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Preserving Institutional Memory

Social networking inside your firewall can help you compete

Social networking inside your firewall can help you compete

If you do any in-house application development, of course there’s a strong argument for keeping your staff trained in modern development methods and outfitted with the right software tools. Perhaps, however, you should take some steps to ensure your company is getting all it can from your existing application-development and BI tools. Your first step should be to create one centralized place in your organization where key managers and power users can share their knowledge of the software you already have in place. Make sure your developers understand you consider your BI software part of your application-development toolset, not just query and reporting software, so they’ll take an interest in learning what it offers.

Next, make regular contributions to this knowledge base a part of each team member’s performance evaluation. If possible, offer incentives to further promote broad participation. Now is the time to build a close relationship with each of your software providers so you can leverage their knowledge and tools effectively. Application development and BI software providers have made huge strides in recent years to help your IBM server play a central role in today’s Web, graphical and mobile computing environment. There’s a good chance your old tools have learned new tricks you may have overlooked while tending to other priorities or because your perception of them is based on their original capabilities.

21st-Century Documentation

These suggestions can be thought of as a 21st-century update on the old, dry subject of documentation. Everyone in the IT profession understands the importance of documentation. They just don’t often find the time to create or maintain it. Often, management doesn’t recognize the value of documentation, so project deadlines don’t reflect the time needed to do it correctly. Adding comments to source code, maintaining a library of software manuals, and generating documentation of program and table relationships are as far as most people go. This information is usually not kept current, well organized or easy for other team members to find. Even when it’s available, it often goes unread.

In the case of BI applications that started out as query tools and were developed by business analysts without application-development backgrounds, descriptions about the use of the software are often scarce or non-existent. These tools may offer metadata, automatically generate program and database documentation, and provide audit trails, but that doesn’t help if you don’t know where to look for this information or what tools are being used. For example, the technology independence built into the IBM i environment means a developer’s work can remain in production a long time. You can’t assume developers will always remember why and how things were written a particular way, or even be around to ask when you need to know.

There’s a good chance your old tools have learned new tricks you may have overlooked.

Bill Langston is director of marketing for New Generation Software Inc., and a developer of iSeries BI software. He can be reached at Langston@ngsi.com.



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