Trying to Transform

Here’s an interesting statistic. According to a report, only 61 of the Fortune 500 top global companies have remained on that illustrious list since 1955. That’s only 12%. It’s not unreasonable to extrapolate that 88% of the Fortune 500 of 2075 will be different again. That’s over 400 organizations that won’t stand the test of time.

What do such sobering prospects mean for the CEO of most major corporations? Simple – innovation. Innovation and transformation are the relentless treadmill of change and the continuous quest for differentiation. These are what an organization will need for a competitive edge in the future.

But in this digital economy, what does transformation look like?

Time for Change

Key findings from a recent report (the 2016 State of Digital Transformation, by research and consulting firm Altimeter) shared the following trends affecting organizational digital transformation:

  • Customer experience is the top driver for change
  • A majority of respondents see the catalyst for change as evolving customer behaviour and preference. A great number still see that as a significant challenge
  • Nearly half saw a positive result on business as a result of digital transformation
  • Four out of five saw innovation as top of the digital transformation initiatives

Much of this is echoed by a study The Future of Work commissioned by Google.

The three most prevalent outcomes of adopting “digital technologies” were cited as

  • Improving customer experience
  • Improving internal communication
  • Enhancing internal productivity

More specifically, the benefits experienced of adopting digital technology were mentioned as

  • Responding faster to changing needs
  • Optimizing business processes
  • Increasing revenue and profits

Meanwhile, the report states that the digital technologies that are perceived as having the most future impact were a top five of Cloud, Tablets, Smartphones, Social Media and Mobile Apps.

So, leveraging new technology, putting the customer first, and driving innovation seem all to connect together to yield tangible benefits for organizations that are seeking to transform themselves. Great.

But it’s not without its downside. None of this, alas, is easy. Let’s look at some of the challenges cited the same study, and reflect on how they could be mitigated.

More Than Meets The Eye?

Seamlessly changing to support a new business model or customer experience is easy to conceive. We’ve all seen the film Transformers, right? But in practical, here-and-now IT terms, this is not quite so simple. What are the challenges?

The studies cited a few challenges: let’s look at some of them.

Challenge: What exactly is the customer journey?

In the studies, while a refined customer experience was seen as key, 71% saw understanding that behaviour as a major challenge. Unsurprisingly, only half had mapped out the customer journey. More worrying is that a poor digital customer experience means, over 90% of the time, unhappy customers won’t complain – but they will not return. (Source: www.returnonbehaviour.com ).

Our View: The new expectation of the digitally-savvy customer is all important in both B2C and B2B. Failure to assess, determine, plan, build and execute a renewed experience that maps to the new customer requirement is highly risky. That’s why Micro Focus’ Build story incorporates facilities to map, define, implement and test against all aspects of the customer experience, to maximize the success rates of newly-available apps or business services.

Challenge: Who’s doing this?

The studies also showed an ownership disparity. Some of the digital innovation is driven from the CIO’s organization (19%), some from the CMO (34%), and the newly-emerging Chief Digital office (15%) is also getting some of the funding and remit. So who’s in charge and where’s the budget, and is the solution comprehensive? These are all outstanding questions in an increasingly siloed digital workplace.

Our View: While organizationally there may be barriers, the culture of collaboration and inclusiveness can be reinforced by appropriate technology. Technology provides both visibility and insight into objectives, tasks, issues, releases and test cases, not to mention the applications themselves. This garners a stronger tie between all stakeholder groups, across a range of technology platforms, as organizations seek to deliver faster.

Challenge: Are we nimble enough?

Rapid response to new requirements hinges on how fast, and frequently, an organization can deliver new services. Fundamentally, it requires an agile approach – yet 63% saw a challenge in their organization being agile enough. Furthermore, the new DevOps paradigm is not yet the de-facto norm, much as many would want it to be.

Our View: Some of the barriers to success with Agile and DevOps boil down to inadequate technology provision, which is easily resolved – Micro Focus’ breadth of capability up and down the DevOps tool-chain directly tackles many of the most recognized bottlenecks to adoption, from core systems appdev to agile requirements management. Meanwhile, the culture changes of improved teamwork, visibility and collaboration are further supported by open, flexible technology that ensures everyone is fully immersed in and aware of the new model.

Challenge: Who’s paying?

With over 40% reporting strong ROI results, cost effectiveness of any transformation project remains imperative. A lot of CapEx is earmarked and there needs to be an ROI. With significant bottom line savings seen by a variety of clients using its technology, Micro Focus’ approach is always to plan how such innovation will pay for itself in the shortest possible timeframe.

Bridge Old and New

IT infrastructure and how it supports an organization’s business model is no longer the glacial, lumbering machine it once could be. Business demands rapid response to change. Whether its building new customer experiences, establishing and operating new systems and devices, or ensuring clients and the corporation protect key data and access points, Micro Focus continues to invest to support today’s digital agenda.

Of course, innovation or any other form of business transformation will take on different forms depending on the organization, geography, industry and customer base, and looks different to everyone we listen to. What remains true for all is that the business innovation we offer our customers enables them to be more efficient, to deliver new products and services, to operate in new markets, and to deepen their engagement with their customers.

Transforming? You better be. If so, talk to us, or join us at one of our events soon.

We Built This City on…DevOps

With a history that is more industrial than inspirational, a few eyebrows were raised when Hull won the bid to become the UK’s city of culture for 2017. While unlikely, it is now true, and the jewel of East Riding is boasting further transformation as it settles in to its new role as the cultural pioneer for the continent.  Why not? After all, cultures change, attitudes change. People’s behaviour, no matter what you tell them to do, will ultimately decide outcomes. Or, as Peter Drucker put it, Culture eats Strategy for breakfast.

