Being ‘skills ready’ – the Development Manager challenge

Working on the front line of application maintenance and development, Development Managers have a unique perspective on where application development requirements meet the people who must deliver them.

They are also at the interface of the wider business plan and delivery schedule. Development Managers with a responsibility for recruitment must build a resource and skills strategy that aligns to business and technical strategy. But ensuring a consistent supply of development talent is by no means guaranteed.

The mature key applications on many older IBM mainframes are written in COBOL and PL/I. The heartbeat of the organization, these applications must be kept up to date and fully maintained as an operational imperative.

While COBOL remains ubiquitous, COBOL and PL/I are not generally taught today and new graduates often prefer to focus on newer languages such as C# and Java, so there is potential for a future skills shortfall between the outgoing senior programmers and subject matter experts, and the influx of suitable new talent.

Planning for the future

Micro Focus is working to keep the supply line of fresh available talent going. We are helping to maintain a future supply of suitably skilled staff by partnering with academia to ensure COBOL skills are on the syllabus of the local university.

But that is a longer-term view. If the long term prognosis is of an increasingly diminishing pool of skilled COBOL staff, then the logical response is  to enable the current talent pool – and new, joining staff – to do more.

Clearly there must be a drive to ensure the organization can meet future skills requirements sooner rather than later. This can happen in two ways:

  • Get more from what you have

‘Skill up’ your current developer pool to meet your future resource requirements. Technology is the key to expanding the available talent at your disposal. The added flexibility and functionality of Micro Focus tooling can increase productivity without the need to hire additional resources.

  • ‘Skill up’ new hires and outsourced staff

Getting your new people aligned with future skills requirements quickly and easily is the key to ensuring skills readiness – and sidestepping specialist recruitment costs.  How organisations transfer  application knowledge and understanding to  new staff and outsourced staff is a key strand of an organisational application management strategy.

Two issues. One problem

As we called out in our dedicated white paper, Visual COBOL: The Agent of Change, there is a lack of close collaboration between teams of old and new developers – due to different tooling, processes and structures – so development, integration and deployment approaches are not as streamlined as they should be. Applications are not built quickly, testing is more difficult and quality is potentially compromised, causing the business to suffer.

Clearly, deploying the right technology will address both of these issues. The contemporary environments of the Micro Focus Mainframe Solution, deliver the efficiencies Development Managers need today and ensure the availability of skilled staff tomorrow. Essentially, this philosophy of improving software development and delivery through a combination of appropriate technology and attitude is going to be familiar to – and welcomed by – those who want to see DevOps appropriated into their processes.


How does that work?

Enterprise Analyzer  accelerates development and modernization projects by up to 40% and beyond. Current and new staff will benefit from a faster COBOL maintenance knowledge transfer, application analysis and documentation environment.

It is not enough to ensure that developers can make changes with confidence – because only by ensuring that critical business systems are properly documented can Development Managers? be sure that the business knowledge does not leave with the retiring workforce.

Our staff-enabling technologies include a more cost-effective and efficient environment that enable current staff to support key mainframe application maintenance, development and test activities.

Deploying a more inclusive and contemporary mainframe testing environment will enable a new generation of developers to skill up and support core COBOL systems. This, more powerful IDE, also delivers tangible benefits – a 40% productivity boost is just one.

Many successful Development Managers have recognized the benefit of a more cost-effective and efficient testing environment for enabling current staff to support application maintenance and development activities. Many of our customers do.

In summary

Aligning your IT resourcing strategy with Micro Focus technology will ensure consistency, retain vital knowledge and create the future generation of COBOL developers that organizations need.

Learn more here

White paper: The Agent of Change

Check out the videos


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1 Comment

  • Max McCarty

    I had over 30 years as a COBOL programmer analyst, manager and VP of systems. After retirement from TWA went to work In GA performing Y2K conversion at Lockheed Martin as a contractor with Computer Associates. Retired again in 2007. Tried unsuccessfully for several years to find any company that could use my many years of experience in COBOL. None were interested. Perhaps those companies with heavy dependence on COBOL mainframe programs, should reconsider looking at the pool of many retired former COBOL programmers.

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