by Jason Hardy

The IBM i skills shortage isn’t going away

Mar 18, 2021 9:03:57 AM IBM Power, Cloud
blog2The IBM i skills shortage isn’t going away
Here’s what you should do about it


A shrinking IBM i talent pool has been a major concern for years. 

Back in 2015, dwindling access to IBM i professionals was blamed by IBM’s own top brass on revenue shortfalls. A system that had been around for nearly three decades, it was only a matter of time until the veterans left for greener pastures. The problem was, and continues to be, that fewer young professionals have been eager to master the same set of skills.

According to the latest data, not only is the IBM talent shortage getting worse by the year -- it's aggravating a set of serious, business-threatening situations.

What's going on? The domino effect and COVID’s impact

In the latest IBM i Marketplace Survey, 46% of respondents listed IBM i skills as a top concern. In the same survey, participants listed three other concerns above access to talent: security, high availability and modernization. That's not to say talent is less of a concern than the other three. To the contrary: Businesses are actually unable to properly address those higher-order, digital transformation initiatives without the right bench backing them up. A skills shortage has a domino effect, when you can't fix it you can't move forward on other fronts.

The year of COVID-19 didn't help much either. According to HelpSystems, many organizations have started to offer early retirement as a cost-saving measure -- a move that is sure to exacerbate an already difficult situation. We wouldn't be surprised to see talent occupy the thoughts of far more sleepless CIOs in the year to come.

Mistakes made when trying to close the IBM talent gap

The reason this challenge is so difficult to address is because managing IBM i is often seen as a distinct, and highly niche practice. It's not like hopping from Windows to Linux, where the key building blocks are very similar. Moving an IT professional with training on another language onto the IBM i project is akin to asking a car mechanic to start fixing commercial jets. Both machines have engines and run on fuel. But the similarities end there.

That's not to say businesses haven't tried to find a fix to their talent woes.

One typical approach we see is shuffling your workforce to pick up the IBM tasks as an add on to existing responsibilities. For a time, this might work out. However, serious troubles arise the moment something goes wrong -- or the new guy makes a mistake -- and you have no one around who knows how to fix it.

The other mistake is joining the rat race and trying to compete for the talent that does exist or investing heavily in your current team to skill up. In both cases, you are left exposed to losing you prized IBM talent to the next highest bidder. Or simply investing an unrealistic, and unsustainable, portion of your budgets on keeping your top skills in house.

A better way: Working with a cloud partner

It doesn't have to be this way. Just think of your talent challenge like the cloud.

One of the key value propositions of bringing your critical applications to the cloud is that no business actually differentiates itself with infrastructure, so why focus on it? You want to use the built-in efficiencies and scale of the cloud, so that you can focus your team elsewhere, on more strategic and profitable goals.




Fixing your IBM talent is a lot like that. Instead of spreading your existing team thin, or duking it out for high-demand talent, you can partner with business like Racksquared Data Centers to fill the gaps.

You can either continue to host your IBM workloads on premises, and benefit from remotely monitored and managed IBM i services. Or, you can go for a full, cloud-hosted approach. While both solutions have their upsides, co-location and cloud solutions have a few added benefits. On one hand, your team no longer needs to perform any of the regular, manual maintenance and updates, such as switching out tapes or running backups. On the other, you get instant access to a series of gold-standard best practices and security features, such as redundancies, 3-2-1 Back Up and seamless recovery options.


The war for IBM talent is nothing new. But there's simply no reason to try and close the gaps the old-fashioned way -- especially if your business is focused on increasing innovation, agility and resilience in the years ahead.

 If you are looking for access to IBM i expertise, the latest IBM technologies or a secure reliable resilient environment, Racksquared can help. Check out our IBM Solutions and see what we have to offer.


Jason Hardy

Written by Jason Hardy

Jason Hardy has over 25 years of experience in the IT and technology services industry leading product and marketing teams at CompuServe, Sterling Commerce, IBM and Avanade. He is the General Manager at Racksquared

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