As we look ahead to other cultural changes in 2017, the seemingly ubiquitous DevOps approach looks like a change that has already made it to the mainstream.

But there remains an open question about whether implementing DevOps is really a culture shift in IT, or whether it’s more of a strategic direction. Or, indeed, whether it’s a bit of both. I took a look at some recent industry commentary to try to unravel whether a pot of DevOps culture would indeed munch away on a strategic breakfast.

A mainstream culture?

Recently, I reported that Gartner predicted about 45% of the enterprise IT world were on a DevOps trajectory. 2017 could be, statistically at least, the year when DevOps goes mainstream. That’s upheaval for a lot of organizations.

We’ve spoken before about the cultural aspects of DevOps transformation: in a recent blog I outlined three fundamental tenets of embracing the necessary cultural tectonic shift required for larger IT organizations to embrace DevOps:

  • Stakeholder Management

Agree the “end game” of superior new services and customer satisfaction with key sponsors, and outline that DevOps is a vehicle to achieve that. Articulated  in today’s digital age it is imperative that the IT team (the supplier) seeks to engage more frequently with their users.

  • Working around Internal Barriers

Hierarchies are hard to break down, and a more nimble approach is often to establish cross-functional teams to take on specific projects that are valuable to the business, but relatively finite in scope, such that the benefits of working in a team-oriented approach become self-evident quickly. Add to this the use of internal DevOps champions to espouse and explain the overall approach.

  • Being Smart with Technology

There are a variety of technical solutions available to improving development, testing and efficiency of collaboration for mainframe teams. Hitherto deal-breaking delays and bottlenecks caused by older procedures and even older tooling can be removed simply by being smart about what goes into the DevOps tool-chain. Take a look at David Lawrence’s excellent review of the new Micro Focus technology to support better configuration and delivery management of mainframe applications.

In a recent blog, John Gentry talked about the “Culture Shift” foundational to a successful DevOps adoption. The SHARE EXECUForum 2016 show held a round-table discussion specifically about the cultural changes required for DevOps. Culture clearly matters. However, these and Drucker’s pronouncements notwithstanding, culture is only half the story.

Strategic Value?

The strategic benefit of DevOps is critical. CIO.com recently talked about how DevOps can help “redefine IT strategy”. After all, why spend all that time on cultural upheaval without a clear view of the resultant value?

In another recent article, the key benefits of DevOps adoption were outlined as

  • Fostering Genuine Collaboration inside and outside IT
  • Establishing End-to-End automation
  • Delivering Faster
  • Establishing closer ties with the user

Elsewhere, an overtly positive piece by Automic gave no fewer than 10 good reasons to embrace DevOps, including fostering agility, saving costs, turning failure into continuous improvement, removing silos, find issues more quickly and building a more collaborative environment.

How such goals become measurable metrics isn’t made clear by the authors, but the fact remains that most commentators see significant strategic value in DevOps. Little wonder that this year’s session agenda at SHARE includes a track called DevOps in the Enterprise, while the events calendar for 2017 looks just as busy again with DevOps shows.

Make It Real

So far that’s a lot of talk and not a lot of specific detail. Changing organizational culture is so nebulous as to be almost indefinable – shifting IT culture toward a DevOps oriented approach covers a multitude of factors in terms of behaviour, structure, teamwork, communication and technology it’s worthy of studies in its own right.  Strategically, transforming IT to be a DevOps shop requires significant changes in flexibility, efficiency and collaboration between teams, as well as an inevitable refresh in the underlying tool chain, as it is often referred.

To truly succeed at DevOps, one has to look and the specific requirements and desired outcomes:  being able to work out specifically, tangibly and measurably what is needed, and how it can be achieved, is critical. Without this you have a lot of change and little clarity on whether it does any good.

Micro Focus’ recent white paper “From Theory to Reality” (download here) discusses the joint issues of cultural and operational change as enterprise-scale IT shops look to gain benefits from adopting a DevOps model. It cites three real customer situations where each has tackled a specific situation in its own way, and the results of doing so.

Learn More

Each organization’s DevOps journey will be different, and must meet specific internal needs. Why not join Micro Focus at the upcoming SHARE, DevDay or #MFSummit2017 shows to hear for how major IT organizations are transforming how they deliver value through DevOps, with the help of Micro Focus technology.

If you want to build an IT service citadel of the future, it had better be on something concrete. Talk to Micro Focus to find out how.

DevOps Enterprise Summit 2016: Leading Change

Mark Levy reports back from #DOES16 in San Francisco – is this is the year that DevOps crosses the chasm? What did he find out from the experts like Gene Kim? Read on to find out the answers and more in this fascinating blog….

Last week I attended the DevOps Enterprise Summit (#DOES16) in San Francisco which brought together over 1300 IT professionals to learn and discuss with their peers the practices and patterns of high performance IT for large complex environments. One of the first things I noticed was that the overall structure of the event was different from your standard IT event.  All the sessions over the three-day event followed an “Experience Report” format. Each session was only 30 minutes in length and each speaker followed the same specific pattern, which enabled current DevOps practitioners to share what they did, what happened, and what they learned. The event also had workshops leveraging the “Lean Coffee” format where participants gathered, built an agenda, and began discussing DevOps topics that were pertinent to their particular environment.  In my opinion, these session formats made the overall conference exciting and fast paced.

Enterprise DevOps Crosses the Chasm

One question remained a focus throughout the event: “Is this the year that Enterprise DevOps crosses the chasm?” #DOES16 seems to believe so. The main theme for this year’s event was “Leading Change”. Gene Kim opened the event by highlighting results of the latest DevOps survey which found IT organizations that leveraged DevOps practices were able to deliver business value faster, with better quality, more securely, and they had more fun doing it!  With over four years of survey data, we now know that these high performers are massively out performing their peers. The focus of #DOES16 was to provide a forum where current DevOps practitioners from large IT organizations were able to share their experience with others who are just starting their journey. DevOps transformation stories from large enterprise companies such as Allstate, American Airlines, Capital One, Target, Walmart, and Nationwide proved that DevOps is not just reserved for the start-ups in Silicon Valley.

