Insightful Modernization advice from someone who can relate

Federal Times published a commentary that makes a strong case for saving money by modernizing—rather than replacing—aging mainframe systems.  Penned by Bob Suda, a former federal CIO and CFO who spent time at both GSA and USDA, the article provides a behind-the-scenes look at the challenges facing federal decision-makers.

First, Suda highlights the problem: continuing resolutions, sequestration and furloughs threaten federal leaders at every turn.  He predicts that “no matter what budget Congress enacts to extend the CR [continuing budget resolution] set to expire September 30 —if anything — the focus for agency CIOs will remain on cutting costs.”  He then turns his attention to a seldom-discussed budget issue: funding of technology for operating expenditures (OpEx) is greater than that for capital expenditures (CapEx).  What this means in practice is that the majority of funding goes to keeping existing technology running, rather than investing in new technologies that can deliver improvements in efficiency.  How did it get this way?

Suda points to mainframe systems that operate on COBOL.  As many of our readers know, COBOL is completely engrained in business operations both inside and outside of government.  In fact, he points to statistics that show how the average American interacts with COBOL-based programs 13 times a day, such as using an ATM or managing health care records.  Although it is considered a legacy program language, COBOL is still incredibly effective—it’s just become costly to maintain.  Rewriting it, he says, would be risky and costly, taking years to complete.  He suggests a third option: modernization.

Doing so could cut operations and maintenance (O&M) costs and could be achieved in months, rather than years, as would be the case if replacing these systems.  Modernization would also help to balance the OpEx issue, with the investment leading to real value, rather than simply maintaining the status quo.

It’s this kind of clear-headed thinking that is needed in times like these—when budgets are tight and everyone seems either averse to change or ready to start over from scratch.  Rather than taking the extreme position, Suda shows how a measured approach can save real money in the short term while delivering actual value in the long term.  Read the full article here  and  let me know what you think in the comments below or on Twitter .


Dealing with IT Debt – The Lights are on (Part 2)


My recent blog discussed the topic of “keeping the lights on”[1] in IT terms. Important day-to-day activities including routine maintenance, system enhancements and important compliance and governance activities amounted to a significant operational workload.  The discussion elicited a number of questions on the topic, from a variety of sources. In this blog, I want to tackle those questions here.

Lights On – is it getting any easier?

Alas, no. Typically, Lights On activities are reviewed, managed and prioritized using the concept of a “Backlog”, an IT to-do list. The backlog is an indication of the volume of outstanding must-do requirements. More interestingly, a measurement of the cost of implementing the backlog throws into sharp relief the extent of the issue. Gartner estimates that within the next 12-18 months, the global IT backlog, in dollars terms, will have grown from $500M (in 2010) to reach $1 Trillion. This is what the industry calls IT Debt[2].

Why are things getting worse?

The growing burden of IT may be for a variety of reasons, which will vary on the industry, organization and existing IT estate.

We don’t know where to start – IT estates are often vast, but application experts are often too busy to provide their perspective. However, system documentation and knowledge is usually woefully insufficient to help less experienced staff get “up to speed”. A study by Vanson Bourne[3] revealed that nearly half of all organizations had no process for assessing or measuring IT Debt, despite technology existing to cater for this[4].

IT gets more complex every year – IT estates of anything but the smallest organization are complex beasts, typically with insufficient understanding of all the relationships and interdependencies. Knowing which systems to change, and how, and in what order, is anything but straightforward.

We have more updates to do – the systems of 2013 are supporting more users, through more channels, for more hours of the day, with more variety, than ever before. All of this needs supporting in the back end.

We have more compliance to do – The notion of the “large scale compliance project” took hold for the Y2K and the Euro, then towards Sarbanes-Oxley, HIPAA, Solvency II and Basel II/III but has accelerated more recently in the wake of the economic crisis. Regulations and legislation on data privacy, banking standards, customer information and international taxation have added to the workload. We’ll look at Compliance in more detail in upcoming blogs.

