Sidebar

Gifts to Give Yourself This Holiday

Programming - Other
Typography
  • Smaller Small Medium Big Bigger
  • Default Helvetica Segoe Georgia Times

It's the holiday season, and everyone is in the gift-giving mood. Be sure you don't forget to invest in your company and career.

It is a special time of the year. Family gatherings for the holidays, football season, and time in the woods all make this one of my favorite seasons. The month of December also is unique for IT departments. December is certainly not business as usual for most of us.

It's time for budgets. That may mean requesting budget items for next year or spending surplus budget before the end of the year. It's often when project work slows down a bit as end users and IT staff take time away from the office. It's a time when stress is often at its lowest, so it's just easier to get some things done.

My holiday article last year was centered around "gifts" from our friends at IBM over the course of 2015. Of course, I could recap the additions to the IBM i world for 2016 in the same manner, but instead, I want to concentrate on the gifts that you and your company can give to yourself this holiday season. These are the things that this season is the perfect time to address.

Housekeeping

As mentioned earlier, project work and business emergencies seem to dial back a few notches at the end of the year. This makes it the perfect time to handle some internal business. Here are some things I recommend you spend some time on in order to make next year better for you.

Share What You've Learned

If you are in a healthy development shop, your developers are constantly learning new things. The lull at the end of the year is the perfect time for team members to share some of the things they have learned with the rest of the staff. I do recommend doing this regularly throughout the year, but if you failed to do so, or just couldn't cover it all, now is the time to catch up. The most successful teams have skill overlap. You never want to have only one staff member understand a certain technology. It's just bad for business. Sharing knowledge is the best way to combat this problem.

This is also where younger staff can really shine. You do have younger staff, right? If not, we will discuss that in a minute. Young developers bring in new ideas and perspectives. Tap into that resource. You will be amazed at where it can lead you.

Review Coding Standards and Operating Procedures

Too many companies create coding standards and procedures for developers to follow and then think the work is done. The IBM i development ecosphere, like any other platform, changes. Your developers' skill sets change. At least they should be changing. The demands placed on your developers from the business change. Everything changes. Shouldn't your coding standards and procedures adapt with these changes?

The downtime at the end of the year I s the perfect time to get the development and operations staff together and discuss the shop rules. Standards and procedures are there to improve your IT operations. They are not there to hinder development or place unnecessary burden on your staff. Have an open dialogue about what is working and what is not. Allow everyone to give their opinions.

Discuss the new functionality added to IBM i over the current year. Incorporate the use of that functionality into your standards. All too often, I have developers tell me they can't use some feature of the RPG language because their coding standards don't allow it. In some cases, they are talking about features available for over a decade! Your coding standards should guide your developers. They should never limit them.

Spend some time reviewing your internal operating procedures. How long does it take to have a software change moved into production? Does it really need to require five different signoff forms and a three-week review period? Do your procedures add value to your operations, or do you do them because some consultant or auditor recommended it in the past? When a developer needs to evaluate a new tool, either on the local PC or on IBM i, how long does it take to get that approval? Is that process stifling innovation? Take the time to have real, constructive conversations about this. This shouldn't be a developers-versus-administrators showdown. Developers should come prepared to give a logical and justifiable case for changes. Operations staffers should present concrete reasons for procedures that are in place. This type of dialogue not only helps each side understand the needs of the other, it also can lead to consensus on changes that are acceptable to the entire staff.

Plan for the Future

So far, we have discussed reflecting on the past year. That is time well spent. Year end is also a time for looking ahead. It is time to set goals for the coming year. It is time to finalize budgets. It is time to solve staffing and skill problems.

Setting Goals

Other than meeting the needs of your business, are you setting goals for your IT department? They don't have to be lofty goals or even very specific. Just make a conscious decision about the direction in which you would like your staff to grow.

