Gartner Questions ROI of Replacing Traditional IBM Platforms

i for BusinessThose of us who work with the newest technology on IBM i bristle at doom-laden predictions about the IBM i platform. Too many business and IT leaders unjustly associate the platform with old applications and stale business processes.

In Considering Leaving Legacy IBM Platforms? Beware, as Cost Savings May Disappoint, While Risking Quality, analysts Thomas Klinect and Mike Chuba of Gartner, Inc., warn against the tendency to make so-called legacy systems “a convenient scapegoat for corporate issues with technology.” Instead, they recommend a scientific approach to modernization without preconceived ideas.

Gartner analysts warn against making so-called legacy systems “a convenient scapegoat for corporate issues with technology.”

Facts, not hearsay

According to Klinect and Chuba, many decisions are “predicated on hearsay and popular lore,” such as assuming that applications hosted on traditional platforms cannot be improved. On this basis, progress would be possible only through a wrenching, expensive, and risky move to a new platform. On the contrary, traditional systems do support new technology, including open source languages and DevOps tools. (DevOps techniques work with agile methodology to enable frequent, high quality software releases.)

Thorough analysis

The analysts advocate the careful study of several areas, including:

  • currently unmet business needs
  • the business value and costs of the current platform
  • all costs (many hidden) associated with a platform change

Business focus

Start by asking non-leading business questions. Gartner suggests questions such as “What is [the] business unable to do to stay competitive/relevant?” and “[W]hich [business workflow] steps require more time than you think they should?” It may turn out that many challenges could be met by modernizing incrementally (“in place”), minimizing disruption and expense.

Adding all costs

Leaders often underestimate the cost of migrating to a new platform. Among many examples provided by the Gartner analysts of forgotten areas of expense are these:

  • the transition and testing process,
  • disruption to business,
  • parallel operation and change to data capture,
  • and the need to customize and modernize applications on the new platform.

Workload balancing

The analysts do say that if an IBM server required additional resources for I/O and transaction processing, IT could reduce workload by moving some “lightweight” workloads, such as graphical user interfaces, to other platforms if necessary. Each IT shop must choose trade-offs of complexity and cost.

Further learning

I encourage everyone to read the Gartner report and adopt a business-centric view of platform decisions. [May 20, 2020 Update: Online access for this report has expired.]

If you would like to learn such approaches in a relaxed peer setting, consider attending our CIO Summit or contact us for IT leadership decision mentoring.

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