As RPG developers on the IBM i platform reach retirement age, it has led to a concern about the availability of RPG Developers and the potential impact it will have on businesses that rely on mission critical RPG applications.
The one thing that needs to be addressed is that the availability of RPG developers, or the lack thereof, is not as big of an issue as one might think when it comes to the future of the IBM i platform.
In fact, “the lack of talent or the skills gap is not just a problem for the IBM i community.”
There are two reasons we don’t need to fear the availability of RPG resources:
- RPG Training Programs: RPG training programs offer the necessary resource to train entry level RPG developers and bring seasoned RPG developers up to speed on the latest modern RPG development tools and techniques.
Training for the RPG Developer
Many IBM i shops are looking at succession planning and training as a way to leverage the valuable IBM i platform.
While there are any variety of issues that come up to RPG developers retiring, the most important is knowledge transfer.
The RPG developer may have specialized knowledge and expertise that is critical to the company’s operations. When the developer retires, the company needs to ensure that this knowledge is transferred to other team members to avoid any disruptions in operations.
If knowledge is not properly transferred, the company may face significant business continuity risks.
Succession Planning & Modernization
“The IBM i experts that are retiring, need to be replaced. But, the skills needed in the future will be different.
For most IBM i shops, the need to modernize and innovate will call for an IBM i Developer that can use a variety of tools. While some of the tools are old, some are new (think open-source).”
Looking for help with your succession plan? Feel free to schedule a consultation.
Knowledge Transfer Mitigated Through Training
Knowledge transfer can be mitigated through training by providing current and future employees with the necessary skills and knowledge to manage and maintain the company’s RPG applications. This can include:
Cross-training: Cross-training current employees in RPG development can help ensure that there are multiple people within the company who have the necessary skills and knowledge to manage and maintain the company’s RPG applications.
Mentorship: Pairing current employees with retiring RPG developers can help facilitate knowledge transfer and ensure that the retiring developer’s expertise is passed on to other team members.
Formal Training Programs: Providing formal training programs for current and future employees can help ensure that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to manage and maintain the company’s RPG applications. This can include online courses, in-person training sessions, and other types of training programs.
Knowledge Management Systems: Implementing knowledge management systems, such as wikis or other collaborative tools, can help ensure that critical knowledge is captured and shared among team members.
When companies invest in training and knowledge transfer programs, they can mitigate and possibly eliminate the risks associated with retiring RPG developers. This ensures that their critical RPG applications continue to be managed and maintained effectively.
Training Available for RPG Developers
For businesses that rely heavily on RPG applications, there are a number of training options available to train new developers how to program in RPG. IBM, IBM i User Groups and third party training companies are some of the options to consider.
IBM Power College Program
“IBM is launching a new Power College program to train the next generation of Power Systems administrators and developers.” The program is designed to provide students with the skills needed to work with IBM’s Power Systems, which are used in many enterprise environments.”
IBM i User Groups
There are also several IBM i user groups that provide training for individuals and businesses. They offer a variety of online and in-person training programs. Here are some of the most prominent ones:
COMMON – This is the largest IBM i user group in the world, and it provides education, networking, and advocacy for IBM i professionals. COMMON offers a variety of training options, including webinars, online courses, and in-person events.
IBM Power Systems User Group (IBM PowerUG) – This user group focuses specifically on IBM Power Systems, including IBM i. IBM PowerUG provides education, networking, and training opportunities for IBM i professionals.
Large User Group (LUG) – There are about “90 large companies who have a significant investment in IBM i™; currently, over 225 million CPW is in use by LUG members. Member companies are active in many industries, such as finance, manufacturing, insurance, retail, petroleum, and media.”
Northeast User Groups Conference (NEUGC) – This is a regional user group that serves the Northeastern United States. NEUGC provides education and training for IBM i professionals, as well as networking opportunities and access to IBM experts.
Wisconsin Midrange Computer Professional Association (WMCPA) – This is a regional user group that serves Wisconsin and the surrounding states. WMCPA provides education and training for IBM i professionals, as well as networking opportunities and access to IBM experts.
COMMON Europe – This is the European arm of the COMMON user group, and it provides education, networking, and advocacy for IBM i professionals in Europe. COMMON Europe offers a variety of training options, including webinars, online courses, and in-person events.
RPG Training Companies
imPower Technologies is one of the most recognized and highly acclaimed training companies. Founded by Jim Buck and Michelle Lyons, they offer a wide range of training curriculum for both the seasoned RPG developer as well as those who are new to the platform.
Here is a quick rundown of their course offerings:
- IBM i Concepts & Operations
- Programming in ILE RPG
- RDi & Modular Programming
- SQL Queries Workshop
For more details about how an RPG Training program will help your department plan for the future, go to imPower Technologies and talk a look at their course offerings.
Open Source Alternatives to RPG Programming
As the IBM i community knows, RPG is not and should not be the only tool in the IBM i developers toolbox. While you can build applications and serve up web pages using RPG using tools such as RPG Open Access or CGI, there are many reasons they are not the best choice.
RPG is best suited for developing business applications that require high levels of data processing and integration with IBM i’s native database and file system.
They offer a more robust and scalable long term solutions because:
- Frameworks & Libraries: They offer a vast number of libraries and frameworks that make development faster and more efficient.
- Scalability: They are designed to be scalable, which means that they can handle large amounts of traffic and data which is essential for web applications.
- Community Support: Open source languages have large and active communities of developers. There is a wealth of resources available for learning, problem-solving, and help on complex projects (just like the IBM i community).
- Integration with Other Technologies: The IBM i at its core is designed to work seamlessly with other technologies, such as databases, APIs, and web services. This is also true of open source technologies. All this makes it easier to build web applications that can interact with other systems and services.
The IBM i Platform is Catching its Stride
I think you can tell we have a different take on the state of the IBM i and RPG.
There is no question we are in a transition phase, a modernization if you will, but instead of fearing the RPG developer community retiring, we need to embrace it.
The focus should be on succession planning and training.
Modern RPG combined with the plethora of open source languages and technologies makes absolutely anything possible with the IBM i.
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If you are an RPG programmer looking to explore opportunities or a client who is looking for a talented IBM i professional, please contact us. We look forward to assisting you.