Is your code base terribly out of date? Are you still developing RPG III code, even if it is RPG III-style code in RPGLE source members? Are you using ILE? Are you using DDL to define new tables? If you don't like the answers to these questions, then it is likely time to modernize your skill set. That is a goal that should be on most IBM i shops' radar. Even shops that have relatively modern skills should always be striving to learn new skills. There are different ways to approach this goal.

The obvious method is to invest in training. Whether you send staffers to conferences, pay trainers to come onsite, buy books, or just pay for online courses, companies must invest in their developers. They are an asset that should not be neglected. As for developers, you should also be investing in your career. If the company cannot or will not invest in training, you should find ways to invest in yourself. Many of the most useful skills I have added to my repertoire, I learned on my own time and my own dime.

Next, invest in tooling. Yes, developers can write applications in SEU. After an adjustment period, they can write applications more efficiently in RDi. Just like I could write my upcoming book with a pen and paper, it is much more efficient to use a word processing program on my computer. Giving developers the tools needed to do their job makes for happier and more productive developers. Tooling also refers to third-party tools to accomplish your goals. If your goal is to modernize your code base or your user interfaces, there are many different third-party solutions to assist you in reaching those goals.

Of course, tooling is not free. It's time to get out the pocketbook and invest in the staff in the literal sense. Do you have room left in this year's budget to invest in tooling? If so, do it! If not, start working it in to next year's budget.  

Finally, you can augment your staff. Injecting new blood into the department can be a quick way to fill gaps in your staff's skillset. This brings us to our final topic.

Staffing for the Future

It is time to take a hard look at your staff. How many developers are due for retirement in the next five years? Do your developers seem happy? Do you have any junior or entry-level developers on your team? Do you have a development staff of one? These can be scary questions if you are not growing your staff for the future.

I have stated this in other articles, but it bears repeating. If you don't have younger or entry-level developers on staff, you are doing it wrong. You should have a junior-level developer on staff for every senior-level developer you expect to lose within five years. If you don't, you will fall into the same trap that many IBM i shops find themselves in. One of your best developers retires or moves to greener pastures, and now your company is scrambling to find a developer who already has all the skills you lost with the staffer that is departing. In most cases, the developer that can immediately fill that void either does not exist or will cost significantly more than you want to pay.

So, while preparing budgets for the upcoming year, request budget for new talent. Bring in a developer and teach that person IBM i while teaching your business. It is simple risk management. Often, that is how you can sell it to management. The cost of a junior developer is a small price to pay to mitigate the risk of the loss of a senior staffer. If you get resistance for a new developer position, push for a development intern. Find a student at a local college and pay them an hourly rate to work part-time learning IBM i. The cost of an intern is ridiculously low once you factor in the savings on benefits in addition to lower pay. I have found it easier to get approval for a new full-time position for an intern who has excelled for a couple of years when they graduate. You have a proven team member that the company has invested in and does not want to lose. Even if you don't keep that intern on staff after graduation, that is one more developer in the world with knowledge of IBM i. Isn't that a good thing for all of us?

Final Thoughts

The holiday season is certainly time for fun and fellowship both in and away from the office. It is also the best time to reinvest in the staff that makes your business successful. A small investment of time and money in the coming weeks can lead to big dividends in the coming year. Don't miss out!

I hope the time and effort spent this year to share my knowledge and opinions with you has in some way helped you this year. To all of you that have read my articles and shared your comments, I truly appreciate it. Happy Holidays to all of you, and may 2018 be prosperous to you both personally and professionally.

Brian May

Brian May, an IBM Power Systems Champion and Solutions Architect for Profound Logic Software, devotes the majority of his time to assisting customers with their modernization efforts. He frequently writes and speaks on topics related to RPG, JavaScript, and IBM i Modernization. Brian recently contributed his time and expertise to the new IBM i Modernization Redbook.

 

More Articles By This Author
Related Articles
BLOG COMMENTS POWERED BY DISQUS

LATEST COMMENTS

Support MC Press Online

RESOURCE CENTER

  • WHITE PAPERS

  • WEBCAST

  • TRIAL SOFTWARE

  • 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 NodeRun.com 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.