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There were also several new books focused on DevOps practices launched at #DOES16.  Gene Kim, Jez Humble, Patrick Dubois, and John Willis collaborated to create the “DevOps Handbook”, and renowned DevOps thought leader and author Gary Gruver released his new book “Starting and Scaling DevOps in the Enterprise”. Both books focus on how large enterprises can gain better business outcomes by implementing DevOps practices at scale and in my opinion are must reads for DevOps practitioners as well as senior management.

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It’s a Journey from “Aha to Ka-Ching”

DevOps is not “something you do” but a state you continuously move towards by doing other things. it’s a journey of continuous improvement. During the event, several companies highlighted that it’s a journey of experimentation, accepting failure along the way, while also incrementally improving the way they build and deliver software. There were some excellent case study presentations. For example, Heather Mickman, Sr. Director of Technology Services at Target, has presented three years in a row and showed how a grassroots, bottoms up DevOps transformation at Target has enabled the company to enlist the support of executive management. Target was able to scale software deployments from 2-3 per day in 2015 to 90 per day twelve months later.  The Target team achieved this by aligning product teams with business capabilities, removing friction points, and making everything self-service. What’s next for Target?  Take everything to the cloud.  The journey continues.

If you want to go far, go together

Leading change was the main theme of the event and was highlighted in many different ways. For example, Microsoft discussed their new vision of enabling any engineer to contribute to any product or service at Microsoft, thus leading the change to a single engineering system. Engineers follow an “engineering north star” with the objective that dev can move to another team and already know how to work. Leading change does not just focus on new innovation. DevOps is also about innovating with your “Core”.  Walmart’s mainframe team took the lead and created a Web caching service at scale that distributed teams could leverage. While both examples show how technology is being used to move forward together, there has to be a culture that supports this type of high performance. Many sessions focused on how to build a generative culture and the leadership that is required to change people and processes.

DevOpsDriveIn

Creating a culture that supports a successful DevOps transformation is such an important topic, that I have invited Gene Kim to come on our next Micro Focus DevOps Drive-in, December 1, 2016 at  9am PST to discuss the research he conducted while developing his latest book, “The DevOps Handbook”, and techniques to build a culture of continuous experimentation and learning. Hope to see you there!

Latest updates to Micro Focus COBOL Development and Mainframe Solutions now available

Building a stronger sense of community–It’s a topic often discussed across many industries and technical professions and coincidentally, also a favorite topic at Micro Focus #DevDay events. Amie Johnson, Solutions Marketing strategist at Micro Focus digs deeper into this topic and uncovers some core reasons why community matters while also sharing some exciting product news for COBOL and Mainframe enthusiasts.

If you haven’t attended a Micro Focus #DevDay event in the past few months, let me recap that typical attendee experience for you.  It’s a day jam-packed will technology demonstrations, interactive Q&A sessions, hands on labs and much more.  Its eight hours of technology focused discussions designed for the COBOL and Mainframe developer. If you look closely though, you’ll also see something else, beyond the tech – community development.  I’m always pleased to see attending delegates in engaging conversation with other peers often sharing their ‘COBOL’ stories.  This sense of community both educates, and builds best practices while establishing long term relationships for all involved.  It also removes any perceived isolation that could occur if such conversations did not occur.  You’ll also see many of these experienced professionals talk shop, exchange stories from the past and seek answers to needed problems and questions. In many ways, #DevDay is the place where enterprise developers belong and where everyone knows your name.

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This week’s events in Dallas didn’t disappoint with a strong focus on COBOL application modernization, and performance, along with a desire to ‘sell that strategy’ upwards in the organization.  With thousands upon thousands of COBOL applications supporting everyday activities including banking, insurance, air travel, equities trading, government services and more; it’s no surprise that (for many attending) COBOL remains a solid choice for core business. Most acknowledge though that there are external pressures, though, to consider new solutions, perhaps even re-write or re-place those applications with new technologies. Underlying complexity and cost, however, often sideline those projects in favor of less risky approaches to modernization.  After all, these (COBOL) applications are essential to business success and the tolerance for business is often very low.  But there’s pressure to modernize with an eye to embracing new models, new tech and the future.

Micro Focus Continued Investment in COBOL and Mainframe Technologies

The goal of course, through event discussions is to ensure that all guest leave the event feeling it was valuable and delivered some practical skills which they could use when back at the office.  Yes, many attending are interested in the Micro Focus investment strategy for COBOL and Mainframe tech.  We cover that with ample detail and discussion ensuring all understand that COBOL is just as modern as the thousands of new programming languages available today—and they see it too through many demo examples.

This future proof strategy for COBOL ensures that applications, many of which support global enterprise, continue to function and support the business. Supporting this strategy are the following key data-points discussed while in Dallas:

  • 85% of surveyed customers believe their COBOL applications are strategic to the business
  • 2/3 of the survey respondents that maintain these COBOL applications are seeking new ways to improve efficiency and the software delivery process  while modernizing their applications to work with next gen technology including relational database management systems, Web services, APIs and integrate with Java and .Net code environments

These drivers underpin the continued Micro Focus commitment to support the widest variety of enterprise platforms.  Today, over 50+ application platforms are supported providing maximum choice, freedom and flexibility for anyone using COBOL. This capability coupled with a continued annual R&D investment of $60M reaffirms that COBOL is ready for innovation whether it be .NET, Java, mobile, cloud, or the Internet of Things. And this week brings even more exciting news as we released the latest updates to our COBOL Development and Mainframe technologies.

