The world has become enamored with the wonders of new technologies and approaches that make it faster and easier to communicate and do business – smartphones, tablets, cloud and social networking are the rage. However, as any insurance company IT manager or professional knows, the engines that power data and applications behind the scenes are more often than not mainframes. The problem is, specialized skills—from COBOL to CICS to application servers to system administration—are increasingly in short supply. And there aren't enough graduating students or entry-level employees coming into the workforce with these skills.
This isn’t an issue that looms as the economy eventually reaches its full-growth potential—it's a problem right now. More than seven out of 10 CIOs are worried about finding enough qualified people to run their mainframes, a new survey, sponsored by Compuware Corporation, finds.
Key findings from the survey of 520 CIOs from around the globe reveal that a stagnant mainframe development environment impacts developer productivity and, in turn, reduces IT efficiency. More than half the respondents (56 percent) state that mainframe developers—continually challenged to do more with less in a rapidly evolving IT environment—are struggling to meet the changing needs of the business.
At the same time, 69 percent of those surveyed believe that a lack of change in the mainframe environment is turning IT graduates off from mainframe development.
As Compuware's Kris Manery put it: "Businesses are supporting new technologies like mobility and cloud computing at record paces, forcing mainframe teams to contend with the added workload of quickly and successfully integrating new applications with legacy mainframe applications. This rise in mainframe development coupled with a lack of new developers puts teams at risk of becoming less effective in supporting the applications that are critical to today's world economy."
Little is actually being done at this time. About 46 percent of CIOs admit to having no plans in place to address mainframe developer shortages. In addition, high acquisition costs (60 percent), complex integration (54 percent) as well as high training and implementation costs (45 percent) are preventing businesses from modernizing their mainframe environments.
Last year at this time, as part of my work with Unisphere Research/Information Today, Inc., I helped publish a study of 376 IT managers from the SHARE users group (large IBM systems), which found that six out of 10 companies planned to hire programmers and developers for their mainframe environments over the coming year, seeking skills in application server environments, database languages and Java. COBOL development skills were still sought by almost four out of 10 companies, along with skills in backup and recovery, storage administration, security and disaster recovery. Along with an acute lack of mainframe skills available across the industry, employers also are in great need of professionals that have a business understanding.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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