Angus: The future is here! Well.. almost…

Customers with IBM i have a unique advantage. They can continue to run code that is up to 30 years (or so) old. All the business logic built into application systems that have run the company well can be leveraged by the IT department to reduce costs. Replacing ERP systems any time some vendor, competitor or golf partner of an executive decides, can be costly, time-consuming, and improve the effectiveness of the application by not much at all.

Of course, using that advantage as an excuse to continue writing code like you have done in the past is simply unacceptable. While IT can leverage its investment in software, keeping up to date and using modern approaches to application development will mean a business can remain agile and competitive. Keeping IT costs to their effective minimum does not mean doing the same old thing, but keeping up to date, learning every day, and providing the business the best service possible.

Nothing drives this point home more than the iPad. “What?” you cry! “How can a tablet for book reading really make me want to keep my IT modern?” A simple answer is for you to go to an Apple store, and play with an iPad. Even better, borrow an iPad from a friend, acquaintance, or stranger, and spend just a couple of minutes with one of the cool apps.

The more complex answer starts with the state of computing. Just after Apple released the iPad, Bill Gates and Steve Baumer decried it as a tool that is just not what they want today. Their best excuse, among the litany of ‘complaints’, was that you could not take notes on the iPad when you are in a meeting or a lecture. I wonder if there was a stylus – similar to what Microsoft want you to use – would Gates and Ballmer like the iPad? Steve Jobs declared the iPad was end of the PC as we know it, and used trucks and cars as his analogy, and that threw Ballmer into a tizzy. It seems like something important is happening here.

In fact, Microsoft have a product called Surface, which is simply just another means of using your fingers for input. Bill Gates also demonstrated the Touch Wall a couple of years ago where both hands can be used for interacting. You would think the iPad would be their new favorite toy! I bet they both have one…

While it seems an assumption that the iPad is really a game changer in terms of computer-human interaction, this is not far from the truth. The follow-on devices from the competition are coming fast. Google’s Android OS makes life easier for device manufacturers to get in the game. Starting with the Alex from Spring Design, e-book readers are getting smarter, the nook price reduction has just caused a drop in their price across the board. Tablets are next, with Samsung and LG preparing theirs, and Cisco’s Cius causing all kinds of excitement.

With all these devices available to the public, everyone – and literally EVERYone – will have some means of human-computer interaction, and therefore human-internet interaction – in their pocket, bag, purse or iPad pocket. And next, they will want to bring them to work, and USE them in their job. Several companies are allowing users to bring their own computing devices to work to replace their supplied desktop or laptop. Kraft even provides a stipend to incent employees to participate in their BYOC program.

What does this mean to you? First, does your infrastructure and architecture allow for access to your applications with these new devices? Can executives, employees, customers, vendors, and partners access the applications they need to do their job for the business? Second, what are you doing to prepare yourself for the future of computing?

Certainly, the first question is a business problem that can be solved with some effort, but is not outside our job description. As I assist companies in their modernization efforts, as I speak on modernization to many user groups and organizations, I find that there are still a lot of questions being asked by IT departments on how to move forward. Without moving forward, our 30 year old legacy code will simply not suffice in a new world of iPads, tablets, surfaces and walls that are the future of interaction with the information to be extracted from our applications.

The second question is the most interesting to me. I see IT people who are new to our industry being excited, passionate, energetic and looking forward to the future. And some of us who have been around “for a while” – no names, no dates – retain the passion and enthusiasm that led them to IT in the first place. A large part of the IBM i skilled population seem stuck in some glorious past, where UIM and DDS reign supreme.There are definitely tools that are in your kit, but many of them should be a little dustier these days.

Ask yourself these questions.

– Do you believe you are working on an AS/400, an iSeries, or a System i?

– Are you coding with the same approach as the day/month/year you started?

– Do you have little desire to move on with your skill set?

– Are you ready to retire from your job?

– Do you complain bitterly about IBM and repeated name changes?

– Has it been ten years since you learned a new coding technique?

– Do you avoid sharing new things with other IBM i technologists?

– Do you stay at home when the local user group meeting topic is not to your liking?

– Did you forget how passionate you were about this platform in your early years?

While there are 400 more questions to be asked here, if the majority of your answers were affirmative, then you have some thinking to do. Maybe it is time to retire to your vineyard, to your garage, garden or toolshed. Or maybe, just maybe, it is time to learn something NEW. And, while you are doing it, find an intern who has learned RPG recently to be your shadow!And if there are no RPG interns to hire, ask your local colleges for them.

If the future of IT is taking so many turns, in such a short timeframe, that you cannot see far enough ahead of you, it is time. Time to take action. Time to rediscover your passion. And time to get an iPad. Purely for research, of course…

3 Comments

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Trevor Perry. Trevor Perry said: RT @angustheitchap: a new blog entry: http://blog.angustheitchap.com/?p=243 "The future is here! Well.. almost…" […]

Aaron BartellJuly 6th, 2010 at 9:17 am

Goog blog entry! Having IBMi “talk” with these new devices is going to be a necessity moving forward. Some might say “well, we have our web department take care of that”. To that I say “sounds like your web department is not only having more fun than you but they are probably making more money AND having fun!”.

These times are exciting. I haven’t been around as long as most, but I still get that tickle of excited feeling inside when I hear of a new technology/device that I want to figure out how it ticks/works and see if I can make it “talk” to my existing technology love (RPG+DB2+IBMi).

Stay tuned for an article in IBMSystemsMag.com where I walk you though creating your first Google Android application (Android is the operating system that runs on many phones, and also future iPad competitors). The article will show you how to talk **DIRECTLY** from the phone to RPG on the server using 100% open source and free technologies (you actually don’t even need to own an Android phone to do this – COOL!). Can you tell I am excited! 🙂

A lover of IBMi,
AaronBartell.com

Scott KlementJuly 6th, 2010 at 5:23 pm

I already own an iPad, and I like it… though there’s also a lot of room for improvements, and I don’t really see it as revolutionary.

To answer your questions:

– Do you believe you are working on an AS/400, an iSeries, or a System i?

Yes, the outside of my box says “IBM System i5”, so I do in fact believe that I’m working on a System i.

– Are you coding with the same approach as the day/month/year you started?

Good grief, no.

– Do you have little desire to move on with your skill set?

I don’t really think of myself as having a “skill set”, per se. My skills constantly change, and aren’t really organized into sets.

– Are you ready to retire from your job?

If I could, yes!

– Do you complain bitterly about IBM and repeated name changes?

Definitely. It has done so much damage to this platform that it’s hard to begin to express it.

– Has it been ten years since you learned a new coding technique?

Trevor, it hasn’t even been 10 *hours* since I learned a new coding technique!

– Do you avoid sharing new things with other IBM i technologists?

That’s not a failing of mine.

– Do you stay at home when the local user group meeting topic is not to your liking?

Yes… and not only that, when it’s something I’ve seen already. There’s only so much time in the day, and I don’t need to waste it on something I’m not interested in.

– Did you forget how passionate you were about this platform in your early years?

Honestly, in the early years I didn’t have much passion for this platform. My passion has grown out of the improvements that IBM made over the past 15 years.

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