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IT Change and Renewal

Approaches and tactics to address challenges like breathing new life into applications.

In this post, I concentrate on approaches and tactics to address challenges like breathing new life into applications. Last week,  I asked, “Is there a model that will help us analyze and begin to address difficult obstacles regarding needed change, expansion of method or complexity?” The model I proposed involved three Rs: renew, refresh and rework. Let’s consider one of the three Rs—renew—using some examples.

The Focus of Renewal
The focus of renewal is to make better use of the resources we already have by seeking out and exploiting latent features. Features of products that you already have deployed might be able to be configured and used instead of the more challenging tactic of deploying a programming language or commercial tool that’s new to the organization.

Renewal is often linked to IT modernization. When making a significant modernization change to an application, an incremental approach is least disruptive and should be used whenever possible. Often, this means breaking up a large project into smaller units that can be piloted, or run in phases or in parallel with the existing functionality. A place to start under the modernization umbrella is updating the user interface, which often means utilizing the web and making use of mobile devices. Another area is data modernization, which might involve converting from files to databases and layering other functionality like data replication. A third area for modernization is function modernization, which has to do with enhancements like packaging application elements into components for use as services.

Another focus for modernization, an example of renewal in action, is rooted in making good use of enhancements in the current software technology that’s supporting the application. If the application is written in COBOL, look at one of the latest releases such as Enterprise COBOL for z/OS Version 5. This release, among other features, makes use of the latest z/Architecture and performance optimization, delivers XML processing enhancements for easier web interoperability, and increases compiler limits to handle larger data items and larger groups of data and to improve application exploitation of system resources. Simply put, upgrade to this release and you’re on the road to enabling features that cost IBM a significant amount of resources to develop. Once the release is available, explore these features and make them available to the broader community in a thoughtful way—education, implementation assistance, etc.

Like COBOL, CICS and IMS have significant functional enhancements in each release that should be put to use by applications as part of ongoing modernization. Making fuller use of the middleware that’s foundational to the application has the potential for significant gain that on balance may not be difficult to implement. If there is any doubt that there are continuous and ongoing functional enhancements to CICS, check out its history. For IMS, a good place to get a wide view of the status of IMS is on the product resources page.

I am not suggesting that many organizations avoid the latest releases or implement them in  half-hearted manner, but making use of the latest features requires a special focus. There are so many opportunities here that a technical consultant could create and deploy a service offering call “Plan to Deploy CICS Functions to Enable Modernization” or such. You can imagine the boost you could get from someone (or a team) that has intimate knowledge of the new product features and has implemented them more than once for other clients.

Expected Outcomes 
You have a right to expect a lot from a renewal effort. Do your research, make a plan and carry it out. In advance, don’t forget to write down (anticipate) the outcomes so you have something with which to measure when the project is completed. This renewal idea, in the context of product updates, is an easy win. In the case of COBOL, CICS and IMS; IBM has spend million of dollars on new functionality with each release or enhancement so you have a lot of opportunities to deploy something that will make a big difference with your applications.