Why I’m running for their lives

‘Micro Focus takes Corporate Social Responsibility and charity work extremely seriously from the grass roots right up to Senior Management’ says Gemma Cuff. ‘It’s fantastic to support amazing trailblazing women doing amazing things for the world. Grace Hopper would be very proud that we embrace her mantra ‘If it’s a good idea, go ahead and do it. It is much easier to apologize than it is to get permission’.

When is a run, not a run? When it’s a valuable opportunity to raise awareness of women’s empowerment where it is in dangerously short supply. That’s the principle behind Run Across Congo, a vehicle for shining light, attention and focus on the region.

Why run?

I will be running on behalf of OTG, a community-based non-profit organisation. They may be small but their projects have a global reach – they certainly touched me!

We are taking an all women’s running team to Congo to support gender equality and women’s empowerment. The participants are runners, rather than athletes; they come from all over the area and are driven by their own motivations.

I was keen to support Fair Trade, go beyond the brand to address some of the issues that underpin the charity and make their work necessary. There’s more on this HERE. 

Why here?

This is an area in need of good news as much as a gesture. The region is recovering from a civil war that claimed over five million lives. The reported statistics – and ‘reported’ is the key word, here – for rape victims are around 70%, with many repeat victims.

If truth is the first casualty of war then in this conflict, women must be a pretty close second. War tactics and guerilla warfare techniques have reduced them to objects. Many, if not every mother, sister, daughter or wife has been the victim of sexual violence. It’s not easy for anyone – the average annual income is $400 p.a. and the majority of the population falls at or below the poverty level.

Meryl Marsh 2

Fighting back

But it is the personal stories that are most illustrative of the impact of the conflict. Every single person has lost at least one close family member. Despite this – or perhaps because of this – these communities are showing obduracy and this resilience is driving a significant resurgence in the coffee farming sector. This can all be built upon. It may not be much but in a country that has nothing, it represents a something.

Our efforts are addressing three key priorities:

  • Immediate medical care and reconstructive surgery for sexual violence victims
  • Monthly support for the widowed families of murdered rangers in Virunga National Park and
  • Gender Action Learning System (GALS), a community and family-focused scheme that develops the long-term business and family planning that retains sustainable farming practices and deliver reliable income.

We’re all self-funding; every dollar we raise directly supports the program work to ensure maximum impact. We all have individual campaigns and targets – check out mine HERE.

You can help

And you don’t have to run a step. Make your donations at runacrosscongo.org. We started raising funds last year and will continue up to, during and after the run. The program work will be ongoing for years. Once OTG starts a project, they remain committed to it for long-term development.

For me, I will keep running to the end. It’s not much, but as the proud people of the DRC will tell you, when you have nothing, a something is a great start.

Meryl Marsh 3

Modern tools: the language of development skills efficiency

Paula Willis, Visual Studio IDE Development Team Leader, looks at the options available to those who face arguably the biggest challenge in an IT organisation – the developers themselves. They work at the coal face of organisational application development and understand the staffing challenges better than most.

COBOL developers are increasingly in demand for mainframe application maintenance, development and test activities. That makes these skills an increasingly rare – and valuable – commodity. But as colleagues retire or move on, workload pressures can increase on those who remain.

It is unsustainable for the developers and strategically flawed, committing an increasing proportion of developer time to application maintenance rather than future innovation. Simply working harder isn’t an answer. You need a solution. Working smarter in an upgraded environment with contemporary tools will put the power in the hands of those who remain.

Want to know COBOL?

If you currently don’t know COBOL, then here’s the top line – in the new IDEs, COBOL is just the same as other languages. And COBOL underpins the business systems of 91 of the Fortune 100 companies. Learning COBOL improves your work today and your career prospects tomorrow.

Unfortunately, ours is a change-hungry industry where time-proven equates as old and therefore bad, COBOL is perceived as being incompatible with modern processes. The reality is different. Aside from modern IDEs, COBOL aligns with other agile methodologies and developers discovering that they can use the same development processes and concepts quickly realise that this stuff really works.

COBOL is easy to learn: if you can work with Eclipse, Java, Visual Studio and C# you can master COBOL in a matter of hours and the contemporary environments enable the newly-skilled COBOL developer to do more than ever before.

.NET COBOL sits alongside C# in the Visual Studio IDE and JVM COBOL sits alongside Java in the Eclipse IDE. As well as having the opportunity to embrace the new features of .NET and JVM COBOL, you can still take your existing procedural COBOL apps and run and debug within the new IDEs. And we’re actively working on features within these IDEs to make the COBOL developer’s experience even better.

COBOL is a time-proven language that underpins the business systems of 91 of the Fortune 100 companies. If you already know COBOL, or are looking at learning it, then here’s the top line – in the new IDEs, COBOL is just the same as other languages. Using COBOL in contemporary environments will improve your work today and your career prospects tomorrow.

What can it do?

  • Connect and explore the mainframe from the Enterprise Developer Eclipse IDE
  • Use Enterprise Developer to develop remotely on the mainframe
  • Move mainframe projects to a local workstation using Enterprise Developer
  • Edit, compile and test mainframe applications under Enterprise Developer on Windows

The more inclusive and contemporary mainframe development environment enables any developer to support core COBOL systems.

Flying silo?

The silo mentality, prevalent in many organizations, demonstrates a very sizable gap in skills between COBOL and Java or C# programmers. This lack of collaboration does nothing for businesses except reduce efficiency, increase cost and heighten risk.

How we can help

To do the right job, successful organizations need the right people with the right skills. Beyond that, they need tools that bridge the gap between the skills they have and the experience they need.

