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The Best Things in Life Are z

Innovation challenges help bring ideas together to engage creative solutions

11/9/2016 12:00:03 AM | While preparing for my trip to SHARE in Atlanta, amid the packing and rush to get myself ready, I paused and thought of the last time I had traveled to that part of the country. In 2001, my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I went to Greenville, South Carolina. We traveled by car, with no GPS, no mobile phone and a Rand McNally road map of the United States. The most advanced technology we had was an E-ZPass transponder for tolls and a CD player radio. And the trip was a blast. Finding rest stops and detours, listening to local radio; my kids don’t know what they are missing.

But it occurred to me how different things are: In preparing for my trip to Atlanta, I used 10 apps on my mobile phone and checked 10-plus Twitter accounts relevant to my trip, all for a simple two-and-a-half hour plane ride from New York to Atlanta, probably one of the most routine trips taken in the U.S. daily. And even when I wasn’t checking my apps, my apps were checking on me: My smart watch reminded me on both flights that it was time to stand to stay active.

Provide Value For Results

These types of applications—that provide reliable, real-time information, with no downtime are table stakes. About 23 percent of users will abandon an app after just one use. The question now is: How do you provide more useful function that users find valuable? Differentiating value that will drive user loyalty and business results—how can a company do that?

One way is to create and host an innovation challenge. IT groups have so many assets, both physical and virtual. There’s so much rich data, along with finely tuned business processes on the systems of record, that when looked at in a different way or combined with a new set of data or filters, can create new value for end users. And the best part is that it takes advantage of investments already made.

In many organizations the IT groups are separate from the application developers. If you can bring them together, have each understand the goals of the other and provide access to the combined pool of resources, the possibilities are endless.

Create a Contest

This was IBM’s goal at SHARE in Atlanta—to demonstrate that creating such a contest is not only simple, but worth it.

At SHARE, we took our Smarter Banking Showcase system, located in Montpellier, France, which mimics a real world banking system, using z Systems as the system of record, and exposed several common requests (e.g., check balance, deposit, withdrawal, etc.) as APIs, and routed them through Bluemix for the participants to use. We made available test data so they could work with realistic data sets. We enabled Spark for z/OS and made SMF records available for use.

We wanted to get the word out that there were great assets to be used if we just uncovered them a little bit. In the end, we had 30 people join our contest, and collectively they worked through 70 challenges—the winner earned a trip to SHARE San Jose in 2017. We had a blast and are working on our next hackZone already. And, more than a few attendees asked us how they could do this with their teams—success.

Get Started

Do you want to get started on creating your own Innovation Challenge? The z Systems teams are ready to help you. Learn more about z/OS Connect and play around in the open beta. And if you’re familiar with z/OS Connect already, we can bring the experts to you and run an API Shack Day to figure out the best APIs to expose and how.

New to IBM Bluemix? There are several Bluemix Garages you can go to and check things out.

Tina Tarquinio is an IBM z Systems offering manager, focused on creating solutions that matter for IBM clients and that grow the z Systems business. She’s passionate about connecting clients with IBM development teams, and helps to create a better understanding of how IBM technology is used. A mom of young kids, she can be found hiking, running and quoting Abraham Lincoln all over New York’s Hudson Valley. Follow on Twitter @tinatarq or reach out to her at tinatar@us.ibm.com.

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