IBM i Productivity: A Plan For Better Yields
January 25, 2017 Dan Burger
Businesses have many tools in their arsenals to increase productivity. Two of the best examples are technological innovation and the education and training of workers.
Many organizations are taking a short-sighted approach to revenue enhancements without investment. This is wise up to a certain extent. Reducing the total cost of ownership is an important asset for the IBM i Power Systems platform. However, underutilizing the system, including the people who run it, is the same as ignoring potential productivity.
A viable solution for IBM i shops is to reach out to schools and establish a long-term relationship. That’s a lot easier said than done. But like a lot of things that are put in that pigeonhole, there are companies cultivating those relationships.
The client-school relationship is the key piece. I’ve been writing about this for years. If IBM i shops could get organized regionally and establish bonds with a college, students would be trained in the skills most useful to those shops–the businesses would benefit from the skills pipeline and the colleges would benefit from the job market for its graduates.
It’s apparent to me that IBM is not willing to invest in establishing these business-school relationships. It has a program called the Power Systems Academic Initiative (PSAI), but it is minimally staffed and minimally funded. As long as I’ve been familiar with the Academic Initiative, its goal has been providing colleges with curriculum specific to IBM systems and providing access to those systems. The successes that occur are sporadic and small scale–accomplished primarily in pockets where job opportunities await.
The most recent PSAI statistics came to me the other day in an email from PSAI Program Director Peter Glass.
Worldwide, there are 571 schools participating in the PSAI. According to Glass, that number compares with only 135 participating schools in October of 2012. That’s an impressive 323 percent growth rate.
A closer look reveals 234 of those schools have an IBM i connection. Ninety-eight of those schools are in the US, nine are in Canada, and the remaining 127 are in other countries around the world.
To be counted, a participating school must be teaching IBM Power in a classroom or online; doing research on Power; using the academic cloud for homework, classwork, or projects; downloading courses; or developing a course or program for an upcoming semester.
“What we’ve been doing is getting schools involved,” Glass says. “Now we are going to do things a bit differently. We are going to concentrate on the client-school relationship.”
Although school participation in PSAI has increased, the goal of matching graduates to job opportunities has not made a significant impact. Now a change of strategy is being implemented.
Local user groups will be a significant point of emphasis. User groups typically have between several dozen IBM i shops represented in their memberships. A few of the larger local user groups may have several hundred IBM i shops within reach, if not part of the membership.
“We have a list of 37 local user groups in the U.S. and Canada,” Glass says. “I’m going to reach out and ask them to do a couple of things. I’ll ask that a link to the PSAI website be included on their websites. I’m also going to ask for links to the PSAI Job Board and the PSAI participating school list.
“I hope to raise awareness and bring PSAI to the attention of their membership. Let them know we exist. Of course, we hope the individual IBM i shops will reach out to us.”
It’s a step in the right direction, but it’s going to require local user groups to actively promote PSAI and facilitate the relationships between IBM i shops searching for talent and local colleges looking for job opportunities for its graduates. Two examples of local user groups have facilitated business-college relationships are the Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association and the Southeast Michigan IBM i User Group.
In addition to the focus on building relationships between IBM i shops and schools in the PSAI program, Glass says IBM sales staff will be counted on to explain the PSAI program to their customer contacts and an increase in social media marketing is under way.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the employment opportunities for computer and information research scientists will grow 11 percent from 2014 to 2024, faster than the average for all occupations. Computer scientists are likely to enjoy excellent job prospects, because many companies report difficulties finding these highly skilled workers.
An educated workforce is the foundation for a strong business. It yields the best returns on investment and is a pillar for long-term success. Delaying or ignoring workforce investments is a race-to-the-bottom strategy that undermines productivity, efficiency and long-term growth.
Partnerships with educational systems are an asset that will produce a specifically skilled workforce that yields higher productivity.