zEnterprise series part 3 of 5: Mind the Gap

Do you – or your organization – have the Knowledge? The Knowledge to help your organization avoid taking a strategic wrong turn while making all the right ones. Because in this context, the Knowledge is about making the right IT changes, just when they’re needed.

This, the third of our five zEnterprise blogs, discusses how organizations can ‘get the Knowledge’ by better understanding their most cherished assets: their core applications.

Step by step
Effectively maintaining critical applications isn’t easy. You need to know what you’re doing. As with anything, knowledge and experience can make the difference between getting straight to your destination – or stumbling in the dark…

If 70%[1] of IT spend is on ‘lights on’ activity, most development time is typically spent on maintenance. So you need to know which applications need maintenance. Gaps in your Knowledge of core applications slow down delivery cycles and contribute to the rise in IT debt[2].

The rise in what?

IT debt is a growing problem. Many software applications haven’t been properly looked after for years, and the lack of investment and focus has resulted in a major backlog as these applications, which hold core value to the business, have become harder and harder to maintain. IT debt can only be cleared with the appropriate skills, resources – and the right decisions about delivering them.

Managing IT estate insight and knowledge is often called Application Portfolio Management (APM)[3].  As we’ve said, this management is no mean feat. Owners need to achieve a clear understanding of their applications. They must consider the size, complexity and number of interfaces.  Whether this maintenance effort is undertaken internally, or outsourced, the activities remain the same. And every journey starts with a first step…

Getting to the root of the problem
If you had a single, go-to person who knew all the applications and code and was there to help plan changes, check dependencies and validate strategy, then there wouldn’t be a problem. But the chances are that you don’t. Few organizations do. But without a single source of knowledge, development teams can suffer from an application maintenance knowledge gap.

Rebuilding that Knowledge is vital as you seek to reduce the backlog and provide better core systems maintenance.  But how?

Bridge that gap
Fear not. With a scientific, seven step approach, owners can analyse their core applications and bridge their maintenance knowledge gap:

1. Take stock
Your starting point is to create a single, unifying list of everything that needs sorting out by building a repository of existing applications and performing preliminary analysis on them, which will help you decide what to modernize.

2. Select modernization/maintenance targets
Review your application portfolio. Once you’ve determined how to prioritize them, address the highest priority candidates for modernization/overhaul, or replacement, first.

3. Application decomposition – segmentation and tagging
Categorize your candidates by dividing the parsed applications into groups. The highest priority applications – perhaps the ones you want to modernize – must be analysed to be fully understood. Categorize and tag each application according to your key criteria.

4. Application Analysis
You need a firm grasp of your sub-systems of interest, their content and inter-relationships. Visually reviewing application programs, screens, files, transactions, and their inter-relationships makes this easier.

5. Program analysis
A detailed understanding of the programs is important to developers, because nobody wants to make changes in isolation. Being able to locate a point of interest in a program – and understand the various ways it may have been possible to reach it – is key.

6. Object location and listing
In this step, owners must estimate the scope of changes required for each piece of code that needs changing.

7. Field change analysis
Planning for code change requires impact analysis to identify all the potentially dependent fields. Locate the related variables and records – the synonyms – and add them to the list of maintenance items.

Need help?
That’s at least seven steps too many for some organizations. They lack the enabling technology to undertake this level of analysis – and it’s not a job that can be done without some help. Imagine trying to understand all the application information using manual searches? Can you imagine how long it would take and how error-prone the results could be?

Introducing Enterprise Analyzer

Designed with these steps in mind, Micro Focus Enterprise Analyzer, of the Micro Focus Enterprise product set, accelerates and simplifies portfolio management and analysis. Enterprise Analyzer delivers the detailed information developers need to address their daily tasks and help you achieve enterprise application management success: they can be 40% more productive. Turn seven steps – and many hours’ work – into a single click.

Micro Focus Enterprise Analyzer provides a visual, automated and highly productive foundation for application understanding

IT debt is a growing problem in many organizations today. Many software applications remain untouched since they were first installed years ago, without being modernized or replaced. The backlog of work continues to grow as – with each passing year – the understanding needed to make key changes declines further.

With the appropriate approach, supported by game-changing technology, your maintenance backlog can be confronted head-on and you can bridge the knowledge gap.

Ready for action

Our white paper Bridging the Knowledge Maintenance Gap gives more detailed information about how Micro Focus Enterprise Analyzer can help improve maintenance knowledge.

Missed a blog?

Click here for the first blog in this series. Click here for the second.


[1] Source: Forrester.

[2] IT Debt: the backlog of work IT has been requested to undertake by the business, which has yet to be actioned.

