Moving the World with a Mainframe Force Multiplier
The Greek physicist Archimedes famously said that given a lever long enough and the right place to stand, he could move the Earth. He made this claim to underscore what a powerful force multiplier the simple lever is.
Mainframe owners today are very much in need of a similarly powerful force multiplier. Most enterprises with mainframes will continue to run most of their critical applications on the platform for the foreseeable future. And with good reason. These mainframe applications are essential to businesses. And they run with unmatched reliability, security, economy and performance-at-scale.
But large enterprises are rapidly losing their most experienced mainframe specialists to retirement. Directly replacing these mainframe specialists on a like-for-like basis is virtually impossible. The resulting diminution of the mainframe workforce is a direct threat to every enterprise that relies on mainframe applications.
In other words, enterprises are desperately in need of an Archimedean force multiplier that will empower them to not only do the same amount of work with fewer people—but actually improve the velocity, quality and efficiency of mainframe DevOps as stewardship of the mainframe platform shifts to the next generation.
Of course, a lot has to change for mainframe applications to fulfill their purpose in the broader digital transformation of the enterprise. The platform itself had to evolve. And IBM has obviously done an admirable job of that, seeing as the z14 has just delivered the strongest four-quarter release cycle in over a decade.
Mainframe culture and processes also have to evolve away from outmoded waterfall methods and a “Department of No” mindset to Agile, DevOps and more aggressive responsiveness to ever-changing market imperatives.
As our commissioned research with Forrester Consulting uncovered, “To succeed in the digital age, firms will need to manage increasing workloads with fewer workers. To do this, they must bring greater focus to velocity and efficiency of mainframe development and leverage KPIs.”
But tools matter. In fact, throughout human history, tools cause change. They don’t result from it. The force multiplier of the ox-powered plow changed agriculture—not the other way around. The steam engine and power loom were force multipliers that triggered the Industrial Revolution. Tools were not triggered by it.
The same is true of the mainframe. Only with innovative force-multiplying mainframe tools can a reduced allocation of skilled digital artisans quickly, easily and frequently modify COBOL and other mainframe applications as required to succeed in a world of continuous delivery. Only with innovative force-multiplying mainframe tools can large enterprises use their size and incumbency as an advantage over new, disruptive market entrants—rather than suffering under them at a competitive disadvantage.
Deciding vs. Doing
One of the great things about re-tooling the mainframe is that it’s concrete. There’s nothing abstract about acquiring force-multiplying tools for your team and seeing the impact on their work. Another great thing is how immediately measurable that impact is. It’s a lot like watching one person use a manual screwdriver while another uses a power drill. The difference in performance is clear and quantifiable.
A third great thing about re-tooling is that you can do it incrementally. Process and culture change, while ultimately essential, tend to be long-term, multifaceted undertakings. But with re-tooling, you can zero in on a specific bottleneck and alleviate it. One of the most common bottlenecks in mainframe development, for example, is unit testing—a fundamental stable of Agile practice. So you can start your force multiplication by simply adopting a solution for automating that unit testing. Then you can incrementally continue your force multiplication by attacking your next-worst DevOps obstacle.
What’s not an option is the tenuous status quo. You cannot attract, train, motivate and retain a new generation of mainframe stewards with woefully outdated tools that are entwined in a customer-blind, maintenance dominated culture and chronically unpredictable waterfall methods. You have to find the right and preferred tool, acquire it, put it in the hands of your team and then make sure they’re using it to its full potential.
That requires leadership, action and accountability—all of which are desperately needed at large enterprises with core business applications running on the mainframe. So if you’re that type of leader, it’s high time to embrace the new generation of force-multiplying mainframe tools. Those tools won’t just move your mainframe. By moving your mainframe, they will move your company’s world.
Watch this video to learn more about Compuware’s force multipliers.
This post originally appeared on LinkedIn.