Understanding IBM's On Demand Transformation Strategy, Part 2

  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times
In last week's column, we took a look at the challenges IBM was facing after the collapse of the IT industry. It was clear that the big boom years of IT investment were over and that corporate management had abandoned IT's strategic role and returned it to the position of an infrastructural expense. The weak economy also meant that IBM needed to focus on gaining market share. But to overcome these challenges, IBM needed a new message to communicate a broader vision to its customers and partners. This message had to, in IBM's view, position its products and services in a light that its customers could easily grasp, understand, and embrace. Last year's unveiling of IBM's On Demand computing initiative was exactly such a vision.

The On Demand Journey

To better clarify IBM's vision of an On Demand business environment, its executives often use the schematic below to explain the trajectory that companies follow as they evolve toward an On Demand environment.

(Click images to enlarge.)

The X coordinates of this chart represent the journey that a company's business processes undergo. The Y coordinates represent the path of increasing IT sophistication that is needed to support the business process evolution.

In the lower left quadrant of the graph, companies develop individual solutions to optimize individual business processes. IT perhaps builds an application, purchases a packaged piece of software, or plugs the organization into a preexisting service. The "point solutions" are individual automation tasks that help optimize the individual processes that business needs.

As the level of business process sophistication is enhanced, so too is the level of IT sophistication supporting the business processes. In the diagram, a business optimizes its business process using the infrastructure of IT, which in turn begins a process of consolidation and integration. The islands of individual point solutions become organized into larger IT information structures.

For example, throughout the last iteration of automation, most companies created individual informational Web sites throughout the years of Internet expansion in order to meet the demands of customers or suppliers. These individual sites are "point solutions" solving specific needs. However, their unique natures--using different technologies and having different purposes--may make them appear as a confusing mishmash of services to the uninitiated. So, currently within the industry, IT shops are pulling these sites together using portal technology to provide an overall conformance of look and feel, while hiding some of the intricacies of the technologies that lie beneath each site. In the process of integrating, IT may consolidate some of the sites onto single computing platforms to reduce cost and complexity.

Getting Beyond the Access Phase

IBM calls this phase of the On Demand journey the "Access" phase: making the resources of e-business more accessible. But what comes next? If, as IBM believes, we are stuck partway in our On Demand journey, what's holding us up?

Part of the delay is technological, according to IBM: Technologies such as the Internet are still in the early stages of maturity. Security is also an issue. But, according to IBM, the largest obstacle by far is the culture of the business organizations themselves, cultures that reinforce the status quo, traditional ways of thinking, and silos of authority that have yet to be broken. Within a company, this might include an entrenched production department, a recalcitrant accounting department, or a lazy, behind-the-times human resources department. Within an industry, it might include entire segments of supply chains that are too technologically scattered to operate in a cohesive manner.

Making a move into this second phase is a laborious and expensive process for companies, because it necessitates that they re-think the manner by which they've traditionally done business. It's a cultural shift that, as yet, most organizations have not yet mastered.

Achieving Balance

So, by way of explanation, IBM often throws up a chart to show the real driving forces of the On Demand architecture.

According to IBM, the real mechanism driving On Demand success is the transformation of the business culture itself--breaking down the silos and allowing the vision of the On Demand computing model to lead the organization to its goals. It's a balance that must be achieved between business process and IT evolution, in which the users themselves act as a pivot point.

In other words, if we're stuck in our current position in the On Demand evolution, it's because our users are focused on internal processes instead of long-term organizational goals. The potential of these users to collaborate in a productive manner is held captive by silos of authority and technical islands of automation. Break down these silos and, according to IBM, the resulting explosion in productivity will propel true cross-departmental/cross-organizational collaboration.

For instance, to make the On Demand e-business model work, individual departments within a corporation must come together into new collaborative teams to create new collaborated solutions using the technologies that are being offered. Likewise, individual corporations must join forces into comprehensive supply chains to mesh their offerings into more cost-effective industry-wide production and delivery systems. The goals of these efforts should be to provide services that are responsive, variable to demand, focused upon customer results, and resilient to the marketplace.

