Driving Enterprise IT Computing Forward - Q&A with SHARE President James Vincent

After the recent 2015 SHARE event in Seattle wrapped up, SHARE President James Vincent (Nationwide Insurance) sat down with us to reflect on the education, as well as the goals and challenges that lie ahead for the user group, and the role of the mainframe in the enterprise. “The mainframe is at the heart of SHARE and its Member companies, so I do not see SHARE moving away from the mainframe environment. I do, however, see SHARE expanding to include a more enterprise technology focus,” Vincent told 5 Minute Briefing: Data Center.

When did you first join SHARE, and what kinds of benefits have you personally gained from your participation?

James Vincent: I have been attending SHARE events since 1993. Soon after my first SHARE, I began serving in various volunteer roles. While SHARE offers great technical content to its event attendees that I enjoy on a professional level, I personally find the opportunity to learn and practice leadership skills particularly rewarding. Many of the leadership skills that I have honed are extremely valuable to my employer and I would not have had the opportunity to grow them had it not been for my SHARE volunteer work.

What do you hope to accomplish during the balance of your term at the helm of SHARE and which initiatives do you feel particularly close to?

JV: Our main goal, as well as the goal of my fellow Board members, is to keep SHARE as the No. 1 resource that our member companies turn to when they need information and guidance on what is happening in enterprise IT computing. We have established initiatives to not only improve access to SHARE resources for our Members and for people interested in what we have to offer, but we are also working on new thought leadership projects that will provide timely, valued information to enterprise IT professionals. Additionally, my personal goal is to build leadership development opportunities for SHARE volunteers that provide them with the tools necessary to lead both within our user group and within their own careers. Enabling people to lead effectively opens so many doors on a personal and organizational level.

What were the initiatives and presentations that drew the most interest at the recent event?

JV: Some of the topics that drew significant attention during SHARE in Seattle were the IBM z13 mainframe, enterprise security, and the z/OS 2.2 release. Overall, security is still a major concern for everyone and Seattle featured an eye-opening keynote from Philip Young on “The Security Gap” which was extremely well received. There was also great attendance to our newly offered panel sessions that showcased leaders from IBM and other major industry players as they discussed trending topics and answered attendee questions. In addition, SHARE’s fifth annual ExecuForum was a sell-out! ExecuForum runs concurrently with the main winter event and is a venue for enterprise IT executives and leaders to share learnings and discuss the critical business challenges they face day-to-day in an open forum.

Do you foresee changes in how SHARE programs are delivered? Is the SHARE Membership more of a digital community than before?

JV: We are definitely focusing on how we package and offer our content to meet the needs of our Members. One major update is the brand-new website we plan to launch in the spring. The younger generation of professionals has shown us that there is a revolution in the way content is being consumed, especially online whether that’s through short videos or a quick how-to in social media. The SHARE Mobile App, which was released just last year, has also been a huge hit with event attendees. More and more, people have smartphones and tablets that they carry with them at all times. The SHARE App has been a great way to offer our Members the ability to have quick, easy access to tools and information they need during SHARE events.

How is the movement to cloud computing impacting SHARE's programming and focus? Do you see a shift away from down-in-the-trenches mainframe admin and programming skills to higher-level requirements, such as architecture and analysis?

JV: As cloud computing is being evaluated more in enterprise IT, both public and private cloud, we are seeing that not all organizations see it as the right solution for them; however, the adoption rate is still on a steady incline and we are seeing more interest in SHARE building additional focus on IT architecture than ever before. We do not see this as a shift away from our core offerings around mainframe systems support and application programming, though, since these areas will continue to be important to enterprise IT professionals whether part of a cloud environment or not. 

Do you see a role for SHARE expanding beyond the mainframe environment? Are you seeing more Members from other platforms and disciplines?

JV: The mainframe is at the heart of SHARE and its Member companies, so I do not see SHARE moving away from the mainframe environment. I do, however, see SHARE expanding to include a more enterprise technology focus, encompassing the entire enterprise infrastructure that comes in contact with the mainframe and embracing those technologies that provide solutions that work with or enhance the mainframe environment. I also believe that working with Member companies to influence the industry to support their core solutions is what SHARE is all about.

What are SHARE's three greatest challenges in the current environment?

JV: That’s a great question! The top three challenges we’ve noticed, from a SHARE perspective, are these:

  • Corporate budgets and philosophies on training for employees have a less-than-desirable impact on a company’s ability to participate in SHARE educational events. When the financial crunch hit around 2008, we saw a number of corporations either reducing or eliminating their employees’ opportunities to do any training, especially if it involved travel. The philosophies seem to be that employees can simply “get on the internet” to find the training they need. SHARE sees this as a missed opportunity for both the employees and the company.
  • Security -specifically, raising awareness around mainframe security. There is little doubt security is huge and protecting customer identity, strategic internal corporate data and more are top-of-mind for practically all IT executives. The mainframe has tremendous strength in the area of security, if the tools, processes and procedures for protecting the enterprise are followed carefully. SHARE is looking to help with this topic by providing more insight into the best mainframe security practices.
  • The need to combat the myth that the mainframe is dead. The mainframe is NOT dead! This one will probably never go away and is something we and our partners spend a lot of energy on to educate people about. It is very easy to listen to the “F.U.D.” in the media and around the internet that implies there is no use for “big iron” anymore. It doesn’t take much digging to understand that companies around the globe rely on mainframe technology to run their core business for all the right reasons and those companies are growing in number. Mainframe technology is solid and yet evolving to meet business needs. Take the z13 announcements in both the hardware and software spaces for example — they include many improvements and additions that address current business needs. SHARE will be at the forefront to provide the facts and details on the mainframe to show it is a solid, viable and current technology for businesses.

The next SHARE event is scheduled for August 9-14 at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. The Call for Presentations is now open.