Developing A Plan To Deal With The Mainframe Skills Shortages

Everyone in the mainframe world knows that mainframe skills shortages are a real and looming problem. How to address this issue should be on the forefront of management’s minds. In a recent article, Dave Hilbe from BMC discusses some strategies to help develop mainframe talent in-house and groom the next generation of mainframe experts. He suggests the following 6 tips:

  1. Make sure that you have a defined career plan for new hires. He suggests developing a two year plan that outlines the mainframe skills and deep knowledge that a person will need to have during that time frame. Make sure that you incorporate milestones along the way to measure and evaluate progress.
  2. Sit down with your employee and communicate the mental attributes that they must have in order for them to succeed. This includes: making sure that they are challenging themselves; stress the importance of continued education; emphasize the importance of making a worthwhile contribution; make sure they understand their career growth opportunities and see if they feel like they are being fairly compensated.
  3. Assign them a mainframe mentor to help them with the skill set that you would like them to grow into.
  4. Recognize your employee’s success and development with award programs and bonuses.
  5. Make sure to optimize the work environment by grouping employees who are at the same stage of their career development.
  6. Invest in your employees by providing training and industry exposure. Offer online training and allow them to attend industry conferences.

Through these efforts, Dan has had a great success in his company’s ability to develop and maintain mainframe talent in-house. However, if you are unable to develop this skill set or if you are migrating off of your mainframe then you are probably considering outsourcing that environment. If that is the case, you might want to read our guide on mainframe outsourcing. This guide will help you understand the risks and rewards of mainframe outsourcing.

10 Year Multi-Billion Dollar Mainframe and Infrastructure Outsourcing Agreement

IBM and ABN AMRO announced a ten year outsourcing deal. According to ZDNet, IBM will manage ABN AMRO’s global IT infrastructure. This includes their mainframe, servers, help desk, application support and mobile infrastructure.  The engagements is aimed at reducing ABN ARMO’s infrastructure costs and to improve operational efficiency.

If you are thinking about outsourcing your mainframe environment then you might be interested in our Rapid Outsourcing Calculator™. This tool will allow you to quickly find out what the cost of outsourcing your mainframe is.

Web And Mobile Application Utilization Increasing On The Mainframe

Macro 4 recently released a survey in which 72% of mainframe users indicated that their mainframe environments now support mobile and web applications. The poll also indicated that this usage will increase an additional 8% in the next few years. About half of the new usage comes from existing mainframe applications that have been web enabled. The other usage comes from new applications that have been developed to tie into back end mainframe processing.

The study revealed that mainframe administrators are concerned that the new web applications would consume more processing. Additional resource consumption could have a negative impact on response time.  This could lead to additional usage costs for companies.  Macro 4 stressed the importance of performance tuning in keeping mainframe systems efficient and cost effective.

Many companies are exploring outsourcing as a way to reduce their mainframe costs. We offer a free mainframe cost calculator to find out the price associated with mainframe hosting.

3 Compliance Strategies For Your Mainframe Applications

In a recent news release, Andrew Wickett from Micro Focus discusses the challenges of mainframe compliance and offers some advice on ways to reduce compliance costs.

He notes that, compliance requirements depend on a company’s business and industry but are becoming an ever increasing issue to IT executives. Compliance with: data privacy regulations, SEC regulations and mobile payment protections are some of the challenges that organizations face. These compliance requirements come with lots of effort and at a high cost.

Ensuring compliance in your mainframe environment introduces a number of challenges. One of the biggest challenges is managing the need to maintain a steady state environment, while also trying to innovate IT. Most IT department’s budget are dedicated to maintaining their systems “as is” and not geared toward new projects and applications.

Mr. Wickett points to the following causes of mainframe compliance issues:

Poor visibility: Missing mainframe code documentation, concerns over internal resourcing, and data privacy all pose challenges when updating core applications for compliance. These affect how quickly companies are able to identify specific areas of code impacted by the compliance change.

Unsupported mainframe products: When software vendors consolidate or “sunset” product lines, then IT teams must initiate major projects to deal with the compliance issues of running unsupported products.

Security issues: IT teams are under constant pressure to ensure regulatory reporting and compliance for data breaches, while also trying to prioritize new initiatives and projects.

Cloud compliance: As companies continue to move into the cloud and provide mobile availability, they need to ensure their cloud environments are as secure as their current mainframe systems to maintain proper compliance.

Smaller skill sets: Most organizations have fewer available skilled mainframe resources to handle new IT compliance needs.

Mr. Wickett suggests the following 3 strategies for lowering costs associated with IT compliance:

1. Avoid replacing products 

It is usually more costly and risky to replace legacy systems with newer applications. The “rip-and-replace” approach can result in project failures or projects that are delivered late and over budget. Organizations should consider a mainframe modernization strategy that helps to gradually change their applications using smarter analysis, development, and testing technology.

2. Leverage automation 

Automation can create repeatable steps for updating mainframe software in order to meet compliance requirements.  Application-understanding technology allows developers to focus on impacted areas and reduce the learning curve associated with unfamiliar code. This helps them to keep up with changing compliance requirements by finding the code, fixing it, and testing it.

3. Careful testing 

Testing mainframe applications must also be carefully handled to avoid introducing failures and breaching existing regulations. Employing tools that allow for a flexible approach to testing and deployment of core systems, in accordance with data regulations, would be a big part in delivering compliance efficiently.

Click on the links to find more information about outsourcing your mainframe environment and the different types of mainframe hosting.

Avis Is Moving To Linux On The Mainframe

A recent WSJ article reveals that Avis Budget Group has decided to move to Linux on their mainframe environment. Avis is hoping to achieve lower software costs and gain additional flexibility by moving from their z/OS operating system to their mainframe’s Linux environment.