We don’t have the (right) tools – many core systems are mainframe COBOL-based, which use mainframe technology for analysis, development, testing and deployment. Some of these tools have struggled to keep up with technological advances and provide only limited scope to improve efficiency. As years pass, the ability for the tools to support and keep up with the pace of change and new requirements has become steadily worse.

Tackling these concerns would be central to any solution to the IT Debt challenge.

Why not just rip it up and buy one that works already?

On a recent Micro Focus webinar on the topic of IT Modernization, an attendee asked “why not just remove the difficult systems and replace with a package?” It is certainly tempting, faced with an overwhelming backlog, to consider “starting over”.  However there are a number of extremely important considerations affecting core systems strategy:

As significant as the “lights on” burden may be, the core systems being maintained continue, in the vast majority of cases, to provide unique capability for the organization. Often, this capability is part of its competitive edge. Replacing such systems with an off-the-shelf solution runs a major risk of losing any competitive advantage.

Additionally, while a “package” may seem at face value to be a simple, low-risk undertaking, the implementation of a package that works for the client’s own unique requirements is far from simple – Standish Group’s Chaos Report[5] mentions a 40% rate of failure where new packages were delivered late, over-budget or missing key functionality.

A Micro Focus client undertook their own study looking at the relative merits of package replacement compared with continued evolution (modernization) – according to the four major decision criteria of cost, risk, time to market and competitive advantage, package replacements were considered inferior to the application modernization approach, which they chose.

Why not keep the function, but rewrite it in a new language?

Where organizations have expanded their IT footprint and now possess a wider range of technical and language skills, it is tempting to consider writing from scratch the core systems in a different language. Such an approach may appear appropriate in terms of skills and technical strategy, but again caveats would need to apply.

First, in rewrite projects, it is extremely difficult to “phase in” replacement functionality until the entire system is ready. This means waiting until the project is finally completed and delivered before retiring the incumbent system. Often, this is a long wait.

The risk of failure for such projects, according to the same Standish Report, runs at over 70%. The figure is high because the complexity and effort of such projects is seldom fully understood at the outset.

Furthermore, it is worth pointing out that the full cost of such a project is not at the point of delivery, it is the life-cycle of that system. An illuminating report by CAST Software discovered that systems written in COBOL are up to 4 times cheaper to maintain than an equivalent system written in Java. Determining an ROI for a rewrite raises a number of very important questions about the viability of such an approach.

Why not just do what we are doing today – but better?

The problem with existing systems is the amount of new work organizations still need to do. In reality, that is not a problem to do with the existing system at all; it is a problem to do with how busy an organization is – this points at resource or organizational challenges rather than purely technological ones.

In many cases, while not without their challenges, core systems work. They embody and enable the day-to-day running of the business, and continue to provide value and support revenue generation. They are, as the name suggests, core to the success of the organization.

A modernization approach nurtures and evolves those core systems, but does this in a way that is efficient, streamlined and forward-thinking, which helps protect existing value while supporting innovation.

The process of application modernization is shaped by the key challenges facing the client, as this can dictate the start point for the journey. Whether the issue is to do with knowledge of the systems, the ability to execute change, the pace of delivery, challenges with testing, or even the effort of managing production workload, there are ways of improving processes and supporting technology to help reduce the backlog and support new initiatives. Micro Focus has worked with hundreds of clients to help them evolve their core systems by tackling difficult operational challenges while protecting core IT assets.

But COBOL? Really? It’s 2013!

COBOL is often regarded by those who don’t know it well as great in its day but a generation out of date. One measurement of this is how current the language is: COBOL provides equivalent capability and support in the latest industry IDEs as well as supporting the most recent platforms including .NET, JVM, Cloud and Mobile[6]. Moreover, the fact that COBOL is behind many core systems and runs the vast majority of all global business transactions rarely raises an eyebrow. COBOL also has seen something of resurgence in terms of academic training[7], and in September re-joined the top 20 most popular languages as measured by the TIOBE index[8].  The notion that COBOL is out of date is itself an outdated idea.

