Schools (almost) out for Summer! My work experience with Micro Focus

Food for thought

Being a teenager, working in an office is portrayed as a job with minimal excitement or thrill. My experience is quite the contrary. I have been lucky enough to spend a week working in one and seeing the do’s and don’ts of the job. What I’ve noticed is there is always something to do, nobody is ever left without a job and they are all doing it to make their business thrive. I’m sure at the end of the week I’m going to be exhausted after doing just a fraction of work that they get through!

My first impression of the office had to be, wow there are a lot of computers in here. My second was probably, yay there’s free Cokes. Then noticing that the work here is actually fun, with spreadsheets, posters, blogs – and looking after the elephant of course.

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The thing I love most about this office, so far, is just that everyone is so friendly and gets on well together. Just like an office family. The little inside jokes and banter they have, like trying to steal Stuart’s biscuits. But they wouldn’t dare do that! I have to admit I’m excited for the coming week – I can see that it’s going to be brilliant!

Today I have found to be getting used to the office and how everything works. I like the independence and how I have to act mature in front of adults who  love what they do. So far, I would be ecstatic to have this job when I’m older, let’s hope maybe I do!

Temporarily I have my own office laptop, badge and desk…they are definitely treating me well.

Day 2

As you can see below I have already made my desk a mess but I have no time to clean it. This morning I had a meeting with Derek who really opened my eyes to what this business is all about and the work they have to do here, it’s actually very interesting. I FINALLY KNOW WHAT COBOL MEANS:)!!

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Also this morning I met with the executives who gave me the all the clear for choosing the new name for the company newspaper. I narrowed 60 possible names down to 10 and now have to count up the 1200 employee votes to figure out the winner. Watch this space! I also created a new user manual for the Borland Software website and uploaded a brochure to slideshare about Mainframe solutions and Visual COBOL.ellie4

I also met with John today to discuss the whole Twitter aspect of the business, he gave me insight of what they really mean and showed me where to find the best information to put in my Tweets.

Day 3

We had a conference call with an American lady, Jackie to discuss the Federal Government website which was really interesting, listening about how others talk about the company from other parts of the world and how they manage to talk to interested parties and get their messages across.

In the afternoon we drove to Basingstoke to meet up with a brilliant Marketing agency – called the Purple Agency. I met up with Grace who told me how they manage their projects before a creative director called Alan set me a creative task. I had to pretend that aliens from a desert planet had arrived and were scared of trees! I needed to let them know let them know that trees couldn’t move and weren’t dangerous. I was great fun and challenging – obviously they couldn’t talk in english so I drew them pictures.

Over and out…..

I think the main question I’m going to have to answer from doing work experience here is if I would want to do it again? The answer right now is 100% YES!

Although I’m still trying to figure out this business and what they’re all about, I understand loads more than I did about business software and by the end of my last day I will hopefully know it all.

This week has had its ups and downs, the early mornings are not cool but I like the feeling of having a real job and a real responsibility. So far the free drinks are brilliant, the people are hilarious and I love it here. I understand more about computers, and what they are doing here as a business.

I would definitely come back. It’s been a fascinating experience and I’ve learnt loads about business in 5 days flat.

EllieMac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you trapped by your legacy system?

Let’s start with the basics…

How many of you reading this, feel trapped by a system that was created in the 1980s or earlier? How many of you feel that it is a necessary evil that you have to deal with day in and day out?

Here’s my next question: why? Why do you feel trapped by your legacy system? This is always the first question to my federal clients and their answer is always the same: “Our business runs on this system and without it we would not be in business.” This answer always surprises me because there are life rafts out there that can rescue you from what seems like an endless battle for survival.

Legendary. Not Legacy.

First of all, I would like to take the time to explain that here at Micro Focus, we do not view our customers’ ‘legacy’ systems as legacy. Personally, I feel this word has an extremely negative connotation and that it’s an incorrect term for the system. I would challenge you to think of it as legendary, in the sense that it maintains a company’s code that enables them to have a competitive advantage over other companies within that business sector. These legendary systems are “the core of my business,” as most North American clients would adamantly state.

