COBOL programmers: Skill up and save time…

Melissa Burns from Micro Focus introduces the new Object-Orientated Programming using Visual COBOL webinar series – tune in and skill up!


Join us for this educational webinar series ­- and an opportunity to try your hand at Object-Oriented Programming for COBOL.

Object-Oriented Programming (OOP) isn’t an empty buzzword or contemporary tech reserved for the newest programming languages. It’s a respected, time-proven development methodology that works just as well for COBOL development as it can for Java or .NET apps.

According to some estimates, there are over 240 billion lines of COBOL code out there and most of it is procedural. So why should COBOL developers look at OO COBOL?

The here and now

As a COBOL programmer, you’ll almost certainly be writing procedural programs based on COBOL-85 or perhaps the COBOL 2002 standards. This is the accepted norm and procedural programming still goes very much hand-in-hand with COBOL development. It remains a tried and trusted method of developing COBOL applications.

But succeeding in an ever-changing industry means keeping up with current trends, and tech-savvy consumers are forcing the adoption of new technologies such as cloud, mobile and new IT architectures.

Developing COBOL applications with OOP represents an opportunity to quickly meet those consumer demands, especially for those thinking about the Java Virtual Machine or .NET.

OOP is the standard for these platforms. This doesn’t mean losing any hard work expended in developing procedural programs. Quite the opposite – those procedural programs can work quite happily on these new platforms – but to fully harness .NET and JVM, a good grounding in OOP will make all the difference. With these new skills you can bridge your existing COBOL apps with other languages, build modern user interfaces, develop web services and more.


These webinars have been created specifically for COBOL programmers who want to learn more about OOP and incorporate it with procedural programming techniques to get the best of both worlds. It is your chance to learn from Micro Focus product experts, including Scot Nielsen, who will give you a guided tour of object-oriented principles with hands-on demos to illustrate key concepts and syntax of object-oriented COBOL.

And right from the start, you can put your new found skills to good use without needing to fully immerse yourself in everything OO. By reusing classes available within the .NET framework or the Java SDK, you’ll see how you can save bags of time writing new functionality. The session on collection classes is a must see. Arrays, lists, hash maps and dictionaries — all ready to use within your own program saving you hours of effort developing your own versions.

And why not package up some useful COBOL functionality that can be consumed by other developers writing in COBOL or Java or C#? We’ll show you how to write your own classes and even extend functionality provided by others using inheritance.

Each webinar focuses on a key aspect of OOP, building up your knowledge and we wrap us each session with exercises you can try-it-at-home in preparation for the next topic in the series.

Topics include:

  • An Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming
  • Your first COBOL Class
  • Data and Properties
  • Collection Classes
  • Inheritance
  • Accessing Procedural COBOL from Java and C#

Find out more and sign up  today.

Is ‘terminal decline’ affecting user efficiency?

Business Leaders: while your internal systems might be working just fine, the means of accessing them may be a different story. Jordan Ashman’s latest blog looks at the challenges of effective customer service and how simple changes can provide a dramatic efficiency gain.

In the digital age, information is – or should be – easy to find, access and use. Take Smartphones, for  example. Today’s mobile phone offers Internet access, an array of applications including mail and social media, and a camera for the ubiquitous selfie – everything you need on the go is available in your pocket device.

Conversely, however, easy access to information in the enterprise is often denied to those who need it most. Many customer service managers, retailer order teams, call centres, telesales teams and service centres are struggling with outdated and cumbersome technology.  Too often, their systems are complex and the user experience outdated. Sustaining internal response rates and efficiency goals can often be a struggle, ultimately hampering the organization’s customer satisfaction levels.

As the day-to-day challenges grow for all these industries, efficiency is likely to drop. These challenges often come with time-critical operations, quality service performance and efficiency-related metrics.  So how can an organization remain efficient while maintaining its competitive edge?

First, let’s consider who is affected by the efficiency, or otherwise, of core systems. Essentially, anyone who needs fingertip access to customer information to meet performance targets: the list includes customer service managers, call centre staff, telesales teams and service teams. Additionally, any role involving processing orders ,claims, enquiries, telemarketing, help desks, or working with customer information through a business application. It goes almost without saying that any process efficiency could have potentially profound impacts.

The Truth – Stated in Black and Green

Every organization wants to extract maximum efficiency from their core business systems. Current systems are often inefficient – users find it difficult to locate information across multiple screens, and learning how to use theses outdated applications can be complex and time consuming. This ultimately hampers service delivery to internal and external customers. Take for example making an order over the telephone – the call taker will need to navigate many screens to create a customer profile, generate an order number, enter delivery and billing address, input payment details, choose delivery type and any number of other details.. If your line of business meets the profile sketched out above, productivity and customer experiences are very closely aligned and likely to be memorable for all the wrong reasons – namely long wait times, delays, and lots of needless questions.

