Lack of skills is main barrier to digital transformation on the IBM i suggests new research

Challenges of going digital on IBM i Infographic

61% of IBM i user organizations have implemented digital initiatives, but half of them say the shortage of IBM i skills is a barrier

PETERBOROUGH, NH – July 07, 2016 – 61% of IBM i users revealed in a new poll that their organization had rolled out some type of digital transformation initiative on the platform, typically adding web interfaces to IBM i applications or switching from paper to digital presentment of documents. However, the growing shortage of IBM i skills came out as one of the biggest barriers to transformation projects on the IBM i.

The survey of 52 European IBM i users includes interviews conducted by SoftLanding® Systems, a division of UNICOM® Global, at two recent IBM i conferences, International i-Power 2016 and Common Europe Congress. It highlights the top five digital transformation initiatives that organizations have implemented on the IBM i operating system:

Top digital transformation initiatives implemented on IBM i

  1.     Adding web interfaces to IBM i applications: 84%
  2.     Switching from paper to digital documents (e.g. eInvoicing, electronic statement presentment): 81%
  3.     Multi-channel customer communications (email, web, SMS, print, social media etc.): 71%
  4.     Adding mobile interfaces to IBM i applications: 48%
  5.     Decommissioning legacy applications: 26%

With many experienced IBM i administrators and programmers either retired or nearing retirement, the lack of IBM i skills was highlighted by 50% of the survey sample as a barrier to digital transformation initiatives. Other notable barriers included the risks and uncertainty associated with making changes to core business systems and cost considerations (see below).

The main barriers to digital transformation on the IBM i

  •          Shortages of IBM i skills: 50%
  •          Cost considerations: 46%
  •          Risks of making changes to core business systems: 42%
  •          Other technical or business priorities: 39%
  •          A shortage of in-house web and mobile skills: 35%
  •          Uncertain future of IBM i platform within the business: 25%
  •          Difficulties adapting IBM i applications to web and mobile: 21%

“We have spoken to a wide range of enterprises at recent IBM i conferences in Europe about their plans for digital transformation and the good news is that there’s a good appetite for digital initiatives – with many already having done some work in this area,” said Jim Fisher, SoftLanding Operations Manager.

“However, over the years there’s been a reduction in the number of experienced IBM i programmers which means organizations often have to think twice about undertaking digital projects. My advice to those in this position is to first see if there are alternative ways of meeting your objectives that do not rely on programming expertise or making any changes to your applications.”

For example, Fisher suggests that those looking to provide employees or customers with multi-channel access to documents such as bills, statements and reports do not necessarily need to have to resort to programming.

“There are other options such as using enterprise content management systems that can take output from existing applications and automatically transform it into new digital formats to support online and mobile access – without requiring the creation of new web or mobile interfaces or making any other direct changes to the applications,” said Fisher. “You can meet your digital goals, while also avoiding the cost, risk and potentially longer project delivery times of digital transformation that involves new programming.”

The SoftLanding Systems survey reveals that those organisations which plan to carry out transformation initiatives in the next three years most frequently mentioned ‘Adding new web interfaces to IBM i applications’ (cited by 76%). This was followed by ‘Switching from paper to digital documents’ (72%) and ‘Multi-channel customer communications’ (67%).

“Overall, our conversations with users suggest that there’s plenty of confidence in the longer term capabilities of the IBM i platform, which means most are looking forward to rolling out new digital initiatives,” said Fisher.

The key findings of the SoftLanding Systems survey are summarized in an infographic, “The challenges of going digital on IBM i”, which can be viewed at:…