Why Should I Automate My IBM i?

I’ve been preaching the hard benefits of automating IBM i for years, but what about the intangibles? As time marches on, personal legacy, retirement, staffing, and mental health become huge motivations for automation. Here are a few true stories.

Leaving a Legacy

A few years ago, I read a book called When Pride Still Mattered by David Maraniss about the life of Vince Lombardi. At our user conference, Kevin at Old National Bank spoke passionately about how he takes this perspective on his life’s work on IBM i. He stated that automation was the legacy he wanted leave behind when it came his time to retire.

What? A legacy of how we run our computer systems matters? Absolutely.

Just as Coach Lombardi cared about how you played the game of football, Kevin cares about how his data center is run today and into the future.

With Kevin’s example shining before you, one of your motivations for automating IBM i or any computer system could be the legacy you wish to leave behind. It matters that the environment you pass on to those who would inherit it is not overly complex, chaotic or out of control. A good legacy would be to leave behind an automated environment that can be managed by exception, providing peace of mind instead of constant firefighting.

A recent trip to visit five data centers near Salt Lake City proves my point. Two of them were operating in firefighter mode. It was apparent even to me as a visitor: our meetings were constantly interrupted by cell phones, heads popping into the office, frantic emails, and fingers actually pointing out urgent matters.

If you’re operating in firefighter mode, I can tell you it’s only going to get worse as your experienced IBM i staff ages and retires. They will take their tribal knowledge of how to run the systems out the door with them, and then what are you left with?

Working from Home

A global pandemic is not something I thought would ever be top of mind, but who could have predicted that working from home would one day be the new normal or that working with our systems remotely would one day be the only option?

Coping with COVID-19 or any event with such a wide reach and immediate impact on our day-to-day reinforces the need for automation. With automation, when the unexpected happens—and it will—you and your team will be well prepared and have bandwidth to assist instead of being bogged down with firefighting. You’ll be in a position to focus on the needs of the business to support the remote worker.

Automating your operations checklist, report distribution, and tape backup management come to mind as low hanging fruit here.

Planning for Retirement

When you do lose the master and manager of your nightly procedures and run book, what will your company do? Will you hire a college student to come in at night? Will you find another operator who will do the job for 25 years? Or will you bite the bullet and change how you manage your data center before it happens?

Unlike the firefighters mentioned above, Chris at the Bank of Utah is really set up for success. His data center is clean; no old workstations laying around. His air conditioning is state of the art. His system has flash drive technology. They are lights-out in the data center—it’s all automated.

I asked him how he got there. He said it was simple. They just started asking this question with every task: “How can we do this without touching it every day?”

As team members retired, they did not replace them with another body. Instead, they implemented HelpSystems automation solutions for their IBM i servers. During my visit with Chris, he was calm, relaxed, and willing to give me his attention because neither his team nor his technology was constantly interrupting him.

It’s always easy for me to say that you should automate, but based on the madness I’ve witnessed visiting some IBM i data centers around the country, I would think that the inner monologue of some of the people on those teams must be screaming that enough is enough.

Fortunately, the firefighting companies I visited are looking into automation, but it will be hard for them to change the culture of running computers first. Many have been running their computer systems through a mishmash of manual run books, built-in schedulers, multiple homegrown scripts, and tribal knowledge for years.

Automating IBM i doesn’t have to be difficult, and HelpSystems is here to make it even easier. Our website offers a number of online resources to help get you started, and our fantastic technical support team has played the position of a life coach to many seasoned IBM i lovers who were ready to leave their legacy.
 

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