Difficulties finding IBM i Application Consultants and Developers?
If your business runs an IBM i application you will no doubt have identified risks with the shortage of IBM i developers in the market.
Most IBM i developers started their careers in the hay days of the 80’s and 90’s when IBM were selling the systems to all and sundry across all business verticals including finance, insurance, manufacturing, distribution, and retail.
Over the years, sales of new IBM i systems fell away and the majority of sales were to existing customers upgrading their systems. Many developers have either moved on to different platforms or are retiring having spent their entire careers working on the one platform.
The demographic of employees in the workplace has also led to the demise of systems like the IBM i with younger staff being more familiar with and expecting to use tablets, phones, and mobile apps with flashy user interfaces. Presenting these staff with green screen applications can lead to a higher turnover in staff who see the IBM i as ‘legacy’ and ‘old hat’.
This perception also makes it difficult to recruit younger staff to train as developers on the system.
The IBM i has changed as a platform over the years with huge advances in technology and the introduction of new programming languages and techniques. None of the reliability has been lost, with the modernisation of the system, and it remains the backbone of many businesses.
The majority of IBM i users love the system, it is incredibly reliable and offers stability that many new systems can only dream of. Data entry is super quick and certainly much quicker than a web-facing system; it’s just the user interface tends to be not as modern and nice looking.
With a shortage of new IBM i developers coming into the market the risk of continuing to run these systems is perceived by some to be high.
So how can you reduce the risks to your business?
Recruit Permanent Staff
This isn’t as easy as it sounds, most of the IBM i developers on the market are heading toward retirement. Salary expectations are high and so are the associated agency fees.
Many staff are well established in their current roles and are happy to stay put in the comfort of working on systems they know where they are seen as key personnel to the running of the systems.
Recruit a Contractor
Recruiting a contractor is an easier route than hiring a permanent employee. Agency fees are less in the beginning, and you get a chance to see if the contractor is good, so easy to release them if they are not. A contractor who is versed in regularly working in different companies will likely become productive quicker than a permanent employee who has moved to you having worked somewhere for many years previously. There are obvious cost implications of keeping a contractor long-term not to mention the dreaded IR35 implications.
Train New Developers
This is a great idea in our opinion but only if you have:
- Someone who is keen to learn and;
- A team who can train that individual.
In our experience, trainees are keen to learn, pick things up really quickly and before too long become very technically competent. Salaries are of course, lower to start and if you can train internally or take someone straight from school or college there are no agency fees.
Seek the Services of an IBM i Consultancy
The advantages of seeking help with your IBM i through a consultancy include:
- You have access to multiple resources with varying skills and industry experience.
- You pay for what you need – you are not paying for a resource full-time when you only need a couple of hours a day or a short-term resource to deliver a project.
- No agency fees.
- No staff costs including NI, Pensions, Perks, holiday, and sick pay.
- No long-term commitment – try and if it doesn’t work then walk away.
At KFA, we started on, what is now the IBM i, back in the 80s. A few of the staff who started with the business are still here and are passing on their knowledge and years of experience to our younger developers. We have taken students straight from school, 6th form College and University and trained them as developers on the IBM i.
Of course, the training has not always been successful, and some have moved on to new careers – it’s not for everyone! But we currently have 4 developers under 30 and we plan to recruit and train more.
Richard AustinKFA Connect New Business Director
16th December 2022