When Compuware, now a BMC company, came under new leadership in 2014, the company embarked on a mission to realign as an Agile business. It went from delivering customer requirements every 12 to 18 months to a publicly faced quarterly roadmap deeply engaged with customers. Once the company started to see some success, customers went from asking “Why should I do Agile development and DevOps on the mainframe” to “How do I do Agile and DevOps on the mainframe?” according to Sam Knutson, vice president of product management at Compuware. 

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To help others reap the benefits, Compuware has provided 10 steps to achieving mainframe agility:

  1. Determine your current and desired state: Be clear about what you are trying to achieve and what the transformation will look like, then map out a plan. 
  2. Modernize your mainframe development environment: Move away from green screen ISPF environments that require specialized skills and knowledge into more modern development spaces. This will open up the talent pool of developers available to work on the mainframe. 
  3. Adopt automated testing: In a recent report, the company found that test automation is critical for accelerating innovation with 90% of IT leaders saying automating more test cases is the single most important factor in their success. Additionally, 92% of respondents said mainframe teams spend more time testing code because of the growing application environment complexity. Automated testing will free up developer time and provide fast feedback on the mainframe. 
  4. Provide graphical intuitive visibility into existing code and data structure: Developers need a quick and easy way to understand the application logic, interdependencies, data structures, data relationships and runtime behaviors to make sense of what’s going on. 
  5. Empower developers at all skill and experience levels: There are not a lot of new mainframe developers coming out of college, so the next generation of developers must be coached and trained if companies want to improve development performance and productivity on the mainframe. 
  6. Initiate training in and adoption of Agile processes: Once modern development environments are set up, teams can start training and shift from a waterfall to an Agile approach. Mainframe developers should be paired with Agile developers so they can learn from each other. 
  7. Leverage operational data across the development, testing and production life cycle: Developers have to understand how the application is behaving in order to improve it and they can do that by looking at the operational data continuously and measuring progress.
  8. Deploy true Agile/DevOps-enabling source code management: Traditional source code management environments were designed for waterfall. A modern, Agile SCM environment should provide automation, visibility, rules-based workflows, and integration with other tools. 
  9. Automate deployment of code into production: Getting new code out quickly and reliably into production requires autoating and coordinating deployments in a synchronized manner and being able to pinpoint any issues as they occur. 
  10. Enable coordinated cross-platform continuous delivery: Mainframes should not be left out of the pipeline. It should become just another platform that can be updated quickly and adapt as necessary. 

“To remain competitive in an app-centric economy, mainframes must be as adaptive as other platforms. And enterprise IT must be able to manage DevOps in an integrated manner across mainframe, distributed and cloud,” the company wrote in a white paper.