The evolution of mainframe modernisation is rapidly accelerating

In my opinion, the biggest challenge to mainframe modernisation is not technical. It is cultural and organisational with some ‘stuck in their ways’ siloed mainframe teams reticent, or even obstructing change.

Often these siloed teams within a single organisation are outsourced with teams being run by multiple vendors. As a result, for lots of organisations in 2022, even making any BAU change is incredibly slow and cumbersome. Moving mainframe workloads to the cloud, implementing mainframe automation, and mainframe DevOps, is not feasible or realistic, purely because of organisation structure and antiquated processes.

Unless organisations invest in mainframe modernisation both technically and culturally, mainframe change will become an increasingly heavier ball and chain that will drag some notables down in the coming years.

“In this digital age the winners will always be those that can adopt technology the fastest. The mainframe is no exception to this rule but organisations must recognise that unless they can embrace operational change first, the technology will not even get a chance to shine.”

– Gary Thornhill

Outsourcing blocks innovation

In my experience outsourcing is the worst culprit and the biggest barrier for mainframe organisations to innovate. A big part of the problem is procurement’s insatiable appetite for driving down cost. When outsourcing deals are squeezed too far, the vendor has to protect their margins by operating in much narrower corridors, reducing flexibility to the client.

For example only urgent fixes are applied and any new software installs are charged separately. We have been recently working with a client where the incumbent outsourcer insisted on building a whole project team to install one load module as this was out of scope of the BAU contract.

Locked out of your own system!

The client themselves often do not have access to work on their own systems because they are outsourced and they simply do not have access as part of the contract. An analogy would be if you see your favourite flower parched for water in your back garden but you are not allowed to use your own watering can to resuscitate it!

Relentless focus on cost savings

As a result deploying new technology becomes very difficult and at a disproportionate high cost. Most of the time is spent ‘costing’ the work with a laborious change control process to get the work signed off. This suits the outsourcer perfectly. When it comes to renewal, they can just drop the cost slightly as the environment is completely stable since there has been no technology change!

This is where procurement often fails its organisation, as it’s so obsessed with driving down cost it forgets about cost’s older and wiser cousin: value. So whilst procurement get a big pat on the back they are actually strangling their own organisation’s ability to stay competitive in the long term. The worst thing is this status quo is just accepted by the client and they suffer in silence.

Mainframe modernisation is essential

For some of the organisation’s IT teams this is a good state of affairs, as they are not pressured to deliver much change. But it is deeply frustrating to the modernisers who know that change is essential to maintain profitability and competitiveness in the long run.

For mainframe innovation to be successful, change must be straightforward and the cultural norm. Mainframe change should be a key part of the IT strategy with all departments understanding their responsibility to drive mainframe change.



About PopUp

PopUp Mainframe enables organisations to spin up mainframe environments quickly on x86 hardware. PopUp meets the need for mainframe development and test environments with absolutely no dependence on the physical mainframe. PopUp offers a solution to mainframe outsourcing and rigid contracts, and in turn, enables mainframe innovation to flourish.


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