Customer centricity is the chief concern of businesses across all industries today. The customer’s needs and experience are the driving forces behind countless digital transformation initiatives. From this strategic vantage point, the integration of the mainframe into the connected cloud ecosystem is mission critical. Thus mainframe organizations must strategically invest in both tools and training, to ensure a culture of mainframe vitality that strengthens the industry and the businesses the industry supports for many years to come. Understanding these investments is a critical first step in that journey.
The mainframe houses vast volumes of data about customers — including their demographics, preferences, behaviors and transactions — that can be combined with the mainframe’s extensive capabilities to generate a superior customer experience. Failing to realize the potential customer experience offered by the mainframe would be a serious missed opportunity, which leads us to another business imperative: Leaders need to cultivate the right skill set within their organizations to realize the vision of an integrated mainframe and the customer centricity such integration enables.
Unfortunately, integration and customer centricity have been hindered by the makeup of the workforce. Mainframe developers tend to be closer to retirement. Meanwhile, the younger segment of the workforce is familiar with distributed environments and modern tools — the mainframe and its traditional green screens are foreign to them.
Several factors are contributing to the narrowing of the skills gap. They are:
First, the mainframe is being opened up through initiatives such as Zowe, an open-source framework launched by the Open Mainframe Project with foundational technologies contributed by Broadcom, IBM and Rocket. Zowe enables development and operations teams to securely manage, control, script and develop on the mainframe like any other cloud platform.
Opening up the mainframe gives users something very valuable: a choice of tools beyond the set of traditional mainframe tools. New and experienced mainframe users can employ modern tools and frameworks such as Jenkins, GitHub and more.
Operational intelligence (OI) is another way the skills gap is being addressed. OI employs the power of artificial intelligence and machine learning to assess and analyze vast volumes of data. OI delivers findings and insights in an understandable and actionable fashion, enabling generalists to take on responsibilities previously limited to mainframe experts.
Automation, either on its own or as a component of OI, further enhances the ability of general talent to oversee mainframe operations. Generalists can leverage automation for common tasks and — of even greater value — enable the system to identify issues, diagnose problems and take steps to heal itself autonomously.
Organizations are also playing a major role in closing the mainframe skills gap by training the next generation of mainframers. Around the world, both mainframe-based organizations and mainframe solution providers are offering intensive training on mainframe platforms, arranging mentorship programs and developing online resources to both expand the skills of those already working on the mainframe and equip young programmers and developers.
The real power of the factors noted above comes when they work in combination with one another. As mainframe organizations invest resources to provide open-source opportunities, a choice of tools, OI, automation and targeted training, they will create a culture of mainframe vitality that supports business strategies and outcomes. Integrating the mainframe with the connected cloud ecosystem will become the norm, and the massive amounts of data and tremendous capabilities of the mainframe will transform the customer experience in ways that can only be imagined today.
In a culture of mainframe vitality, both younger and older programmers will thrive, seeing no distinction between interactions with different platforms. In fact, enthusiasm for the mainframe will grow as the next generation of programmers is able to explore its potential readily and seamlessly. The mainframe will no longer have any connotations of being a legacy or difficult technology — it will reclaim its rightful reputation as a platform unequaled in its potential to support business growth and customer-centric innovation.
Committing to creating a culture of mainframe vitality is one that all mainframe organizations and providers must share to see essential gains in the short term and sustainable benefits in the long term. We have the tools and technologies at our command to encourage and deliver excellence on the mainframe. Let’s continue to make this culture of mainframe vitality a reality.
Greg Lotko is the General Manager and Senior Vice President for the Broadcom Mainframe Software Division, with more than 30 years of experience in application development, application outsourcing services, software development and infrastructure. Email: Gregory.Lotko@broadcom.com