Posts by Bill Langston
Fall Is Showtime
During September and October, NGS-IQ product specialists will be traveling throughout the continental USA to attend events, meet users, and conduct tutoring sessions. We hope you’ll look for us, ask your customers if they would like to learn about NGS-IQ, or request a chance to meet with our team member privately to discuss marketing tactics. Our fall calendar is below:
OMNI Technical Conference, IBM, Schaumburg, Illinois, September 19, 2017
COMMON Fall Conference, Hyatt Regency St Louis at the Arch, St Louis, Missouri, October 2-4, 2017
RPG-DB2 Summit, DoubleTree Park Place, Minneapolis, Minnesota, October 17-19, 2017
Mincron-Dancik Fusion17 User Conference, Sheraton New Orleans, Louisiana, October 15-18, 2017
IBM’s Strategy and IBM’s Customers
Since you are reading this newsletter, there’s a good chance you receive IBM Systems Magazine each month in its digital or print format. IBM uses the magazine to soft-sell their strategic direction and remind customers about the strengths of IBM Power.
The current issue includes the results of a survey of over 300 readers. A quick review of the results alongside the content of recent issues suggests a gap between what these customers want to read and what IBM marketing wants them to hear. In a table showing their level of interest in various types of content, readers showed their strongest interest is technical information and articles about new IBM technologies. In contrast, strategic content was least frequently cited as being of strong interest and most frequently described as being of little to no interest.
When your most loyal customers aren’t interested in your strategy, it’s either a weak strategy or you aren’t communicating it in a meaningful way. Let’s hope IBM has begun to recognize this and is actively working to enhance both.
Working with NGS: David Gillman is wrapping up his long career at NGS this month. Bill Langston has assumed his job duties and request that you address your questions to him going forward. We thank David for his many years of service to NGS and wish him the best. Please contact Bill Langston at (916) 920-2200, ext. 254.
As you may know, COMMON is the largest IBM user group providing education to IT professionals who work on IBM POWER systems. SHARE is a similarly organized user group for IT professionals working on the IBM Z or “mainframe” platform. A friend at another company recently mentioned they were attending the SHARE conference. That casual comment lead me to do some research.
I've never attended a SHARE event, and New Generation Software, Inc. does not play in the IBM Z marketplace. But when I looked at SHARE's website, I couldn't help but notice how much the curriculum and feel of things resembled COMMON. Whereas in years past the sessions offered at the two conferences probably did not have much overlap, today's situation seems different. With IBM focused on Watson, LINUX, and open source software development on both POWER and Z, the technical content of the two conferences looks surprisingly similar. I believe there are some people who attend and speak at both conferences, and some of the same vendors seem to exhibit at both, too. Of late, attendance at the two conferences is also about the same.
Bringing these two groups together just might make educational and economic sense. I wouldn’t be surprised if IBM or a few large Z and POWER customers have already suggested this idea.
NGS customers who are current on maintenance can take advantage of a variety of valuable, free, and educational offerings. These offerings include online tutoring sessions, share and learn Webinars, on demand videos, and even onsite product reviews with NGS product specialists traveling in your area. Most of these offerings only require an hour or two of your time. I hope you or your coworkers have taken advantage of some of these services and found them very helpful.
But if your company is planning to change to a new ERP system or computing platform, there is probably a multi-year timeline attached to that project. Meanwhile, dozens or even hundreds of employees in accounting, operations, human resources, marketing, logistics, and other departments still need to use your existing software applications and tools every day to help your company meet its near-term goals.
Unfortunately, and all too often, once a major software or platform change is planned, even low and no-cost education related to current applications is deemed unnecessary or a distraction. While that education may not be required anymore for application developers engaged in learning about the future system, it could still hold a lot of value for the business users who will continue to work with your existing systems for one, two, or even several more years.
Take full advantage of your educational opportunities until your company is ready to roll out its new system. Even a few hours saved each month over a year or two in multiple departments can yield a tremendous return on investment. And, let’s face it, enterprise software migration projects routinely take much longer than planned, and you could still be using your current system years from now.
Are you an NGS-IQ query developer who hasn’t had time to get familiar with our Web reporting features? You’ve probably seen us demonstrate WebRunner and IQ Client’s HTML design features, but up to now, your company has left Web software development and support in the hands of a separate person or team that views your IBM i environment as an uncharted island, best avoided. Maybe you feel the same way about that team’s strangely named Web servers, languages, and development tools. There’s a lot to be gained by connecting these islands. Let NGS help you build a bridge between IBM i and Web experts in your company. IQ Client and WebRunner can be the catalyst.