COBOL is the predominant language within these complicated and intricately woven applications that are the lifeblood of many major corporations, government agencies, and numerous other companies ranging in a variety of sizes. COBOL seems to have acquired a negative connotation, which I think is because the maintenance of this vital system is often so overwhelming that organizations cannot even begin to think about innovation. Think about it: we’re talking about government systems that decipher what your taxes are, what your Medicaid payout is, social security benefits, etc. But really, how can you even begin to think of innovation when you spend all of your time just maintaining a static system?

Make the change.

This is where the thinking needs to change. COBOL, in case you didn’t know, processes more transactions daily than there are Google searches. It’s an important language that supports many mission critical applications. COBOL, for many industries, was seen as a highly portable, agile, readable, and robust language that could create a secure application. However, with advances in technology and the creation of new languages, COBOL has now taken a back seat and is seen as a far less popular language to develop in. Sometimes, businesses even choose to take on a rewrite (75% of these fail) or choose to buy a commercial off-the-shelf package that gives some, but not all the functionality they had with their homegrown COBOL application.

COBOL Infographic
COBOL Infographic

Shake things up.

Breathe. You can get back your freedom. What if there was a solution in which you could repurpose your COBOL code and integrate it with a modern language? Hard to imagine, right?

The truth is, Visual COBOL can enable you to do just that. You no longer have to struggle using an old hard-to-read system. Visual COBOL delivers the next generation of developer tools for the COBOL developer. In using industry standard IDEs, Visual Studio and Eclipse, you can now repurpose your COBOL application and integrate it with your choice of Java or .NET. However, what I find to be more remarkable about the solution is the ability to not only increase a developer’s efficiency when coding but the fact that it can help tear down the walls between different teams of developers. I mean how many times have you seen the COBOL developers sit in a different section from the Java guys or the C# guys? Well that no longer has to happen. You can all sit together and use the modern IDEs to gain better team collaboration and communication.

COBOL cuts costs

Cost is often another driving factor that keeps the legacy system as is. However, through modernization of these COBOL applications, Visual COBOL helps you to deploy your application to a wide variety of more cost effective platforms such as UNIX, Linux, and the Cloud. Instead of going through a rewrite, Visual COBOL enables you to retain your business logic and create a more modern application without losing the competitive edge the business logic provides. This cuts out the extensive cost of a rewrite or a package solution.

To conclude, I’d like to challenge you to think about your options. I challenge you to see the vitality in these legendary core government applications and the ways you can repurpose them into a modern and agile application of the 21st century. Do you want to keep maintaining a legendary system that you feel you have to deal with? Or, do you want to transform a system that has been running your business since the 1980s into a system that will continue to help grow your business and innovation far into the future?

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Beating the Backlog – Great idea #2 Reduce time spent on development

Often applied generically instead of case-specifically, the phrase ’IT Debt‘ is as widely-used as it is misunderstood. We prefer the term ‘IT Backlog’ but by any definition this represents a major operational challenge and, according to a recent study, an $11m hole in the IT budget of many organizations.

As we discussed in our previous blog, you can’t have innovation without adding to it and only innovation can address it. But what does that innovation look like?

Any solution, innovative or otherwise, is only as good as the people working at the coalface of IT – the development team. Because the reality is that although the format of a developers’ working day seems far removed from that of the company CIO, the development environment reflects many of the challenges of the wider organization. So, meet the daily challenges and you address the wider issue. Sounds good. But how does that argument stack up?

From a developers’ perspective….

For example, the developer firing up their computer every morning is faced with many strategic, rather just task-based challenges to overcome. These may include:

–          Heavy workload – including ‘keeping the lights on’ activities

–          Frequent internal change driving regular redirection

–          Old and outdated technology and environment

–          Limited budget and resource

While these are fundamentally boardroom agenda items and genuine strategic, long term challenges, the developer is only concerned with the day’s tasks – and the tight deadlines dictating their delivery.  And, naturally, development is laden with its own unique complexities. Developers will readily explain how there is much more to their craft than just edit, compile, debug and test. So who sees the bigger picture?