Modernizing trusted core COBOL systems can help address IT Debt. Micro Focus offers technology to enable organizations to streamline their lights on activities. Is your IT backlog continuing to grow, despite significant investment? Do you face significant barriers to modernization? Perhaps it is time to take a fresh look.

Gartner Symposium Blog Part Deux – doing things that you don’t understand

OK – so my previous blog post covered some of the more strategic aspects of getting Micro Focus and Borland over the line at Gartner Symposium/IT Expo Orlando. What about the more tactical tasks ? Tell us about the day to day Field Marketing slog I hear you cry – how could I possibly say no?

The Stand

It’s a staple of Gartner events. For our presence to have an effect, I need to have a walking, talking, in-your-face, state-of-the-art, fully-interactive exhibition stand. For Micro Focus and Borland this presents an immediate challenge – we have two very distinct brands to weave together. The hopefully tongue in cheek idea from an unnamed Marketing Director of having Frank Borland ride Kiruba, our Micro Focus Elephant simply won’t impress a bunch of CIOs. Fortunately, with help from our crack, in-house design team and our resident words guy, this quickly takes shape. The to-do list now has a just-done – phew.

A Customer Speaker and an in-house Product Expert (who can speak amazingly well at HUGE live events !)

Again – back to the knowledge theme from blog one. I know that the theme this year is Leading in a Digital World so it’s critical that what we speak about ties in and is full of leading references. Kevin Brearley  who heads up the Micro Focus Products Team was a natural choice – he can light up an audience! But what was he going to speak about and who with? Anyone who know’s anything about Client Success Programs or Customer References understands that finding a customer willing and able to help is as rare as a decent cup of coffee at a trade show. Luckily we found a true leader who can do both. Here’s a virtual introduction to Pete DuPre – Vice President of IT at one of America’s fastest growing Technology companies Vantiv.  Thanks Pete, thanks Kevin, here’s what we settled on agenda-wise:

Barriers to Innovation & Growth

New research shows that unknown amounts of IT debt are creating hidden balance sheet liabilities for many companies, with many unable to even measure. Coupled with the need to embrace mobile and cloud technologies and external legislative demands, what strategy should CIOs adopt and what is the best approach to tackle the legacy challenge?

Presented by Kevin Brearley & Pete Dupre’, Vantiv

Wednesday, October 9, 1:30-2:00pm

(shameless plug – see y’all there… another to do bites the dust)

Managing ‘The Staff’

If you’ve done an event you know just how stressful this can be. But stress testing performance is critical – so you just have to take questions like ‘‘Can I stay at a Hilton property please?’ and ‘Can I wear a suit instead of the company polo-shirt?’ as part of the stress-test process. If you’re not coping with the email questions you’re certainly not going to cope with them at a live event when you’ve been on your feet for 13 hours straight. So put on your big girl shoes (or leopard print stilettos??) and get it sorted……(if you’re a girl that is * – )

The Collateral and Giveaways

Thankfully when you’re leading in these digital days you have heaps of resources available online. Repurpose them wherever possible, plan numbers, schedule print runs, ensure your innovative corporate videos will run on whatever infrastructure you’re given, and get into the finest nitty-gritty-details which will make or break it all on the day.

Lastly check everyone who says they’re going is actually going to pitch up – I know it’s hard being a software legend all over again  but surely a few days in Orlando won’t hurt ? Yes Frank Borland that does mean you ! Will you please get your A into G and send me your flight details so I can book your car and hotel?

And the giveaways ?  As I said I may well be handing out some special prizes – you’ll have to drop in, say hi and tell me how much you’ve enjoyed my blogging to find out! That’s still only one golf ball each then…..

The Man by Your Stand…… a lady!

You know what a Gartner Symposium/ITxpo is, right? Like the tagline says, it’s ‘The World’s Most Important Gathering of CIOs and Senior IT Executives’. It must be important – just look at all those random capital letters! It’s a global show, and I’m looking to create more interest than a pay-day loans company for Micro Focus and Borland. So, no pressure there, then. But what does being there from a Field Marketing perspective feel like ?


