Fresche Solutions

Innovation Through Your IBM i Applications: Removing the IDK Effect

July 3, 2018
Robert Arce

As IT professionals, we should always think about how to improve processes and methods. One of my own experiences involved the need to improve the way orders were being picked in a warehouse. Ultimately, it involved creating management software and using pick-to-light equipment. The improvement reduced the product “seeking” time by assigning the most commonly-ordered items to a bin with lights. This enabled the human “pickers” to visually find the items in their respective lighted bin along with the proper quantity to pick on a display. The “picker” would then continue on to the next “pick” simply by going to the next light. The decrease in picking time turned out to be about 80% and the innovation was a huge success.

Such innovation and improvement through your IBM i applications can be done efficiently if we developers, systems analysts, and designers have good visibility of all of the components of our system. The more we get to know our applications, the fewer times we’ll have to say “I don’t know (IDK).” We should take advantage of every opportunity to reduce the “IDK effect” in our profession.

Understand your applications, inside and out

Many of us have been in a position where decisions will be made based on our answers to questions like “How long will an improvement take?” or “Can we implement a change in a few weeks to support a business opportunity?” This may be the very moment when we realize that we don’t know our application well enough to provide an accurate answer to these sorts of questions! So, having a tool such as X-Analysis is critical to providing good answers. X-Analysis reduces the risk of the unknown areas, and we are more efficient because we have full visibility of the application.

X-Analysis helps us to quickly figure out the following:

• How many and what objects are part of an entire process?

• How many objects will be impacted when a table or a program is changed?

• What is the complexity level of a process, module or the entire application?

• How big is our application? How many lines of code does it have? How many tables? How many objects make the application?

X-Analysis provides accurate and accessible information required by the business that we support. X-Analysis can help increase your development efforts by 30% to 50%, which is achieved by having automatic, up-to-date documentation of your system. For example, you can use several diagrams to help you understand the application, starting with a higher view and then drilling all the way down to the more minute details of the application (diagrams help people absorb information very quickly!).

So, how about effectiveness?

When we know the system well, we reduce the number of new bugs per enhancement. This will come about due to the effective and efficient analysis that we did, all based on the information provided by X-Analysis. This efficiency factor is a very important benefit of using this solution.

How about the confidence level of the business people?

Are company executives afraid to ask for modifications to better support their needs because of previous bad experiences? The answer to this question is that reducing the “IDK effect” will help us support our business with the level of confidence that is required. The better we know the application, removing the “IDK factor”, the more we reduce the risk per enhancement. This will result in an increased confidence level among business executives. Your resources will be able to understand your application in a shorter time, and minimize the risk associated with modification and enhancements that are done by your local group of developers or outsourced nearshore/offshore group.

Upon implementing X-Analysis, you can begin to think about what to do with the extra time that your resources will have! This becomes a great opportunity for your department: make personnel improvements via professional development, modernize your application, or analyze future needs. Recapturing this valuable time becomes one step towards further innovations and improvements that everyone should be striving for in our profession.

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