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Trevor Perry on Slide Decks and IT Strategy

Paul Tuohy: Hi everybody and welcome to the first iTalk with Tuohy of 2018. To kick off the year, I think no better person to maybe look back at 2017 with and to kick off the new year is my friend, my colleague, my fellow IBM Champion and general AS/400 evangelist, Trevor Perry. [Laughs] I couldn't resist Trev; I'm sorry.

Trevor Perry: And Happy New Year to you, sir.

Paul: Okay. Okay so IBM i evangelist―

Trevor: I am.

Paul: Trevor Perry.

Trevor: I am. I just remembered that this has been 18 years now. I love when a new year comes over. I can add another year to the number of years the AS/400 has been dead. [Laughs]

Paul: Okay, enough. We're not going there, Trevor. We're not going there. Okay Trevor―if you can, if you were to look back at 2017, are there any sort of trends that you saw? I mean―I'm not talking her now about the technical stuff on the platform and that, just in general in the IBM i world.

Trevor: So obviously you know POWER9 technically you know in hardware has been a really big thing and the fact that all that noise is happening just means that IBM is still committed to this hardware platform and that's exciting, every time that comes up. Being a bit of a hardware freak and having a bit of a background in hardware, that's really always exciting. It just means IBM has a long-term for the whole platform in one form or another and we get to run on that as IBM i, so that's exciting. One of the things I did notice was that with my fresh thinking page―there's your plug,―I've noticed that people are talking to me more about approaches to modernization at a very different level than ever happened before. Some of my webinars and sessions have been on IT strategy have been really well attended and people loved the information. I've been talking IT strategy for maybe 15 years. I've been doing presentations on it and I talk about it in a very, very simple way, but people are starting to get to that. This year in several IBM i companies, I've noticed that IT level people―management level, mainly CIO―but also technology directors are starting to look at IBM i as being strategic to a future rather than "it's old, it's out of date, what's the value in it?" At an IT strategy level, that's just been amazing, because you know I've been talking strategy for years and years and years and people go "well we never had any." I even come up a term called tactical strategy because people are so tactical, they do things by what's next rather than, you know, "give me a direction." So you know part of my job has been doing what we call discovery services. I just have thoroughly enjoyed being engaged with those different customers where we look at what they've got, we look at where they're headed and we build them a road map. This hasn't happened before in this volume. It's just gone quite crazy and all the conversations I have out in the world have been a lot of that, where IBM i has become really a key to the future of the company, not just the future of their department. You know it's no longer "hey, it's that old green screen." It's like, "what value can I add to this?" And of course you know just the excitement for this year in 2017 was Watson and a strange man called Pauldemort who we met in Brussels talking about Watson, and that was your stuff.

Paul: Yeah.

Trevor: Just the response to Watson. It's interesting because very few people have found a case study for it, but there are a ton of people who want to get into it and want to use it. That would have never happened before, so it's really exciting that something in IT that IBM i can connect with and to get business value out of―which that's what they are working on, what business value can we get at? People are actually trying to find that and that's just never happened before and I'm just―I love it. I think it is absolutely fabulous.

Paul: Okay. So okay so am I right in saying in that what you've started to see is a sort of just a shift where people have been, you know, in that thing of just keeping the systems running and they're now looking at it more as the strategic―like the IBM i is more this strategic tool they have in the company and how do they get the best out of it?

Trevor: Yeah. It's sort of almost like, I've got this amazing thing and I've been just sort of sitting on it, just doing what I've been doing, and you know there's a little bit of pressure from the company to do stuff. I mean we had a recent situation where they were trying to pitch the product and the platform back to the company. So they made this poster, several posters including stealing Star Wars stuff that said that AS/400 can get the job done. We had one conversation with them and they went "IBM i can do that?! Ahhhh. We want Temporal. We want Temporal now." It was like "well, where are we at? We're at 7.1. Well we need to be at 7.3." People are willing to actually invest in stuff that's available on IBM i. That hasn't happened in a long time. I don't think people have been―you know they've been in maintenance mode to some degree, but they've been in a mode of just responding to a user request. The user says "can you?" and they go, "yup. We're geniuses. We can get it done." Now people are going "but hang on a minute. What about next year and what about the year after? Couldn't I do something with my platform that would help my business in the longer-term?" You know I've seen a lot of projects that are 3-year, 5-year, 8-year projects, and there's less of them these days. You don't get 5-year and 8-year projects. You get a project that might run for three years but they have a success every three months or six months. It's Agile and Agile―I think we coined the phrase recently that it was nimble [Laughs]―

Paul: Yes!

