9th March 2020

The IBM i Landscape: HelpSystems’ Annual IBM i Marketplace Survey 2020


2020 Marketplace Survey

Reducing IBM i Application Risk to overcome IBM i Staffing Challenges


What keeps C-Suite and senior IT management awake at night when they think about their IBM i applications?

According to research from Help Systems and our partners, Fresche Solutions, it is:

IT staff resourcing and a continued reduction in IBM i skills within their IT teams, particularly through retirement.

When our partners, Fresche Solutions surveyed over 250 senior IT management, they found that 57% simply couldn’t find people with IBM i development skills, which is particularly worrying when you consider that 91% of them are facing staffing challenges either in skills or the number of people.

Speaking in IT Jungle’s annual IBM i predictions article, Fresche spoke about maintaining skilled IBM i employees:

“The average age of retirement around the world is 62, and the average age of the baby boom generation is approximately 64, so a large percentage of IBM i developers will be eligible for retirement in 2020. Statistics show that five years at one company is now considered a lengthy tenure whereas, in the past, IBM i shops benefited from employees who remained for 35 to 40 years. In addition to skillset shortages, you can no longer count on tribal knowledge. Application knowledge capture, onboarding, training and outsourced management will be top priorities for IBM i shops in 2020.”

In the 2020 version of Help Systems’ IBM i marketplace survey, respondents said that they ran over half of their business-critical applications on the IBM i. Those applications encompassed everything from their inventory management, warehousing, logistics and accounting systems to a whole host of homegrown programs.

Help Systems research found that 78% of IT teams have two or fewer IBM i admins managing those applications, while 36% of IBM i shops had two or less IBM i developers embedded in their teams.

47% only had three to 10 IBM i developers in-house.

In 2020, more organisations surveyed are running homegrown applications on IBM i (73% versus 62% in 2019), which on one hand represents many years of diligent development to create and improve applications, but on the other hand, it does represent a significant risk when you consider the problems in recruiting skilled IBM i developers.

As the survey report states, “These applications play a huge role in making sure IBM i sticks around in many organizations”.

It is clear from Help Systems’ research over the years is that there is an awful lot of ‘intellectual property for IBM i’. While there is a lot of data to show that the IBM i has an exceptionally good total cost of ownership:

“Having a minimal number of IBM i experts on staff could be a concern if they’re retiring in a few years.”

What happens when those developers responsible for developing, supporting and maintaining those applications approach retirement age or leave your company?

Who’s going to look after those applications?

Who’s going to create additional functionality required to meet an ever-changing market?

If someone walks out the door within your IT team, you can potentially lose a great deal of knowledge of your existing IBM i application overnight.

How Proximity can help mitigate IBM i resourcing risks

The good news is resourcing and supporting your IBM i shouldn’t keep you awake at night.

We’ve worked with a number of IBM i based businesses across the UK, Ireland and Europe to not only support and maintain their applications on IBM i, but also create entirely new applications; develop further functionality on existing IBM i applications; perform bug fixes; design a proof of concept; as well as help kick start a particular project.

You can read about some of our customers in our case studies section.

For some of our customers, our support has helped them to free up their IBM i developers to work on new projects while we keep their business applications running day-to-day.

Instead of fixing bugs and maintaining your IT backlog, your team can focus on projects that will help move your business forward.

Sometimes that support has consisted of providing very experienced and skilled IBM i specialists to supplement your existing IT team, while in other cases we’ve transferred IBM i development from your team to ours via TUPE and then supported your business on a longer-term basis.

We’re pretty flexible in how our support can work to meet your requirements now – and into the future.

Contact us to find out how we can support your IBM i / AS400 / iSeries applications

Take a look at the other surveys in the series:

Posted by Rob on 9th March 2020.