The development manager’s view

He or she will be looking beyond the molehill of the day’s workload and peering up at the backlog mountain. It’s big, continually growing and the best efforts of the development team are never enough.  While limited resources and a complex IT environment are not just development problems, they represent major obstacles in this environment. Especially when adding in the challenges of inflexible architectures and the pressure of not returning value to the business fast enough …

The key, then, is to optimise the developers’ working environment. Because the less time projects spend in development, the more teams can focus on addressing the backlog. The problem is that ‘lights on’ work isn’t as sexy as, say, BYOD, ‘going mobile’ and the like, so securing additional budget for simply maintaining what the organization already has is a problem. So what’s the solution?

Nine pages. One answer

Our whitepaper, A step change in development efficiency, called out many of the benefits and solution points that developers, development managers and beyond are looking for. The Micro Focus Enterprise Solution has all the tools needed to achieve them.

If Step One for improving efficiency and productivity is choosing a contemporary development environment, such as Eclipse, then Step Two is to leverage the power of Micro Focus Enterprise Developer.

This robust and unrivalled technology will boost development efficiency, blending contemporary tooling with current mainframe processes and third party tools. Incomplete integration can mean inadequate developer adoption and lost productivity gains, which is why Enterprise Developer majors on ensuring all the hooks are in place between the developer and the trusted, working mainframe processes and technology, but all from a more modern, efficient IDE.

So use the Application Workflow Manager, pre-loaded with the software, to create a user interface and directly integrate current tools, such as source control, either on the mainframe or the workstation. This customization matches the development environment you want with the development workflows you have giving you full control over customization without incurring any costly plugin development.

This is where you start to mine the benefits of application modernization.

Supporting mainframe workflow is just one example though, Enterprise Developer’s 3rd party integration, it’s flexible approach to developing off or on the mainframe, it’s unrivalled support of the z/OS and subsystem environments, and it’s use of the latest Eclipse capabilities ensures that developers will be up and running quickly with a the very best mainframe application technology, as a result productivity and efficiency gains will be realized sooner.

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Customizing the IDE to develop on and off the mainframe

This is where you start to mine the benefits of using the best in mainframe application development technology from Micro Focus. The benefits to the development team include:

–          Full control over customization

–          Better mainframe integration

–          Swift development acceptance

–          Faster productivity gains

Big talk. Any small print?

No. These are achievable benefits and we have the case studies to prove it.  One customer achieved a 40% cost reduction and improved development efficiency by 25%.

Enterprise Developer, as part of the Enterprise Solution, increases productivity and improves efficiency to achieve a faster time to market and free up more time to work through that backlog, or work on that innovation project that will ultimately deliver real value to your business.

Because in almost every organisation, from the coalface to the top floor, everyone is affected by the IT Backlog – it’s just that not everyone knows it. But add the right tools to the right part of the process and you’ve found the solution. See how for yourself.

The flammable Fed dollar: Money to burn?

Fire alert: Federal IT resources are going up in smoke …

US Federal government agencies are reportedly spending 75% of their IT budgets on maintaining legacy systems.  That’s a $62 billion burn-down on outdated IT rather than watering the shoots of new growth, developing new capabilities and services, or tackling IT Backlog.  They need to make savings. So why waste precious resources in this way?

ITLogjam

Moving across from so-called legacy IT to modern, more cost-effective IT is clearly a hot topic. Previous firefighting initiatives, such as the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative (FDCCI), have already tried to help government agencies make the transition without too many Fed dollars going up in smoke.

It’s difficult to make a case for maintaining the status quo and impossible to argue for regression. Clearly modernization is the way forward. What isn’t so obvious is how this is to be achieved. If some blue chips are risk-averse, then those maintaining nationally-significant applications will take caution to new heights. But there are options.

While application modernization can take a variety of paths, the value of the application must not be compromised. It must be adapted to meet new requirements and address needs that couldn’t have been foreseen when the application was originally written, such as mobile access and the challenges of BYOD, but the IP investment must be effectively ring-fenced. And to the users, it must be business as usual.

