We recently hosted a webinar entitled “Old Iron, New Tricks” featuring Jason Bloomberg, president of Intellyx. A recording of the session is available here if you want to view it again or share with colleagues.
Before the webinar, we posed a series of questions and we want to share the results with you. Below is a summary of the responses, and we’ve also included answers to several questions that were asked at the end of the webinar.
Pre-webinar survey questions
1. Where are you in your modernization journey for your older host-based applications?
Over a quarter of respondents are actively transforming host applications, with the vast majority focused to varying degrees on modernization.
- 26% are currently in the process of modernizing host applications
- 17% stated they’ve made progress updating older applications
- 13% have at least started the journey toward modernization
- By contrast, 26% of respondents said they had no plans to modernize
2. Which of the following is the highest modernization priority for your developers right now?
Two priorities in the area of developer focus rose to the top, nearly tied.
- Rebuilding existing application UIs to improve user experiences (31%)
- Creating APIs to allow customers and users to access host applications using Web browsers or mobile devices (32%)
As you can see below, the other two priority areas were of significantly lower importance, with “Rewriting host based applications for other platforms” at 20% and “Providing web and mobile access terminal emulation” at 13%.
3. What are the biggest challenges to your modernization plans?
The top challenge for over half of respondents (51%) was that their programmers are skilled in writing in RPG or COBOL but they don’t know modern programming languages. In second place was the need to re-program applications so they work on the web and mobile devices at 30%. In third place was the challenge of meeting modernization deadlines at 19%.
Webinar survey questions
During the webinar we posed a series of survey questions related to modernization planning and execution. Here are the results.
1. What are your modernization plans?
Key findings include:
- Almost 53% of respondents they are planning to exploit existing hardware to create new UIs, workflows and user experiences
- Approximately 16% said they would be slowly migrating from existing hardware to new platforms
2. Are you currently doing bimodal development?
Bimodal development continues to be a topic of discussion and debate. Responses to this question ranged widely:
- 29% of respondents said they are using bimodal and are happy with it
- 31% said they were not but would like to be
- 28% said they were currently bimodal but trying to move away from it
Webinar Q & A
1. Our IBM i hosts several mission-critical applications, and we’d like to use functions across several applications in a new application that we’re building. What’s your recommendation for doing this?
Many of our customers have legacy siloed applications that no longer apply to current business workflows. For example, one of our customers in the auto parts business needed to get a part number from one application and then use a separate application to find parts for dealerships. The process was complicated, time-consuming, and potentially error-prone. It was also slowing down their business and affecting customer service.
The organization solved the problem by creating a composite API that interrogated both applications from which data was needed and combined them into a single web service. Thereafter, when a query was posed asking for a part number and availability for a specific part, the service was able to obtain information from one application to query the next, and then deliver the result to parts managers, saving time and reducing errors.
In that instance, the use of Rocket API enabled easy access to the information that was needed. This capability is really valuable because older host-based applications were written to be comprehensive, where all functionality was in a single codebase. It made sense at the time, but also made it nearly impossible to isolate and share individual areas of functionality.
Today, applications are written so that individual functionality can be accessed separately and used as needed. Because Rocket API focuses on the business logic of the application rather than requiring access to the application code itself, accessing those isolated pockets of host-based application functionality—and then sharing them as APIs for use by virtually any other application—is much faster and easier than virtually any other method.
2. I’m concerned about scope creep in our modernization projects. What do you recommend so that I can avoid extended project durations and out-of-control expenses?
If you run a Google search on modernization fails, you see some pretty notable ones that cost billions of dollars yet have never seen the light of day. Modernizing is a bit like remodeling a house: you only realize the full amount of work necessary once you get into the project. When it comes to major modernization efforts, that difference can mean a lot of time, money, and risk.
On the other hand, if your host-based application is working today, it often makes more sense to keep its existing functionality rather than starting from scratch. By taking advantage of what you already have instead of ripping and replacing, you can largely mitigate the scope-creep troubles so many companies run into. A big advantage that Rocket solutions offer our customers is the ability to reuse the host-based functionality that already works and just concentrate on what you want to add—rather than scrapping your tried-and-true applications and starting from scratch. As a result, you’ll find that your projects can be less expensive, take less time, and deliver value more quickly.
3. Do you agree with Gartner that bimodal IT is a good thing?
Bimodal IT may be easier in some instances—for software vendors with large applications, for example—but that doesn’t make it a good thing for most companies.
The fact is that asynchronous development happens in any organization that has IBM i or mainframe applications that feed web and mobile devices—regardless of whether the host platform uses waterfall or agile—because development on separate platforms is likely to occur on separate timelines.
For many companies, moving away from bimodal is easier because their applications aren’t nearly as large and monolithic, and agile—vs. waterfall—enables them to more effectively meet the needs of end-users.
4. What do you mean when you say “waterfall fails more than 85% of the time?”
Scope creep is a typical challenge for waterfall-based projects. Waterfall generally means distinct lifecycle phases and set steps, where quality is saved for the step before deployment. In that context, you’re often not able to manage evolving requirements well. What often ends up happening as scope changes is that quality gets squeezed so that the project can stay on time and budget. And squeezing on testing and bug fix time correlates closely to poor application quality at the end.
For all of these reasons, waterfall doesn’t work well for projects with poorly understood, poorly communicated, or changing requirements. And today many projects fall in that bucket, so you end up with scope creep has become common. With modern approaches like agile, you can manage these factors much more effectively, which is why agile methodologies are the choice of many teams for building software, regardless of platform.
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