Trevor: Rather than Agile, I think nimble has become what we're turning into, which is―if you look back to SOA, you know, service oriented architecture, which its heritage is like any other good framework, it's we've got service―you know I guess, service oriented. We've got service modules. We're service enabled these days because of the heritage of that, but all of that is be Agile, be tightly coupled in certain cases but be loosely coupled so I can bring something and dump it in if I need to replace it. I can be very Agile and as I said the word nimble. It's all buzzwords, but in truth, it's happening and that's been really good to see.

Paul: Okay so $64,000 question then: Do have any idea why? I mean what was different about say, the last, you know, 12-24 months as opposed to―I meant this is stuff that we've been talking about Trevor, like as you say, for 15-20 years now.

Trevor: Yup. Yup. It's interesting. So we do occasional tours around Europe and some of the you know conferences and events and stuff like that, and we're about to do one again coming up very soon―which I know you want me to talk about―but in the past few years, if you look at the U.K. for example, they have IUG. Whether they call it Power i or IBM i on Power―whatever it is that they call it, they've started to―the leadership of the community has started talking about the platform as this thing called IBM i. Since it's not necessarily connected to the history, people started saying "isn't this new?" I think there's just―it's just enough traction in the last year, year and a half where people have been looking at the platform. You know forget the name game. They've been looking at the platform as "hey, it's pretty damn cool." You know the fact that they've got 7.1, 7.2, 7.3. 7.1 is about-people are talking about 7.1 going away and for the people who have been hanging out on 5.4 and 6.1, I've got this problem―they're starting to get overwhelmed by the movement towards what this amazing thing can do. And because of the things―I think open source was one of the key things. I don't think open source has really hit quite as loud as what it appears to be, but just the fact that people have been talking about it―and that's been a couple of years now that people have been talking about it―it's starting to gain traction through open source, IBM i. "Wow. This is pretty cool," and they go, "can I do that? Hey, look. That RPG program is writing RPG III. What if I brought in a new interface, a new set of coders and could they work on it?" So the question that's happened I think that might mirror this change has been, "I can't get anybody to work on this platform" has changed to "I can get anybody to work on this platform. I just have to be open to using other modern tools." And I think that transition has happened over the last, you know, year, year and a half, maybe.

Paul: Yeah and I think it is a thing, again as you say, from the strategy point of view. You and I know this because we at times have done the costings on this for people―I mean, as IBM have and all the whitepapers and that are out there―is that you know for the money that you're going to invest in a new platform and all of that, you know you already have it there and it actually costs an awful lot less to just start making use of what's already sitting in your computer room.

Trevor: And what there that's valuable more than anything else is the assets that you have, in the logic, in the business logic―

Paul: Yeah.

Trevor: And the hardest part has been pulling that out. It's really hard. I mean, I'm in a situation right now where we have to go through some code that is truly hard coded to the Nth degree. You know if the code is equal to ten, do this. If the code is equal to 20―plus it was a Wednesday, and on the Tuesday before the Wednesday that week―you know, it was just complicated.

Paul: Yeah.

Trevor: What we're trying to do is to carve that up into its little pieces, and the moment you carve it up into its little pieces, then I can call that from the web application and I can call it from a green screen application out from a batch application, RPG, I can call―I've got a customer with a COBOL application who one guy said, "we will not do any RPG." Three of their programmers are RPG programmers by trade and they're good COBOL programmers, too―but the answer is you're not limited anymore. You never were with ILE, but now the world of open―the hardest part more than anything else is the concepts and I think maybe that open source conversation has really helped understand the concepts, you know.

Paul: Yup. Yup. So―

Trevor: I went to―

Paul: So―

Trevor: Sorry. I went to Aaron Bartell's class on Node.js and I didn't understand it. It was one line and I thought it was JavaScript. It turns out it's not. It's a framework to allow you to run JavaScript. That one key thing that he showed me really helped me fully understand it, and then I can then interpret for other people, and it's that kind of conversation that is happening in the industry that I think has been part of that trigger, too.

Paul: Yeah. Okay so enough of looking back. Looking forward: Is there anything you're looking forward too or expecting or hope happens in 2018?

