mainframe application documentation | Compuware | Topaz Team Profiles
March 21, 2019 Mainframe Agility 0 Comments

Solving the Mainframe Application Documentation Challenge

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Overview: Mainframe application documentation has never been easy, and it’s getting harder today. Learn how Topaz Team Profiles can help alleviate some pain through knowledge sharing.


The role of a mainframe developer is changing dramatically as mainframe workloads grow to support the expansion of customer-facing applications. For 72 percent of firms, these applications are either completely or very reliant on the mainframe according to a Compuware-commissioned Forrester study.

Developers must increase development and delivery velocity, quality and efficiency—and with fewer hands as mainframe experts retire—to manage this new work. What kind of time does this leave for mainframe application documentation?

Mainframe Application Documentation Historically

Many of today’s work-horse mainframe applications began as internal applications in the late 20th century. There was often an employee (the bank teller, the travel agent) who acted as a liaison between these applications and the actual customers. This led to the concept of living documentation.

The expertise of the people who worked on these systems, often for decades, served as the basis of knowledge around these systems. This was true for both the IT staff that maintained these applications and the staff that served as liaisons.

New-hires took months to onboard, and productivity suffered, as we had to explain in detail how our systems worked and what each program did. Even experienced programmers often struggled when moving to a new business application. Documentation had the lowest priority, so it never got done.

A Modern Approach

People have even less time to document procedures and practices today—and let’s face it, no one wants to. On top of this, even if people are documenting, it eventually becomes outdated because it’s only a representation of things at a single point in time.

It’s critical that mainframe application documentation is performed, but it shouldn’t get in the way of getting new mainframe developers up to speed quickly. Technology and automation finally have delivered a solution for this challenge.

Now embedded in Compuware’s Topaz suite of modern mainframe development, testing and data management tools is Topaz Team Profiles, a feature that allows developers to share their techniques, best practices and tools with everyone else, saving time and eliminating the frustration of always starting from scratch.

Using Projects in Topaz, you can isolate the assets required for a unit of work and organize them in a logical way, including data assets, JCL and source assets. The original developer can quickly build Topaz for Total Test projects for creating functional and unit testing environments and ISPW projects that allow for a logical organization of code artifacts.

Once you create this idealized environment, you can share it with others through Topaz Team Profiles so they can leverage your work creating this ideal development environment rather than starting from scratch. This makes it easy for anyone who isn’t familiar with Topaz or a unit of work to quickly become productive.

Team profiles are the real thing that can serve as a form of documentation, and when the profile is updated, there isn’t a need to perform another manual task to keep it in sync with a static doc representation. As I described it in a previous blog post, “it’s as if you have a direct link to the original developer, a USB connection to their brain, all without taking the expert away from his or her work. Even after the original designer retires, their projects remain, ensuring the expertise is never lost.”

The painstaking task of documenting practices is still critical, especially in mainframe development. But experienced mainframe developers should also use Team Profiles to build environments that streamline their work and the work of others. It’s that simple, and that smart.

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Chief Innovator, Denise P. Kalm began her career in biochemical genetics (M.S. University of Michigan). She went on to have a career in IT, beginning with programming, moving to performance and capacity planning and then to work for vendors. Her experience as a performance analyst/capacity planner, software consultant, and then marketing maven at various software companies grounds her work providing contract writing, editing, marketing and speaking services. She is a frequently published author in both the IT world and outside. Kalm is a requested speaker at such venues as SHARE, CMG and ITFMA and has enhanced her skills through Toastmasters where she has earned her ACG/ALB. She is also a personal coach at DPK Coaching.