Are you struggling to find RPG developers to work on your project?
You are not alone in this lane.
There are hundreds of other CTOs using the AS400 iSeries, sharing the same boat as you.
But, is it really that hard to find the right RPG developers to build your RPG applications?
Let’s break the ice!
A few years ago, some speculations started rumbling about the lack of expertise and experienced AS400 rpg programmers.
According to the chaos, the expert RPG developers, more of the first brains infused with RPG programming, are aging & retiring.
Yes, this was a calling for the AS400 talent pool shrinkage.
But what caused the shrinkage?
It was no one else, but CTOs like you who wanted to the best RPG developers to work on their AS400 iSeries applications. Well, there is nothing wrong with expecting only the best to join your team.
But, coming back to the hard reality of it, there is definitely no shrinkage or lack of iSeries RPG developers.
Yes, we got to agree that a few of the IBM technologies have outgrown old and has very few experts taking care of systems built over, but not RPG for sure!
Moreover, RPG AS400 codes have evolved over the years, from copyrighted to open, from a rigid structure to RPG ILE, and from RPG language to AS400 RPG “free form.”
In short, IBM modified its code and operating system over the years, which conserved its domination. That transformation allowed for transitions from legacy systems to modern RPGs.
This is an intelligent move from IBM iSeries since young iSeries RPG programmers were learning the new AS400 RPG language at college.
Putting all this into perspective – Yes, it is difficult to find the right set of RPG developers to work on your project.
Can it get any easier?
Yes, it can.
You need to figure out,
- What should be the approach to hiring RPG Developers?
- What role RPG developers are going to play in IBM iSeries application development?
- What experience should the RPG developer bring in to help you better?
Let’s find the answers for you!
Connect with our experts to get all your answers
What should be the approach to hiring RPG developers?
As a CTO, you need to ensure that you get rid of the myth that the pool of RPG developers is shrinking.
Embrace the belief that there is enough RPG talent available – if you have your RPG development requirements clearly stated.
Because there are different approaches that you can take to accomplish your RPG development goal – you can choose to hire an in-house team of RPG programmers or you can opt to augment your in-house team with very specific RPG expertise.
How Should I Decide on the Right Approach to Hire AS400 RPG Programmers?
As discussed earlier, there are broadly two approaches that you can choose from:
- Hire an in-house team of RPG developers
- Augment & extend your in-house team with skilled RPG programmers
Bad news – it’s a tough call to make.
Good news – you win either way, as both approaches have their own set of pros & cons.
You have to simply choose the approach that serves the purpose for you, and of course, has less on the account of cons!
Let’s first understand the pros and cons of both approaches – which will bring more clarity to decision-making.
Hire in-house RPG Developers
Hiring an in-house team of RPG developers is indeed a great approach.
This approach gives you the leverage to –
- Hire RPG programmers from your own vicinity
- Establish a culture where teams are aligned with business processes
- Build and lead a team of RPG developers who work dedicatedly on your project
- See your project shaping up right next to your eyes
- Own the sole responsibility for the development initiative
- Keep the progress in check and adapt to changes quickly
However, also included the risk of –
- Inability to scale the team size up & down as required
- Grinding time and money to find the potential hires
- Hires leaving you when the project is midway
- The costs of training, tools, & infrastructure
- Failure to meet expected time to the market
- Painful micromanagement overheads
- Losing the grip on the progress
Hire an Augmented Team of RPG Programmers
Hiring an augmented team of RPG developers is yet another alternative that you can choose.
Uncertain about it?
Before we go towards the pros and cons of hiring an augmented team, let’s understand when you should consider taking this route.
Augmenting talent is worth considering when you are –
- Running on a tight delivery schedule
- Unsure of project scope/requirements
- In need of specific domain/technical expertise
Augmented teams bring you the leverage with –
- RPG developers filling in for specific development requirements
- Access to a larger pool of RPG talent to choose from
- Access to proven expertise in your domain of work
- Ready to hire RPG programmers who can start immediately
- Existing risk exposure that saves you time & costs
- Surety with a proven track record for expected time-to-market
However, it also involves the risk of –
- Integrity breach
- Differences in work culture
- Unavoidable painful exit clauses
- Inescapable communication gaps
- Lack of domain/industrial exposure
- Unseeable hefty charges for services
- Delayed deliverables and wavering commitments
How to Strike the Golden Middle Between In-House & Outsourced AS/400 Developers?
