CIO Summit Brings Execs Up To Speed On IBM i
August 6, 2018 Alex Woodie
The IBM i server is mystery to many. Not only does it run on abnormal hardware – at least compared to “standards-based” X86 computers – but its programming languages, user interfaces, and administrative tasks can seem otherworldly to the uninitiated. For Alan Seiden, the organizer of an IBM i-focused executive get-together known as the CIO Summit, dispelling the platform’s mystery represents something of a personal challenge.
The next CIO Summit is in about two months, and Seiden, who’s a well-known PHP on IBM i expert as well as the founder and principle of the Seiden Group, is looking forward to it. As Seiden explains in a recent interview, he created the CIO Summit to bring together high-level tech execs at IBM i user companies to collaborate and share their knowledge of the platform.
“The education at conferences is often directed at developers and I felt the decision-makers would benefit from a forum where they can learn what’s new and share what’s been successful for them,” the IBM Power Champion tells IT Jungle. “We do it because the community needs it, and because the people in the community benefit from it.”
Seiden organized the first CIO Summit in New York City in April 2017. He simply invited several CIOs he knew in the New York area, as well as some other CIOs who flew in. “It was successful and people enjoyed it so much and got a lot out of it that we decided to repeat it, and even expand it in collaboration with the RPG & DB2 Summit,” Seiden says.
The next CIO Summit will be held in Chicago, Illinois, on October 1 and 2. Seiden limits attendance to the complimentary event to just 15 people, which ensures an intimate experience for the CIOs and IT Directors (and MIS directors or other executive-level tech leaders) who attend. The first day of the event will be held in a ritzy room on the 80th floor of the Aon Center, Chicago’s fourth-tallest building, and feature a presentation by IBM’s Db2 for i business architect Scott Forstie. Brian May and Liam Allan will also address the group on the topic of attracting new developers to the platform and the importance of open source, respectively.
CIO Summit attendees will spend the second day in specific sessions at the System i Developers‘ RPG & DB2 Summit, which takes place October 2 through 4 at the Westin Lombard Yorktown. CIO Summit attendees will not be charged admission fees to the RPG & DB2 Summit, provided they attend the first day of the CIO Summit. The executives can even bring their developers on the second day, if they like, Seiden says.
While there are some pre-planned topics, such as Forstie’s talk, Seiden likes to keep the CIO Summit agenda mostly open. The idea is to give CIOs the freedom to talk about whatever is on their minds, and to help them collaborate (and possibly commiserate) with others who are in similar positions.
“It can often be lonely to be a leader,” Seiden says. “And so this way, they don’t have to be lonely. They can have people they talk to. I facilitate the meeting to help the discussion move along, but really it’s the interaction with their CIO peers that’s the key. It’s just enjoyable and freeing for them to have people to talk to and share with and hear their perspectives in a confidential environment.”
Some CIOs who attended the event don’t know much about the platform, while others are seasoned IBM i veterans. The CIO Summit provides a great venue for bringing CIOs who are new to IBM i up to speed with what the platform is all about.
“Being the CIO of an IBM i shop has advantages that the platform will tend to be steady and require very little maintenance and often require only a very small staff,” Seiden says. “The downside is the platform is often misunderstood by executives because it isn’t flashy. And because it’s the inclination of all people not to appreciate what we have, and think that something else will always be better, the grass is always greener on the other side.”
Seiden admits that the presence of old programs can hurt the perception of IBM i and the companies that rely on it. But he argues that the old code is not the fault of the platform, but the company or organization that’s using it. What’s more, the fact that old code still runs on IBM i is due to one of the platform’s strengths: its legendary backward compatibility.
“The IBM i will often have old RPG code because of its longevity, and if it hasn’t been refactored on a regular basis, some of older programs may be difficult to maintain. This can happen on any platform,” he says. “However I would say that the famous backward compatibility that IBM has provided has allowed some shops not to keep pace, because IBM allows us to update our code and own infrastructure with our own timing.”
At the last CIO summit held in Dallas, Texas, one of the CIOs said that his RPG programmers didn’t seem very productive to him, while another CIO commented about the high productivity of his RPG coders. It turned out that the first CIO had not introduced Rational Developer for IBM i (RDi) into his shop, and was still using older development tools.
“He didn’t know what it RDi was, because he was new to the i,” Seiden says. “So he was informed about the value of RDi and modern IDEs and development tools, as well as other thoughts on how to ensure productivity. So that was a great discussion between veterans and a new person to the i.”
Seiden clearly enjoys getting tech executives to look past the sometimes dull surface of the IBM i and the sometimes dingy appearance of applications that run on it to understand the real business value that the platform can provide. That’s a process that has unfolded at past CIO Summits, and it’s a pattern that will likely be repeated at future events.
But the best part about the CIO Summit may be that it’s free and non-commercial. Attendees must arrange for their own travel and hotel accommodations, but other than that, there are no costs involved, nor any vendors hawking wares. They even get a free lunch during the first day.
There are still spots open for the next CIO Summit in Chicago. If you would like to nominate yourself or somebody you know, you can request an invitation at the CIO Summit website at www.seidengroup.com/ibmi-cio-summit.