Mainframe Development Solution Updates

Versions 2.3.2 of Enterprise Developer, Enterprise Test Server, Enterprise Server, and Enterprise Server for .NET are now available.  The Micro Focus Enterprise product suite helps organizations build, test, and deploy business critical mainframe workloads with an eye toward future innovation and market change.

Highlights in this latest update include:

  • Latest platform support – including Linux on IBM Power Systems and Windows 10 – future-proofs applications.
  • Ability to extract COBOL and PL/I business rules to copybooks makes code re-use easier so developers can work smarter and faster.
  • Enhanced CICS Web Services support helps customers more easily meet the demand for web and mobile application interoperability.
  • Improved mainframe compatibility simplifies re-hosting and extends modernization options for customers deploying to .NET and Azure.

Examples of customers using these solutions include, B+S Banksysteme, City of Fort Worth, and City of Inglewood.

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COBOL Development Solution Updates

In COBOL development, the latest version of Visual COBOL 2.3 Update 2 includes the latest updates that helps you organize and manage core IT systems developed in COBOL, providing a pathway to new IT architecture and access to modern tools for enterprise application development.  This release includes over 100 customer requested enhancements and support for the latest enterprise platform updates and 3rd party software.

Highlights in this latest update include:

  • New support for the JBoss EAP platform
  • Updates for the latest releases of supported operating systems
  • Over 100 customer requested fixes and enhancements

Examples of customers using these solutions include Dexia Crediop, Heinsohn Business Technology, and The County of San Luis Obispo..

For Micro Focus customers on maintenance the latest updates can be downloaded via the Supportline portal

So check out these latest COBOL and Mainframe solutions.  Read how these customers are embracing next gen technology alongside their existing core business systems.  And for those interested in joining the COBOL community at the next Micro Focus #DevDay, check out our events calendar here.  Save your seat and join the conversation.

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Innovate Faster with Lower Risk at Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016

Mark Levy blogs about the upcoming Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016 with over 60 technical sessions focused on how to design, build, test, and deploy applications faster, with less risk in a repeatable, reliable and secure way. DevOps Interchange will be a great opportunity to network, get solutions for your problems and share your ideas and solutions.

Marketing and Innovation

Peter Drucker, the father of modern management said, “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs.” Marketing is required to understand the needs of the customer and innovation is required to build the product or services that fit those customer needs.

Innovation provides competitive differentiation in the markets where you have to be consistently better and smarter at creating customers than your competitors.  Businesses have been using innovation as a competitive weapon for centuries to create value and differentiation, but only recently have businesses been using software to enable and accelerate business innovation.

Building and delivering software has always been a difficult race against time. I was a software developer for well over 10 years and I was always racing to a date. But over the last several years, that race has entered an even more challenging phase. Several market forces are at work, putting the pressure on the business to deliver business value faster, with better quality, and at a lower cost to the customer.

With the explosion of mobile, there is a newly empowered customer who is forcing the business to deliver quickly to prove out business ideas and innovations. If the business is not responsive enough, low switching costs enables the customer to easily migrate to another competitor.  Additionally, digital competition is everywhere. Firms that use software and the cloud to disrupt established markets can move faster than more traditional businesses because software-based services can evolve faster and offer the opportunity to out-innovate market incumbents.  Epic battles are already being waged across many industries between incumbents and software powered companies.

Finally, the impact of software has dramatically increased across all kinds of business. Today, business innovation is often driven by information technology, which itself demands changes to software.  Software development and delivery has to change or the business will be at risk.

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Innovate Faster with Lower Risk

Today, every enterprise IT organization is under pressure to simultaneously respond more quickly to enable business innovation, and at the same time provide a stable, secure, compliant and predictable IT environment.  IT must maintain and update the “Enterprise Software Engine” that is running the enterprise, i.e., keeping the lights on, while also providing capacity to support business innovation.  These are not mutually exclusive but actually form an integrated value chain that leverages the traditional systems of record with the customer facing systems of innovation.  These pressures have given rise to Enterprise DevOps as all enterprises must enable the business to innovate faster with lower risk.

Enterprise DevOps is all about building and delivering better quality software, faster and more reliably. IT organizations that implement Enterprise DevOps practices achieve higher IT and organizational performance, spanning both development and operations.  Technical practices such as Continuous Delivery lead to lower levels of deployment pain while speeding up application delivery and improving quality, security, and business outcomes.  The DevOps culture promotes a generative, high trust, performance-oriented culture which enables good information flow, cross-functional collaboration and job satisfaction.  This all leads to higher levels of productivity enabling business innovation with lower risk.

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Micro Focus DevOps Interchange 2016

This very important topic will be the main focus of Micro Focus’s first annual global user conference, DevOps Interchange 2016 , September 18-21, 2016 in Chicago, Ill.  Micro Focus’s own John Delk,  Product Group GM at Micro Focus, will kick off the conference with his “Vision 2020” look at how software development and delivery technology will change and how we must adapt and embrace it. We have also invited Gary Gruver, author of “Leading the transformation – Applying DevOps and Agile principles at scale”, to give a keynote talk about DevOps, where to begin, and how to scale DevOps practices over time in large enterprises.  With over 60 technical sessions, focused on how to design, build, test, and deploy applications faster, with less risk in a repeatable, reliable and secure way, this conference will be a great opportunity to network, get solutions for your problems and share your ideas and solutions.  I hope to see you there!

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The Cloud: small step not quantum leap

Ed Airey, Solutions Marketing Director for our COBOL and mainframe products, looks at how the right technology can take the enterprise into the Cloud – and how one customer is already getting great results.

We have often used the Micro Focus blog to consider the next wave of disruptive technology; what it is and what it means for the enterprise.

