RPG Programmer Shortage Blamed For CSC’s Earnings Miss
February 18, 2015 Alex Woodie
Depending on where you live in the world, there’s either a shortage or a surplus of RPG programmers at any point in time, a dynamic we have covered here in IT Jungle. But rarely has the availability of IBM i programming talent so publicly affected a company as it did last week, when the CEO of Computer Sciences Corp. blamed his company’s $230 million-plus revenue shortfall in part on a shortage of RPG coders.
Mike Lawrie, the president and CEO of CSC, said “execution missteps” related to personnel recruitment were partly to blame for a revenue shortfall in the company’s third fiscal quarter ended January 2. The publicly traded Virginia company, which develops an IBM i-based insurance application (among many other products and services), reported revenue of $2.95 billion. That was 7 percent below the Wall Street consensus of $3.18 billion and 8 percent below what it brought in during the same quarter last year.
Lawrie, a former senior IBM executive who spent 27 years with the company before leaving in 2004 to head Siebel Systems, says about $25 million to $40 million of that shortfall can be attributed to the difficulty in finding and hiring RPG programmers to implement insurance applications for its customers.
“We were, this quarter, in a major rollout with an insurance company that required some very specific skills, RPG,” Lawrie said during a Q&A with securities analysts, according to a Seeking Alpha transcript of the call. “RPG is not a programming language where a lot of people are learning it today, so there is a finite supply. We had difficulty recruiting and getting those people on-boarded in time to be able to bill all the work that was under contract in the quarter.”
RPG, of course, is the most popular programming language for the IBM i server. While the server platform supports other languages, including COBOL, Java, PHP, EGL, Node.JS, and Ruby, the vast majority of existing applications were written in the proprietary procedural language that IBM first rolled out as Report Program Generator in 1959.
Nobody in the industry is predicting demand for RPG skills to hit zero, considering the large number of existing applications still running critical applications for companies in every industry. But the tightness of the market for RPG programmers apparently surprised CSC.
“I think this [difficulty in recruiting RPG programmers] is a result of a much tighter labor market,” Lawrie said while pointing out the projects require some very specific and specialized skills.
CSC has taken steps to fix the problem, including working with partners who have the programming skills the company needs. It also raised the salaries being offered for the open positions.