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Monday, May 30, 2011

COBOL and the CIO

Last week I had the opportunity to attend a CIO Forum here in Atlanta.  Two topics seemed to be at the top of everyone's list: cutting costs and mobile devices. 

On the cutting costs topic, almost every CIO there had a story to tell about how they were surviving in this economy.  They were doing it by reducing their costs so that they could survive on the same or smaller budgets than they had last year and the year before.  And they were expected to provide more value to the business than ever before.  Do more with less seems to be the mantra of the day.

On the mobility issue, again most of the attendees talked about how they were being pushed to provide accessibility to their corporate systems by their users/business groups for smartphones and notepad-type devices.  More and more people are plugging their own hardware into their corporate networks and expecting them to not only work, but be supported and leveraged.  As you can imagine, this is causing quite a bit of work for some and creating unique opportunities for others.

I have some good news for them.

Sounds like a job for COBOL! (this is a blog about COBOL after all *smile*).

To help with cutting costs...  why not reuse the business logic that has been captured in the COBOL code and repurpose it?  Turn those old routines into components/services  and redeploy them.  Put together a new UI, combining new features with existing processes.  It is relatively easy to do using tools like those from Micro Focus (I'm sure the other COBOL tool vendors have comparable solutions too).  Either way, reuse the existing code!  No need for those costly "green field" development projects.

One of the large insurance customers that is on your side recently did just this.  They took an old application that was written in COBOL, cut out the screen section logic, restructured the business logic as methods and classes and intermixed these routines with C# and a new Winform interface.  Within a 90 day period, they were able to do more work with a team of 5 or 6 than an entire dev team of 20+ was able to accomplish in 2 years.  Reusing existing application source saved them millions.

To help with the challenge presented by all of these new mobile devices, again, use your COBOL assets and provide your users new ways to access the information they need.  Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about.

While at the forum, I had the pleasure to speak with a fellow from a university down in Columbus Georgia.  He walked me through how they were providing their students smartphone apps which interfaced with their back-end applications (yes they were COBOL).  They could access their account details on their phones, their Ipads, on the college computers, etc.  For the IT team, it was nothing short of brilliant.  For the students, their reaction?  *Shrug*  They thought this was how it was supposed to work in the first place.  Go figure *grin*.

So, my message is this.  Companies are starting to figure it out.  COBOL is relevant in today's environment.  How are you making it relevant in your business?

1 comment:

  1. Yeh, I told the Micro Focus board a nearly a year ago have the mobile revolution was going to reshape the IT landscape. Further, I podcasted on it here and here in podcast form.

    As the second podcast covers, there is no doubt that COBOL's message is strengthened by the change to mobile computing and the death of the PC. COBOL comes from a client server environment and it makes all the sense in the world as a language for performing the server side heavy lifting which will be required to drive more and more transactional processing into a mobile world.

    - AJ