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IBM i & RFE: Improving Future Business Value

In 2016, there was no way to get an RFE requirement created for IBM i itself. Now, there is.

For many years, IBM has used several methods to get customer input on the direction of the platform that has grown into today’s IBM i. The COMMON organizations in North America and Europe have been instrumental over the past two decades in providing processes for their members to submit requirements for new function to IBM, and those two organizations use their Advisory Councils (CAAC and CEAC) to advocate for the requirements that come from their members. Similarly, the Large Users Group submits requirements to IBM related to IBM i.  These requirement sources, and the groups that help us work with them, have been invaluable as we’ve jointly worked to ensure that IBM i satisfies the needs of our users.

Other parts of IBM, in particular the parts that were creating software-only products, came up with a different process for getting requirements: the Request For Enhancement process, available through developerWorks. Some of our IBM i community is very familiar with this process, because it’s how they submitted requirements to the developers of RPG, RDi, WebSphere, and other software products. But most of our IBM i users didn’t use RFEs, and for good reason: until sometime in 2016, there was no way to get an RFE requirement created for IBM i itself.

I can hear your questions from here: “2016? Did you say 2016? Isn’t it 2017? Doesn’t that mean we could use RFEs now?” And the answer is “Yes.”

Nancy Uthke-Schmucki, an IBM i Business Architect, just published an article describing how you can use the RFE process to influence the future of IBM i. Here’s the URL:

She’s got a great description of the process, and the necessary links. Go read it!

Some of you have already been creating requirements using RFEs to request additional capabilities. The #ibmioss (open source) community is active. The users of IBM i Access technology seem to have taken their cue from Tim Rowe (another Business Architect) who has been talking about RFEs in his presentations for several months now, so there is a long list of requests for enhancements for IBM i Access.  

We’re happy with the way things have gone since IBM i joined the RFE community, and now it’s time to take the next steps. That’s why Nancy wrote the article and why I’m writing this entry for the blog.  If more of you want to get involved, you should.  

How will this affect the Advisory Councils? That’s still evolving. We want to continue to get the advice of our collaborators in CAAC & CEAC, so we’re talking with them about how they will weigh in on the value of the various requirements we get. We’ve had a great working relationship with these groups over the years, so we are confident we can find a way to adapt to the new world – the world that includes RFEs for IBM i.

Of course, we cannot implement every RFE we receive. So how do you increase the chances that a request you make through RFE actually becomes an enhancement in IBM i? Nancy’s article offers some good hints, but I want to emphasize something: business value. When you ask us to add a new feature, tell us how your business (or our business, or both) will be improved when you can use the enhancement. There are always more good ideas (requirements) than there are “programmer hours” to get them done, so we need to prioritize. Business value is an important component in the prioritization process. In fact, one of the most critical jobs our CAAC and CEAC have had over the years has been to clarify the business value of the requirements they champion. So, if you want your RFE to receive the best chance of implementation, tell us about its value.

Well, that’s it for this time. It’s been a busy year so far, and it’s only getting busier as the conference season approaches. I hope to see some of you out there!

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