We have looked at mobile technology and the far-reaching aspects of phenomena such as BYOD. Enterprise customers running mature, well-established tech have managed all of these with varying degrees of success.

The key to linking older, COBOL applications with more contemporary customer must-haves, such as web, mobile and Internet of Things apps, is using an enabling technology to help make that transition.

The Cloud is often thought of as synonymous with new companies running modern infrastructures. The default target profile would be a recent start-up using contemporary tech and delivery processes. They can set up in the Cloud and harness the power of on-demand infrastructure from the get-go.

But what about…

The enterprise, however, looks very different. Its business-critical business systems run on traditional, on-premise hardware and software environments – how can it adapt to Cloud computing? And what of business leaders concerned about cost, speed to market, or maximizing the benefits of SaaS? Where can developers looking to support business-critical applications alongside modern tech make the incremental step to virtual or Cloud environments?

Micro Focus technology can make this quantum leap a small step and help organizations running business-critical COBOL applications maximize the opportunity to improve flexibility and scale without adding cost.

Visual COBOL is the enabler

With the support of the right technology, COBOL applications can do more than the original developers ever thought possible. The advent of the mobile banking app proves that COBOL apps can adapt to new environments.

Visual COBOL is that technology and application virtualization is the first step for organizations making the move to the Cloud. A virtually-deployed application can help the enterprise take the step into the Cloud, improve flexibility and increase responsiveness to future demand. It can help even the most complex application profiles.

Modernization in action

Trasmediterranea Acciona is a leading Spanish corporation and operates in many verticals, including infrastructures, energy, water, and services, in more than 30 countries.

Their mainframe underpinned their ticketing and boarding application services, including COBOL batch processes and CICS transactions. Although efficient, increasing costs and wider economic concerns in Spain made the mainframe a costly option that prevented further investment in the applications and the adoption of new technologies.

Virtualization enables enterprises to prepare their applications for off-site hosted infrastructure environments, such as Microsoft Azure. It is a simple first stage of a modernization strategy that will harness smart technology, enabling organizations to leverage COBOL applications without rewriting current code.

Using the Micro Focus Visual COBOL solution certainly helped Acconia, who worked with Micro Focus technology partner Microsoft Consulting Services to port their core COBOL applications and business rules to .NET and Azure without having to rewrite their code.

As Acconia later commented, “We can reuse our critical COBOL application … [this was] the lowest risk route in taking this application to the Cloud. Making our core logistics application available under Microsoft Azure … has not only dramatically reduced our costs, but it also helps position our applications in a more agile, modern architecture for the future”.

And as the evidence grows that more enterprises than ever are looking at the Cloud, it is important that their ‘first steps’ do not leave you behind.

Find out more here www.microfocus.com/cloud

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Start over, or with what you know?

Derek Britton’s last blog looked at the appetite for change in IT. This time, he looks at real-world tactics for implementing large-scale change, and assesses the risks involved.

Introduction

In my recent blog I drew upon overwhelming market evidence to conclude that today’s IT leadership faces unprecedented demand for change in an age of bewildering complexity. That “change”, however, can arrive in many shapes and forms, and the choice of strategy may differ according to a whole range of criteria – technical investments to date, available skills, organizational strategy, customer preference, marketing strategy, cost of implementation, and many more besides. This blog explores and contrasts a couple of the options IT leaders have.

Starting Over?

Ever felt like just starting over? The difficulty of changing complex back-end IT systems, when staffing is so tight, where the pressure to change is so high, with an ever-growing backlog – there is point at which the temptation to swap out the hulking, seething old system with something new, functional and modern, will arrive.

Sizing Up the Task

We’re sometimes asked by senior managers in enterprise development shops, how they should assess whether to rewrite or replace a system versus keeping it going and modernizing it. They sense there is danger in replacing the current system, but can’t quantify to other stakeholders why what is.

Of course, it is impossible to give a simple answer for every case, but there are some very common pitfalls in embarking on a major system overhaul. These can include:

  • High Risk and High Cost involved
  • Lost business opportunity while embarking on this project
  • Little ‘new’ value in what is fundamentally a replacement activity

This sounds a rather unpleasant list. Not only is it unpleasant, but the ramifications in the industry are all too stark. These are just a few randomly-selected examples of high profile “project failures” where major organizations have attempted a major IT overhaul project.

  • State of Washington pulled the plug on their $40M LAMP project. It was six times more expensive than original system
  • HCA ended their MARS project, taking a $110M-$130M charge as a result
  • State of California abandoned a $2 billion court management system (a five-year, $27 million plan to develop a system for keeping track of the state’s 31 million drivers’ licenses and 38 million vehicle registrations)
  • The U.S. Navy spent $1 Billion on a failed ERP project

Exceptional Stuff?

OK, so there have been some high-profile mistakes. But might they be merely the exception rather than the rule? Another source of truth are those who spend their time following and reporting on the IT industry. And two such organizations, Gartner and Standish, have reported more than one about the frequency of failed overhaul projects. A variety of studies over the years keeps coming back to the risks involved. Anything up to a 70% failure is cited in analyst studies when talking about rewriting core systems.

Building a case for a rewrite

Either way, many IT leaders will want specific projections for their own business, not abstract or vague examples from elsewhere.

Using as an example a rewrite project[1] – where in this case a new system is built from scratch, by hand (as opposed to automatically generated) in another language such as Java. Let’s allow some improvement in performance because we’re using a new, modern tool to build the new system (by the way, COBOL works in this modern environment too, but let’s just ignore that for now).