[3] Application Portfolio Management.

zEnterprise series part 2 of 5: Achieving Top Marks in Development Efficiency

Application development plays a complex, vital role in mainframe IT organizations and an efficient development process is key in delivering improvements to the business. This blog – the second of five – examines the issues organizations face and how a contemporary approach can improve efficiency and productivity, unite development teams and put YOU in control.

Application development plays a complex, vital role in mainframe IT organizations and an efficient development process is key in delivering improvements to the business. This blog – the second of five – examines the issues organizations face and how a contemporary approach can improve efficiency and productivity, unite development teams and put YOU in control.

The need for productivity

Application development isn’t just about edit, compile, debug and test. It’s a lot more complex, and involves a range of tools such as configuration management and databases. For programmers to work efficiently and productively, this workflow must be modeled and integrated into a single development experience. If developers have to return to the mainframe, productivity may be compromised.

There are a number of efficiency related issues that mainframe development teams face in the development cycle. These can be tackled effectively with the right technology:

  1. Use of different programming languages and tools across the development organization
  2. Late identification of bugs extending the testing cycle and consuming key mainframe resources
  3. Limited choice of operating systems and a development environment which is reliant on the mainframe
  4. The harder an environment is to learn, the harder it is for new users to adopt
  5. Complexity of integrating tools and processes into the existing development environment.

Stepping up: meeting mainframe development challenges head-on

Micro Focus can address these issues with its innovative technology, Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise, helping organizations to achieve top marks in development efficiency and productivity. Let’s look at each in turn.

  1. Developer collaboration through common tooling
    The lack of collaboration between an organization’s new and experienced developers is an increasing hindrance. But it’s not just about trying to merge new skills with old. It’s also about enabling them all to use what they are familiar with so they can share the same processes too.Java users for instance may know Eclipse inside out, but they have never seen COBOL.  Bringing COBOL under the Eclipse IDE demystifies mainframe development, as it provides a familiar environment for cross training in COBOL. This encourages a strong focus on syntax rather than tools. COBOL developers however, know the language just fine, but come from an older-style interface and have little appreciation of the new Eclipse IDE.By ensuring the same application compilation and execution within Eclipse, and by making the development environment more productive and powerful, the change for the COBOL developer is both simple and rewarding. Unifying development across teams this way creates a larger more flexible resource pool and – at the same time – more productive, collaborative developers.

    IBM SCLM integration into the IDE

  2. Enabling application quality early on
    Mainframe application quality cannot be compromised. Bugs must be identified and fixed during the unit test stage to shorten the development cycle. Access is available to advanced testing tools including full control of a GUI debugger, just in time and core dump debugging and a full unit test environment running under Windows. These help developers reduce the overwhelming backlog of work – and the reliance on precious mainframe resources.

  3. Flexibility makes life easier
    Developers can now maximize the productivity gains of an Eclipse-based development environment by having the choice of development either directly on the mainframe or on Windows with no reliance on the mainframe, all from a single IDE. Supporting a choice of operating systems offers a level of flexibility which is increasingly important to many organizations.
  4. Technology meets efficiency
    Easy customization of the Eclipse-based user interface allows familiar development workflows, tools and mainframe configuration management to be rapidly woven into the Eclipse-based development process. This, alongside an intuitive graphical interface, means existing mainframe developers – and even newly-qualified programmers – can efficiently adopt new tools and an organization’s development process.

  5. The right tool for the job: Eclipse
    With graphical tools and tightly-integrated mainframe configuration management, developers can work on or off the mainframe with full access to tools and projects – all from the same environment.

Customizing the IDE to develop on and off the mainframe


Better, faster, easier

The recent launch of Micro Focus Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise has enabled faster delivery of new zEnterprise business functions. Now, customers can build their own fit-for-purpose core applications. Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is part of the wider Enterprise product set, which addresses the IT strategy and application modernization needs of IBM mainframe shops. Now, so-called legacy systems are reinvigorated and fully integrated into the modern IT landscape.

This ground-breaking technology meets known obstacles to efficiency head-on and boosts mainframe application delivery. It lowers costs, removes bottlenecks and accelerates innovation.

That’s not all: one eye on the future
Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is a landmark product in a constantly evolving IT landscape. It  provides an open environment which is more accessible to new talent. It unifies enterprise development across the COBOL, Java and .NET development communities. Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is a launchpad for new mobile or cloud-based enterprise initiatives. It’s where your organization ’smartens up’ and looks towards long term innovation and development efficiency.

Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is available now. It’s battle-ready to unite disparate developer skills through the customization of the development environment. Quite simply, this technology puts YOU in control.

