IT Skills: Industry experts have their say, Part 1

IT Skills remains an important topic in many organizations. In a recent webinar, hosted by SHARE, experts from Micro Focus, IBM and IT-ology gave some tremendous insights into this important question. Jackie Anglin caught up with Micro Focus’ panelist, Ed Airey, to hear all about it

Recently I helped arrange a webinar on IT Skills, featuring a panel of experts. Hosted by Micro Focus’ Derek Britton, the panel included Ed Airey – Micro Focus’ solutions marketing director, Lonnie Emard – President of IT-ology, David Rhoderick – Manager of IBM z Systems Competitive Project Office.

Derek set the scene describing reports of concerns over dwindling technical skills, but then asked Ed and the other panelists a range of key questions. Having worked with our University partners through the Micro Focus Academic Program and a variety of customers around our COBOL-based technology, Ed has some unique insights, so I was glad to catch up with him and ask him about how the webinar went:

ITSkills Q1

Ed the first question was “How does an organization build an appropriately skilled workforce?” – how did you see it?

Ed: “That’s a great question.  To best address future IT workforce needs, an organization must first assess their current IT (application) estate.  A strong understanding of the application portfolio supporting core business will drive the necessary conversation and action to best develop or recruit that sought after talent.  Fundamentally, though, an organization must begin by examining the value within its core business application portfolio.  If such applications remain vital to the long term success of that organization then IT leadership must align its IT skills plans to that of its core business applications.  That being said, this new’ digital economy’ has added even further complexity to the skills planning process.  Supporting core business systems is important, but IT must also possess the skills needed to deliver ‘new innovation’ as requested by the business.  For an organization to appropriately respond to this challenge, it must recruit and develop IT talent with an understanding and appreciation of core business applications but also with eye to future technology and how the ‘best of both worlds’ can come together to address core business needs.”

ITSkills Q2

The second question was about how technology plays its part in the skill challenge. Thoughts?

Ed: “Yes – and we see this pretty clearly. Technology plays a hugely important role in addressing IT skills concerns.  Both IBM and Micro Focus share a long standing commitment to technology innovation and have made similar investments in this area.  Here at Micro Focus, we believe that technology can mitigate challenges organizations have in attracting ‘next gen’ talent.  In the context of business applications, many IT shops use tech that ‘did the job’ well enough, but required many years of experience to command.  But the application development landscape has changed.  According to reports, over 70% of professional software developers are building enterprise applications using either Visual Studio or Eclipse.  And these same IDEs are the development tools being taught within most IT university programs. So graduates will have modern IT development skills but also a command (and interest) for many programming languages.  Herein is the strategy for enterprise organizations to attract next generation talent in support of core business systems but also to acquire the same talent needed to modernize these applications for the future. Micro Focus and IBM have made investments in this space to simplify application development across all environments, mainframe, distributed and cloud.   Developers can now easily build and test enterprise applications (COBOL, PL/I) using the latest IDEs (Visual Studio or Eclipse) allowing organizations to leverage modern technology to bring on more skilled talent where it is needed.”

ITSkills Q3

Finally Ed, you were asked what is the long term solution?

Ed: “That’s right. Here’s how I saw it – the long term solution to addressing industry skills concern rests with the greater community and the ability of that collective group to better collaborate together, align business need to IT skill development and ultimately, deliver lasting change.  That change occurs through honest, open and continual dialogue between partners – Academic universities shaping IT curriculums to the needs of its local business partners (the enterprise).  Enterprise IT partnering more closely with their local university and IT vendors playing their role through the FREE provision and education of modern technology.  It’s only when these three forces align, can the community truly implement lasting change and a long term solution to the ‘IT skills’ concern.”

Thanks Ed – was there anything else you saw as important?

Ed: “To be honest this is an ongoing discussion for many organizations, which are constantly changing, and need to look at their talent pool regularly. But for organizations seeking to move quickly to address IT Skills uneasiness, I would suggest the following actions:

  • Begin an assessment of your current and future IT skill needs.  Ask how do these skills align to your existing CORE business application portfolio?  Develop a succession plan (shadow program) to cross train IT talent within your organization.
  • Reach out to your local university.  Develop a partnership.  Share your needs and begin to influence the IT program at that university.  Better still suggest your local university research the IBM Academic Initiative or the Micro Focus Academic program for software and educational support.”

In my next blog, we’ll recap the panel discussion including thoughts and views from IT-ology and IBM on tackling the skills opportunity that organizations have. I’d love to hear your thoughts and feedback too! Find me on Twitter

COBOL programmers: Skill up and save time…

Melissa Burns from Micro Focus introduces the new Object-Orientated Programming using Visual COBOL webinar series – tune in and skill up!


Join us for this educational webinar series ­- and an opportunity to try your hand at Object-Oriented Programming for COBOL.

Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) isn’t an empty buzzword or contemporary tech reserved for the newest programming languages. It’s a respected, time-proven development methodology that works just as well for COBOL development as it can for Java or .NET apps.

According to some estimates, there are over 240 billion lines of COBOL code out there and most of it is procedural. So why should COBOL developers look at OO COBOL?

The here and now

As a COBOL programmer, you’ll almost certainly be writing procedural programs based on COBOL-85 or perhaps the COBOL 2002 standards. This is the accepted norm and procedural programming still goes very much hand-in-hand with COBOL development. It remains a tried and trusted method of developing COBOL applications.

But succeeding in an ever-changing industry means keeping up with current trends, and tech-savvy consumers are forcing the adoption of new technologies such as cloud, mobile and new IT architectures.

Developing COBOL applications with OOP represents an opportunity to quickly meet those consumer demands, especially for those thinking about the Java Virtual Machine or .NET.

OOP is the standard for these platforms. This doesn’t mean losing any hard work expended in developing procedural programs. Quite the opposite – those procedural programs can work quite happily on these new platforms – but to fully harness .NET and JVM, a good grounding in OOP will make all the difference. With these new skills you can bridge your existing COBOL apps with other languages, build modern user interfaces, develop web services and more.


These webinars have been created specifically for COBOL programmers who want to learn more about OOP and incorporate it with procedural programming techniques to get the best of both worlds. It is your chance to learn from Micro Focus product experts, including Scot Nielsen, who will give you a guided tour of object-oriented principles with hands-on demos to illustrate key concepts and syntax of object-oriented COBOL.

And right from the start, you can put your new found skills to good use without needing to fully immerse yourself in everything OO. By reusing classes available within the .NET framework or the Java SDK, you’ll see how you can save bags of time writing new functionality. The session on collection classes is a must see. Arrays, lists, hash maps and dictionaries — all ready to use within your own program saving you hours of effort developing your own versions.

And why not package up some useful COBOL functionality that can be consumed by other developers writing in COBOL or Java or C#? We’ll show you how to write your own classes and even extend functionality provided by others using inheritance.

Each webinar focuses on a key aspect of OOP, building up your knowledge and we wrap us each session with exercises you can try-it-at-home in preparation for the next topic in the series.

Topics include:

  • An Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming
  • Your first COBOL Class
  • Data and Properties
  • Collection Classes
  • Inheritance
  • Accessing Procedural COBOL from Java and C#

Find out more and sign up  today.

The shock of the new – Addressing the unexpected impacts of modernization

Nothing moves on faster than technology. We can probably all agree that the pressure to modernize in the world of IT is both inescapable and ongoing. The difference lies in how we address the issue – and the solution may not be where you’re looking.

An objective perspective

Application development tools really can address the challenges of modernization. And that’s not us talking. It’s the view of this recent – and objective – CIC Report which describes this phenomenon in detail. It’s also the subject of this blog, and the supporting webinar.

So how do industry analysts Creative Intellect Consulting, who research trends in the software market, suggest countering the unexpected impacts of modernization? Is ‘doing nothing’ a sensible option in resolving the problems of out-of-date infrastructure, inefficient ‘legacy’ development tools and the ongoing skills crisis?

Impact assessment statement

As motorists and lottery winners will attest, the phrase “unexpected impact” can mean different things. For the purposes of the CIC report, we’re talking about the good kind – where help arrives from an unexpected source. But help with what, exactly?

It’s the contemporary IT dilemma: striking a balance between keeping the lights on today and innovating for the future. Organizations reliant on IT scarcely need reminding that, as CIC point out, competition and technology “place relentless pressure on organizations”. ‘Must-have’ mobile technologies are particularly demanding of up-to-the-minute functionalities. It’s hard to keep up – and if you don’t, your competitors will simply pull ahead of you. That, at least, is not an option.

Keep calm and carry on …

One thing is clear. Keeping pace – or doing nothing – will cost you. “Sweeping change is expensive and disruptive”, but doing nothing might cost you your business – as it falls further and further behind. Let’s assess the impacts and possible resolutions of ‘doing nothing’.

Using obsolete hardware and outdated software alone is risky. Combining the functionality of current core systems and the adaptability of new architectures enables businesses to keep up with hardware, software, databases, middleware and security advancements, reducing the risk. A complex application portfolio means high MIPs, so increasing productivity will keep maintenance backlog at bay and make more room for MIPS.

Or do something new?

CIC acknowledge that ‘legacy’ tools for maintaining software development are “less capable, less integrated and less productive than those for mainstream languages”, but new technologies can bridge the gap between older and newer languages. ‘Legacy’ systems working with the latest advancements? Now that could work.

The IT industry’s silo mentality reduces efficiency and productivity. COBOL and Java skills are not being cross-pollinated between teams for example. With cross-language application development, quality improves and competitiveness increases with it.