Well first off – knowledge of what you’re dealing with doesn’t hurt.  Anyone who’s in the know (or spends valuable company time looking stuff up on the Internet in the name of ‘research’) will be aware that that this year’s Orlando event is a biggie. It will feature IT royalty in the form of Microsoft Big Cheese  Steve Ballmer and Google CEO Eric Schmidt.  In terms of moving and shaking, this event is way up the Richter Scale.

Gartner itself been around since 1979 – 34 years of powerhouse IT Analyst legacy – starting off in the IT world which Micro Focus thrives :  Big Iron, COBOL, Business Application Development, Developer tooling and Testing. So Micro Focus and Gartner should go together like apple pie and custard. Staying ‘modern’ and relevant is key to Gartner’s success – how have they achieved this year after year in making the Symposium a success ?  Gartner constantly modernizes this event to stay relevant and powerful is an obvious conclusion to draw……but how do they go about this ?


Gartner clients include large corporations, government agencies, technology companies and the investment community. Gartner know their audience inside and out, their research targets CIOs & senior IT leaders in industries that include government agencies, high-tech and telco enterprises, professional services firms, and technology investors. Exciting and bleeding edge it may not be – but it underpins the industry. Based on this enterprise knowledge they can start their modernization process year after year…….recycling core assets while maintaining the underlying features that keep the Events ticking over successfully.

Quick wins whilst developing the strategy

Based on a sound understanding Gartner Executives will move forward with confidence on their path – developing a strategy for the events with stake-holders and key clients.  Modern tooling and techniques like Social Media for Gartner ( & Micro Focus / Borland) is one easy win. In essence Social Media is about providing a modern, relevant interface to a robust, solid but perhaps visually outdated back-end….just like Terminal Emulation! Different channels must be catered for and Social Media does just this – LinkedIn, YouTube, Slideshare all play their part. With a few whizzy tricks we’ve modernized our user interaction and made it more efficient whilst maintaining our business logic and core assets… to Develop and improve the core underlying strategy (as the mobile apps are tested & the website performance is monitored.)

Testing the strategy

Gartner wouldn’t want to test their strategy in a live environment. It could work – but it could be risky  and extremely costly if it all went wrong. Practice makes perfect right ? So testing the strategy outside of the real deal saves money, time and development resource. Advisory boards, client meetings  – talking with analysts is one sure-fire way of ‘testing’ the messaging . Simpler tests (that something ‘just works’) can be achieved in a more automated way bringing more efficiency to the mix.

The rubber hits the road

At the end of the day – all the preparation, development and testing is about execution – deploying a seamless event off the ground is no mean feat. These days an event isn’t just a physical meeting, it takes place in the cloud,  online, on phone calls, in the printed press – making it work on multiple platforms saves money and increases success. And after the event the whole cycle starts again with better knowledge, more analysis and the same solid foundation for winning !

Anyway avid readers,  the clock on the wall is ticking and the red light on the BB is winking. Much to do. But we’re getting there.  So if you’re in Orlando between 7 and 10 of October, check us out at Gartner. It’s a busy agenda and the organisers and delegates are going to be seriously busy . Not only the Gartner crew – but the thousands of other folks from the companies on the floor who’ve dedicated hours and hours to make it the success it will be. Stop by booth 500 to say hi if you’ve enjoyed my blog (you might get a special prize, I am in Marketing after all). And look out for Part 2 of my blog. It’ll be coming soon.

But only one free golf ball, okay?

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.

Recycling core assets – does your future lie in the past?

People have always tried to recycle – to get something new out of what’s gone before, right? The same applies in IT, where good ideas, technology or applications are retained and reused many times in different ways.

So how does this ethos fit with the Micro Focus message of offering our customers innovative, new ways of ‘doing’ and ‘seeing’ things? Easy. Because while we’re all about constantly improving our tools and creating products that no-one else in the market yet provides, the concepts are not new at all. Let me explain.

My blog will look at how ‘recycling’ core assets – as opposed to replacing or rewriting – is the most fit-for-business approach to bringing ‘legacy’ mission critical systems into the future. New from old.