If you’ve never set up or just rarely used Apache Web Server for IBM i, we encourage you to contact us so we can guide you through the steps. It usually doesn’t take more than a few minutes. If you have NGS-IQ queries that your users might like to run from a Web browser, help us introduce your Web developers to the HTML report design features of IQ Client. We can help them install IQ Client and you can identify a few queries to download and copy. After that, we can teach them how to add the HTML design touches needed to transform your query into an attractive Web report that can be run from a portal or Web page. Along the way, you may both become a lot more comfortable with each other’s area of expertise.
IBM, Oracle, HP, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, SAP, and virtually every other major technology company want you and your company to use their cloud. Each quarter, these companies release new products and acquire companies to bolster their cloud offerings and grow their cloud revenue. Industry analysts forecast remarkable growth in cloud spending. Yet, global spending on information technology has been nearly flat for several years now and Gartner expects it to remain that way for the rest of this decade. So what is the source of all this cloud growth?
As consumers, we generally think of the cloud as a place where we can backup and save files, access applications and websites to do online banking, pay bills, share photos and music, or communicate with our healthcare providers. But if you’re a publicly traded technology company striving to meet ever higher quarterly revenue targets, the cloud can be much, much more. Here are some ways technology companies increase their cloud revenue:
Whether it’s software as a service (SaaS), platform as a service (PaaS), infrastructure as a service (Iaas), business process as a service (BPaaS), a private cloud, a public cloud, a hybrid cloud, or even remote backup, all these resources are commonly treated as cloud revenue today.
Yes, new technology is creating demand for cloud computing, and companies are using clouds in an effort to gain flexibility and reduce cost. But technology companies, eager to impress investors, will continue to creatively expand the definition of cloud computing to ensure they achieve their targeted rates of growth.
In the 1980’s a political consultant coined the phrase “perception is reality,” and over the past 30 years that phrase has become widely used and accepted in both business and social settings to help explain or justify behavior. But in fact, perceptions we can’t verify through data provide a very weak foundation on which to make business and personal decisions.
Our perceptions do shape our individual impression of “reality,” but things aren’t always as they seem. Most of us know from personal experience that when someone says, “(Fill in a number) people can’t be wrong!” that there is a chance all those people just might be. We need to look at the data.
Assuming perceptions are the same as a company’s reality is high risk business behavior. Instead, cultivating skepticism is much more productive for developing a business. Combining creative thinking with the effective use of data to test perceptions and make informed decisions is the way to move your business forward.
Many NGS customers run customized or internally developed enterprise resource planning (ERP) software. Given how long many of these ERP systems have been in place, it’s no surprise that every year a few customers tell us they are actively looking for a new system or have already begun a migration that their company expects to complete in the coming year or two.
With a few Google searches it is easy to find numerous articles and white papers on ERP implementation planning. The consensus seems to be that companies should be able to complete ERP implementation projects in roughly 18 months at a cost ranging from $750,000 to $5.0 million, depending on industry, size, and organizational structure. Larger enterprises can certainly spend much more. NGS doesn’t develop or support ERP software, but we do know customers, both mid-market and larger, with active projects that have now gone far past 18 months and who, we assume, have also exceeded their budgets. If you are in this position, we are sorry your company has found its ERP migration so challenging, but happy you continue to need our software and support.
If your company is thinking about replacing its outdated ERP software, remember that the problem is related to the software, not the platform. IBM continues to roll out new generations of POWER servers (now at POWER8) and new IBM i operating system releases. Reliable sources indicate there will be yet another IBM i release in 2016. Every story surrounding that anticipated release suggests IBM and its partners will enable more programming languages, more databases, more development methods, and more applications to run on IBM i.
ERP consultants and vendors are in the business of convincing companies to change ERP software. Sometimes they are right. But when you are driving your business on an actively supported server platform like IBM POWER, a durable and regularly enhanced operating system like IBM i, and a high performance database like DB2 on i, exit with caution.
NGS supports customers of all sizes and across all industries. These companies create, distribute, and provide products and services that we all rely on or consume on a daily basis – engine parts, steel, agricultural products, snack foods, pest control services, groceries, medical devices, containers, tools, paint, lighting, carpet, newspapers, clothes, healthcare services, tires, financial services, sporting goods, education, and on and on. The bond they share is their decision to run their core business on IBM i.
Unless you work for one of these companies or know someone who does, you can easily take their products for granted and go through life without much thought to their importance to our economy and the quality of our lives. When operating well, they do what they do so reliably that they become almost invisible to us. However, they are no less essential.
In the same vein, we assume you want your essential business information systems to perform the same way – reliably and nearly invisibly. That’s probably one reason your company runs its core business processes on IBM i.