There will be further blogs, but those looking for a speedy resolution could do worse than keep reading. Softening the blow of modernization within the application development environment is close at hand….

Impact protection

The latest application development environments – Visual Studio and Eclipse – bring contemporary functionalities to the mainframe space.  According to CIC, the Micro Focus Enterprise Product Set straddles old and new by bringing “legacy language support to the mainstream (with) state-of-the-art IDEs”. Businesses use the latest application development tools to cut the maintenance backlog, improve productivity, and keep up with the pace of change.

By increasing productivity, the tools introduce new options for modernization strategies. As the seemingly permanent backlog of maintenance tasks diminishes, more room for development and innovation is created. With a modernized infrastructure and productive teams, inefficient ‘legacy’ development tools are a thing of the past. And as CIC acknowledge, “then you have options.”

The next blog unravels some typical modernization strategies and the options involved. It will reveal how analyzing and understanding your application portfolio will map out the innovative opportunities you need to absorb the modernization impact.

Until then – download your report, book your place on the webinar – and keep your seat belts secured.

Full Visibility

Visual COBOL is an agent of change. Both flexible and robust, it bridges the gap between ongoing application maintenance and the innovation needed for future efficiencies.

Visual COBOL is an agent of change. Both flexible and robust, it bridges the gap between ongoing application maintenance and the innovation needed for future efficiencies.

More clients than ever, from independent software vendors through to major logistics companies are reaping the benefits.  Visual COBOL takes business-critical enterprise applications to new platforms, such as cloud and mobile, without rewrites, with minimal risk and with significant cost savings and development efficiencies.

Catch up

Hosted by the Micro Focus Visual COBOL product team (Scot Nielsen , Product Manager and Ed Airey, Product Marketing) – the Visual COBOL webinar series is a collection of helpful, 45-minute tutorials beneficial for anyone working on COBOL application development.

The sessions cover everything from the basic ‘understanding Visual COBOL’ and ‘getting started with Visual COBOL’ through to more technical sessions including ‘reusing COBOL business logic with Java’ and ‘.NET’.

Over 1000 attendees came away from the live webinars with the valuable insight and practical knowledge they need to make more of what they have by moving to more contemporary platforms without risking the intellectual property and data built up over time.

The live events are now available as a series of recorded sessions you can watch at your own pace.

Have your say

We’re keen to bring you more educational sessions and we’d like your help. If you have feedback that will help us ‘fine tune’ the existing format or you’d like to nominate a particular topic of interest – then we’d appreciate your opinion.

Complete the short survey here. Thanks!

And the winner is…

Lucky attendee Mike Slicker – who tuned in to every live webinar – also came away with a Kindle Fire as a reward for his 100% record. But it’s not too late for everyone to feel the benefit of this accessible and informative series.

Webcast: Foundations of Object Oriented Programming for COBOL developers

As a COBOL programmer you will be familiar with procedural programming, and may be considering approaching Object Oriented programming for various reasons. Find out how Object Oriented programming has a number of benefits.

As a COBOL programmer you will be familiar with procedural programming, and may be considering approaching Object Oriented programming for various reasons.

Using Object Oriented programming has a number of benefits, including the ability to harness the strengths of managed frameworks such as .NET and JVM. While it is possible to deploy procedural COBOL applications to these frameworks, OO extends to you the full advantages of these managed frameworks.

During the launch of Visual COBOL R4 we demonstrated how Visual COBOL provides the bridge.

Now there is a chance to learn about this in more detail. In a recent webinar, Software Systems Developer, Principal, Paul Kelly looked at why OO programming makes sense for a COBOL Programmer. He also demonstrated how you can:

  • gain incremental benefits from using OO COBOL in combination with existing COBOL code
  • experience the benefits of managed platforms such as .NET and JVM
  • use OO COBOL to harness the power of managed platforms from existing procedural COBOL applications, with very little effort

You can now watch the recorded webcast on our new Community ViewStream platform.

Do leave us your comments, and if you have any questions, why not post them to our forums?

Coming soon: Visual COBOL Customer Webinar

Join us for a Customer Webinar on Visual COBOL next week and hear, first hand, how one customer is benefiting from the advances that Visual COBOL R3 delivers.

We are really excited that Suresh Kalavala from Nationwide Insurance joins us for a customer webinar on the 14th of April 2011, to share his experience with Visual COBOL R3. Nationwide is one of the earliest adopters of Visual COBOL R3. They adopted the pre-beta release of Visual COBOL R3 and are now successfully deploying their application that serves over 17,000 end users.

As well as hearing from Suresh, you will have an opportunity to ask him, and a Micro Focus expert panel, any questions you may have.

