Sharpen your competitive edge using COBOL and mainframe systems

Brian Crane, Solution Director at Micro Focus, looks at the issues affecting IT leaders today and offers some rare insights into smart ways to transform IT.

Interesting Times

Up until now, 2020 has proved to be quite a pivotal year. The current COVID-19 pandemic has triggered many changes in business behaviour right across the globe. Many organisations have had to enable their employees to work remotely, which is unfamiliar territory for many. In addition, interfacing with customers has had to take on a different form, with many changes required to business processing and logistics. These immediate challenges have largely now been overcome, but the huge efforts and business disruption involved have proven that even the most nimble of organisations cannot respond as quickly as they would have liked. With more expected (and likely unexpected) changes in legislation and customer behaviour on the horizon, the burden of so-called ‘legacy’ systems with their notoriously slow and arcane change and deployment methodologies will continue to take its toll.

As we now get a sense of ‘business as usual’, albeit a slightly different ‘usual’, many organisations are using this period to not just ‘keep the show on the road’ but also to take a view of their current situation, but with a different lens from that used before the pandemic. While survival is the number one concern for businesses, organisations are now looking for ways to enable them to leap ahead of the competition as and when the wheels of the economy start to turn freely again.

Evidence of Change

At Micro Focus we are seeing real evidence that organisations are using this period to accelerate their application modernisation efforts and to put in solid plans to eliminate some of the costly debt around technology and process that has been accruing over the years and holding them back. We are seeing an increase in the numbers of businesses that are approaching Micro Focus in order to re-assess their IT application estates with a view to understanding the ‘as is’ situation, and to see what can be achieved quickly to stay ahead of the game while reducing risk and containing costs. Many of these discussions centre on COBOL and mainframe computing because this is where a lot of critical business processing still takes place.

Current examples include:

– A UK based insurance company that has inherited an awkward mix of languages, code generators and other expensive software components running on the IBM mainframe is planning to simplify the IT estate and move some mainframe based components into the Cloud. This will gain massive cost benefits while placing them firmly on the track towards further transformation towards their chosen target architecture
– A global investment bank that now finds itself with the capacity to accelerate their efforts to streamline their application development and delivery processes. The underlying desire to make these improvements, equating to ‘DevOps for the mainframe’, has been there for a number of years, but ‘business as usual’ work has always stepped in the way. The pandemic and the associated remote working collaboration ethos that has evolved is placing a renewed focus on the implementation of the required toolsets. This in turn will help with application understanding, faster development and improvement to testing throughput for their core mainframe COBOL application suite.
– A UK retail bank that has decided to investigate the possibility of modernising a cheque processing system, written in COBOL, to take advantage of new platforms, rather than spend more time and effort trying to rewrite it – ‘reuse’ rather than ‘replace’.

According to many industry surveys and research papers, modernisation or ‘Digital Transformation’ is very high on the CIO agenda. Recent surveys commissioned by Micro Focus and Vanson Bourne show the top 3 drivers of such modernisations are:

1. Innovation
2. Efficiency
3. Security

The Smarter Approach: Modernisation

At Micro Focus we continue to invest heavily in COBOL and mainframe application based technologies to allow organisations to deliver against the key drivers above. This year we will release a major new version of our COBOL and Enterprise (for mainframe) product ranges, and these bring fantastic opportunities for organisations to re-think how they might reuse and exploit existing COBOL and mainframe applications in new ways. Why not tune in to our upcoming COBOL and Enterprise release presentations (available on our webinar channel) to learn more about how you can use the latest technology to:

– Modernise your core business applications, including refactoring and the introduction of new services and interfaces based on existing code.
– Modernise your development and delivery process (or pipeline) by introducing a DevOps approach for your COBOL and mainframe teams, improving agility.
– Modernise your platforms, moving existing COBOL and mainframe workload to new architectures, embracing the latest server and cloud technologies including virtualisation and containers.

If you take a look at what’s new we hope you will see that the future landscape for your COBOL and mainframe applications is very bright indeed.

For more information, download Modernization: Reimagining COBOL Systems for the Digital Age

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