Part 1: Innovation Blog Series – Can IT Face the Future Living with the Past?

‘Disruptive technologies’ and ‘disruptive innovation’ are becoming important labels in today’s IT and commercial world. Gartner lists a top 10 of the innovations most likely to change the face of business, while Forrester’s 2012 conference heavily leans on the theme of  ‘digital disruption’.  A new wave of technology and a new generation of technically astute end-users have seen dramatic changes in IT computing in the fields of social media, Cloud computing, big data and mobile. Troubled IT executives are struggling to cope with the emerging and diverging demands of stakeholders, business leaders, shareholders and a new breed of smart, highly demonstrative users.

Meanwhile, the same IT organization faces the continuing challenge of providing additional business value using old technology, archaic processes, limited resources and inadequate investment. Failure to keep up with even ‘normal’ business change has been coined by some observers as ‘IT debt’, or ‘technical debt’: the number of unmet requirements in the IT backlog, which still need addressing.

Faced with tackling these two growing concerns, CIOs are stuck in a near-impossible situation as they look to cope with the previous backlog and try to devise ways of meeting future challenges. In reality, this means coping with a number of specific elements along the path between innovative technology demands and technical debt requirements.

Cloud Computing

As IT organizations look to provide core business as a service, Cloud computing introduces an innovative opportunity both for offering potential new client services, or to reduce operating cost and complexity by outsourcing core IT (platforms, services, applications) to a provider.

Mobile

With the mobile world now very much part of the business world, organizations are striving to make sense of the consumerization of IT, ’bring your own device’ (BYOD), and other operational challenges. Additionally, as mobile services start to prevail, the impact on the back office starts to take its toll, and IT operations have to find a way to cope with unprecedented levels of capacity (see our recent blog). Meanwhile, customers are simply expecting mobile apps for all their day-to-day services.

New Architecture

While Cloud, Mobile and other disruptive technologies may steal the limelight, new IT architecture has emerged that presents both challenges and opportunities for IT and development organizations. New paradigms including JVM, .NET, and new platforms such as zEnterprise, Windows 8 and tablet devices must be embraced, otherwise organizations face the risk of losing a competitive edge.

Development Efficiency

With a variety of challenges facing IT, it is frequently left to the development organization to provide software solutions to the pressing issues of the day. Yet this is another area where investment and process decisions may have led to a confused and inefficient situation today. Facing this, organizations are looking to unify development tooling and streamline the deployment approach, in order to build a more efficient software delivery process.

Skills and Organization

Other major obstacles to organizational efficiency are the structural barriers found in many IT organizations. Groups of developers structured around technology lines limit the ability for teams to collaborate, which leads to a much less agile skills pool. This is a major factor in what has been referred to as the ‘IT skills crisis’. In order to solve this, IT must look for ways to break down those barriers and to unify the skills pool. This can be achieved by eliminating the obstructions, implementing skill-sharing programs and adopting group wide process and technology standards.

We will be exploring each of these trends in more detail through a series of blogs in the coming weeks.

Micro Focus has provided a future path for thousands of customers across nearly four decades of IT innovation. Its latest Visual COBOL range provides a springboard for customers looking to embrace exciting new technical advances such as Cloud, Mobile, Tablet and Windows 8. It supports the latest in technology standards such as Eclipse, JVM, Visual Studio and .NET and its open architecture allows COBOL and other language developers to collaborate more effectively than ever before.

The Federal IT Report Card

Written by Tod Tompkins, VP of Federal Sales, North America

This week, Federal News Radio (WFED) released a special report, “The Obama Impact: Evaluating the Last Four Years.” In addition to detailed stories and analyses, the report showcases a dashboard evaluating 23 federal initiatives. Tuesday, the WFED team tackled technology.

The report praised the Administration for naming a U.S. Chief Information Officer (CIO) and U.S. Chief Technology Officer (CTO), as well as the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB) direct approach to discussing the inadequate state of federal IT. The report then delved into the following issues: cybersecurity, health IT, information sharing, IT reform and open/transparent government.