Our white paper A Step Change in Development Efficiency gives more detailed information about how Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise tackles the challenges discussed in this blog.

To read the first blog in this series, click here.

zEnterprise series part 1 of 5: Modern Mainframe Development – the Smart Way

How can your organization find the resources or capacity, let alone the budget, to innovate as well as keep the lights well and truly switched on? Even with recent investments in zEnterprise and Eclipse, are you getting enough done? The first in a series of five, this blog explores the ways of tackling the mainframe modernization challenges to lead your organization in the smartest direction towards development efficiency and innovation.

How can your organization find the resources or capacity, let alone the budget, to innovate as well as keep the lights well and truly switched on? Even with recent investments in zEnterprise and Eclipse, are you getting enough done? The first in a series of five, this blog explores the ways of tackling the mainframe modernization challenges to lead your organization in the smartest direction towards development efficiency and innovation.

zInnovation is the name of the game
The challenge for IT teams is becoming more and more about keeping the business functioning, while catering for future needs: core business functions must be kept up-to-date and innovative technology needs to be woven into the current system. But there are many obstacles on the path to efficiency, and tackling them is no easy task.

Smarter thinking
Picking off the challenges one by one allows you to reach the detail you need and exploit smart technology to address concerns head-on. Let’s focus on the points which have the most impact and how they can be tackled.

Maximize programmer productivity
Traditional mainframe development environments might be widely used, but they are often inadequate in delivering applications faster. Even more recent technology provides some benefits, but the way it eats-up resources and relies on scarce mainframe time seems almost unavoidable.

A smarter approach to bringing development tools together under a single integrated environment is widely known to improve productivity. Instantly detecting and fixing syntax errors, and offering a full function unit test environment with no wait time, ensures that a 40 percent improvement in efficiency can be delivered.

Merging modern methods with trusted processes
While older mainframe tooling might be cumbersome in many cases, they support tried and tested processes including the right levels of third party support and integration, built up over decades. Integrating these existing, mainframe-based non-standard tools and processes into a chosen IDE framework can be tricky and time-consuming. As well as a new set of development skills, a full time resource to maintain and manage the resulting ad hoc infrastructure is often needed.

Enabling familiar, vital processes and tools to be integrated under a single environment allows the very best of the new environment to be married with the robustness and reliability of the existing mainframe delivery environment.

Maintain and grow application quality
Mainframe applications typically provide vital business services and any outages are considered as catastrophic – so maintaining quality is an absolute must.

Identifying and fixing bugs during the unit testing stage is less expensive than leaving it to a later stage in the development cycle. The length of time the test cycle takes can then be reduced. Providing developers with access to advanced testing tools, which can be used without having to rely on mainframe resources, presents a great opportunity to improve quality in the most efficient way. Instantly available unit test environments, a rapid edit/debug cycle, code coverage analysis, and problem diagnostics can all help developers identify and iron out issues long before the quality assurance or acceptance test phases.

Addressing the skills gap
Lack of integration of teams across various languages and platforms is a concern which resonates around the IT development world. Instead of a pool of development staff, IT directors oversee a number of specialised teams with no shared talent. A common example is where mainframe-centric COBOL and web-centric Java teams barely use the same vocabulary, let alone the same tools or processes. By deploying industry-standard integrated environments which the whole development team can use, knowledge and languages will be unified, creating a streamlined environment.

The season’s smart new arrival
Today, Micro Focus launches Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise.

With the launch of Micro Focus Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise, faster delivery of new zEnterprise business functions can enable customers to build truly fit-for-purpose core applications. Directly tackling known barriers to efficiency, this ground-breaking technology can boost mainframe application delivery while simultaneously lowering costs, abolishing bottlenecks and accelerating innovation.

Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise addresses the permanent element of change which exists in the IT industry: modernization is at the heart of meeting evolving business objectives. A refreshed development process must provide core business functions at the lowest operational cost without associated risk. This includes key aspects such as improved code quality, greater flexibility in the mainframe development process, and better cross-group integration across development – showing clear increases in development productivity and efficiency.

It doesn’t stop there
In the ever-changing world of IT, Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise provides an open environment which is more “accessible” to new talent and is capable of unifying enterprise development across the COBOL, Java and .NET communities. Organizations can exchange inefficiency for innovation as this technology provides a sturdy platform for mobile and cloud-based enterprise initiatives.

Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise offers your organization the opportunity to wholeheartedly embrace innovation in the smartest way possible. Your journey to unprecedented levels of productivity and efficiency through mainframe modernization unfolds here.

For more detailed information on how Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise tackles the challenges discussed in this blog, take a look at the white paper: Towards the Modern Mainframe.