Open Source and Standards

But how do we achieve this? For a long period in the past, IBM stressed "superior solutions" or "strategic platforms" as the key toward integrating and consolidating silos: Choose the right platform (AS/400, RS/6000, or mainframe), and you'll be safe and prepared for the wave of collaborating applications that will propel your company's future. However, it's since become clear that choosing a single platform--or even a single vendor--is no longer a guarantee of success. There are too many good "point solutions" out there, and they're using too many different technologies.

Yet, if collaboration is the key, how do you achieve it with multiple vendors, each touting the superiority of its solutions? From IBM's perspective, open-source technologies that adhere to recognized international standards is one significant part of the answer. If all the systems a company chooses abide by open standards and provide for open source, the organization will be better positioned to collaborate internally and externally, across platforms.

Consolidation and Integration: A Stair-Step Approach

But, in the real world, companies are not about to throw out a perfectly good "point solution" just because it doesn't adhere to international or open-source standards. (For instance, nobody is going to kick out Microsoft, just because it's a proprietary solution.) So the second part of IBM's strategy relies upon the savings that can be achieved through the consolidation of services and resources.

"You can almost always save some money by consolidating something in IT," one IBM executive says. "The advances in storage and CPU power are continuing to accelerate, while the costs of replacing older technologies are continuing to fall. If you apply these IT consolidation savings toward business-process re-engineering, you can 'stair-step' your way toward the On Demand environment."

In other words, as IBM and other vendors provide consolidating technologies in software and hardware, a customer can and should choose the open technologies over the proprietary ones whenever possible. This strategy will move the customer toward the On Demand environment while providing significant cost-savings in the short run.

In this stair-step consolidation/integration scheme, the Wave 1 of automation advances the business process focus, increasing the competitive edge that the organization needs. Wave 2 expands the Access through the use of things like portals to make the technologies more useable by larger numbers of users. It also begins to allow users to share the information while hiding some of the underlying complexities.

Then, according to IBM, as we exhaust the ability of Access technologies to provide productivity, our companies will focus on internal integration and consolidation of IT resources and business processes using the open technologies that IBM (and others) provide (Wave 3).

This is where server consolidation will save significant operational costs, while software infrastructure solutions like WebSphere can tie together the back-end into cohesive, integrated enterprise-wide application platforms.

Meanwhile, over time, the continued savings from the consolidation effort should, in IBM's view, be applied to re-engineering the business processes to move the culture of the organization into the On Demand environment (Wave 4).

Re-engineering the Business Culture

What is this re-engineering? IBM says it's re-educating the user base to take advantage of the integrated and consolidated IT resources.

For instance, as an example, companies should begin training their employees to work with the new systems to seek out new ways to collaborate or partner with other organizations. In a supply chain, this might mean collaborating through UCCNet to transform company product numbers to a standardized, collaborative system, to make all of the company's products available for rapid e-business supply-chain re-order. In the service arena, it may mean opening new partnerships with complementary organizations, sharing leads and bundling services to provide the customer with a soup-to-nuts service profile.

This is the "culture" shift that IBM advocates. Instead of focusing on internal processes within a department or a single organization, the new tools provided by IT should help the user become outwardly focused through collaboration with other departments and organizations to deliver better results to customers.

Idle Theory or Practical Roadmap?

All of this is, according to IBM, not idle theory, and it points to its own success: transforming IBM's 325,000 employees in 25 countries from islands of automation and silos of authority into a "responsive, focused, and resilient" On Demand organization.

Next week, in the final part of this article, we'll apply this On Demand methodology to some realistic cases and give a final picture of what--in practice--IBM believes is the current state-of-the-art model for an On Demand IT computing architecture.

Thomas M. Stockwell is Editor in Chief of MC Press, LLC.