We understand that both of the approaches mentioned above, with a dedicated set of pros and cons, are making you conscious to make that decision.
Here are some key questions that will help you decide quickly –
- Are you working on a top-priority RPG development project?
- What are the parameters of ROI for your RPG development project?
- Is your internal team of RPG developers entirely dedicated to this project?
- Do you sense a need for additional RPG talent to support the in-house team?
- How much time & cost will it take to hire new RPG programmers on your in-house team?
- Do you need a full-fledged RPG development team or specific RPG skills will serve the purpose?
- Are you comfortable & ready to handle an augmented team of RPG developers?
- How soon can the newly hired RPG programmers catch up pace to work on your project?
- Is the cost of delay in delivery of your project high?
- Is the cost of rework on your project high?
With answers to all those questions, you will have figured out your cost and benefits equations.
This will put you at ease to make your decision to hire an in-house team of RPG developers or augment your team with specialized RPG talent.
What role RPG developers are going to play in IBM iSeries application development?
Before answering this question, it is essential to take a step back and discuss the RPG module to understand how it relates to the whole IBMi ecosystem and for hiring RPG developers.
RPG is no different from any other high-level programming language, but that’s only in theory.
In practice, by implementation and based on the internal mechanisms of the programming language, RPG is a domain-centric programming language.
RPG solely belongs to the IBM ecosystem, so it can only be used to program and deploy IBM business applications through RPG development services.
A high-level Outline of RPG Programmer Tasks
RPG programmers perform a wide variety of tasks.
They create new codes, maintain existing regulations, upgrade codes to new RPG versions, etc.
At a high level, the following are the activities performed by RPG developers:
- An RPG developer will analyze, design, develop, and maintain IBM i software applications or iSeries RPG web services written in any or all these programming languages – RPG, RPG ILE, SQL, and RPG-FREE.
- Note that RPG ILE or advanced integrated RPG refers to RPG IV, the two terms are used in lieu of each other, but they are the same. RPG/400 programs can be transitioned to RPG ILE program codes.
- RPG Free or RPG Free Form is a version of RPG ILE that allows RPG developers to write the logic in a free format. Because there is an efficient use of space, it is easier to code in this format, and reading
- Free Form RPG is also one of the reasons why developers of other programming languages move over to RPG. New-gen RPG developers love the flexibility of RPG Free Form and prefer it to write business applications.
- Read through functional specifications. Produce code documentation and supporting literature such as design documentation. Develop algorithms or pseudo-codes for advanced integrated RPG applications.
- Create RPG applications, iSeries RPG web services, add security for existing ones, fix existing RPG applications or transform existing RPG applications.
- Business process troubleshooting for issue diagnosis. Debugging software to identify and rectify software defects. Implement fixes or patches to resolve bugs.
What experience should RPG developers bring in to help you better?
You need to realize that this is the prime decider when hiring RPG developers.
You got to decide what experience and knowledge should the RPG developer bring in to support you better with your AS400 development.
Here, you need to realize that hiring in different situations can be different, depending on certain factors, such as –
- The complexity of AS400 development
- Teams’ technical dynamics
- Expected time-to-market
- Budget constraints
Considering the above parameters, you will have a basis to make your decision.
Let’s make it simpler for you.
Consider the following scenarios, which can be ideal for most of the situations that you face with AS400 development.
When you have a team of RPG developers & looking to add more talent
In this scenario, you already have a fully-functional team of RPG developers working on your AS400 applications.
