Contrary to popular belief, the world is not full of start-ups. There’s a reason the world’s top X companies lists exist – these well-established powerhouses have been around for decades.
The issue is that in this competitive, start-up environment, even well-established companies are now required to be as nimble as start-ups, and, if they don’t, they risk going out of business.
It’s time for them to take a hard look at their technology stacks, ensuring their future success by making mainframes relevant as the decades change. They need to adopt Agile and continuous development, while maintaining their existing environments – where the company’s most valuable data is located on a stable, long-operating legacy mainframe system.
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Therefore, these organizations end up with two camps, both charged with meeting the increasing digital requirements of Millennial and Gen Z customers, but with a very different perspective on resources.
The camps are delineated by responsibilities, budget, people, and focus.
Us v. them – The mainframers
Most of the analysts and programmers benefit from having the largest chunk of the budget, about 70 percent, because they run the core enterprise software and need to ensure stability within the legacy systems. They have a certain degree of power because of longevity and because no one understands exactly what they do.
The mainframers fondly remember the time when they were exactly where the digital transformation engineers are now. These mainframe analysts and programmers did amazing things with a technology that was new, constantly changing, and misunderstood. Their applications became a critical part of the corporate DNA – which they are responsible for maintaining to this day. They are used to being the guardians of the “crown jewels,” so they are focused on ensuring the jewels’ safety and longevity. Of course, it has been more than 20 years now.
In the context of this exact role and time frame, others within the organization feel that they are difficult to deal with. The perception is that these “old timers” are very guarded, conservative, and extremely territorial.
Us v. them – The digital transformers
On the other side of the wall are the “innovative” people — architects and developers. The innovation people are all about “new demand,” addressing the new market and new customer needs, all the cutting-edge exciting stuff.
Stuck in the middle
The chief architect (CA) is the human “middleware” between teams, working with the mainframers to help overcome the challenges, finding the best path by which to connect the new technologies with the legacy systems.
Technically, the CA struggles with the limitations of ESB and SOA and handling the stack of middleware. On the personal side, the CA must overcome the resistance from the camps of “Do nothing,” “Change nothing, and “That’s how it’s always been done.”
Creating an atmosphere of cooperation
The goal: staff buy in. The best-case scenario is where the CA creates a solid architectural plan that clearly outlines the challenges faced by each side with specific technologies and action items based on best practices that can overcome the issues.
With a very clearly defined plan, the process of adopting and integrating new technologies into the legacy system will be simpler. This reduces the mystery, context, and complexity of the legacy application – making the integration much more efficient.
It will also assuage fears that the process will lead to job or role elimination. The well-structured plan will simply communicate that the architects are simply taking the fantastic, high performing, secure, bulletproof legacy system and allowing new visitors via the existing doors into the system. New technology platforms, such as microservice-based API integration, makes adoption much easier.
Members of both camps should work hand-in-glove to facilitate cooperation. Complete transparency to strengthen ties and make the “them” into “us,” will get the job done.