Thomas Stockwell

Thomas M. Stockwell is an independent IT analyst and writer. He is the former Editor in Chief of MC Press Online and Midrange Computing magazine and has over 20 years of experience as a programmer, systems engineer, IT director, industry analyst, author, speaker, consultant, and editor.  


Tom works from his home in the Napa Valley in California. He can be reached at





Support MC Press Online





  • White Paper: Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization

    SB Profound WP 5539

    If your business is thinking about modernizing your legacy IBM i (also known as AS/400 or iSeries) applications, you will want to read this white paper first!

    Download this paper and learn how Node.js can ensure that you:
    - Modernize on-time and budget - no more lengthy, costly, disruptive app rewrites!
    - Retain your IBM i systems of record
    - Find and hire new development talent
    - Integrate new Node.js applications with your existing RPG, Java, .Net, and PHP apps
    - Extend your IBM i capabilties to include Watson API, Cloud, and Internet of Things

    Read Node.js for Enterprise IBM i Modernization Now!


  • Profound Logic Solution Guide

    SB Profound WP 5539More than ever, there is a demand for IT to deliver innovation.
    Your IBM i has been an essential part of your business operations for years. However, your organization may struggle to maintain the current system and implement new projects.
    The thousands of customers we've worked with and surveyed state that expectations regarding the digital footprint and vision of the companyare not aligned with the current IT environment.

    Get your copy of this important guide today!


  • 2022 IBM i Marketplace Survey Results

    Fortra2022 marks the eighth edition of the IBM i Marketplace Survey Results. Each year, Fortra captures data on how businesses use the IBM i platform and the IT and cybersecurity initiatives it supports.

    Over the years, this survey has become a true industry benchmark, revealing to readers the trends that are shaping and driving the market and providing insight into what the future may bring for this technology.

  • Brunswick bowls a perfect 300 with LANSA!

    FortraBrunswick is the leader in bowling products, services, and industry expertise for the development and renovation of new and existing bowling centers and mixed-use recreation facilities across the entertainment industry. However, the lifeblood of Brunswick’s capital equipment business was running on a 15-year-old software application written in Visual Basic 6 (VB6) with a SQL Server back-end. The application was at the end of its life and needed to be replaced.
    With the help of Visual LANSA, they found an easy-to-use, long-term platform that enabled their team to collaborate, innovate, and integrate with existing systems and databases within a single platform.
    Read the case study to learn how they achieved success and increased the speed of development by 30% with Visual LANSA.


  • Progressive Web Apps: Create a Universal Experience Across All Devices

    LANSAProgressive Web Apps allow you to reach anyone, anywhere, and on any device with a single unified codebase. This means that your applications—regardless of browser, device, or platform—instantly become more reliable and consistent. They are the present and future of application development, and more and more businesses are catching on.
    Download this whitepaper and learn:

    • How PWAs support fast application development and streamline DevOps
    • How to give your business a competitive edge using PWAs
    • What makes progressive web apps so versatile, both online and offline



  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    LANSAWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • Why Migrate When You Can Modernize?

    LANSABusiness users want new applications now. Market and regulatory pressures require faster application updates and delivery into production. Your IBM i developers may be approaching retirement, and you see no sure way to fill their positions with experienced developers. In addition, you may be caught between maintaining your existing applications and the uncertainty of moving to something new.
    In this white paper, you’ll learn how to think of these issues as opportunities rather than problems. We’ll explore motivations to migrate or modernize, their risks and considerations you should be aware of before embarking on a (migration or modernization) project.
    Lastly, we’ll discuss how modernizing IBM i applications with optimized business workflows, integration with other technologies and new mobile and web user interfaces will enable IT – and the business – to experience time-added value and much more.


  • UPDATED: Developer Kit: Making a Business Case for Modernization and Beyond

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Having trouble getting management approval for modernization projects? The problem may be you're not speaking enough "business" to them.

    This Developer Kit provides you study-backed data and a ready-to-use business case template to help get your very next development project approved!