You are looking to expand your team, because –
- You foresee future development coming up
- You are looking to speed up the development
- You are willing to build an RPG workforce for future
- RPG developers from your existing team are retiring soon
Now, in this case, you can go ahead with hiring Junior RPG developers who have got the understanding and knowledge of RPG IV and RPG free format but have limited exposure working on it.
You can consider Junior RPG developers as they will have to assist senior RPG team members in the design, development, testing, and implementation of RPG applications, in line with the project requirements.
They will be easy-going for collaboration with the senior developers and can spend more time understanding and analyzing business needs to transform them into technical specifications.
Partially, they can also write and enhance the code for existing systems, perform unit testing, participate in code reviews, troubleshoot and debug issues, assist in root cause analysis, and work closely with the cross-functional teams.
This will allow them additional exposure to business needs and help them develop their knowledge to work independently on RPG applications.
Besides working on the RPG applications, they can also spend time preparing technical specifications and interacting with the emerging trends in RPG technologies.
The biggest advantage that you will have in hiring Junior RPG developers is that you are working on your future RPG workforce, in a stealth mode.
Talking about the advantages of hiring Junior RPG Developers –
- You save high costs of hiring experienced RPG programmers
- You can mold their technical skills as per business requirements
- They are coachable & can be trained by senior RPG programmers
When you are building a team of RPG developers & looking for specific expertise
Ideally, when you are looking for specific expertise, it is always better to hire augmented RPG programmers with a specific skill set.
Why, you ask?
Simple – Once the requirement is fulfilled, you will no longer need the specific expertise, anymore.
Still, if you are thinking of adding specific expertise to your team then you should think of hiring Mid-level RPG Developers.
Why go with Mid-level RPG Developers? Because –
- They bring in 3-5 years of experience in RPG development
- They bring in proficiency in RPG IV, RPG free format
- They bring experience in database concepts
- They are familiar with modern integrations
- They can work independently
With that stature, mid-level RPG developers are able to design, develop, test, and implement RPG applications based on the outlined business requirements and technical specifications.
With the practical experience of working in a team for 3-5 years, they are comfortable to collaborate with business analysts and other stakeholders to understand business requirements & translate them into solutions.
Mid-level RPG programmers can comfortably be paired with senior RPG developers as well as junior RPG developers.
With senior developers, they can work closely on debugging tasks, perform root cause analysis and do the necessary fixes in time. They can also work closely with the database administrator to design and optimize RPG programs with efficient SQL queries.
With junior developers, they can work closely to perform code reviews, share constructive feedback, and ensure compliance to set coding standards is met.
When you are in dire need of expertise to save your AS400 project!
First thing – you shouldn’t really wait till time to let your RPG applications drown.
Hire in time or simply bring in an AS400 technology service provider to maintain and support your RPG applications.
Realize the fact that only senior RPG developers with the right skill set and specific domain exposure can help you out.
Mid-level RPG developers might not bring in the experience to help you save your AS400. Possibilities are very rare that a mid-level RPG programmer who has had similar exposure in previous roles can join in as a savior.
Junior RPG developers, don’t even think about it. They are simply too novice to put their hands into the engine.
Stand your ground, take that plunge, and hire a senior RPG programmer or a team if there is a need and the budget allows it to.
Why only a senior developer can save you? Because –
- They bring in a hefty hands-on experience of 5-8 years
- They have extensive expertise in RPG programming
- They have a strong understanding of DB2 & similar
- They have strong experience in risk management
- They are self-driven & have mentoring abilities
When you hire senior RPG programmers, they lead the design, development, and implementation of RPG applications. They build quality solutions that align with your business requirements.
They architect reliable RPG systems that are scalable, maintainable, and adhere to the standard practices of RPG programming. They leverage advanced RPG IV, RPG-free format, embedded SQL, and other RPG techniques to write and optimize complex RPG codes.
Senior RPG developers bring in the right approach to optimize and enhance RPG applications for performance, scalability, and integrations.
With an eye for attention to detail, they perform absolute code reviews and provide constructive feedback to junior and mid-level RPG developers.
With commendable leadership abilities, they take ownership of the projects and ensure that the timelines and priorities are taken into account, always.
