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Sunday, June 12, 2011

The COBOL Challenge

(Buy this T-Shirt at
 What if I could show you how to take advantage of the COBOL you have today? 

Regardless of whether you still have COBOL developers or not.  I'm talking about me showing you how to  take advantage of your COBOL even if you have long since decided to move away from COBOL and have moved on to .Net or Java.

If I give you free software, free training, and free international publicity, would you be interested in finding out if the COBOL still has value for your company?

"Tell us more Robert!", you say with open curiousity. (at least that is how the voices sound in my head)

I'm willing to offer up arranging for you to get temporary licenses of Micro Focus Visual COBOL, some training on the product, and maybe even some help doing the work, if you'll let me tell the world about it.  You and your company can remain anonymous if need be, but I want the story...

COBOL is still the right tool for the job and I want to prove it to you.

I'm especially interested in working with someone in Georgia or Florida (where I spend my time nowadays), but will make this open to one and all.

Let's get creative! 

Want to find out if you can mix C# with existing COBOL? 

Want to transform traditional procedural COBOL into a bunch of objects? 

Want to see if you can deploy COBOL to your JVM?  Or try to tie your customer portal to your backend COBOL application?  I'm game.

If you are interested, send me a note to

COBOL is more relevant today than it has ever been.  And I can prove it.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Are You Getting the Most Out of Your Tools?

I've posted a similar questions in the past.  Once I asked my readers "who has learned something new about COBOL recently?".  Very few people were able to raise their hand. 

The reality is that most people learn how to do something one way and continue to do it that way from then on.  And in many areas of life, this makes sense.  No need to reinvent the wheel. 

Hence my question in the title:  Are you getting the most out of your tools? 

The tools have advanced, the COBOL language has advanced, but have your developers?

I met with a company today who uses Micro Focus Net Express, the pre-cursor to Visual COBOL.  After just a few minutes of conversation, I was able to point out some features in the tools they already own that may save their development team significant time and aggrevation. 

I offered to have Jim, my code slinging partner in crime, come by and take a look at what they do and how they are doing it.  I did this with the idea that maybe we can show them a thing or two about using Net Express which could make life easier.

It might be worth revisiting what you can do with the COBOL of today.  Thanks to tools like Visual COBOL I think you may find some extra money in the bottom of the box the tools came in.  I'm just sayin...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why Build a Reference Environment?

If you are selling cars, it is as simple as "why don't we take her out for a spin?" to show off the car.  When talking about changing the way things will work, it's not that simple.  Folks don't just want to see a simple demo.  Oh, they do expect you to make it look simple, but what you focus on can't be the easy stuff. 

For instance, its simple to demonstrate executing a COBOL program via a CICS transaction.  That's core to what our company does.  But  when a customer wants to see things like "interfacing with a scheduler" and "managing our printers" and "how will operators will manage the platform", you have to have something a bit more robust.  Otherwise you end up doing endless proof of concept (POC) projects to move things along.

A reference environment  lets you demonstrate how the end result will look without having to say "I'll get back to you" or "there are a number of ways that might work".   It allows your customer to focus on the "how do I take advantage of this?" versus "will it work?".  Think of it as a pre-fab POC you can use over and over. 

Its why I've been building one for the last few months...(read more here).  Keep this in mind when you try to sell the boss on the idea of turning that COBOL application into the next killer app based on web services and the .NET framework.  He'll be more inclined to consider it if you have an example.