The webinar will be held on Thursday 14th April, 2011 at 18:00 BST (GMT + 1) / 13:00 EDT / 10:00 PDT and you can register to attend at:

If you missed the live launch event back in January, you can also access all recordings of the previous Visual COBOL R3 webinars on the Visual COBOL website at And if you have not installed and tried Visual COBOL for yourself yet, can download it from the same website.

If you have already downloaded and used Visual COBOL R3, why not write a product review? You could win a LiveScribe Echo Smartpen, for details see:

Perspectives on the future of managing software quality

A Micro Focus webcast featuring MAXIMUS Canada. Register today and receive your COMPLIMENTARY Gartner, Inc. report: ‘Q&A for sizing the test team’

Register today and receive your COMPLIMENTARY Gartner, Inc. report: ‘Q&A for sizing the test team’

Hear first-hand from Joel Levinson, CIO of MAXIMUS Canada, and Steve Dykstra, Director of Product Marketing at Micro Focus as they provide analysis and perspective on ways to improve product success, productivity and cost reduction in development.

Join us live on Wednesday, April 20, 2011 at 08:00 PDT / 11:00 EDT / 16:00 BST, or watch the webcast on demand at a time to suit you.

Find out first-hand how MAXIMUS Canada is addressing quality in their development teams and the lessons they have learnt along the way. 

Register now.

Micro Focus Visual COBOL R3

COBOL has evolved and is breaking free from its constraints.

Visual COBOL R3 gives you the freedom to use COBOL in whichever deployment platform or framework makes most sense for your organization.

Now you can extend COBOL using the Integrated Development Environment (IDE) best suited to your application deployment environment – whether that’s using Microsoft’s Visual Studio 2010 for Windows and .NET applications or Eclipse for Windows, UNIX or Linux or the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) platform.

Now Visual COBOL R3 gives you the freedom to take advantage of new technology to build applications with true portability from Windows and .NET to UNIX, Linux, JVM and the cloud.

Whatever you want to achieve and whatever your platform, Visual COBOL R3 can get you there.

Introducing the new – Cobol Makes Life Better

The future’s never been brighter for Cobol. And that’s got to make life better for you, too.

With 50 years under its belt, Cobol is set to remain the dominant language for business applications for the next 50 years. Having consistently seen off the young pretenders, Cobol has continued to evolve to meet every new demand thrown at it, from both business and technology.

Business applications written in Cobol are faster, more precise and more powerful than ever. And now it’s easier than ever to run them on the platforms that make the most business sense – now and in the future.

Visit for more information.

New terminal emulation and user interface modernization solutions launched

Micro Focus has announced the general availability of RUMBA v8.1, Web-to-Host v6.1, and OnWeb 7.5. This new, innovative suite of terminal emulation and user interface modernization solutions is designed to maximize productivity for users of green screen applications.

With the announcement of RUMBA v8.1, Web-to-Host v6.1, and OnWeb 7.5 now organizations can fully leverage existing corporate applications, for maximum value.

Highlights include:

  • Tabs, tiles, and zoom a new user interface enabling customers to scan multiple customer touch points at the same time from one screen
  • History tracking in RUMBA shows the end user’s progress through a transaction that can be renamed and searched on
  • Microsoft Office ready, customers can now interact with Microsoft Office applications from within RUMBA. Sending application details via Outlook, Microsoft Word, OneNote and PowerPoint is only a click away.
  • Developing with .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio is made easier with RUMBA’s full .NET compatibility and pre-packaged source and example files in Visual Studio.
  • Increased performance
  • FIPS compliant, Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) and Secure Shell (SSH) technology for secure terminal and FTP sessions to host computers. TLS 1.0 is supported.
  • Customers can now modify and create custom toolbars in RUMBA
  • Web-to-Host 6.1 is fully DBCS compatible

To learn more about the new features and the benefits of these newly released products, two webinars have been organized. They are scheduled for:

• Webinar #1: December 7th, 2010 @ 11:00 GMT / 6:00 Eastern
• Webinar #2: December 7th, 2010 @ 18:00 GMT / 13:00 Eastern

Please select the webinar that is most convenient for your timezone.

If you have an active Micro Focus SupportLine agreement, we can help you ensure continued uptime and a smooth transition to new technologies and operating systems, providing updates, fixes and new releases, as well as hotline support.

If you are using a competitive terminal emulation solution and would like to know more about the pricing incentives to migrate or consolidate to a Micro Focus solution, please contact your Micro Focus sales representative.

For more information, please visit

Webcast: Application Modernization, 23rd November

After the crisis: Driving business agility and meeting customer demands through application modernization.

Rodney Nelsestuen, Senior Research Director for TowerGroup, and Peter Gadd, Vice President, Micro Focus, discuss the drivers behind core systems modernization and how it affects the bottom line for financial services institutions and their IT departments at this webcast moderated by Bank Systems & Technology associate editor Matt Gunn.

Register now