Why bottles are like business systems

Every year, hundreds of millions of tonnes of used plastic bottles are shredded and similarly destroyed before being reborn as brand new products. While shredding is a little extreme, Micro Focus is all for ‘recycling’ mission-critical business systems and software to bridge the gap between old and new. Because to put it bluntly, companies that don’t recycle generate a lot of garbage.

When businesses replace their ‘legacy’ applications, either with new packages or systems, the old system gets dumped. Now, fast-forward 12 months and functionality from the old system is loaded into a shiny, new mobile-enabled system. So now that system gets dumped for an upgrade. The metaphorical skip is filling up as the IT budget and customer base begin to drain away. The business isn’t getting what it needs to deliver – but it is picking up fines and bad press.

Image problem

We’ve banged this drum before. The negative perception of ‘legacy’ systems, where ‘proven and established’ is confused with ‘out-of-date’, remains an issue. But organizations embracing recycling are efficient and productive. They channel IT budget towards future growth and innovation. They don’t have piles of disused computer parts laden with capital investment. They extract maximum value from what they have by creating something new.

The ‘recycling’ analogy also applies to business-critical software applications: keep what works and update what doesn’t. Recycling your investment equals zero risk of mess, work is more productive and the business evolves in sync with market demands.

Micro Focus – the recycling centre

Micro Focus understands how reusing and modernizing what you already have can get you fit for the future. And we have the right tools for the job. Enterprise Developer for zEnterprise is the smart and simple way to modernize, develop and maintain mainframe applications. Why not try it?

Micro Focus Visual COBOL is where COBOL systems go to new platforms, such as  .NET, Java Virtual Machine (JVM) and the cloud, as well as UNIX, Windows and Linux, without changing a single line of code. Recycle your current investments and create new opportunities. Go on. Give it a go.

So, while your competitors struggle with expensive, time-consuming rewrites and baffling new equipment, your time-proven system – and fine-tuned business applications – is primed to deliver the innovation you need for the future. So before you head for the trash, think of the cash …


How did you celebrate Programmer Day?

COBOL Infographic
COBOL Infographic

It was International Programmer Day last Friday, a day to celebrate programmers and all that they do. I expect many immediately thought of the many programmers at Google and Facebook who are creating sophisticated, cutting edge software with their skills. But, it’s also worth remembering COBOL programmers yesterday, today & tomorrow.

COBOL is one of the most mature programming languages and still underpins many of the systems that we use everyday – from ATM machines to back end systems that power hospital IT.

Some programming skills like COBOL and PL/I are perceived as being dead but are in fact still critical to everything we do. Therefore, COBOL programmers are key to maintaining and modernising core business systems so that businesses can innovate.  People regard languages like COBOL as legacy and that’s a mindset that we in the IT industry, academics and governments need to change.

This infographic highlights some of the gaps we need to address to bridge the COBOL skills gap.

How did you celebrate #ProgrammerDay? And what does the COBOL skills shortage mean to you? Tell us in the comments below or join the talk on Twitter…


The lights are on, but no-one’s home……..

As up-to-date as IT systems may be, they must evolve constantly to remain current and support the evolution of the business. Routine maintenance, either in terms of bug fixing and updates for ‘home built’ systems, or patches/updates from the vendor, are a fact of life for core IT systems. Regular updates to hardware, storage and communications also comprise a necessary activity in IT.

lightsonAccording to the Industry Lights-on IT Activities Cost a Lot – But Where is all the Money Going?

Introduction: How’s it going?

In a study published in InformationWeek in October 2012, results of a survey into the reputation of IT as a source of innovation were published. The most striking headline statistic was that in many cases (57%) IT thinks it’s doing ok (as in that it’s “agile, flexible”), yet the business (29%) doesn’t agree.

Why the difference of opinion? One major factor is that, in many situations, IT cannot afford to do everything it needs to. The overworked IT executive team must explain that the majority of time, budget and resource is spent simply ‘Keeping the lights on’. We’re told that the majority of resource is needed just to keep the wheels turning.