In this technological age where everything from what we’re having for dinner to what darling things our kids and pets are doing is broadcasted instantaneously through social media, virtually no one but vendors and IBM talk about IBM i. Why? Because people talk about the things that surprise, delight, and annoy them. They tweet and post about things that incite emotion, not things they take for granted.
Business software and computers like the ones we run are designed to be taken for granted, just like some of the products and services mentioned above.
So, we will continue being invisible but essential, doing what we do best – developing and modifying business software to meet our customers’ needs.
NGS-IQ operates in compliance with your IBM i security environment and also lets you control data and query access at a more granular level by using the optional IQ SeQure module. But if your company stores credit card numbers, social security numbers, and other sensitive information in DB2 on i, you should be using encryption to further restrict access. By taking advantage of features introduced in release IBM i release 7.1, NGS-IQ, and a proven encryption solution, you can support enterprise reporting and business intelligence without compromising your sensitive data. We encourage you to learn more by watching this short video produced by NGS business partner, Linoma Software. There is a link to request a data security White Paper from NGS and Linoma Software at the end of the video.
Most of us have a strong degree of skepticism about how companies market their products and services. We see “FREE!” and our eyes narrow and our minds say, “Don’t believe it!” Often that caution is warranted, but every once in a while, it isn’t. NGS’s offer of Qport Office is one of those rare times.
Qport Office is a terrific tool that gives IBM Query/400 users a Windows run-only interface so that they can output Query/400 queries directly to Microsoft Excel, Word and Access. You can obtain a two-concurrent user license of Qport Office without paying a license fee. We invite you to read the recent MC Press “TechTip” article explaining the features and benefits of Qport Office.
We encourage you to order Qport Office today. When you do, you’ll receive 90 days of toll-free telephone and online technical support from NGS. After 90 days you can elect to extend support for a nominal fee, but the software will continue to work whether or not you do so.
Of course, we hope you’ll like using Qport Office and discover we’re a great company to work with. Maybe someday you’ll decide to take a look at our more advanced query, reporting, and online analytical processing software for IBM i users. Until then, why not order and use Qport Office? There's no catch.
We regularly hear customers say they need and want ongoing education but can’t leave their office to attend a conference, user group meeting, or training class. This problem might be due to job duties, budget, or family obligations. We certainly understand.
Fortunately, if you’re an IBM i operator, programmer/analyst, or administrator, there is a FREE event coming soon that can provide some of the education you want — right at your desk. It’s the COMMON Virtual Conference & Expo on December 15, 2015. We hope you will click on the link above, take a look at the agenda, and register to attend. We’ll explain.
COMMON is an international IBM user group that organizes educational events online and around the world. Although the COMMON user group has been around for decades, we know many IBM i customers are not COMMON members, are unaware of COMMON, or have never attended a COMMON sponsored event. If that’s you, take note: this virtual conference is open to everyone. You do not need to join COMMON. There is no fee to attend, but you do need to register.
What’s a Virtual Conference?
Think Webinar. The virtual conference consists of a full day of top experts presenting sessions in a Webinar format that you can view at your desk. You can pick topics that interest you and move in and out of the virtual conference throughout the day.
What If I’m Busy on December 15?
COMMON will keep the sessions available on demand for several weeks afterwards, so you can go back and watch them again or catch topics you missed. The key is to register now so that you’ll receive the login instructions and have the opportunity to view all the sessions you want, even if you can’t attend on December 15.
NGS is one of the sponsors of the COMMON Virtual Conference & Expo. We’ll be giving a session on migration alternatives for IBM Query/400 users, and some NGS staff members will be available to “chat” with you in the virtual expo.
We’re contacted every day by companies who tell us we should hire them to help us gain a competitive advantage and reach new customers through social media. These consultants and vendors say it’s critical for us to have a strong presence on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. because social media is where our customers and potential customers are spending their time and seeking information. It’s an interesting theory, but our experience tells us this isn’t the case.
We use Google search advertising to attract people to our website. We use Google Analytics to monitor our site’s traffic, where our site visitors are located, what pages they view, and how long they stay on them. Twitter is one of several ways we share company news and announcements. We regularly monitor the discussions on several IBM i-related LinkedIn groups and a popular IBM i technical forum so that we can respond if something warrants a comment. And we’ll continue to do all of these things even though it’s a rare day when an NGS customer or potential customer uses any of these media to share a thought about a work-related topic.
