One of the most difficult challenges in engineering, oddly enough, isn’t technical: the challenge is culture transition management. In my 20-plus years of managing engineering teams worldwide, I’ve led teams through countless organizational adjustments and process improvements toward high-performance and quality, beginning with QA segregation to CMMI to ITIL, AGILE and SAFe.
Today, mainframe organizations have emerged as the focal point for enabling DevOps capabilities and practices. Why the mainframe? Well for starters, business critical applications rely on mainframe data and business components. These applications are mission-essential and that sustained innovation requires solution sets that deliver continuous testing, continuous delivery and continuous feedback on the mainframe platform.
But culture comes first.
Understanding Your Key Players
In conversations with our customers we’ve observed an interesting dynamic emerging within mainframe application development teams. Within these teams are experienced developers who were instrumental in creating the applications that helped make their companies so successful. Over time, many have become set in their ways, adopting a motto of, “If it’s not broken, why fix it?” Such developers are not interested in trying out new things, including programming languages and tools used by the modern-day programmer.
New to the scene are the millennials who have also taken up the mantle of enterprise software engineer. They are a bit more open-minded and bring a different programming language profile, including Java, .NET and C. These developers might be learning how to code APIs with the support of management, and have likely dabbled the basics of how to code iOS apps. Millennial developers are typically much more active online and, as a result, prefer to leverage Twitter and other social channels to stay informed with the development community.
United We Stand
Who, then, should be involved in the journey to realizing DevOps? The answer, of course, is both. Because we’ve heard it reinforced among our users we talk with in the CA Communities every day, at user groups and at prominent mainframe community events such as CA World and SHARE.
You know it, because you probably see it in your organization as well. There are experienced developers: people who have deep knowledge of the applications in place, business intelligence, database tables, cross-application dependencies, batch execution windows and the general experience of how things work on the z/OS platform.
Most importantly, they also know how to avoid breaking what’s working.
And there are the millennial developers: people who are curious to learn about new programming languages, platforms, people who, with the advent of Agile development, and open source have played with things, tested them and are using it to enhance their skill sets.
These people prefer to use modern user interfaces and tools to increase their productivity. Sometimes they might be tentative about making mainframe changes, not willing to risk their careers by breaking poorly documented code.
Culture – Have it Both Ways
While the interests of millennial and experienced developers may at times seem conflicting, both have pivotal roles to play in application development and will benefit greatly from the common sense practices of DevOps and agility that are coming to the mainframe platform. To survive and thrive, teams must unify to facilitate the change process. Most importantly:
- Code must be accessed and modernized at the speed of business. Enterprise developers, testers and architects cannot be afraid to go talk to the “black box” that is the mainframe team.
- Project managers can’t worry that a six-week turnaround for small changes will kill their hopes of meeting their delivery windows.
- The delivery team—QA, release management and operations—can’t afford to sit around waiting for simple deployment steps to happen: when we can automate and integrate to increase deployment frequency.
The promise of DevOps and agility on the mainframe is to fix this, and that’s why our engineering teams are actively building out solution sets that extend DevOps practices to the mainframe, including continuous testing, continuous delivery and continuous feedback.
Curious about what it will take to bring DevOps to the mainframe? Catch some tips and best practices from Forrester Research principal analyst Rob Stroud, or hear from the leaders driving change in their organization in our CA World 2016 Mainframe DevOps panel.