These inefficiencies are unlikely to be purely procedural. It is more likely to relate to outdated systems which are slow to react and cumbersome to use. In short, customers and staff who use smartphone and tablet-style technology at home are bemused to discover the time it takes to do something which they consider to be quick and easy.

Research commissioned by Micro Focus uncovered the full extent of the issue. We approached 590 senior IT decision-makers in organisations with mainframes and green screen applications in their infrastructure were interviewed late last year. Among the highlights was the revelation that more than half didn’t feel that their applications – on which their business processes depend – were doing a ‘good job’.  So they understand the problem. Application performance must significantly improve.

What does good look like?

The ideal scenario – agreed by 98% of survey respondents – would be to add more features, such as web access, CRM programs and common software packages to their core business applications. The ultimate aim would be to make systems more productive, create a more efficient workforce and improve customer satisfaction.

For 65%, productivity enhancements would include pop-up calendars and dropdown menus, while 49% believed that mobile access to the application would deliver these benefits and 47% thought a “modern, fresh and user-friendly” interface would make all the difference.

Clearly, that is a disparate range of potential resolutions and achieving consensus on how to achieve them was equally difficult for respondents, with 77% believing that modernizing, re-writing or moving to ‘off-the-shelf’ commercial applications was “too expensive or risky”. But if doing nothing is not an option, and agreeing a way forward seems impossible, what options remain?

Introducing Rumba+

Rumba is the code-free, no-risk user interface modernization technology that delivers results. The beauty of Rumba is that it retains what works in your current application but adds all the features of full modernization to achieve the improvements needed.

From the ‘on-screen’ additions such as Google Maps and VOIP  that improves the service that people can offer through to the web, mobile and desktop access that enables users to significantly increase the number of places they can deliver that service from, Rumba represents the best in hassle-free, innovative technology.


Micro Focus Rumba+ has enhanced ‘green screen’ applications for thousands of customers around the world without replacing or rewriting the core business logic which is key to running their business.  It’s easy, it’s fast and delivers results within weeks. One customer reported efficiency improvements of over 100%. Imagine what handling twice as many calls could do for your operation. Want to see the transformation for yourself? Watch this demo.

Micro Focus DevDays: A window into the future of COBOL

Jackie Anglin from Micro Focus invites you to come and see more about what Micro Focus mainframe and COBOL products can do. At a North American #DevDay near you


So, what could Developer Days do for you?

These sessions  are an opportunity for our North American partners and customers to see for themselves the opportunities that new, enabling technologies could bring to long-established COBOL applications. You’ll have to see it to believe it…

This year our ‘A Team’ of tech guys have a plan (and yes, they do love it when it comes together) to help our customers and partners make more of their mainframes. Because by hitching all that power to Visual COBOL, the rich development environment that delivers true innovation, they can help you make more of your application estate.

With the right approach – and a little insight – your organization’s current mainframe, Windows, Unix and Linux-based COBOL business systems can support tomorrow’s technologies including mobile, cloud, .NET and JVM. And if you want to see innovation in action….


See for yourself

We’re always pleased and proud to have our partners stand up to explain and demonstrate how Visual COBOL has breathed new life into their COBOL applications and this year will be no different.

In our most recent DevDays we heard from application knowledge experts Transvive, while IBM walked us through the possibilities that the zOS operating system brings to the contemporary mainframe. Sammons Financial and Empire Life insurance have already shown us what their version of the future looks like so want to contribute with a presentation of your own, then let us know.

For the forthcoming shows we can confirm that, among others, technology consultants Select Computing and infotech firm Information Analysis Incorporated will be demonstrating how they have given their COBOL apps a new lease of life, as will Spears Software and marine insurance specialists Boat US.

And this year’s show-and-tell has a main event that proves just how versatile Visual COBOL can be in taking old-school COBOL apps into real world, right-now situations. The demonstration from our partners at Astadia is a walk-through of how insurance claims advisors use Google Glasses connected to COBOL applications when making claim assessment site visits to their clients.

Exciting innovation from trusted applications

So these DevDays are all about taking you into tomorrow with what you have today. About not risking core processes in attempting to create a genuine business advantage through innovation. It’s about supporting good ideas with the COBOL technology that still drives more than 70% of today’s business transaction processing systems.

We created Developer Days to demonstrate how enterprise application developers can quickly and easily modernize their COBOL systems using the very latest in COBOL development technology and with innovations such as the Astadia presentation we have walking, talking proof that it really works.

Book today. Innovate tomorrow

Developer Days are all about seeing the potential. Everyone takes home something different, whether it is a how-to of achieving best practice or the inspiration to try something new. So come along to a Dev Day near you soon (and stay tuned for updates and additions to the schedule available here)

Aside from seeing Micro Focus mainframe development technology at work, you will learn how to:

  • Accelerate time to delivery on mainframes and distributed platforms
  • Enable greater focus on new innovation
  • Leverage modern COBOL development tools to maximize current development resources
  • Attract the next generation of developer talent

While demonstrations and presentations from our tech team will explain the potential, it is the real-world testimonials from Micro Focus’ partner and customer community that bring it to life.

