Fresche Solutions

Navigating the IBM i Landscape: Build Resilient IT Strategies

February 2, 2024
Monica Sanchez

As technology continues to shape business outcomes, IT leaders are challenged with adapting to market changes. Gartner reported that, in 2023, 91% of businesses are already engaged in digital initiatives, with 87% of senior leaders prioritizing digitalization. Market shifts like these and the accelerated pace of change are reshaping how IT leaders approach strategy.

When crafting an agile strategy to support your IBM i shop’s modernization and transformation, consider not only your business priorities, but also the current market shifts and trends to make informed decisions.

Business Strategy: The Foundation of IT Planning

IT cannot innovate (or operate!) independent of the business. You need a solid understanding of the organization's business and must identify specific areas where technology can add value to the desired future state. Recognize gaps and identify ways to bridge them.

Adopt a holistic approach factoring in people, processes, and technology while considering strategies to address business objectives.  Do not be afraid to drive successful transformations, blend different approaches and adjust as you go along.

Market Trends Shaping IT Strategy

2023 marked a noticeable shift in the following focus areas. Incorporating them into your strategy will better position your organization for resilience in a rapidly evolving landscape:

1) Cybersecurity: It continues to remain a priority as many organizations have yet to take advantage of IBM i’s inherent security measures. Research indicates that ~30% of companies do not utilize privileged user management, antivirus, ransomware protection, or multi-factor authentication. There is also a rampant lack of cybersecurity knowledge and skills, compounded by threats that are rapidly evolving. Moreover, there is a disconnect between upper management's perception of security risks and actual threats.It is a primary concern for all, prompting some organizations to have CISOs report directly to the CEO. IT leaders must communicate effectively about these risks and advocate for the resources required.

2) Application Modernization: As an IBM i organization, you often rely on critical applications developed in RPG. With many IBM i professionals nearing retirement, finding new talent becomes increasingly challenging. Moreover, younger developers often show little interest in learning RPG, complicating code analysis and documentation updates. These factors collectively pose sustainability risks.

3) IT and Business Automation: Typically, legacy applications prioritize transactions over customer experience. They have limited or no integration with APIs and have not been built for business intelligence and analytics, resulting in rigidity and delays in implementing changes and addressing business priorities. The complexity of code written by many hands over many decades further hampers current developers, who don’t touch it, not wanting to disrupt applications’ functionality and business continuity.To address these challenges, companies are prioritizing modernization and investing in IT & business automation.

4) Cloud-Based High Availability and Disaster Recovery (HA/DR): Cloud adoption trends indicate that IBM i organizations are progressively migrating critical workloads, including core business applications, test, and development, backup, and disaster recovery, to cloud environments. It is no secret that cloud-based HA/DR solutions offer resilience & scalability. Most importantly, they help you recover faster after a business disruption.

These are pivotal market trends to consider while planning a proactive comprehensive strategy.

Artificial Intelligence (AI): A Market Disruptor

As we navigate the market dynamics, one disruptive force stands out: AI. It is here to stay. Craft a strategy that accounts for AI’s ability to reshape the IBM i space.

AI is becoming critical for competitiveness as it helps transform any activity that involves data, i.e., every part of your business. You probably have lots of data, but for it to be AI-ready: it must be cleaned and transformed for easy access & analysis, and unstructured data (video, text, images) will need human or machine labels

You are also likely to find gaps that require augmentation with new data sources you will collect, purchase, or synthesize. After deployment, new pipelines need to be built to access that data in your production system.

To pursue AI and ML at scale, you will need an agile information architecture that allows you to serve new types of data, in new ways, in a governed and repeatable fashion. Start with a multifaceted approach that considers data, people, processes, and technologies. Then create an initial strategy and prototype that helps the organization understand how to:

  • Address data volumes, curation, and talent allocation
  • Get stakeholder buy-in: AI education, exploring various use cases
  • Examine the ethical implications of bias in AI predictions

AI excels at managing extensive data volumes and repetitive tasks, so I see it as a tool that will augment human capabilities. While it holds the promise of being a market differentiator, any meaningful impact it can have still hinges on human involvement – in ensuring consistent access to new data and monitoring output accuracy.

Strategic Balance: Lead for Now and Later

Amidst these transformative trends, IT leaders need to maintain a fine balance between short-term imperatives and long-term goals. While you likely feel pressured to address urgent business needs, keep an unwavering eye on your long-term goals. Be proactive in your approach. Ideally, short-term goals should be building blocks toward your long-term vision, then you will progress toward your ideal future state without wasting immediate effort.

Remember that you don't have to face these challenges alone. Get help from teammates, peers, or external resources - fresh perspectives are invaluable when navigating the complexities of IT leadership.

Striking this balance while managing IBM i systems that support core applications (often homegrown and challenging to maintain) can present complexities for CIOs & CTOs tasked with aligning IT with business strategy. In response, Fresche has revamped the Strategic Advisory Services portfolio to address your primary concerns and anticipate potential disruptions in your IT strategy. Get help from experts in crafting a strategic approach that includes a current versus future state assessment, priorities, and fundamentals to support the business case, and a roadmap to reach the desired destination.

From Vision to Action: Building a Culture of Innovation

As an IT leader, you have a clear vision of where you want to get to. But your success will depend on inspiring others with your vision. Ensure your colleagues understand its implications for the organization, the path to realization, and associated key considerations. By passionately advocating for your vision, you will transform it into a shared goal.

Break down barriers and silos within the organization. When you foster collaboration between IT and the business, you eliminate friction, allowing teams to work in synergy.

As IT leaders, we excel in technology, but modernization and transformation initiatives span processes, people, and culture. Understanding your business culture is especially important; change may challenge ingrained habits and comfort zones. Assess your capacity for change to help set realistic timelines.

Lastly, I will never stop advocating for clear communication as a hallmark characteristic of a great IT leader. Not only does communication help align everyone, it also fosters trust and collaboration, even amidst challenges. Ultimately, transformation journeys should be learning opportunities for you, your IT team, and the organization.

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Take a deeper dive into how these market trends and other factors have shaped IBM i IT priorities and explore better ways to plan your initiatives - join my colleague and IBM i expert Chris Koppe and I for a live webinar on February 6 at 2 pm ET.


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