Venerable, but certainly not vulnerable

The mainframe remains the enterprise platform of choice for government agencies across the globe. Two thirds of IT leaders approached to contribute to a recent Vanson Bourne white paper on the future of the mainframe expected to have their mainframes for at least the next 10 years. With the IBM zEnterprise setting new standards of flexibility and adaptability, it’s easy to see why.

While re-platforming remains an option, how realistic is it for this particular market segment? Traditional re-write or commercial, off-the-shelf (COTS) replacement options are costly, take too long and often fail. Unfortunately the press and many bloggers love a good ‘Federal IT project failure’ story.

As a compromise, smart modernization tools  can cut the legacy maintenance budgets and deliver real improvement without rip and replacement. Micro Focus technology has already supported cost-effective modernization for hundreds of blue-chip organizations with complex IT architectures, including Invertix, a supplier to the Department of Defense.

 

Streamlining application delivery underpins successful modernization. Our tools will improve IT service delivery and significantly reduce operational costs.  And to support the modernization agenda, contemporary architectures such as zEnterprise, Microsoft  .NET, Java Virtual Machine, Linux, UNIX, or the Cloud are at your disposal, no matter when your applications were built.

In tools we trust

Our fully-integrated, comprehensive toolset works across all phases of the development lifecycle, from requirements definition and lifecycle management to testing and software change management.

One of the reasons Gartner named Borland – a Micro Focus company – as a ‘Leader’ for the second year running in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Integrated Software Quality Suites is a “well-defined set of tools … that will positively affect the bottom line of the business”.

Need proof?

Micro Focus can offer everything you need to take you from transition to testing. And it really works.

Fed depts, perhaps more than most commercial organizations, are burdened with the demands of compliance. The sheer volume of work to required to meet regulatory pressures can easily contribute to their IT Backlog.

But Micro Focus, having proved that the platform is less of a handicap, and more of a springboard, have already helped many government agencies modernize and cut costs, and meet their regulatory obligations. We’ll be happy to walk you through the case studies and testimonials.

Next steps

So if you’re keen to stop burning money, then book a value profile session. It will help us understand what you have and advise on what you need. A single solution or strategy won’t fit everyone – but anyone can benefit from a well-resourced and well-planned modernization program. And who doesn’t want cost savings in year one?

Whatever the solution, you’ll be able to put down the fire extinguisher…

Beating the Backlog – Great idea #1

Run the Tests that fail first…

In a previous blog we explored the operational challenges that IT organizations face – in this blog we’re going to dive into the one of those operational challenges, IT Backlog.

Micro Focus has introduced IT backlog before (looking at the ‘lights on’ burden, and the true cost of it). However what the beleaguered CIO or IT manager really wants to hear is some practical solutions to address their concerns and their growing IT backlog.

Let’s explore some practicalities to help beat the backlog.

Once upon a time

This is a true story. A conversation took place at a software engineering lab, nearly 20 years ago. The engineering team, part of a UK software vendor, had a backlog of important client deliveries to make, each of them comprising bespoke, tailored software products.

The commercial manager was responsible for collecting payment for orders shipped and would therefore, around month-end, he would spend a lot of time in engineering. He was greeted by busy software engineers and quality assurance staff running, reviewing and reporting test activities as they sought to complete QA and meet release criteria.

In the software engineering world, testing is a vital, unavoidable and significant effort. Accepted wisdom based on notable research is that anything up to 50% of the duration of software projects will be spent in some form of testing.

This engineering shop was no different. Complex technology required exacting testing and thorough review. There would be no compromise on quality. Our commercial manager was frustrated. Why does it take so long to test?

The engineering team would point to the variety of test cases. While they might be fully automated, investigating test fails takes time and potentially involves software corrections, which require re-testing. These “fails” might not be found until the end of the testing phase. The commercial manager reflected and then offered “Why don’t we run the tests that fail first”?

Alas, it was no easier to predict what might fail than to have determined without testing that the software was error-free.

Meanwhile…

Here in the data centre of 2014, things have evolved. The applications have grown beyond recognition, serving a host of new business needs. Their composition and complexity is unprecedented. For mainframes, extrapolate this by ten. The issues, the backlog, are all on an enterprise scale.

