organization to wind up in a technological dead end.