Informing the IBM Community

New research suggests lack of skills is main barrier to digital transformation on the IBM i


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61% of IBM i user organizations have implemented digital initiatives, but half of them say the shortage of IBM i skills is a barrier
PETERBOROUGH, NH – July 07, 2016 – 61% of IBM i users revealed in a new poll that their organization had rolled out some type of digital transformation initiative on the platform, typically adding web interfaces to IBM i applications or switching from paper to digital presentment of documents. However, the growing shortage of IBM i skills came out as one of the biggest barriers to transformation projects on the IBM i.

The survey of 52 European IBM i users includes interviews conducted by SoftLanding® Systems, a division of UNICOM® Global, at two recent IBM i conferences, International i-Power 2016 and Common Europe Congress. It highlights the top five digital transformation initiatives that organizations have implemented on the IBM i operating system.
Top digital transformation initiatives implemented on IBM i
1. Adding web interfaces to IBM i applications: 84%
2. Switching from paper to digital documents (e.g. eInvoicing, electronic statement presentment): 81%
3. Multi-channel customer communications (email, web, SMS, print, social media etc.): 71%
4. Adding mobile interfaces to IBM i applications: 48%
5. Decommissioning legacy applications: 26%

With many experienced IBM i administrators and programmers either retired or nearing retirement, the lack of IBM i skills was highlighted by 50% of the survey sample as a barrier to digital transformation initiatives. Other notable barriers included the risks and uncertainty associated with making changes to core business systems and cost considerations (see below).
The main barriers to digital transformation on the IBM i
• Shortages of IBM i skills: 50%
• Cost considerations: 46%
• Risks of making changes to core business systems: 42%
• Other technical or business priorities: 39%
• A shortage of in-house web and mobile skills: 35%
• Uncertain future of IBM i platform within the business: 25%
• Difficulties adapting IBM i applications to web and mobile: 21%

“We have spoken to a wide range of enterprises at recent IBM i conferences in Europe about their plans for digital transformation and the good news is that there’s a good appetite for digital initiatives – with many already having done some work in this area,” said Jim Fisher, SoftLanding Operations Manager.

“However, over the years there’s been a reduction in the number of experienced IBM i programmers which means organizations often have to think twice about undertaking digital projects. My advice to those in this position is to first see if there are alternative ways of meeting your objectives that do not rely on programming expertise or making any changes to your applications.”

For example, Fisher suggests that those looking to provide employees or customers with multi-channel access to documents such as bills, statements and reports do not necessarily need to have to resort to programming.

“There are other options such as using enterprise content management systems that can take output from existing applications and automatically transform it into new digital formats to support online and mobile access – without requiring the creation of new web or mobile interfaces or making any other direct changes to the applications,” said Fisher. “You can meet your digital goals, while also avoiding the cost, risk and potentially longer project delivery times of digital transformation that involves new programming.”

The SoftLanding Systems survey reveals that those organisations which plan to carry out transformation initiatives in the next three years most frequently mentioned ‘Adding new web interfaces to IBM i applications’ (cited by 76%). This was followed by ‘Switching from paper to digital documents’ (72%) and ‘Multi-channel customer communications’ (67%).

“Overall, our conversations with users suggest that there’s plenty of confidence in the longer term capabilities of the IBM i platform, which means most are looking forward to rolling out new digital initiatives,” said Fisher.

The key findings of the SoftLanding Systems survey are summarized in an infographic, “The challenges of going digital on IBM i”, which can be viewed at:

About SoftLanding® Systems
SoftLanding is a division of UNICOM Global, specializing in application lifecycle management, enterprise content management, automated operations, performance management, and menu management solutions for the IBM i and Power Systems platform.SoftLanding’s application lifecycle management solution defines and supports repeatable procedures for developing, deploying and maintaining IBM i, Web and multi-platform applications, across the entire software development lifecycle (SDLC). The company’s enterprise content management solution releases the power of digital communications through web, mobile, and email channels, without changing IT systems and applications.SoftLanding’s automated operations and performance management solutions keep core business systems running at optimum levels and prevent unplanned application downtime. Menu management solutions are also available, offering efficient, secure, flexible, and standardized access to corporate business applications running on IBM i. SoftLanding’s products and solutions are commercially available through UNICOM Global’s UNICOM Systems and Macro 4 divisions.

About UNICOM® Global
UNICOM Global consists of more than forty (40) corporate entities encompassing a wide range of businesses across all geographic regions. With its corporate headquarters in Los Angeles, California, to offices in Illinois, Kentucky, Florida, Massachusetts, Maryland, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Carolina, New Jersey, Texas and Virginia, throughout EMEA in the UK, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and the UAE, and across Asia/Pacific with locations in India, Australia, Singapore, Korea, Thailand, Taiwan and the Philippines. UNICOM Global offers deep in-house resources and flexible IT solutions to our partners worldwide. UNICOM Global focuses on acquiring and integrating mature and growing mid-cap NASDAQ, London Stock Exchange AIM and German publically-traded companies in technology, financing, IT, real estate, and business services. Please visit our websites for additional information about the services, products and solutions that UNICOM Global offers.

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