Profound Survey Adds To ‘Why i Matters’ Discussion
January 18, 2016 Dan Burger
Shock therapy was once considered to be a cure for a variety of disorders. It’s generally not thought of as something that applies to executives of organizations that run mission critical applications on IBM i. But maybe that’s about to change. For the second consecutive week, IT Jungle is reporting the results of a survey that delivers insights into the IBM midrange community that, when it finds its way to the C-level offices, may result in positive behavior modification.
Profound Logic, one of the leading application development tool vendors in the IBM i community, shared a glimpse at a soon to be released white paper with IT Jungle based on its recently completed modernization survey. According to Amanda Blackburn, product marketing manager at Profound Logic, the survey was taken by IBM i shops with a high probability of planning and completing a modernization project.
“We were searching for what modernization means to people–taking into account the different technologies and solutions. We want to understand the need for modernization and what is holding people back,” Blackburn says.
The survey results, which Profound is making available to the IBM i community, are organized based on whether the responses came from business executives (11 percent), developers (52 percent), and those with job descriptions that blended the two (37 percent). It’s fair to say that those who took the time to respond were vocal about the future of the platform.
The top complaint from developers was the negative perception of the IBM i platform that is held by company executives, which results in a reluctance to invest in IBM i. It’s an uphill battle with management to get modernization and other expenditures approved when only 35 percent of the survey responses indicated that executive management have a positive opinion of IBM i.
From the business executives’ perspective, the cost of modernization was their biggest concern. It’s unclear whether the cost of modernization will result in maintaining the status quo, reducing the scope of modernization, or investigating the cost of migration to another platform. Blackburn says follow-up surveys are planned to drill down into this and other topics.
What about modernization plans?
Precisely half of the respondents say they are planning on modernizing their IBM i environments in 2016; 15 percent said they have no plans for modernization. That leaves 35 percent uncertain about what their organizations would do. Although the number of fence-sitters remains large, it seems clear that many more companies are taking on modernization projects now compared to two or three years ago, when there was more uncertainty and, unfortunately, no surveys and no baseline established.
Recognition that the green screen has to go is obvious in the statistic that shows 75 percent of those with modernization plans will prioritize converting green screens to rich graphical user interfaces. Increased functionality–charts, maps, scrolling columns and tab panels–was the biggest reason for the interest in GUI conversions, although the negative perception of the IBM i on the business was also a big factor.
Mobile computing has been given credit for driving a lot of modernization projects. So when developing mobile applications is on the to-do list at 59 percent of the companies with modernization plans, it seems to substantiate that line of thinking.
One of the biggest surprises is that 44 percent of organizations modernizing in 2016 will be modernizing their RPG code to free form RPG. A related question pointed out that 75 percent of the survey takers already have some amount of free form RPG active in their environments. If there’s a number that strikes me as being out of line, it’s this one. Free form RPG has been around quite a few years in its original, limited iteration, but the more recent and more complete version of free form RPG just arrived with IBM i 7.2 and is supported on 7.1. The majority of IBM I shops are on 7.1, with 7.2 the next most popular OS, but even at that, a 75 percent usage of free form RPG is very surprising.
Profound doesn’t want me to reveal the entirety of the white paper, so I’m stopping right here.
“A goal of ours in Q1 and Q2 this year will be educating the C-level people about how much the IBM i users believe the system can accomplish business objectives by modernizing,” Blackburn says. “Despite concerns about finding, or retaining, RPG developers, and the negative perception the platform may have with non-developers, the responses to this question were mostly positive. Over 60 percent of the respondents believe their IBM i has a bright future, while 16 percent believe that the platform has a limited or no future in their business.
“The biggest challenge for developers is dealing with the objections of decision makers to invest in i. Someone needs to fill in the blanks about what modernization costs and what migration costs and what is involved in each choice. When comparing modernization with migration, the survey shows migration was dead last as a solution to enhance the current situation.”
IT Jungle readers can pre-register for the Profound white paper at this link. The document is expected to be ready in about one week. It contains a lot more information than what was available for publication at this time.
Profound plans to include this survey with other material–studies from IBM, the IBM i roadmap, best practices for platform–into a developer survival guide type of package.
More information that can alter the perceptions of decision makers who are uninformed about the capabilities of a modern IBM i environment might shock some of them with what they didn’t know before.