And that is where we come in. Micro Focus can enable application developers with the skills and modern tooling they need to bridge the old applications with the new development environments.

Our enterprise tooling offers a development path that enables a new generation of enterprise developers to meet the future needs of the business and resolve any resource challenge.

How does that work?

Enterprise Analyzer accelerates development and modernization projects by up to 40% and beyond.

Our enabling technologies include a more cost-effective and efficient environment so developers can support key mainframe application maintenance, development and test activities.

A more inclusive, contemporary mainframe testing environment is how developers skill up to support core COBOL systems. It is the missing link between old applications and modern efficiency – what could you do with a 40% productivity boost?

Developers appreciate how a more cost-effective and efficient testing environment support application maintenance and development activities.

In summary

Aligning your skills with Micro Focus technology is the key to improving your value to the organisation and supporting the wider business strategy. Usability is the secret behind the efficiency. Check out the videos below.

Learn more

Enterprise Analyzer – application portfolio management and analysis

Enterprise Developer – a powerful, integrated environment for application development

Enterprise Test Server – performing pre-production testing on Windows avoids unnecessary cost and delay.







Paula Willis

Visual Studio IDE Development Team Leader,



This is the end, hold your breath and count to ten….

Hang on though. The sky hasn’t fallen, the lights are still on, the world is still turning. Did googlemageddon really just happen? I assure you it did, although for me all Google algorithm changes are now reminiscent of the Y2K bug that was going to spark off WW3 and bring satellites out of orbit. So what exactly was it apart from a good excuse for the world’s press to sell us all another story of apocalyptic woe?

Hang on though. The sky hasn’t fallen, the lights are still on, the world is still turning. Did googlemageddon really just happen? I assure you it did, although for me all Google algorithm changes are now reminiscent of the Y2K bug that was going to spark off WW3 and bring satellites out of orbit. So what exactly was it apart from a good excuse for the world’s press to sell us all another story of apocalyptic woe?

Well the heart of Google’s business is providing consumers with fantastic search results. Little surprise Google change their algorithm hundreds of times a year in a war against the nefarious spammers and online racketeers who are out there to game their way up the organic ranking charts.

In a year that’s seen half the internet searches globally conducted on a mobile devices, it’s no surprise at all that Google took the decision to reward mobile friendly sites with a higher ranking. That’s basically all googlemageddon amounts to. Industry analysts are also keen to point out that Android Apps on the Google Play store will rise dramatically in rankings compared to Apple App-store competitors in a week that’s seen the launch of Project Fi. I won’t comment, all I know is stranger and much worse things have happened at sea.

So where can I buy SEO?

A sincere question I was genuinely asked. Search Engine Optimization is not something that can be done by an agency or bought. It’s a long term strategic approach to digital marketing that any modern business will have close to its heart. The following formula helped me explain it recently at Oracle’s #MME15 Event in Las Vegas:

factual fresh content that aligns your products & services with your prospects’ pains
technically -helping Search Engines to find that content
Social Media

This is the ‘content-reach-influence’ holy trilogy of digital marketing. Get it correct and you’ll be zooming along the information superhighway in the fast-lane of success. Keeping your nose out in front involves keeping content fresh and building up an influential following on Social Media who will promote your stuff. Maintaining peak performance is far from easy, Metrics and KPIs become like a speedometer. Keeping one eye on the rear view mirror teaches us lessons about what works and what doesn’t. Fresh data will keep your revenue engine oiled, but let’s spare a few thoughts for the IT mechanics who maintain the digital revenue machine you’ve built.

How does you team work with your IT department to help your website perform?

Here are 6 areas you are probably going to need your IT department to help with on the technical side of your SEO equation:

  1. A site that adapts to mobile ‘browsers’ – that’s what googlemageddon was all about. To see how your site behaves on the mainstream desktop and mobile browsers Silk Central is a fantastic tool. It checks cross browser compatibility and it’s yours for 15 days free – take a trial!
  2. A site that’s up 24-7 with whizzy response times. Google loves a site that loads quickly and performs well. If the crawler drops in and your site is struggling under load you’ve messed up. Ensure you’re monitoring your sites with a great tool like Silk Web Meter. A free version is available so you can start monitoring today!
  3. Load and performance test your site so you know it won’t fall over. A great cloud based like Silk Performer CloudBurst can simulate enormous loads from different geographies meaning you don’t even have to invest in the hardware and infrastructure to create a test environment yourselves.
  4. Think like code. That’s all a Google crawler is and when it drops onto your site to check your content it’s not going to fill out a form to get to it. Build your site well to ensure the registration page contains enough content alongside the Gate/Form to help the rank increase. Crawlers stop at gates so getting your requirements right up front is critical.
  5. Google crawlers can’t watch videos yet either – a transcript (also useful for people with hearing difficulties) helps SEO-wise.
  6. Lastly ensure your site is easy to ‘share’ with Social Media widgets. When influential readers do land – it will be easy for them to share the content and those all-important-back-links to your content. Loads of free tools like Linktally exist that can help monitor the inbound links from major social media channels. Take a measurement and watch it grow with Social success!

I am sure I have missed a whole bunch of technical areas out and would love to hear what they are. Never forget that Content is king and everything else you’re doing is supporting it! Let me know what I’ve missed on Twitter and I’ll write the follow up soon.








Director of Marketing Operations for Micro Focus & Borland Software. Mark’s often talking about Digital Marketing and why your website matters – you’ll find him on LinkedIn and Twitter flying a flag for Social Media.