Let’s calculate the cost – conceptually

Rewrite Cost = (application size) x (80% efficiency from modern frameworks) x (developer cost per day) / speed of writing

The constants being used in this case were as follows –

  • The size of the application, a very modest system, was roughly 2 Million lines of code, written in COBOL
  • The per-day developer cost was $410/day
  • The assumed throughput of building new applications was estimated at 100 lines of code per day, which is a very generous daily rate.

Calculated, this is a cost of $6.5M. Or, in days’ effort, about 16,000.

Considerations worth stating:

  • This is purely to build the new application. Not to test it in any way. You would need, of course, rigorous QA and end-user acceptance testing.
  • This is purely to pay for this rewrite. In 10 years when this system gets outmoded, or the appetite for another technology is high, or if there are concerns over IT skills, do you earmark similar budget?
  • This assumes a lot about whether the new application could replicate the very unique business rules captured in the COBOL code – but which are unlikely to be well understood or documented today.

A well-trodden path to modernization

Another client, one of the world’s largest retailers, looked at a variety of options for change, among them modernizing, and rewriting. They concluded the rewrite would be at least 4 times more expensive to build, and would take 7 or 8 times longer to deliver, than modernizing what they had. They opted to modernize.

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Elsewhere, other clients have drawn the same conclusions.

“Because of the flexibility and choice within [Micro Focus] COBOL, we were able to realize an eight month ROI on this project – which allowed us to go to market much faster than planned.”

— Mauro Cancellieri,  Manager. Ramao Calcados

“Some of our competitors have written their applications in Java, and they’ve proven not to be as stable, fast or scalable as our systems. Our COBOL-based [banking solution] however, has proved very robust under high workloads and deliver a speed that can’t be matched by Java applications.”

— Dean Mathieson, Product Development Manager, FNS / TCS

Our Recommendation

Core business systems define the organization; they – in many cases – are the organization. The applications that provide mortgage decisions, make insurance calculations, confirm holiday bookings, manage the production lines at car manufacturers, process and track parcel deliveries, they offer priceless value. Protecting their value and embracing the future needs a pragmatic, low-risk approach that leverages the valued IT assets that already work, delivers innovation and an ROI faster than other approaches, and is considerably less expensive.

If you are looking at IT strategic change, talk to us, and we’d love to discuss our approach.



[1] We can’t speculate on the costs involved with package replacement projects – it wouldn’t be fair for us to estimate the price of an ERP or CRM package, for example.

Enterprise DevOps is different: here’s why

Many of the world’s largest enterprises are looking at DevOps. But, as many are discovering, implementing it is not without its pitfalls. In his first Micro Focus blog, software industry guru Kevin Parker outlines what DevOps means at the enterprise scale.

Introduction

The DevOps movement evolved to allow organizations to innovate fast and reduce risk. DevOps rethinks how software development and delivery occurs and it reshapes how IT is organized and how IT delivers value to the business. However, some “pure” DevOps ideas are difficult to implement in highly regulated, large enterprises.

A question of scale

When the organization is required to meet strict government audit and compliance standards, when you have optimized IT delivery around a monolithic, centralized infrastructure and when you have specialist teams to manage discreet technologies, it is very difficult to relax those controls and remove the barriers in order to adopt a shared-ownership model called DevOps. Yet implementing DevOps is exactly what over a quarter of the largest global IT teams are doing today.

So how do highly regulated, large enterprises benefit and succeed with DevOps?

Preparing for Change

Enterprise scale adoption requires enterprise-wide change. As Derek Britton said in a recent perspective on the cultural impact of DevOps, “[it is] those who preside over larger systems, [where] that chaos will be most keenly felt.”

There has to be acceptance that changes to practices, processes, policies, procedures and plans will occur as the ownership of responsibility and accountability moves to more logical places in the lifecycle. Trust must be freely given. Every action taken must have transparent verification through common access to project data. This will be disruptive so there must be strong leadership and commitment through the chaos that will occur.

Not just for the Purists

In the table below some of the differences that exist between “pure” DevOps and DevOps as implemented in highly regulated, large enterprises:

“Pure” DevOps Enterprise DevOps
Pure Agile teams Variable speed IT with waterfall, agile and hybrid development and deployment
Multidisciplinary team members with shared ownership and accountability Team maintains strict Separation of Duties (SoD) with clear boundaries and concentrations of technical specialists
Drawn primarily from Dev and Ops teams Drawn primarily from Change and Release teams
Limited variability in platforms, technologies, methodologies and a generally a standardized toolset – often Open Source Solutions (OSS) Wide variances in platforms, technology, methodologies and toolsets with many so-called legacy, and often competing, solutions – occasionally  Open Source Solutions (OSS)
Generally collocated small teams Generally geographically dispersed large teams
Frequent micro-sourcing and contingent workforce Frequent outsourcing inshore and offshore
Light compliance culture Strong compliance culture
Limited cross-project dependencies Complex cross-project dependencies
Architecture of application strongly influenced by microservices approach Architecture bound by legacy systems steadily being replaced by encircling with newer ones
Experimental, A-B testing, Fail-Fast culture Innovate Fast And Reduce Risk culture
Team developing the app runs the app Team developing the app kept separate from team executing the app

The key takeaway is this – an enterprise-scale adoption requires some very smart planning and consideration.

Automate to Accelerate

The key to successful DevOps adoption comes down to automation. Whether your DevOps initiative starts as a grassroots movement from the project teams in a line a business or from an executive mandate across the corporation, bringing automation to as much of the lifecycle as is practicable is what ensures the success of the transformation. Only through automation is it possible to cement the changes necessary to effect lasting improvements in behavior and culture.

Through automation, we can achieve transparency into the development and delivery process and identify where bottlenecks and errors occur. With the telemetry thrown off by automation we are able to track, audit and measure the velocity, volume and value of the changes flowing through the system, constantly optimize, and improve the process. With this comes the ability to identify success and head off failure allowing for everyone to share in the continuous improvement in software delivery.