Costly confession

What does ‘Lights On’ actually mean? “In a line-item budget, lights-on is a descriptor for expenditures that are absolutely necessary for maintaining a company’s critical business operations. Lights-on differentiates a ‘need’ from a ‘want.’” Gartner Group states that 70% of IT budgets are spent on lights-on activities. Forrester Research suggests this number may be as high as 80%. At accounts Micro Focus has spoken with, that ‘lights-on’ percentage was placed as higher still – in some instances up to 90%.

However, these activities are not keeping pace with the amount of required change. According to Gartner, the overall cost of what it calls ‘IT debt’ is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2015.

Counting the cost

Faced with an OPEX of perhaps tens of millions of dollars, many IT leaders have wanted to learn more, to find ways to reduce that burden. So, what does lights-on actually mean in terms of time, effort and dollars spent? There are three major categories that typically comprise ‘lights-on’:

  • The routine maintenance of applications and systems
  • The application improvement or enhancement backlog
  • Regulatory and Legislative Compliance

Let’s look at these in turn.


As up-to-date as IT systems may be, they must evolve constantly to remain current and support the evolution of the business. Routine maintenance, either in terms of bug fixing and updates for ‘home built’ systems, or patches/updates from the vendor, are a fact of life for core IT systems. Regular updates to hardware, storage and communications also comprise a necessary activity in IT.

Such activities will naturally require time and effort from IT staff, as well as incurring maintenance or leasing costs to hardware, software and related suppliers. Typically, maintenance activities are not fully understood by other teams. Maintenance tasks include correcting errors, keeping up with new platforms and third party software integration. It’s not just bug fixing.


Maintenance activities may be important for keeping systems up-to-date. But, more often than not, business stakeholders or user groups may be demanding more dramatic or visible improvements to IT systems in support of business changes. New markets, new customers, new levels of performance or new channels may be best obtained by leveraging existing systems, tailored or enhanced beyond their current remit to serve a broader purpose.

However, planning and implementing such incremental improvements is often seen as part and parcel of the IT operating expense. Fundamentally, these activities are also seen as part of the overall cost of the lifecycle of that application or system. As such, ‘enhancement’ work may simply be seen as a specific sub-category of maintenance[i].


Since the Enron scandal and in the recent period of economic austerity, the public has borne witness to unprecedented scrutiny into industrial-scale problems. Examples are banking and retail system outages, LIBOR rigging, PPI mis-selling, Insider Trading, Overseas Corporate Tax avoidance, leading to widespread public and governmental criticism of industry bodies and major organizations. This scrutiny, together with new legislative changes, has resulted in an array of compliance measures being introduced.


For legislative, industry regulatory or procedural requirements, the task falls on IT to implement the changes within its core systems to support the legislative requirement. Organizations may look at implementation ahead of specific deadlines as a level of readiness, even before legislation is passed. Either way, the imposition of new regulation includes prescribed timescales, often requiring IT organizations to “find room” to add this new project work.

Whether global (ISO27002, Basel II/III), International (FACTA 2013 International Tax Compliance), Continental (SEPA, Euro), country specific (e.g. PCI-DSS, FISMA, Joint Healthcare Commission, HIPAA and SarbOx in the USA), or industry-specific (e.g. Basel, Solvecy II and countless others in Financial Services), the number of new compliance measures to support has continued to evolve and grow over time.


Irrespective of the composition of lights-on activities, the biggest concern is the overall operating expenditure devoted towards them. Simply, this is not seen as moving the business forward. Tech-savvy consumers are demanding cloud, mobile and new IT architecture and this new generation of customer is forcing organizations to look hard at their strategy.

IT is under continued pressure to do more, but the burden of the existing day-to-day workload has never been greater, and continues to grow. IT leaders need to look towards smart ways to combine innovation and lights-on projects to stand any chance of accelerating delivery of both sets of requirements.

[i] Lientz, B.P. and E.B. Swanson, Software Maintenance Management, Addison-Wesley Longman, 1980.