NGS has customers in virtually every industry out there, and we certainly have our share of manufacturing and distribution customers. One increasing trend we have seen is the public display of metrics that monitor operations.
Many of our industrial customers have a large television or monitor in the warehouse or manufacturing common area used for general purpose messages to employees. NGS can supply a dashboard-like presentation that summarizes operations for display. When you use the auto refresh feature, the presentation will be populated with fresh information regularly throughout the day.
The general idea is to encourage employees, as a shift or workgroup, to do better. Our customers who are pleased with the results seem to be showing just 2-5 big numbers that show how different production lines, teams, or shifts are performing in comparison to others. (Calling out individuals does not seem to be done anywhere – thankfully.)
NGS software calculates the numbers and displays them in formats and graphs that are easy to digest. The auto update capability refreshes the numbers throughout the work day.
Last month, we wrote a post on business and social media. Now with the holiday season in full swing, I’d like to redirect our focus to being less techie and being more sociable. Everywhere we go, we see people attached to their mobile devices. We spend a lot of time gazing at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, catching up on what others are doing or getting others caught up on what we are doing. What happened to the days when down time while waiting to get that much needed coffee was spent just standing there in line?
Nothing spells out the holiday spirit better than a good ol’ fashioned “Happy Holidays!” tweet that goes out to all of our followers in a single click. At holiday parties and get togethers, all the smartphones and tablets are still out in force, and we may spend just as much time taking photos, texting, and posting about each moment as talking to the people we are supposed to be socializing with.
Don’t get me wrong; I will probably send a “Season’s Greetings!” post to my family and friends, check Facebook to see what they are doing, and use my smartphone to capture some of our precious holiday moments, too. But during this festive season, when we’re at that holiday party or get together, let’s try to put down all the mobile devices and slowly back away – at least for a little while – and look into the faces of our family and friends. Let’s call our faraway loved ones instead of texting them. Let’s look around and feel the magic and awe of the holiday season.
Every industry has its inside language that only the inner core understands. Quite possibly, IT is more that way than most other company departments. Within IT, vendor marketing departments come up with new terms constantly. A lot of these terms can be annoying to seasoned professionals.
We want to hear what bugs IBM i IT pros. What are some terms that annoy you? Send them via email to me at email@example.com. We are going to collect the terms and use them in a cool contest after the start of the new year.
Navigating IBM software and hardware maintenance programs is not easy. While some things change, other parts of IBM support stay the same. Keeping up with the changes can be time consuming and is usually something that keeps dropping down the task list for most IBM i IT people.
Figuring out how support programs work with IBM i is very difficult for people new to the platform or businesspeople who manage IT departments. In order to help our customers (and others) understand what is included in different IBM support and maintenance programs, we ask an expert – Doug Fulmer of KS2 Technologies.
Doug works with companies across the country using IBM i. Before KS2, Doug worked for IBM for many years, so he has an understanding of IBM hardware and software support programs very few people have.
This video is a great educational tool for people new to the IBM i platform as well as a refresher for old hands.
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.
New terms come up all the time for IT people. A really interesting new one is “Data Science” and its corresponding job title, “Data Scientist.”
A month ago, I did a video on data science, based on my background, education, and work in this area. There is not much in the video about the IBM i, but it is still one the IBM i IT people should view.
Really, data science is just the continuation of a long line of statistical analysis techniques. Working with large amounts of data has changed over time, with software and hardware now capable of analyzing much larger data sets faster and with easier to use software than in the past. For this reason, data science has come to the forefront of analytic terms now.
There are IBM i companies that use data science now. Often, the IBM i data is required for the analysis since the ERP system holds the relevant transaction level data. This is usually the point where the IBM i IT person comes in.
If you are that person working with others in the organization who do data science analysis but find yourself a little perplexed, watch this video to get a foundation on real world data science.
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?
Most IT people have to interact with people from some other department in the company. And for most IT people writing reports from IBM i data, this interaction probably happens on a higher than average basis. Writing reports and creating views of data useful to business people requires communicating with others in relevant departments.
Most IBM i technical people have been working with other departments so long that talking business is normal. That is just how the system was designed to be run—with a lean IT staff that is very close to business operations.
For those individuals who are new to the IBM i platform but come from other parts of IT, this level of business knowledge might be different than what they are used to. It would definitely be to their benefit to sit down and learn a little more about business operations. Almost certainly, if they are now responsible for IBM i, then they are now responsible for the ERP, too. Supporting the ERP requires familiarity with the business processes performed by the ERP system.
I have seen some low key meetings, usually one-on-one, with key business people really helping the IT person who is new to IBM i get a handle on operations. Some of our most successful customers have informal NGS-IQ user groups that periodically meet over lunch to share ideas and cross-train each other on business and software functions. Let us know if you would like to try that, and we'll buy lunch for your first meeting.
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.
NGS has customers that have moved their IBM i operations to outside data centers. Most seem to start with simply co-locating their server into data centers. Some go an extra step and move their IBM i processing from their own hardware to a partner's server in a partition or virtual machine. Essentially, they use a cloud service to provide the processing previously done by their on premise servers.
We speak to customers all the time who are considering such a move. In order to answer some of the common questions we hear, I spoke to one of our long time partners who moved into the cloud hosting business a few years ago for IBM i. Here is a short video where I ask the questions I hear our customers asking. Bob Kennedy of CPS Technology was kind enough to take a few minutes to answer them. Enjoy!
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.
Personnel changes happen more often than technology at many companies. If your company has changed IT personnel from experienced IBM i people to IT people who have little background on the platform, watch this video. Afterwards, IT professionals new to IBM i will come away with a deep background and an understanding of key IBM i concepts. Watch this short video for some ideas to stimulate the discussion in your enterprise.
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.
ERP systems are the core of your company's operation. They reflect your unique business processes, capture your most valuable data, and represent a multi-million dollar investment over many years. There will always be plenty of people eager to tell you it's time for a new ERP system, but in many cases you can dramatically improve and extend the life of your current ERP system by making a modest investment in modern business intelligence and reporting software. Watch this short video for some ideas to stimulate the discussion in your enterprise.
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