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The Time is Now

Nothing is more important in IT than the timely delivery of working software safely into production. The last decade has seen astonishing growth in the complexity of releases and the consequences of failure and astounding change in the volume and velocity of change. As each market, technology and methodology shift has occurred, it has become ever more critical for Dev and Ops to execute software changes flawlessly.

With the extraordinary synergies between the Micro Focus and newly-acquired Serena solutions it is now possible to create and end-to-end automated software development and delivery lifecycle from the mainframe to mobile and beyond and to affect your DevOps transformation in a successful and sustained manner. Read more here.

Kevin Parker

Vice President – Worldwide Marketing, Serena Software

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Market Attitudes to Modernization

The tried-and-trusted enterprise-scale server of choice is casually regarded as an unchanging world. Yet today’s digital world means the mainframe is being asked to do greater and greater things. Derek Britton investigates big-iron market attitudes to change.

Keeping the Mainframe Modern

A Firm Foundation

The IBM Mainframe environment has been on active duty since the mid 1960’s and remains the platform of choice for the vast majority of the world’s most successful organizations. However, technology has evolved at an unprecedented pace in the last generation, and today’s enterprise server market is more competitive than ever. So it would be wholly fair to ask whether the mainframe remains as popular as ever.

You don’t have to look too hard for the answer. Whether you are reading reports from surveys conducted by CA, Compuware, Syncsort, BMC, IBM or Micro Focus, the response is loud and clear – the mainframe is the heart of the business.

Summarizing the surveys we’ve seen, for many organizations the Mainframe remains an unequivocally strategic asset. Typical survey responses depict up to 90% of the industry seeing the mainframe platform as being strategic for at least another decade (Sources: BMC, Compuware and others).

It could also be argued that the value of the platform is a reflection of the applications which it supports. So perhaps unsurprisingly, a survey conducted by Micro Focus showed that over 85% of Mainframe applications are considered strategic.

plus ça change

However, the appetite for change is also evident. Again, this holds true in the digital age. An unprecedentedly large global market, with more vocal users than ever, are demanding greater change across an unprecedented variety of access methods (devices). No system devised in the 1960s or 1970s could have possibly conceived the notion of the internet, of the mobile age, of the internet of things; yet that’s what they do have to do today – cope with this new world. Understandably, surveys reflect that: Micro Focus found two-thirds of those surveyed recognize a need to ‘do things differently’ in terms of application/service delivery and are seeking a more efficient approach.

The scale of change seems to be a growing problem that is impossible to avoid. In another survey, results show that IT is failing to keep up with the pace of change. A study by Vanson Bourne revealed that IT Backlogs (also referred to as IT Debt) had increased by 29% in just 18 months. Extrapolated, that’s the same as the workload doubling in less than five years. Supply is utterly failing demand.

Supporting this, and driven by new customer demands in today’s digital economy, over 40% of respondents confirmed that they are actively seeking to modernize their applications to support next generation technologies including Java, RDBMS, REST-based web services and .NET.  Many are also seeking to leverage modern development tools (Source: Micro Focus)

And it isn’t just technical change. The process of delivery is also being reviewed. We know from Gartner that 25% of the Global 2000 have adopted DevOps in response to the need for accelerated change, and that this figure is growing at 21% each year, suggesting the market is evolving towards a model of more frequent delivery.

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Crossroads

Taking what works and improving it is not, however, the only option. Intrepid technologists might be tempted by a more draconian approach, hoping to manage and mitigate the associated cost and risk.

Package replacements take considerable budget and time, only to deliver – typically – a rough equivalent of the old system. Both unique competitive advantage is compromised, and of course packages are available to the open market. Such an approach is known to have a 40% failure rate, according to Standish Group. Custom rewrite projects appear to be riskier still, the same report talking about a 70% failure rate and extremely lengthy and costly projects.

Worse still, reports from CAST Software suggest that Java (a typical replacement language choice) is around 4 times more costly to maintain than equivalent COBOL-based core systems. The risks of such a drastic change are clear.

Moving Ahead

Meeting future need never ends. Today’s innovation is tomorrow’s standard. Change is the only true constant. As such, the established methods of providing business value need to be constantly scrutinized and challenged. The mainframe market sees its inherent value and regards the platform as well-placed to support the future.

And to meet the demands of the digital age, the mainframe world is evolving: new complimentary technology and methods will provide the greater efficiencies it needs to keep up with the pace of change. Find out more at MicroFocus.com and / or download the white paper ‘Discover the State of Enterprise IT

Visual COBOL new release: Small point. Big deal

The latest iteration of Visual COBOL is a minor point release that could make a big difference to how our customers manage their business application portfolios. Solutions Marketing Director Ed Airey explains more

As my colleague Derek Britton recently pointed out, IT must adapt to help customers to meet the challenges of change. We get that. That is why every new iteration of Visual COBOL has enabled owners of COBOL applications to innovate.

They create new products from long-established IT assets and Visual COBOL 2.3.1 continues the narrative for those running COBOL on Windows or UNIX or Linux.

For Micro Focus it signals a further commitment to future-proofing the core applications that run the business. For our customers it offers more options to deliver the products their customers demand and dealing with change, both planned and unplanned. But what does that mean? And how does the new version help?

Platform alteration

The increasing pace of change is driving the need to innovate faster and IT is the key to delivering it. Whatever the end product, it must be delivered cost-effectively. For some organizations, that means changing operating systems and platforms. The freedom of open source, personified by Linux, offers new options and freedoms.

IBM recognize the new direction, hence their investment in Linux on Power and LinuxOne. These systems offer the robustness and performance of proven enterprise systems – up to 30bn transactions per day and 100 per cent uptime – and the option for continual innovation.

ibmpowerlinux

A new version for a new profile

Visual COBOL now supports systems running Linux on Power (LOP). More details here.  This new Linux capability is an incremental move that for some organizations could represent a sea change.