Whether one determines this as ‘progress’ is entirely a matter of perspective. What is unarguable is that even after two decades of technological advancement, a number of factors remain constant.

They’re the rules

First, IT cannot compromise on quality. Compromising makes bad things happen, as big name brands, including Target, Co-op, and RBS know to their considerable cost. Even a small flaw in quality tends to become big news pretty quickly.

Second, IT is as busy as ever. With up to a third more workload outstanding than even this time two years ago, pressure remains as high as ever to deliver, fast. Yet the environment hasn’t necessarily expanded to meet that demand. For example…

  • Availability of staff (some organizations effectively sub out QA which needs to be booked; these are shared services but which are booked by the day way ahead of time). Worse still these guys have to know tons of stuff about the environment they are meant to be testing. These skills aren’t just lying around waiting to be used.
  • Or servers. Some testing “resource” is again rented as a shared service. This time is at a premium… whether that’s mainframe test regions, QA machines, software chargebacks, there is often a usage cost for all but the most commoditised technology.
  • Finally, IT expenditure is only just emerging from the long dark shadow of economic gloom –discretionary IT operating budgets may not cover the extra resource now required.

So the problem persists – how do we get more done with the current limitations on time, budget and resources? And how can the ‘tech deficit’ gap be reduced to allow an organization achieve what they set-out to do while tackling the IT Backlog head-on?

While the workload grows, thanks to all these modern new applications, the fixed relationship between time, resource and quality remains, regardless of underlying technology or methodology.  When demand outstrips supply a backlog is created. It’s pretty simple, when you think about it.

Hang on. I’ve got it!

What would our commercial manager have said? Something along the lines of…

  • What if we could enable more staff – when needed – to get up and running in our testing environment
  • What if we could add more testing horsepower when we need it and remove any restrictions our current environment has?
  • What if we could add these extra resources, flexibly, without incurring additional cost?

Essentially he’s looking to resolve his backlog issues with the power of positive thinking. He’s positive that by ticking these boxes, he can make inroads into his IT backlog.

A Micro Focus client – a major FS organization – tried to reduce their backlog by solving the issues the hard-thinking commercial manager had identified.  They were looking to establish greater flexibility, without incurring additional cost, and without compromising quality, to accelerate IT deliveries in their mainframe-based IT environment.

Like the commercial manager, they needed…

  • Flexibility – improved time-to-delivery by eradicating delivery bottlenecks
  • Quality – Improved application quality without consuming additional costs
  • Cost efficiency – Better cost management by testing more in less time with cheaper resources

Sound familiar? Fine sentiments, and a good idea, but how does it actually happen?

It’s just crazy enough to work

Micro Focus can provide all the key components of the mainframe test environment without consuming additional, busy system resources. With this totally flexible, scalable and co-operative testing environment, there’s no waiting for a testing time slot, no waiting to set up a test region. The test environment is always on. And there can be as many instances as are required by the project.

Micro Focus provides this enterprise scale environment for testing, based on commodity servers, to streamline the delivery of core mainframe applications.

Enterprise Test Server takes the pressure off. There will always be testing that needs to be completed on the target platform, for example security and performance tuning, but by enabling test cycles to be conducted on a low cost commodity platform the major bottlenecks are eradicated. Any risks previously associated with not running enough testing can be fully mitigated as test capacity is no longer an issue.

And this approach can scale out for as much testing as IT needs to do. It will cope with requirements for extra releases and extra test cycles without an additional testing charge. This makes it the most cost efficient means of evolving testing processes to support today’s demands.

Customers using this have actually saved testing costs overall, and shortened their time to delivery by 50%. Our commercial manager would have loved it. We can run all the tests first, we could have said. But whether you are a commercial manager, a delivery manager, a QA manager, or responsible for mainframe systems, this flexible approach to delivery could be transformational.

We’ll be looking further at IT backlog and how additional Micro Focus technology can turn great ideas into further backlog-shrinking solutions in our next blog. It’s out soon!

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