Who else should attend? 

  • Essentially any organization thinking about – or in the process of – modernizing their COBOL applications.
  • Anyone wanting to extend them to the Cloud, mobile and managed code (.NET or JVM) environments
  • Anyone with the inspiration to do more with their application portfolio but without the how-to knowledge.




Terminal Emulation & the magic of modernizing old applications

When I first joined Micro Focus I was lucky enough to sit through a number of product demos, the teams wanted me up to speed on what their stuff ‘did’. Up stepped ‘Rumba’. No – not Rumba the Latin American dance – this was a terminal emulator. Software for mainframe applications that gave the older ‘green-screen’ interface a fresh lick of paint or so I thought.

A former colleague recently resigned to join another firm, part of his note read ‘and for the first time in my working life the company I am joining is selling a product that I can actually touch’. This got me thinking. Having also spent a lifetime ‘in software’ I wondered what it was that I find so addictive about the industry. You can see code, you can see an interface, but there isn’t a physical presence you can actually handle or touch.

The big Corporates and their Marketing gurus have spent years trying to work out how to ‘define’ Software. IBM’s Software is the ‘Soul’ of technology campaign from 2000 was one of the better attempts made to try and make the intangible more tangible. Marketing folks did then what marketing folks do now and tried to make it about the experience we have with software and how we feel when we’re using software (but if we are collectively honest as an industry we’d all agree that we’ve subjected people to years of painful and frankly awful advertising.) Software, it seems, doesn’t lend itself to easy definitions and straplines – it’s more like the electricity in the wiring in our homes. Something you take for granted when it’s working that’s overly annoying when it’s not.

So software really is boring right?

Wrong! Software has me hooked and it’s not because of its ethereal nature. Software often provides that exquisite moment of happiness when someone sees a better or more efficient way of doing something that is currently painful. A faster or more collaborative way of attacking a problem. That’s what I find so incredible about the software industry – it’s not just the new apps and whizzy web tools that do this, it’s virtually all software – ever since software was invented – that can provide or did provide someone with a ‘lightbulb moment’. It’s about making life easier and allowing us to focus more time and effort on things we enjoy.

Could it be magic?

When I first joined Micro Focus I was lucky enough to sit through a number of product demos, the teams wanted me up to speed on what their stuff ‘did’. Up stepped ‘Rumba’. No – not Rumba the Latin American dance – this was a terminal emulator. Software for mainframe applications that gave the older ‘green-screen’ interface a fresh lick of paint or so I thought.

Then I saw it! Pow! Zap!

I’d started my career in software some 20+ years previously in a Software Laboratory Finance Department. Quarter End meant hooking up to various Mainframe Databases using a 3270 terminal and pulling off report after report. Manually typing ‘results’ into foils for an OHP (I kid you not), cross checking numbers, data, SQL queries and strings and all of this through a NOSS command line. Remember these?


I became extremely proficient in using both (as well as an old school DB2 database or 7) and Financial reporting became faster and faster as my skills grew…

……..BUT if I had a time machine and a copy of Rumba to hand – the Month End/Quarter End/Year end reporting cycle would have been a dream.  Instead of having 2 (3 if I was lucky) terminals to visually cross reference I would have only needed one screen for starters. Instead of typing commands I could’ve used a mouse and made hay with the ‘windows’ functionality. This was so much more than a gimmicky interface, although everything did look better too.

Why does that matter if it works I hear you ask?

How a screen looks really matters at the end of a 16 hour day when your eyes feel like they’ve been rolled in grit. I could’ve been there in my old job with the 99.999999%  of uptime an IBM Mainframe made available (before it was cool) AND all the advantages of a great modern user interface. The routine 16 plus hour days would have been consigned to history and I’d have been able to spend more time with my family at Christmas. And my eyes wouldn’t have felt like they’d been rolled in grit. I would have been a one–man-professional-power-house.

If I had actually sat through the Rumba product demo 20 years previously I would have become uncontrollably excited about the art of the possible. That is what software does – it makes the magic happen and the art of the possible into something tangible.

So spare a thought for the staff workers in car hire firms, Travel agents, car dealerships and logistics companies who use screens like the 3270 pictured above to this day. You’ve seen them at work and you’ll have spoken to many hundreds of them in insurance and banking call centers too. In civil service offices, public sector buildings and Governments. Whilst you’re on hold they are actually switching between screens and terminals. Hundreds of thousands of these folks exist all over the world working on old school terminal interfaces to this day.

With software there is gold in them there hills and moments of magic just waiting to happen.

If you’re reading this blog now wondering what the future of the now iconic Mainframe green-screen holds we have the white paper here you need to put on your reading list. If you’re one of the green-screen workers and you want a sneaky glimpse at some magic right now – head on over to YouTube to see how Rumba+ could be helping you. Then show your boss. With a bit of luck he’ll call in the IT folks and get a free trial up and running.



It is software but I promise you will see what I mean.