Don’t you forget about me – Sincerely yours, The Mainframe Club

Looking Back

The movie The Breakfast Club was released in 1985, when I was just 17. The title track to that movie, Don’t you Forget About Me, started my lifelong love of Simple Minds. That year, I found two further passions that would stay with me to this day. The first was COBOL – I started as a trainee COBOL/IMS programmer in the second half of that year. The second was with a small UK software company, Micro Focus, whose COBOL Workbench product I used to write and test my code.

Moving forward to today

Recently, I was working with colleagues to prepare a presentation for a corporate event. The presentation was to discuss Process Modernisation for Enterprises that run some of their application portfolio on the mainframe. One of the key messages that we felt should come out from that presentation was, to achieve full value from any transformation process, that process must be comprehensive across the whole of IT.

We firmly believe that the mainframe sits at the heart of an effective operation. So for any change to be effective, those responsible for the mainframe, The Mainframe Club, must be included in the change.

“Tell me your troubles and doubts”

Why do organizations ‘forget’ to include The Mainframe Club?

Large enterprises have many different deployment pipelines delivering hundreds of applications, developed by geographically dispersed teams, using different development methodologies.

The applications themselves are highly regulated and present high security risks.

Many of the environments, including the mainframe, can be both ‘loosely’ and ‘tightly’ coupled and housed on complex multi-platform architecture.

But as I said earlier, to gain full value from the transformation process, enterprises must apply a more holistic ‘System Thinking’ and include all of their pipelines.

“Slow change may pull us apart”

While these challenges on the mainframe are not ubiquitous, the result of this is a delivery gap. Whether using terms such as modern versus legacy or more realistically systems of record vs system of engagement, the issue is that these two parts of the business are delivering at different speeds.

If the new services offered on new mobile platforms are dependent on updates to the backend services provided on the mainframe then velocity will be throttled by how fast the slowest delivery pipeline can go.

And it this that is forcing enterprises to look at how DevOps principles can be applied to the teams delivering business applications to the mainframe.

“It’s my feeling we’ll win in the end”

So how to achieve this transformation?

The key thing is to look at incremental improvement – focus on the areas that are causing most pain and where an improvement can have a material impact in what you do.

Start small and ensure that the value of any change implemented can be demonstrated. This then provides a framework for a continual improvement process that demonstrates improvement at each stage.

Let’s consider 4 particular areas – I have chosen these because this is where I am seeing our customers being successful and this talks to how technology can help with automation and adoption. The areas I am going to focus on relate to:

– Tools and process integration and how this can benefit the mainframe developer
– Agile mainframe development using modern tools
– Continuous Integration and unit testing
– Release automation and control

Tools and process integration results in delivering software faster and with greater reliability. Breaking down the siloes with consistency of process and improved visibility across teams. The introduction of common, modern processes and automation, eases the adoption for existing staff and helps attract new talent.

The benefits of adopting modern methodologies, IDEs and tooling remove the barriers for new developers. Integration to analysis tooling provides knowledge at the point of change reducing the reliance of Subject Matter Experts. Introducing practices such as code inspection and more focussed unit testing produces higher quality and removing mainframe resource contention provides greater efficiency in development and testing.

By adopting continuous integration practices, applications are built faster. Automated provision of testing environments make them available on demand. Issues can be found earlier in the test cycle with build and test automation. And with the use of code quality and code coverage metrics you can see a measurable increase in application quality.

Introducing automated tooling around the release process mitigates that risk, allowing synchronised releases to distributed, mainframe and cloud environments, bringing with it accelerated time to value by increasing the number of releases, therefore fulfilling business requirements.

A blueprint for success

The modern iterations of the Micro Focus mainframe development and testing tooling, Enterprise Analyzer, Enterprise Developer for Z, and Enterprise Test Server are part of a blueprint to bring Agile Software Development to IBM Z, and showing despite its age, COBOL is equally as relevant in modern agile development as it was back in 1985..So, Don’t you forget about me

I have focused on how to ensure that that the mainframe is an equal player in an Enterprise DevOps journey and whilst I recognize that technology is really only part of the solution it can be used to help enterprises be more efficient, to automate processes, make adoption of technology easier and it breaks down silos by ensuring that mainframe development is a participating part of the transformational strategy. Download the on-Demand version of our recent webinar to learn more about how the Micro Focus Blueprint for IBM Z Agile Software Development can help achieve mainframe agility by addressing the unique DevOps implementation challenges around software development, maintenance and testing or find me on Twitter to talk further…

But when planning a Digital Transformation strategy, please don’t forget about us.

Sincerely yours, The Mainframe Club.

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