Thoroughly Modern: From Tradition To Transformation For IBM i In The Era Of Cloud And AI
February 12, 2024 Monica Sanchez
The value of IBM i is undeniable, especially if you are running an IBM i shop. But that does not mean IT leaders can ignore pivotal market changes in cloud, cybersecurity, and AI. These disruptive forces all have something in common – they are driving change. They are shaping operations and future strategies, pushing IT leaders to innovate.
As we dig deeper into these transformative forces, it becomes clearer that the path forward for IBM i shops is all about continuous evolution and strategic foresight.
Cybersecurity: Trends and Tactics
Cybersecurity has been a major concern in the past few years. IT leaders realized the devastating impact data breaches, ransomware, and security vulnerabilities can have, often witnessing firsthand the fallout from these cyberattacks. While more and more IBM i shops are investing in cybersecurity, it is alarming that 30 percent (IBM i Marketplace Survey, 2023) still lack critical defenses like multifactor authentication, antivirus, and ransomware protection. Even among those who prioritize security, there is often a misguided sense of invulnerability, especially in the IBM i market – while the i is inherently secure, comprehensive cybersecurity implementation is still a requirement.
One of the biggest challenges in implementing cybersecurity is the need for more security knowledge and skills. Cyber threats are constantly evolving, so it is important to understand the latest threats, effective mitigation strategies, and have the technical know-how to implement robust security measures.
Finding the right balance between security and business efficiency is also crucial as strict security controls can hinder productivity. Additionally, there is often a disconnect between top management’s perception of security risks and the actual risks, resulting in a lack of proportionate resources allocated to cybersecurity – the onus is on IT leaders to advocate for the necessary cybersecurity resources.
Modernizing The i: Navigating Legacy Challenges
According to the IBM i Marketplace Survey, 71 percent run their core applications on IBM i. This goes to show how robust and reliable the platform has been over the years. But modernization remains a top concern because IBM i shops often rely on critical applications developed in RPG and the related staffing and sustainability challenges are well documented.
There is some concern about the lack of adoption of modern programming languages like Java, PHP, and Python. These languages offer more flexibility and compatibility with emerging technologies, which makes them highly sought after in the industry.
While IBM i continues to be the backbone for many businesses, there is a growing recognition of the importance of incorporating modern languages and technologies to ensure long-term success and adaptability. It is crucial that organizations find a balance between leveraging the strengths of the existing platform and exploring new avenues for growth and innovation.
Cloud Adoption: The New Business Strategy Shift
The surge in cloud adoption illustrates a significant shift in business strategies, with an emphasis on flexibility, scalability, and cost efficiency; 64 percent of survey respondents have already embraced cloud services and this perfectly aligns with IBM’s dedicated efforts to promote the transition to the cloud. And it is not just new businesses. Long-time IBM i users who traditionally relied on on-premises workloads are gradually migrating to the cloud.
The versatility of cloud services allows users to leverage them for a wide array of purposes, from running core business applications to testing and development, backups, and disaster recovery. Cloud has quickly become a top priority for businesses, second only to modernization efforts.
AI: The Real Impact And Key Considerations
More than enough has been said about AI but at the same time, not enough. It is set to have a massive impact on society, businesses, and customers, according to a 2023 report by Forrester. Machine learning and automation are becoming central to staying competitive, as it can revolutionize any task involving data. This affects every aspect of businesses, making strategic decisions about how and where to use AI more crucial than ever. An Accenture report reveals that 84 percent of business leaders believe they could be out of business within five years if they do not figure out how to scale AI. Despite this, a shocking 76 percent admit they lack the knowledge of how to do so.
AI adoption brings opportunities and challenges. It offers new revenue streams, cost reduction, and efficiency improvement. However, roadblocks persist, including biased models, transparency concerns, and data limitations. Overcoming these challenges is key to leveraging AI effectively.
Successful AI implementation involves efficient data management, talent acquisition, and robust foundational technology. Accessible data, cleaned and prepped for analysis, is crucial. Specialized data scientists and an agile approach for model maintenance are essential. Technological components like cloud computing, hardware, GPUs, and datasets should be in place.
The right mindset towards AI implementation is critical, including risk acceptance, ethics, and staying updated. Prioritizing use cases that enhance existing processes is important. Thorough planning and addressing data engineering challenges are necessary. Building internal capabilities, mitigating biases, and validating models over time are vital. Investing in staff training yields better results than relying solely on external vendors, partners, and incubators. Test hypotheses, validate your models, and monitor them over time to address biases. This will help AI models become more accurate and reliable than humans at predicting outcomes for making decisions.
Explore these change drivers further and some real-life examples of how CIOs and CTOs effectively integrated them into their strategies in this on-demand webinar I hosted with strategy expert Chris Koppe. When it comes to developing an IT strategy that stands the test of time, there are several key themes to consider like modernization, creating business value, infrastructure, security, and sustainability, just to name a few. But here is the thing – having a forward-thinking vision is at the heart of it all. Focus on business agility and getting things to market quickly. By taking a longer-term view, you can plan and create sustainable strategies and roadmaps that prevent the accumulation of more tech debt.
And you know what’s even more important? Having a vision that inspires and engages the whole team, so that everyone understands where we are headed and can contribute to this change effectively.
Monica Sanchez is a senior executive and strategic advisor in information technology. Her expertise lies at the intersection of business and technology. As a former Fortune 500 CIO and now as a vice president of strategic transformation at Fresche, Monica guides organizations on their evolutionary journey by setting and delivering strategic and technical vision and direction, building successful teams, effective partnering, and utilizing technology-based solutions to drive business results. Monica has a bachelor’s degree in information technology, an MBA from UADE Business School, and an AI certification from London Business School.
This content is sponsored by Fresche Solutions.