Managers Lament Lack of Attention to Legacy Apps
April 13, 2009 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Stick to your knitting. Keep your eye on the ball. These are phrases we use to remind us to not forget why we are in business in the first place, but they apply equally well to IT departments. It is easy to get distracted and seduced by new technologies; remember that whole dot-com thing and all the disruption it caused a decade ago? But it is important to not lose skills relating to the core IT systems at your company, which are often encapsulated in legacy applications and databases on IBM mainframe and midrange gear.
While COBOL application specialist Micro Focus is by no means allergic to the modernization of IT–it is the business it is in, after all–but the company was worried that IT shops might not be investing enough in the core IT applications that underpin their systems and the key applications that in turn run their businesses.
So, Micro Focus commissioned a study of 450 companies in the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy, and talked to human resources directors, chief financial officers, and chief executive officers. And from the results of that study, business managers are more than a little concerned that companies are not investing in people and skills to support core legacy applications and are focused, perhaps a bit too much, on Web 2.0-style application development. (Of course, as a vendor that makes a lot of money peddling tools that allow for COBOL applications to be moved off AS/400s and mainframes to Linux, Unix, and Windows platforms or to be modernized in place on those platforms, this is what you would expect Micro Focus to be worried about.)
“Everybody knows that Web 2.0 solutions have huge potential to transform all types and sizes of organizations, but their development shouldn’t be at the expense of protecting and developing the IT asset at the heart of the business,” says Stephen Kelly, chief executive officer at Micro Focus, in a report, called Safeguarding the Corporate IT Assets, that was created based on the results of the survey. Kelly contends that core IT systems–by which he means COBOL applications, for sure–will provide the best value to businesses during the recession, and hence companies should be investing here so they can protect their key assets.
And the issue is real, at least as far as the CFOs are concerned. Only 13 percent of the CFOs polled said that they believed their companies were training employees and hiring new ones to sufficiently maintain their core legacy applications and databases. Only 29 percent of the CIOs polled said they were recruiting enough people to maintain these legacy systems.
This is ever the way. New ways of creating software get argued for by the newbies who understand them, and the old guard who created the existing systems explain why these systems are perfectly good and can be updated to do whatever it is the newbies want. And in the end, the applications end up being a mix of different technologies because this is the only way to get it done and it is the only way to keep everyone happy–or at least equally unhappy. And these applications become the new legacy systems.