  • What to Do When Your AS/400 Talent Retires

    FortraIT managers hoping to find new IBM i talent are discovering that the pool of experienced RPG programmers and operators or administrators is small.

    This guide offers strategies and software suggestions to help you plan IT staffing and resources and smooth the transition after your AS/400 talent retires. Read on to learn:

    • Why IBM i skills depletion is a top concern
    • How leading organizations are coping
    • Where automation will make the biggest impact


  • Node.js on IBM i Webinar Series Pt. 2: Setting Up Your Development Tools

    Profound Logic Software, Inc.Have you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application. In Part 2, Brian May teaches you the different tooling options available for writing code, debugging, and using Git for version control. Attend this webinar to learn:

    • Different tools to develop Node.js applications on IBM i
    • Debugging Node.js
    • The basics of Git and tools to help those new to it
    • Using as a pre-built development environment



  • Expert Tips for IBM i Security: Beyond the Basics

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn this session, IBM i security expert Robin Tatam provides a quick recap of IBM i security basics and guides you through some advanced cybersecurity techniques that can help you take data protection to the next level. Robin will cover:

    • Reducing the risk posed by special authorities
    • Establishing object-level security
    • Overseeing user actions and data access

    Don't miss this chance to take your knowledge of IBM i security beyond the basics.



  • 5 IBM i Security Quick Wins

    SB PowerTech WC GenericIn today’s threat landscape, upper management is laser-focused on cybersecurity. You need to make progress in securing your systems—and make it fast.
    There’s no shortage of actions you could take, but what tactics will actually deliver the results you need? And how can you find a security strategy that fits your budget and time constraints?
    Join top IBM i security expert Robin Tatam as he outlines the five fastest and most impactful changes you can make to strengthen IBM i security this year.
    Your system didn’t become unsecure overnight and you won’t be able to turn it around overnight either. But quick wins are possible with IBM i security, and Robin Tatam will show you how to achieve them.

  • Security Bulletin: Malware Infection Discovered on IBM i Server!

    SB PowerTech WC GenericMalicious programs can bring entire businesses to their knees—and IBM i shops are not immune. It’s critical to grasp the true impact malware can have on IBM i and the network that connects to it. Attend this webinar to gain a thorough understanding of the relationships between:

    • Viruses, native objects, and the integrated file system (IFS)
    • Power Systems and Windows-based viruses and malware
    • PC-based anti-virus scanning versus native IBM i scanning

    There are a number of ways you can minimize your exposure to viruses. IBM i security expert Sandi Moore explains the facts, including how to ensure you're fully protected and compliant with regulations such as PCI.



  • Encryption on IBM i Simplified

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDB2 Field Procedures (FieldProcs) were introduced in IBM i 7.1 and have greatly simplified encryption, often without requiring any application changes. Now you can quickly encrypt sensitive data on the IBM i including PII, PCI, PHI data in your physical files and tables.
    Watch this webinar to learn how you can quickly implement encryption on the IBM i. During the webinar, security expert Robin Tatam will show you how to:

    • Use Field Procedures to automate encryption and decryption
    • Restrict and mask field level access by user or group
    • Meet compliance requirements with effective key management and audit trails


  • Lessons Learned from IBM i Cyber Attacks

    SB PowerTech WC GenericDespite the many options IBM has provided to protect your systems and data, many organizations still struggle to apply appropriate security controls.
    In this webinar, you'll get insight into how the criminals accessed these systems, the fallout from these attacks, and how the incidents could have been avoided by following security best practices.

    • Learn which security gaps cyber criminals love most
    • Find out how other IBM i organizations have fallen victim
    • Get the details on policies and processes you can implement to protect your organization, even when staff works from home

    You will learn the steps you can take to avoid the mistakes made in these examples, as well as other inadequate and misconfigured settings that put businesses at risk.