I would like to discuss IT reform. WFED gave IT reform a green light, defined as “effective.” The report stated three reasons why IT reform got the green light, 1) major IT investments received a green light on performance.gov, 2) the issuance of OMB’s cloud computing strategy and the Digital Government strategy and 3) the Federal CIO Council released cybersecurity workforce guidance. I agree that the federal government has made significant strides in IT reform over the past four years. However, I believe we need to take a step back and address the federal government’s significant investments in legacy systems over the past decades, over numerous Administrations – and determine how we best migrate or modernize these systems to meet the mission and serve our citizenry – especially in our current budget environment. Buzz terms like cloud, mobility and social government seem to dominate the technology discussion, but we need to ensure our mission-critical systems are maintained and evolve to meet the new data-heavy needs of users.

Whether sequestration comes to pass or not, there is complete concurrence across political parties that budgets need to be reduced across government. Federal leaders need to evaluate their current systems and talk to industry leaders to determine how we can extend current systems and missions to improve and reduce costs before we tackle some of these more progressive and budget-intensive tech trends. Do you agree? Connect with us in the comments section below, on Facebook or Twitter.

How popular is COBOL today?

The Tiobe Index has just published its results for September 2012.

The headline “no change”. I beg to differ.

Tiobe have been compiling statistics on programming languages for nearly a decade. Every month they publish a table of the top 100 programming languages ranked by popularity.

Their benchmarking is simple; how much internet content exists for any given programming language. They determine the amount of content using a simple search term across a variety of search engines “+ <programming language> programming” and tally up what they find.

It’s no surprise to see Java and C regularly battling for top spot but where do you think COBOL is placed in the rankings?

For quite some time, despite the pervasive use of COBOL within business computing, the language remained relegated to somewhere in between the 50 to 100 bracket. Languages in this section of the rankings have a tiny fraction of the overall share, often considered niche or domain specific.

But something interesting has been happening over the past 2 years outside of the top 20. COBOL has steadily progressed its way up through the rankings and out of the 50+ group. 47, 40, 35, 30, 28 and this month, 25.

Has the popularity of COBOL suddenly escalated over the last 2 years? Perhaps — let us know what you think?

What this may indicate is a renewed interest in existing COBOL systems. Whether that be from modernization discussions, Twitter conversations, LinkedIn groups, our Community site and forums, increased job openings for COBOL developers and much more.

Whatever the impetus, COBOL programmers are making their presence felt.

Better Ingredients, Better Government

Written by Tod Tompkins

Have you ever wondered what the servers of a restaurant think of the food? Would they eat it themselves? A survey by the Government Business Council delivered the inside scoop on what today’s federal managers are thinking.

Sampling nearly 600 GS-11 or higher government workers, the survey uncovered some major findings—but the one that caught my eye was on the topic of cost efficiency. The survey first asked managers to grade the cost efficiency of the government as a whole. According to the results, 59 percent rated the government with a C average or less. However, when it came to rating their own agencies, the poor scores increased, with 69 percent confessing that their cost efficiency was performing at the bottom half of the grading scale.

This suggests to me that the tight budget environment has not improved cost efficiency. In fact, reduced budgets may further exacerbate inefficiencies, as agencies drain resources away from transformational projects and towards more basic operations and maintenance (O&M). The rest of the data seems to confirm this suspicion, as the two areas respondents thought needed the most improvement were technology and workforce issues. This is unfortunate, since improvements in these areas can translate into improvements across the enterprise. Better technology can mean faster response time and better workforce management can result in impressive productivity gains.

As the debate rages on over government efficiency, I hope that those in charge recognize that cutting items in the budget doesn’t by itself increase efficiency; to do that, you need to invest in creating a smarter operation with technology, and a more agile workforce environment. After all, removing items from a restaurant’s menu doesn’t improve the quality of the other dishes; to do that, you have to invest in better ingredients. Let me know your ideas for helping the government become more efficient and effective. Connect with us in the comments section below, on Facebook or Twitter.