Moving Towards Mobility with Your IBM i Legacy System (Part 2)

Posted by Larry Dube

Hire New IT Staff, Leverage Your Team, Or Supplement with 3rd Party Tools?

ibm i mobilityIn our last blog post, we focused on preserving your investment in your IBM i legacy system by integrating newer applications that address your organization's need for more mobility. But to meet mobility goals for the future, IT leaders have more on their minds than their system alone. In this blog, we’ll address key considerations for preserving another significant investment; that is, your IT staff.


Modern Applications with Older Skill Sets

As companies move towards modern mobile applications, the first question that comes up is, “Do we need to dismantle our existing system?” (More on that here.) And the second might be, “Do we have to hire new people?”

Fortunately, the answer to both questions is ‘no.’

The question of whether to hire new talent most commonly comes up for IT teams who are skilled in older languages such as RPG. But here’s the good news: existing teams with knowledge of RPG can often create new mobile applications that work with existing IBM i systems.

The IBM i platform has evolved to support web and mobile applications written in both new languages as well as RPG. Applications written in RPG do away with the traditional “green screens,” and can work with the reporting data to present it in more visually appealing formats. They can also deliver graphical reporting on different web and mobile interfaces.

To accomplish these goals will definitely require a certain amount of upskilling for staff to become acquainted with the latest developments in RPG. However, this is usually not a daunting task for people who already have had years of experience in working with the language.

Additionally, with some training, teams already familiar with RPG typically don’t have too much trouble transitioning to some of the modern languages that are compatible with the IBM i—PHP, Ruby, Python, Java and JavaScript. Today, the IBM i platform supports many of these languages for development of mobile applications.

What About Third-Party Vendors?

While existing teams may be perfectly capable of building modern web and mobile applications, it can also be wise to consider the specialized expertise of third-party vendors to do the job. While vetting prospective vendors, here are a few key considerations that you’ll want to consider to help with that decision:

  • Front End Skills: Creating the front end or the Graphical User Interface (GUI) for mobile applications is a critical part, as that’s mainly what drives usability. However, skilled front-end developers can be difficult to find, so be sure to have a good working knowledge of the capabilities you’re looking for before talking with third-party vendors.
  • Flexible Toolsets: Most businesses will have some unique requirements when it comes to reporting data. So adopting third-party tools should be done carefully, with preference for ones that are menu-driven. It is also advisable to find out how much of these tools are proprietary, and which pieces can be scripted according to those unique requirements.
  • Interoperability: Your application modernization strategy should always be interoperable, enabling your organization to be prepared to work with new systems or applications that you may build in the future. Therefore, it is important to choose a tool that is able to deliver applications that work even beyond the IBM i platform.
  • More Than a Screen Scraper: Your mobile applications should go beyond simply offering a more aesthetic presentation of the data. They should also enable certain basic functionalities to manipulate and understand the data you have. That means it’s important to ask if the vendor or tool you are evaluating is simply a screen scraper that will ‘pretty up’ your data or one that has deeper capabilities. You may want to choose one that:
  • Can bring data from disparate systems together
  • Allows you to build better functionalities into your screens
  • Can be easily worked upon by your RPG developers
  • Work across different device types, without having to reformat the data

These are just some of the important questions to consider for companies who are looking to “go mobile” with their enterprise architecture. Chances are, your existing team can be leveraged to develop the modern applications that your business needs; and should you decide to bring on board third-party vendors, just be sure to consider some of the factors outlined here.  Also keep in mind, PSGi serves as a strategic partner to help your organization address its mobility goals while preserving your investment in both your IBM i infrastructure and your human resources.

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Tags: IBM i Modernization, IBM i Platform