  • The Power of Coding in a Low-Code Solution

    SB PowerTech WC GenericWhen it comes to creating your business applications, there are hundreds of coding platforms and programming languages to choose from. These options range from very complex traditional programming languages to Low-Code platforms where sometimes no traditional coding experience is needed.
    Download our whitepaper, The Power of Writing Code in a Low-Code Solution, and:

    • Discover the benefits of Low-code's quick application creation
    • Understand the differences in model-based and language-based Low-Code platforms
    • Explore the strengths of LANSA's Low-Code Solution to Low-Code’s biggest drawbacks



  • Node Webinar Series Pt. 1: The World of Node.js on IBM i

    SB Profound WC GenericHave you been wondering about Node.js? Our free Node.js Webinar Series takes you from total beginner to creating a fully-functional IBM i Node.js business application.
    Part 1 will teach you what Node.js is, why it's a great option for IBM i shops, and how to take advantage of the ecosystem surrounding Node.
    In addition to background information, our Director of Product Development Scott Klement will demonstrate applications that take advantage of the Node Package Manager (npm).
    Watch Now.

  • The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security

    SB Profound WC Generic The Biggest Mistakes in IBM i Security
    Here’s the harsh reality: cybersecurity pros have to get their jobs right every single day, while an attacker only has to succeed once to do incredible damage.
    Whether that’s thousands of exposed records, millions of dollars in fines and legal fees, or diminished share value, it’s easy to judge organizations that fall victim. IBM i enjoys an enviable reputation for security, but no system is impervious to mistakes.
    Join this webinar to learn about the biggest errors made when securing a Power Systems server.
    This knowledge is critical for ensuring integrity of your application data and preventing you from becoming the next Equifax. It’s also essential for complying with all formal regulations, including SOX, PCI, GDPR, and HIPAA
    Watch Now.

  • Comply in 5! Well, actually UNDER 5 minutes!!

    SB CYBRA PPL 5382

    TRY the one package that solves all your document design and printing challenges on all your platforms.

    Produce bar code labels, electronic forms, ad hoc reports, and RFID tags – without programming! MarkMagic is the only document design and print solution that combines report writing, WYSIWYG label and forms design, and conditional printing in one integrated product.

    Request your trial now!

  • Backup and Recovery on IBM i: Your Strategy for the Unexpected

    FortraRobot automates the routine tasks of iSeries backup and recovery, saving you time and money and making the process safer and more reliable. Automate your backups with the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution. Key features include:
    - Simplified backup procedures
    - Easy data encryption
    - Save media management
    - Guided restoration
    - Seamless product integration
    Make sure your data survives when catastrophe hits. Try the Robot Backup and Recovery Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Manage IBM i Messages by Exception with Robot

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413Managing messages on your IBM i can be more than a full-time job if you have to do it manually. How can you be sure you won’t miss important system events?
    Automate your message center with the Robot Message Management Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated message management
    - Tailored notifications and automatic escalation
    - System-wide control of your IBM i partitions
    - Two-way system notifications from your mobile device
    - Seamless product integration
    Try the Robot Message Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Easiest Way to Save Money? Stop Printing IBM i Reports

    FortraRobot automates report bursting, distribution, bundling, and archiving, and offers secure, selective online report viewing.
    Manage your reports with the Robot Report Management Solution. Key features include:

    - Automated report distribution
    - View online without delay
    - Browser interface to make notes
    - Custom retention capabilities
    - Seamless product integration
    Rerun another report? Never again. Try the Robot Report Management Solution FREE for 30 days.

  • Hassle-Free IBM i Operations around the Clock

    SB HelpSystems SC 5413For over 30 years, Robot has been a leader in systems management for IBM i.
    Manage your job schedule with the Robot Job Scheduling Solution. Key features include:
    - Automated batch, interactive, and cross-platform scheduling
    - Event-driven dependency processing
    - Centralized monitoring and reporting
    - Audit log and ready-to-use reports
    - Seamless product integration
    Scale your software, not your staff. Try the Robot Job Scheduling Solution FREE for 30 days.