Development technologies and strategies – meeting the skills challenge – Part I

The Development Director challenge is simple enough; he or she must attract and maintain sufficient and appropriate development skills within the organisation to support the IT strategy and identify new solutions to improve productivity. However, the issues are more nuanced. The challenge of application complexity continues to grow. Documentation is limited, as is knowledge of the business systems. The availability of technically skilled staff is limited.

The very resilience of many organizations’ mature COBOL and PL/I applications presents Development Directors with an almost enviable challenge – to maintain systems whose longevity few had predicted. However, that is the reality.

Godfrey

These applications continue to provide intrinsic business-critical value and are effectively the lifeblood of the organizations who are looking to expose the business functions these applications provide to meet the pace of change. Keeping them up-to-date and fully maintained is therefore an operational imperative and often forms the cornerstone of technical strategy.

Decades of changing business demands will have meant extensive and ongoing application maintenance and evolution. Similarly, business and resourcing plans must evolve to reflect changing dynamics and operational requirements. Skills and resource management is integral to this.

Within IT organizations it is the Development Director who must find the specialist skills needed to develop and maintain their mainframe COBOL applications and ensure that the knowledge of these Subject Matter Experts (SME) stays in house. Because the older the application, the more likely it is that precious documentation goes astray – and maintaining this application is a major business imperative.

While recent Vanson Bourne research suggests that more than half of respondents have no difficulty finding IT workers with mainframe application skills, to ensure the long-term success and value of these core applications going forward, Development Directors must ensure an appropriate future supply of application expertise.

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Strategic approaches

  1. Check your delivery processes: Smart thinking would suggest modernizing the application delivery process through the intelligent deployment of appropriate tooling. This represents an opportunity for new skills to contribute to an improved application development stream that incorporates the build, deployment and ultimately the ongoing support that underpin your improved process.  Enterprise tooling is available to enable a new generation of enterprise developers to meet the future needs of the business and resolve any resource challenge
  • Enterprise Analyzer aaccelerates development and modernization projects by more than 40%. Current and new staff will benefit from faster COBOL maintenance knowledge transfer, application analysis and documentation environment.
  • Our staff-enabling technologies include a more cost-effective and efficient environment that enable current staff to support key mainframe application maintenance, development and test activities.
  • Deploying more inclusive and contemporary mainframe development and testing environments will enable a new generation of developers to skill up and support core COBOL systems. This more powerful IDE also delivers tangible benefits – a 40% productivity boost is just one.
  • Many successful Development Directors have recognized the benefit of a more cost-effective and efficient testing environment for enabling current staff to support application maintenance and development activities. Many of our customers do.
  • The current industry talk is around DevOps, and our technology certainly fits this narrative. Because Micro Focus have been advocating the appropriate combination of technology and processes to racially improve software development and delivery for many years. Continuous Integration, Agile, Unit testing– these will all be familiar concepts to new joiners and supporting these processes with our tooling can breathe new life into application development and maintenance work for many enterprises.

In my next blog, I will take a look at how additional strategies such as workforce flexibility and upskilling – aligned with the latest in development and testing tech – can help organizations address their skills challenges.

Visit: www.microfocus.com/skills

NeilFowler

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