Programming: Show Me The Money!

Computing recently published the Computing IT skills survey 2012. It looked to uncover how IT operatives should adapt their skills in an environment where outsourcing and cost cutting characterizes the state of play.

The research cemented some industry trends; it found that skills around mobile technologies are the way things are going, with Android and iOS skills featuring highly. It also found that competitive advantage is sought through better serving the customer, and by analyzing the many streams of data flowing through the organization in order to gain insight and inform decisions.

However, looking at the results from a business IT decision maker’s perspective, it’s not a true reflection of their worries. For example, the results showed that Android, HTML5 and Java programming skills will be prevalent in the next two years for IT operatives, which is true as the industry is shifting toward mobile and apps.

However, from a business point of view, mainframe and other enterprise server system skills are more important than ever. A recent global survey by Vanson Bourne found that the UK has the largest number of CIOs (12%) that believe 25% of their mainframe skilled staff will retire in the next five years, leaving them with a gaping hole in staff with key skills in languages such as COBOL and PL/I.

Further to that, the research found that the very reason why many IT decision makers are going down the less effective route of buying off the shelf application was due to issues with the availability of mainframe/COBOL skill staff – which was highlighted by 42% of the respondents.

While COBOL may not be considered in the first instance for adapting business applications for mobile use, it is in fact its simplicity, pervasiveness and adaptability that make this the perfect candidate to take businesses from the present into the future. With IDEs such as Visual Studio or Eclipse, developers are able to build applications for mobile across a wide number of technology platforms.

COBOL can be exploited in each instance to help deliver proven business services and supporting data efficiently from the mainframe and other enterprise server systems, to the user. The benefits of re-using COBOL applications rather than re-writing them are numerous: time-to-delivery and costs are much lower, with negligible risk, while data integrity and security are protected as all information remains on the mainframe or current enterprise server system.

Moreover, the likelihood that an existing reusable service is based on COBOL is extremely high: COBOL runs over 70% of the world’s businesses, over 200 times more transactions are processed daily by COBOL business applications than there are Google and You Tube searches made, and the average individual interacts with a COBOL based business application at least seven times every day.

Evolving constantly to keep pace with technological developments and integrating with the modern technologies in use across enterprises worldwide, COBOL’s relevance even in newer generation IT world remains undiminished. Thus, if prospective software developers are looking to the future and driven to increase their marketability, learning business languages such as COBOL and PL/I offer a broader choice of employment opportunities.

Ed Airey is currently responsible for the global Product Marketing program for the Micro Focus COBOL and Micro Focus RUMBA product portfolios. Ed is responsible for the product strategy planning, development, and execution for each of these product brands within their Application Development and Modernization markets. As Product Marketing Director, Ed remains the spokesperson and subject matter expert for his respective Brands within the Application Development and Modernisation markets.