We know IT professionals use social media in their personal lives to communicate with and follow family, friends, and groups that share their hobbies, root for the same sports teams, or like the same entertainers and political leaders. But it seems that for most, social media is a private, personal activity that declines or ceases during business hours. That’s understandable since IT professionals spend their days working with sensitive data and proprietary processes their employers and clients don’t want discussed publicly. Regional user group meetings and conferences provide social networking opportunities without the online element. Private, “unsocial” media like email, conference calls, and meetings play the biggest role on a day-to-day basis. To complicate matters further, the largest IBM i discussion groups on LinkedIn prohibit or strongly discourage promotional content.
So how can social media provide value in this environment? We’d like to know what you think. If you’re an IT professional or business software user, please tell us if or how you use social media in your workplace. What types of information would you like to see vendors provide through these outlets and what policies has your company established to govern your use of social media?
NGS devotes considerable resources to sending product specialists into the field to meet face to face with our customers. We initiated this effort, which we call our “Customer Success” program, several years ago to proactively connect with new users who have often never received training and with long-time users who are increasingly wearing multiple hats and spending less time keeping up with new releases.
If you've taken advantage of one of these sessions with an NGS product specialist, hopefully you and your staff gained new knowledge and discovered we were there to answer questions, teach, and learn — not to sell you more products (although you are allowed to do that, too, if needed).
Other vendors and sometimes new customers ask why we travel when we could be holding Web meetings and conference calls from the comfort of our home office. The fact is, we also do those things every business day, but even with today's technology, we're almost always able to cover more topics in greater depth and reach more people when we meet you face to face.
The next time we contact you about visiting with you or your staff, we hope you’ll remember the benefits of this program.
From time to time, nearly all of us resist or postpone developing new skills and learning how to take advantage of new technology. This can be especially true as we age, even among information technology professionals who have had long and successful careers in an ever changing environment.
According to the Pew Research Center (PRC), approximately 30% of the United States workforce is over 50 years of age. In another study published this year, the PRC estimated that approximately 59% of Americans born between 1946 and 1964 were still active in the workforce. If you are in this age group, you may be thinking more about the end of your career than about learning new work-related skills. The simple fact is, however, that staying mentally sharp and developing new skills at work not only raises our value in the workforce, but also helps us stay mentally sharp and productive at home.
The US Social Security Administration says that a man who is age 50 today is likely to live another 32.3 years while a woman age 50 is likely to live to another 35.6 years. That’s the average life expectancy. Many of us will live much longer. Taken another way, if you are in this age group, you probably have as many years in front of you, in or out of the workforce, as you’ve had since you left high school or college. That’s a long time and it will be a whole lot less interesting for those who’ve stopped challenging themselves to learn new things.
Unlike our peers in physically demanding occupations, those of us who work in information technology can, with a commitment to lifelong learning, continue to perform at a high level regardless of our age. That’s cool and important to remember next time you find yourself resisting an opportunity to learn.
If you use Google to search for information related to IBM i, what terms and product names do you enter? IBM i, iSeries, System i, AS/400? Google's own search statistics indicate pretty clearly that many people still use them all. As software vendors, we must know what words and phrases people search on because we want our own information and search advertising to appear frequently. NGS uses Google's Adwords tools each month to get a quantifiable measure of market interest and what people in the "Americas" search on when they look for things related to IBM i. It's a little tricky to get accurate numbers because of multi-word product names, special characters like "/", etc., but here's what Google's Adwords tool shows for the average number of searches per month for the past year ending June 2015:
|Keyword or Term||Average Monthly Searches
June 2014 through June 2015
|"IBM System i"||140|
|"IBM i 7.2"||40|
|"IBM i 7.1"||30|
|"IBM POWER i"||30|
It's amazing how AS/400 and all its variants continue to dominate the market even after all these years since IBM marketed a product by that name. We support and use IBM's current naming conventions consistently in our conversations and materials, but sometimes we're forced to use older terminology to ensure our Google ads and website come up frequently in search results.
For comparison sake, Google shows that "business intelligence" was entered an average of 33,100 times in May and June. LINUX was used 201,000 times both months. "IBM Watson" was searched on 22,200 times in May and 18,100 time in June.
Caveat: Google search stats may be misleading in technical fields because experienced IBM i developers know where to go directly for technical information and are not as likely as consumers to start out at Google, but the managers and users they support may indeed begin their research at Google when they have questions.
Here's more information on how Google arrives at these statistics.
Programmers are taught early in their career to simplify program maintenance by carefully documenting their work. Companies invest significant time and money developing business continuity and disaster recovery plans in the hope they can minimize risk and reduce recovery time if the enterprise is threatened. But many of these same organizations never document their reports and reporting processes. Knowledge of these practices is frequently overlooked until the environment changes and someone stops receiving a report or file they rely on to monitor and guide their daily operations. That's a bit too late.
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