CIO Gerard Insall, indicated that this planned migration has been driven by a significant increase in on-line traffic to their system. Under their z/OS system, these increases in internet traffic translate into additional mainframe utilization and thus higher processing and software costs.  Mr. Insall is projecting that this move will cut his software costs by 50% or $8M annually. The move will also allow him to install Linux virtual servers quickly when capacity becomes limited.  Since Linux also operates on other platforms it will allow Avis to explore new hardware/software options should the need arise.

IBM indicated that 80% of their top 100 mainframe customers have utilized Linux in some form. IBM also said that about 50% of their new mainframe installs have Linux running on them.

If you are thinking about re-hosting your mainframe or outsourcing your mainframe, then you might want to download our executive guide on mainframe outsourcing.

Mainframe Storage Moving Into The Cloud

CA Technologies recently announced that it will be partnering with Microsoft to offer a cloud data storage solution for System z mainframes. The new service is the first of what CA said will be a line of cloud software for mainframe environments.

The new service is focused on providing cloud based storage for mainframe environments. The aim of the project is to give businesses more flexibility to meet the dynamic needs of storage capacity. Customers will be able to acquire just the right amount of capacity they need. This will hopefully help them to avoid spending too much for storage that they don’t use or gain additional capacity in incremental levels.

CA is unveiling the new service at the CA World conference in Las Vegas.

If you are thinking about possibly outsourcing your mainframe environment they you might want to download our Executive Guide on Mainframe Outsourcing. This will give you some insight into the risks/rewards of outsourcing.

New White Paper By Compuware Discusses Mainframe Skills Shortages

One of the biggest challenges facing CIOs with mainframe environments is that of retaining the skill set necessary to maintain legacy systems. The current mainframe workforce is comprised of baby boomers that are between the ages of 50 and 68. According to Compuware, 71% of CIOs are concerned with looming shortfall in skilled mainframe knowledge workers. However, only 41% of IT executives have any plans to address these shortages.

Compuware has put together the following list of initiatives to help organizations deal with the impending skill shortages:

  • Make sure that there is a clear understanding of what is running of the mainframe. This is done by getting a full inventory of mainframe data, applications, capacity, utilization and management tools.
  • Build a long-term skills plan. Look at key support areas of the mainframe (operations, technical support, production control, etc.) and know which of these areas could be impacted by attrition due to retirement. Develop a timeline and skill replenishment plan to address the inevitable loss of skills.
  • Keep informed on new mainframe technology. Learn about the mainframes ability to leverage new technology and efficiencies. This includes running Linux on the mainframe, the ability to run Java workloads and the mainframes ability to help with “Green IT” best practices (i.e., reduced energy and floor space consumption).
  • Maintain a practical mainframe budget. Make sure that executive leaders are providing the right budgetary support for the mainframe.
  • Be wary of short-term cost cutting. IT leaders should take a long-term view of the mainframe platform when considering alternative solutions. Mainframe application migrations can often appear to be cost effective in the short-term but could potentially cost more in the long run.

One way to deal with staffing shortages is to outsource the mainframe. When resources can’t be found or retained, it is often a good option.

Mainframe Study Shows That Application Cost Reduction Is A Major Initiative

70% of mainframe executive’s site cost reduction in mainframe software as one of their top priorities, according to BMC’s annual mainframe survey. 39% of the responders cited software costs continue to be the largest part of many organization’s IT budget. IT executives are hoping to reduce these costs by managing application use in the following ways: 1. They are moving workloads to off peak hours. 2. They are utilizing performance tuning to lower mainframe utilization. 3. They are using automated systems to manage performance.
The study also showed that 91% of the organizations surveyed look at the mainframe as a long term viable platform. In fact, 60% of these companies expect mainframe MIPS to grow not decline. The survey included approximately 1,200 global mainframe users and tool place in June 2014.

Mainframe Application Outsourcing Trends

It looks like the outsourcing of mainframe application development and testing are on the rise. According to research done by Micro Focus, 62% of US based CIOs are choosing to outsource the testing and development of mainframe applications. New compliance measures such as ISO27002, Basel III, FACTA and SEPA are causing this greater interest in outsourcing. More than half (55%) of CIO’s polled don’t feel like they have the proper documentation or supporting data in-house. Also, a majority (73%) feel like the system documentation that they do have is incomplete. CIOs are looking at outsourcing providers as way to comply with the new regulations.

Mainframe Outsourcing Misconception #9: Outsourcing is a Political Decision, Bound to Create Controversy that We Don’t Need

There is some truth in this statement.  Most outsourcing contracts tend to be assigned to the vendor of the platform that is being outsourced, raising potential concerns about bid competitiveness.   Even in cases where there are few qualified bidders for outsourcing work, creating a formal requirements definition to guide the outsourcing arrangement – with work reviewed each step of the way by a team representing key business stakeholders, audit, and tech-savvy IT staff or advisors, will help take the politics out of the choice.

Another political dimension of the outsourcing process is the fact that outsourcing is usually accompanied by a reduction in IT staff.  That can be true and you should consider whether there are some staff, who are nearing retirement age, who may be delighted to accept an early retirement, and in many cases, outsourcing vendors may be willing (and enthusiastic) to hire part of your staff to continue serving your needs and those of other customers.  Finally, core staff can (and often should) be retained to continue working with software applications or to explore new technologies that might benefit the company in innovative ways in the future.

Invariably, given the negative press that outsourcing has received against a backdrop of a recessionary economy, the term itself is “politicized.”  Truth be told, most mainframe outsourcing arrangements do not involve off-shoring jobs to foreign locales, but to in-country providers of technology services.  Under the circumstances, framing the strategy in strictly business terms – or as an optimization strategy with payoffs in terms of greater systems availability at a lower cost – is the best course of action.

Posted by Adrian