Trevor: So we are―I'll be in Australia in March and looking forward to seeing if we can have some kind of event there where we can talk to the Australian community. They've been a little dormant for a while. They have occasional events. IBM has a technical event there but it's very AIX, Linux and Power kind of focus with a little bit of IBM i in there. But we're going to look at talking to the CIO level and potentially that might be a different audience. I'm looking forward to that because again, that's the strategy stuff and it's also talking at keeping the platform. A company I used to work for in Texas says "no, we're taking people off the platform because IBM is not investing." It's that kind of message that has started to resonate that IBM is investing―that you know, I'm fortunate being a Champion that I know some of things and I can say with confidence that IBM is investing. I'm enjoying spreading that. We have a tour, which was previously named―I believe we don't know what it is going to be called yet, thank you IBM very much―but I'm still believing in it. That's six cities in two weeks in Europe and that's just going to be―to me every year we do something like this. Every conference we go to, we up―the community is better off. I mean, we went a couple of years ago to Germany and Germany. you know, collectively said "where the hell have you been?" kind of thing. "We didn't know this stuff." There's a few people―and Germany has some real hot spots of some very smart people―but it's the general rest of the community who were not sort of aware. So raising awareness, which is part of my day job, it's part of my IBM i evangelism and you know, getting to connect with the community is just―I'm looking forward to that tremendously. I know that it's been―we had five years ago the 25th anniversary so I don't know what's happening there, but I'm excited to be able to help celebrate that stuff. Again, as I said, 18 years we've had. [Laughs]

Paul: Okay so something to finish up on, Trevor. So another thing that I know that―well I suppose in a way it does kind of touch on the work that you do, but talk to me about slides. [Laughs]

Trevor: So as a techie who's been with a computer since the year 1980, I sort of know a lot of the platforms and I will claim that, you know, you've only got a Mac because of me―but that's a different story.

Paul: I'm not―I'm going to let you away with it. Go on. [Laughs]

Trevor: So―and I've been presenting for quite a long time, too. I've been doing technical and motivational. I've discovered that a lot of people really like my slides. I did a presentation in Stockholm many years ago and I had these 3-D stick figures. At the end of it, I had two people come up to me and say "hey, where'd you get all those images from?" I'm like, "I just gave you the most important presentation of my life!" [Laughs] I've been involved in the National Speakers Association in the U.S. and Global Speakers Federation around the world, and―I've noticed that there's a lot of speakers with some poor slides. I took a bit of a hint, and I went and talked to one of my speaker friends in the industry. He is a strong motivational comedy speaker and I said "hey, your slides suck"―sort of. I was very polite―and so I did his slides for him. He said "look, I'm a speaker of note, but you've upped my game with these slides." So now I've got people asking me to do slides. It's all primarily motivational stuff and sort of changing the way you do slides completely―you know, not having more than a few bullet points or having a bullet point picture, not counting the number of slides, not doing animations―and I've written a little book called Ten Steps for Stunning Slides and set up a website called It's not a major part of my life, but it's where I can help people do that. Then I decided I would talk to a few of my techie friends―and one of them being you, you sent me a deck―and as a technical approach what I'm trying to do and the answer is I can't find fault, but I can find a lot. What I've discovered is this, that your slide decks are―I believe that they should be changed if I were to present them―but I think that there's certainly advice that I can give you, but for the primary part they're all technical and they're all the way that you present. It matches your presentation style, and trying to change that often is worse than, you know, doing that. So I'm learning a lot about slides. I'm still trying to work out how to up your game in terms of your slides because I can tell you that your graphics are from 1970 but you know what? That's actually―no, I think they're from 1989, the year after the AS/400 came out, so they're actually more modern than AS/400.

Paul: I'm sorry. When did I start to use graphics? [Laughs]

Trevor: Sorry. Sorry. Graphics includes things like colors and stuff, but anyway―but it's been a good experience because I've been enjoying doing that. So now, I'm trying to basically put together some advice for technical slide decks on how you might do that. You know you have different challenges like code that you want to put up there. You know it's difficult because I always advocate having a handout deck that's different than your regular deck and you know, for somebody like you they're the same thing. You present with that same deck so it's―I'm learning a lot. I'm learning about the therapy that presenters need. [Laughs]

Paul: Oh my God. So this is what you're doing for 2018?! Trevor Perry invests in a couch.

Trevor: Yes. Yes. Yes and it's a virtual couch so Paul, would you sit down?

Paul: Okay well before I sit down, Trevor, I'm going to finish this iTalk. So listen Trev, thanks a million for taking the time to talk to me, and I know our paths are going to be crossing―actually just in a couple of weeks.

Trevor: Okay. Thanks Paul and happy New Year and Happy New Year to everybody out there.

Paul: Okay and I'll let go of that. So until the next iTalk everybody, thanks for listening and bye for now.