It’s a step forward reflected in another Micro Focus product update for mainframers. As this latest blog explains, the mainframe solution is also now at Enterprise 2.3.1.  So great news for friends of Big Blue who can now access the same tools and capability.

Visual COBOL has been in the open systems space for some time. It already supports SUSE Linux, but the move to LOP represents a new opportunity for owners of COBOL applications to utilize the power of flexible platforms offering ‘new project’ innovation and modern development options. VC1

So why is this significant?

For the modern IT enterprise, this move further consolidates the alignment of important entities.

COBOL’s resilience is well-documented. Micro Focus continues to invest millions of R&D dollars and future educational support in COBOL. The developer-driven #COBOLrocks Tech cast series open the door to new opportunities for those at the front line of application development. Aligning that potential with the flexibility of Linux extends the potential for innovation through application modernization.

It also further consolidates the relationship between IBM and Micro Focus. Our customer share a similar profile–enterprise, large in scale, core business systems–and their investment in Linux on Power gives those organizations with COBOL applications, powerful options to embrace future change.

One solution for every environment

Micro Focus supports platform choice. Which is why the new incarnation of Visual COBOL means that any environment can be customized to offer future flexibility, whatever the profile.

While LOP enablement is the stand-out feature of 2.3.1, Visual COBOL brings the same level of innovation and modernization to other processors. Languages are the same–Java was recently called out as, potentially, sharing COBOL’s resilience. No problem. Visual COBOL delivers unrivaled flexibility across your choice of modern language, platform or architecture. .

See what this means for your business applications – discover the depth of potential for application innovation in your organization–check out the Visual COBOL solution brief to learn more about this unique, flexible technology.

Mainframe Modernization Keeps On Moving: 2.3.1 is here

Micro Focus’ commitment to customer success is enshrined in its regular drops of exciting new technology. Amie Johnson takes us through the latest mainframe product set updates, out this week.

Introduction

Micro Focus’ commitment to improving z Systems application delivery bore more fruit this week in the form of a new update to its Enterprise Product Set. For customers with strategic mainframe applications, the Enterprise Solution set helps you manage complex business workloads with an eye toward future innovation and market change.

Ent2threeone

You Asked For It

This latest iteration of the Micro Focus mainframe delivery technology, version 2.3.1, comprises a number of new capabilities. By listening during the many dozens of mainframe modernization engagements we’re involved in at any given time, we continue to focus on the things that matter the most to our market.

Common themes emerging from the mainframe modernization projects we’ve worked on can be summarized in two simple phrases:

  •  Our client’s core mainframe applications don’t just support the business, they ARE the business. We have customers successfully running and modernizing COBOL and PL/I applications because they are the secret ingredients that make them better than the competition.
  • When it comes to addressing the changes that must be made to remain relevant and successful in today’s fierce global market, the risks associated with modernization, and the cost and time to change, must be as low as possible, but with great results.

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What’s In The Box

Let’s explore a few of the newly available capabilities in this iteration of our Enterprise Analyzer, Enterprise Developer, Enterprise Test Server and Enterprise Server products.

Extra Mobility:

As we help our customers continue to deliver incremental value through IT, making our products easy to use is vital. This is why one of the key features of this update makes web-enabling CICS applications much easier. CICS Web Services are important to mainframe customers as they look to mobile-enable their existing applications to support new business need. In 2.3.1 we have further enhanced our ability to support customers in developing, testing and deploying CICS Web Services. Additionally, using Enterprise Test Server, clients can establish multi-user testing of CICS Web Services applications, without needing to consume additional mainframe MIPS.

Well-Managed:

Whether it’s to support web or mobile users, our customers need to modernize and extend existing applications to support the latest way consumers access their services. An example of how we support this is the Micro Focus Enterprise Server for .NET, which enables our customers to deploy their COBOL applications as Managed Code.  For customers with a Microsoft-centric strategy that want to integrate their existing applications with other services, this creates the option of extending COBOL applications using other managed code languages such as C#. CICS applications in a managed code, even Cloud-based environment, is readily-accessible.

COBOL Forever:

We pride ourselves on being the best mainframe development environment, and as such compatibility with IBM’s Enterprise COBOL remains a priority. We have made enhancements in our support for Enterprise COBOL 5.2 and are currently reviewing the new functions in COBOL 6 for inclusion in a future release of Enterprise Developer.

Subsytem Support:

Mainframe compatibility is a priority for our rehost customers so in addition to the Enterprise COBOL and CICS Web Services support already mentioned we have also delivered updates to our PL/I, IMS and DB2 support to further improve our compatibility with the mainframe and reduce the requirement for application changes when rehosting to Enterprise Server.

However, the list of what to expect in this latest drop from our regular product release schedule is considerably longer. Additional functionality highlights we’ve delivered based on our customers’ needs include:

  • Faster access to application knowledge through improved usability and better performance on large Enterprise Analyzer repositories.
  • Code coverage colorization to help developers quickly identify application code that has not been executed during testing cycles.
  • Incorporation of coding standards rules into continuous integration environments enabling easier use across development teams.
  • Increased access security to mainframe resources through support for ‘pass tickets.’
  • Reduced elapsed time for batch processes through improved sorting of Fixed Block files.

Where Can I get it?

Customers that are current on maintenance for any of these products can login and download updates from the SupportLine web portal. You can also access the release notes from the Product Documentation area on SupportLine and the Enterpise Analyzer and Enterprise  “What’s new” documents from the main Micro Focus Web site.

Contact us for further information if you would like to upgrade your current product to receive this latest update.