Fresche Solutions

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Your IT

February 21, 2018
Amy Anderson

If you’re an IT manager, you’re in a constant state of analyzing and revising your IT infrastructure: what do you need more of? What has become obsolete? How do you keep your users happy without running a bloated and unruly IT organization?

Obviously, there is no simple answer. However, a popular self-help book might hold a clue. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing, by Marie Kondo, held a spot on the New York Times bestseller list for more than 140 weeks. In the book, Ms. Kondo takes readers through a six-step program, the KonMari method, to first understand their long-term objectives in life and then create a de-cluttered home that helps fulfill those objectives.

One of Ms. Kondo’s tips is to clean by category, not by room. She encourages readers to start decluttering by creating one giant pile of all their clothes - a category - and evaluating each piece of clothing by picking it up, holding it, and asking whether or not the piece of clothing “sparks joy.” If the answer is no, the clothing is thanked for its service and put into a discard pile. If the answer is yes, the clothing is folded or hung in a visually pleasing way and stored in a closet or drawer that is not overflowing with junk. After the clothing, readers are told to then tackle books, papers, miscellaneous items, and finally, mementos. This, according to Ms. Kondo, is the road to happiness.

What if you could do that with your application environment?

After all, the entire IBM i system is object-based. Everything, from database files to programs to user profiles, is an object. Of course, you can’t hold an IBM i object in your hand to evaluate whether or not it sparks joy. But imagine that you could evaluate all the objects in your application environment, by category. Maybe you don’t evaluate them on the basis of sparking joy, but what if you could evaluate every object for its utility in your current application environment?

Step 1: Define your long-term IT goals

Just like the KonMari method, you first need to start by defining your long-term objective. Commonly stated phrases like, “Get off the green screen” are a means to an end, not the long-term objective itself. IT managers need to dig deeper to find the real objectives. If the desire is to modernize a user interface, the long-term objective, whether it is lower training costs or higher user engagement, needs to be well defined.

Once that objective is understood, the decluttering process begins.

Step 2: Declutter by evaluating the individual objects

IT managers need tools that let them evaluate each object. For user interfaces, Newlook Developer, includes a feature called Insights, which gives developers a heat map that shows which UI objects are most commonly used and which objects are rarely used.

Armed with this information, developers can then focus on re-designing the most critical components of the user interface. A better interface most surely sparks joy for end users, but also improves morale for developers, who feel more empowered and productive.

Step 3: Look at the entire application environment, then document!

But the real decluttering happens on the back end of an application environment. A good development manager can make an educated guess at the most heavily used UI objects in an application, but even the most seasoned veteran is hard pressed to accurately define the program and database objects in their system, at least without tools.

With the X-Analysis suite, developers can get a clear and unambiguous view of their entire application environment: the total lines of code, the number of programs, sub-routines, function calls, external calls, and variables used. Importantly, every database object, including its subfiles, logical views, and links to other database objects, is described. Every object is automatically documented and the documentation is constantly maintained.

View of the X-Analysis tools' file field levels:

View of the X-Analysis tools' maximum tracking levels:

If the task is to evaluate every object for its utility and not its ability to “spark joy,” X-Analysis also shows how recently every object was used, and whether or not an application object has been orphaned over time. In this way, development managers can easily de-clutter their IBM I systems and move closer toward their long-term goals.

And no one will notice if you thank those dormant RPG objects for their service as you put them in the discard pile.

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