How RPG Developers at Integrative Systems can help you?
Integrative Systems prioritize their customer’s success and hence focus on understanding the business objectives and offering a holistic solution.
If you are looking to hire RPG developers for your project, Integrative will primarily strive to understand your requirement and then suggest the right approach to go ahead with.
The team of one of the best RPG programmers at Integrative Systems can help you with:
- Analysis, design, improvement, and development of pre-written IBMi software program/application in various languages such as RPG, RPG ILE, RPG-FREE, and SQL.
- The RPG programmers will help you in following specifications to create technical documentation and create pseudo-codes
- Create new RPG applications or strengthen the existing applications.
- In the case of any trouble, RPG developers also can troubleshoot your business processes to diagnose the issue
- Additionally, our iSeries RPG programmers will debug any software program to find and resolve the issue
- Implement new codes and fix bugs in the existing program/application.
7 ILE RPG & RPG Programmers Frequently Asked Questions
Are you in search of suitable candidates for the role of dedicated RPG developer?
If so, this blog section offers some crucial knowledge to prepare you to ask informed interview questions. Read on before resuming your search for a dedicated programmer.
1. What is ILE and how does it relate to RPG?
Ans: RPG has evolved rapidly since its inception. The recent version of RPG is RPG IV, and it’s the main programming component on IBM i OS. RPG IV is also referred to as ILE RPG.
Remember that ILE RPG and RPG IV are not the same. The latter is one of the families of ILE compilers available on IBM i. ILE is a different methodology for developing programs on the IBM i OS.
ILE constitutes compilers for
- RPG called ILE RPG,
- COBOL called ILE COBOL,
- Visual Age for C++ called ILE C, and
- CL called ILE CL
2. What is ILE and why is it important for ILE RPG?
Ans: ILE (Integrated Language Environment) enables easy testing and maintenance for RPG programmers. Its code components are smaller, which makes it manageable to test code. Additionally, it offers more exception-handling options for better control. With ILE, AS400 RPG programmers get access to the C runtime library and several other APIs making it easier to write optimized RPG code with ILE.
3. How are OPM and ILE RPG conceptually different?
Ans: All RPG versions before ILE RPG IV used OPM (Original Program Model). In OPM, a single source member was compiled into a single executable program. ILE has a different compilation mechanism, and its compilation is of two steps where source members are converted into module objects by the compiler.
4. How Can Smaller Code Components Help?
Ans: Smaller code components provide more modularity. In OPM, it was generally monolithic code that was written. Extensive programs were hard to maintain. Although an RPG programmer could write modular programs with OPM, it was still challenging to maintain.
In ILE, RPG programs can be modular and do only one specific business task, unlike an extensive program performing multiple tasks.
5. How ILE Gives RPG Developers More Control?
Ans: ILE empowered RPG programmers to isolate their overrides with Activation Groups. The developers could also use commitment control and shared opens to control a small portion of the overall codebase. Any file override can be aligned to the activation group so that applications cannot interfere with each other. Upon the closure of the Activation Group, all of the activation group’s files are closed as well.
6. How ILE gives AS400 RPG Programmers Adequate Exception Handling Options?
Ans: OPM allowed RPG developers to handle exceptions with error indicators and inquiry messages. With ILE, developers can pass back the exception to the calling program. There is a provision to register and run a procedure when an exception occurs. There is also a backup option to write and run a process when the primary system crashes.
7. What are Activation Groups in ILE?
Ans: Activation Groups are an essential feature of ILE. It helps RPG developers to divide their jobs by application modules. Once applications are modularized, each module can be managed independently. When a service program or program is called and uses a particular activation group, the system automatically creates the activation group.
Hiring the right RPG developer sounds like a task when you have options available with limited to no clarity.
With the right insights on what an RPG developer does for you, what all you want them to do and whom should you go ahead with, will help you land just the right talent at the right time.
This piece of content will help you arrive at your decision, faster. If you still need help making the right choice, drop us a line at [email protected] and we will help you in every way possible.