With increased demands and challenges around compliance and regulations, plus growing expectations for IT to provide more value-added services, companies are looking for more flexible and collaborative options. Interestingly though, while some IT departments have updated legacy systems, COBOL code has continued to be a mainstay. In fact, COBOL just turned 60 and many are saying it’s here for the long haul.
There are a lot of reasons that make it challenging—or for some, unnecessary—to move away from the language, but there are also several clear signs companies and IT departments should know that indicate it’s time to make a change.
Here are five signs IT leaders should pull the trigger on modernizing their legacy environments.
You’re Constantly Worried About the Risk of Losing COBOL Expertise from Your Team
COBOL has more production lines of code than any other language in existence, with over 220 billion lines of COBOL today—or around 80% of the world’s actively used code. One of the problems is that many that are well-versed in COBOL language are also nearing retirement, and the amount of COBOL programmers entering the market is much lower than it was 10 years ago.
Author Glenn Fleishman put it best in his article on the subject stating “the language never died, though its early practitioners have faded away, and the generation of programmers who built systems towards the end of the predominant mainframe era in the 1970s and 1980s are largely near or past retirement age. It’s a slow-moving crisis with no crackling deadline, like Y2K, to focus the minds of Chief Information Officers.”
Pressure from Business Leaders to Take Advantage of More Agile IT Methods
Whether it’s cloud, DevOps or microservices, businesses want faster and more frequent IT delivery of new services to customers. In order to drive these results, embracing more agile methods of IT and developing a strategy that can support rapid application delivery is key. Moving to the cloud, integrating with Java or shifting to Linux requires open-based models that can handle legacy COBOL applications.
You’re Quickly Losing Your Competitive Edge Because of the Reliance on Dated Technologies
Direct and even indirect competitors are encroaching more and more in the industry and in new deals, and you feel as if your company’s position in the market is slowly declining. This may be a product of competitors’ willingness to open source systems that promote the business agility needed to react far more quickly to changing market dynamics and customer demands.
If they are modernizing their IT and investing in new technologies quicker than you are, it’s likely they’ll catch up to or surpass you quickly.
Your Confidence in Your Current IT Environment Is Extremely Low
No matter the modernization strategy you pursue, you should ultimately feel confident and peace of mind when it comes to your environment today and as you look to the future. Without flexibility, collaboration and a tailored approach however, the business will likely suffer and may be the reason for the growing insecurities.
For instance, if you’re interested in programming COBOL in some areas, but currently operate in a significantly pure native Java environment, a flexible and manageable solution is key. If you want to generate Java as the compiled object, the result will be inflexible static Java objects, rather than something flexible and extensible — and will require access to the Java source. That source is not nearly as maintainable as the source generated in the COBOL to Java conversion, but can be leveraged in Java-operating environments, and is much more flexible than other alternatives.
You’re Experiencing Vendor Lock-In
You’re wedded to an established tech company or consultants on-hand that seem like safe bets, but instead have caused you to miss the mark in being flexible and future-proof–not to mention are likely far over your budget to maintain. While transitioning to a new partner may seem daunting, conducting an assessment of your operational, infrastructure and application environment can provide a more comprehensive picture of the strategy that is right for the business, help manage the process more efficiently and ultimately cut unnecessary costs well before an exact migration or conversion path is decided on.
Although many organizations have run COBOL without substantial updates and issues for decades, the ability to solely rely on the dated technology is quickly giving way to a growing need for additional languages and more agile systems. If IT leaders are experiencing one or more of these issues now, waiting any longer to address them can result in much bigger problems in the future and considering a modernization strategy may be the better path to success.