The Development Manager’s conundrum: Do even more, with less. Faster


Sound familiar? We’ve heard this from so many of our customers. They are trying to tackle the seemingly impossible – increase innovation to supply customer demand, while maintaining what already exists. To push the boundaries while keeping the lights on. This blog highlights the challenge and suggests an answer. Because we believe that Development Managers responsible for delivering COBOL applications really can do more, with less – and faster.

(For the purpose of this blog, I’m focussing on COBOL applications built on distributed environments such as Windows, Unix and Linux – but if your COBOL applications are on the mainframe, then take a look at this blog[m1] ).

 The Development Manager’s Enigma

COBOL is modern and agile. Discuss. Well, it will be if it can resolve the two fundamental application development challenges that our customers are talking about. They are:

1.      Keeping the lights on

We’re told that the majority of resource is needed just to keep the wheels turning. Maintenance of existing applications is a must, and there is a major backlog to make application improvements.  According to Gartner, the overall cost of ‘IT debt’ is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2015. Forrester cites that 70% of IT budgets are spent on maintenance tasks. Big bucks, big problem.

2.      Delivering innovation

Staying in business is all about keeping up with industry trends. It’s a must. Doing nothing is going backwards. Tech-savvy consumers are forcing the adoption of new technologies such as cloud, mobile and new IT architecture.  If businesses refuse to embrace these technologies, their customers will look elsewhere.  And they won’t be back.

Doing one without the other is not enough. So, the two challenges are essentially one: Keep the lights on and deliver innovation.

It’s your choice

Typically, there are four approaches to addressing these challenges:

1. Do nothing

Carrying on as normal has some merit. No action, no risk. But if you aren’t able to keep up now, then it won’t provide you with the step-change in business agility that you need. Inertia and performance don’t mix.

2. Rewrite

Many customers tell us they consider rewriting their applications in another language. However, this is timely, costly and high risk – with as many as 75%[1] of all rewrite projects failing. Keep looking.

3. Replace

Another favourite is replacement with an off-the-shelf package. It might sound appealing for a quick fix, but what happens to the decades of business intelligence and IP built up in your existing applications? You might lose competitive advantage. Additionally, our experience tells us that approximately 40%[2] of replace projects are cancelled.

4. Revamp

Naturally, this is the option that we advocate in most situations. Revamping means reusing your existing investments – your people, your processes and your existing applications – to create a new, improved environment. Because COBOL is modern and agile, it enables a fresh approach to how you build and deliver. This is the key to addressing the Development Manager’s enigma.

Maintain and innovate

COBOL is modern and agile. Still don’t believe me? Here are a few examples from our customers who have tackled these challenges, and with great results.

Addressing the COBOL skills shortage is one of the first hurdles – development teams often work in siloed development environments, broken down by programming language or the tools they use, which can inhibit application development. Using Visual COBOL, c# programmers at Nationwide Insurance were productive within 1 hour, simply because they were developing COBOL applications in Visual Studio, a modern IDE with which they were familiar. (Visual COBOL can also be developed in Eclipse).

Because traditional COBOL can be developed and maintained in modern environments, development efficiencies are also a key benefit. Using Visual COBOL, OM logistics saw a 30% improvement in efficiency.

These skills and efficiency enhancements mean your team can spend less time fighting the backlog, and more time innovating to supply consumer demand. But how can COBOL help you innovate and embrace disruptive technologies?

Well, because COBOL is modern and agile, you can deploy COBOL applications onto the latest platforms and newest technologies. Here are some great examples where our customers have done just that:

  • The Treasury of the Republic of Cyprus saved €250k per year taking their existing COBOL application to HTML5 to deliver a mobile web application.
  • Acciona Trasmediterranea saved 70% of IT costs and reduced time to market by 25% taking their existing logistics application to the cloud.
  • Zucchetti, a Human Resource application provider embraced modern IT architectures to speed up the adoption of .NET and JVM for COBOL application deployment.

Clearly most innovations are possible – it’s just a matter of finding the skill and resource to be able to deliver them.

Now do you believe me?

So – are you converted? I hope you can see that COBOL is both modern and agile. That it can deliver development efficiencies of up to 30% and reduce time to market by 25%.

What do your COBOL applications do and how could you modernize yours? If you want to learn more, take a look at how many of our customers are already delivering innovative solutions with modern and agile COBOL: