The agility to respond to evolving change is simple enough for web-scale digital operations, but can IT help longer-established enterprises move faster and deliver more without compromising years of competitive advantage held in core business tech? Ed Airey, Solutions Marketing Director, answers the question in the context of Process Modernization, Enterprise DevOps, and IT change.
The Age of Agility
Immediately, in a New York minute, right now – today’s consumers don’t wait to decide whether to switch suppliers. Business leaders know the competitive pressure of retaining customer loyalty only too well, because it is an everyday investment every company makes. But digital – the ultimate disruptor – has infused the need for speed, quality, and feedback into every engagement activity.
History and research tells us that to remain competitive, relevant and profitable, a business must adapt to competitors, customers and the marketplace. And enterprise IT leaders who fail to apply the same rules and relevance, agility and engagement to software delivery condemn their companies to join American Motors, Studebaker and Zenith Electronics in the corporate graveyard.
The question, then, is can an enterprise apply those practices that enable smaller web-scale companies, with leaner processes and lower overheads, to themselves? Only if they understand the unique obstacles preventing that faster change. A quick review:
First, business operations are more vulnerable to the impact of errant change. For larger organizations in particular, they are also more hamstrung by the regulation and compliance that slow or halt most change initiatives. Core business systems are also locked away, difficult to access, manage and modernize. There are cultural issues, too – the enterprise is run by hierarchical relationships and command/control structures so understanding and navigating these dynamics is key.
In summary, agility within the enterprise is challenged by a number of factors. Let’s take a look.
Organizational core business applications, often COBOL–based, span millions of lines of code, involve complex interdependencies and mostly live on either mainframes or distributed platforms. Application change, at speed, can be strategically costly for an organization if not done properly. An easier sell is a more pragmatic approach that manages that risk by accommodating established systems while adopting next generation technology. Forward progress that doesn’t compromise competitive advantage? We call the successful bridge between now and next, digital transformation.
The good news is that there are many technology choices that will achieve faster IT delivery using the measured approach to transformation, change and modernization the enterprise needs. Process modernization optimizes the ‘system’ by which enterprise applications are built, tested, deployed and managed and the key is to understand how the language of transformation, particularly #DevOps and process modernization connect with core business systems in this context.
There are many routes to faster mainframe application delivery. Implementing modern development tools, such as those integrated with Eclipse and Visual Studio IDEs. Accelerating talent onboarding and streamlining productivity. Implementing automated mainframe application testing in the cloud to enable rapid on-demand test provisioning. Leveraging on-mainframe source control systems alongside open source tech to deliver greater release frequency, volume and velocity.
Changeman ZMF user? Check out the new REST based APIs that enable rapid, flexible software delivery third party integration across any DevOps pipeline. Modern, off-mainframe tools enable a risk-averse path to shifting dev, test and production workloads to AWS and Azure. Great news for those on the mainframe, and much of this applies to those running COBOL applications on distributed platforms, too.
But what about everyone else?
Cross-functional teams working with the latest release of Visual COBOL (for distributed systems) or Enterprise Developer (for mainframe systems) collaborate on complex delivery projects using shared development tools and incorporate COBOL into CI practices using popular automation tools, such as Jenkins. They deploy comprehensive application analysis tools (for distributed or mainframe systems) to improve code quality and compliance, use code slicing to support an API and micro-services strategy, and leverage containerization to deploy dev, test and production resources to any platform. And all without compromising production workloads or adding additional cost. The key is understanding why successful process modernization demands sound planning.
Plan for success
Great outcomes need a proven process. If your process is flawed, then so will your software delivery outcomes. A book by my friend, Gary Gruver, Starting and Scaling Devops in the Enterprise addresses the planning, documentation, prioritization and continuous improvement in more detail. Definitely worth a read.
Whether you think this all sounds pretty simple, or a bit intimidating, don’t worry—we can help. As modernization industry experts, we offer different programs and practices to help customers take those important first transformational steps. The Value Profile Service unites subject matter experts with IT leaders to discuss your current and future application state and concludes with a set of recommendations and next steps.
Interested in Infrastructure Modernization? Check out this recent blog by my colleague, Derek Britton for a deeper dive into that discussion. Also, watch this space for an analysis of Application Modernization coming soon.