Mainframe Blog

How companies are managing the mainframe with a new generation of professionals

Tom Vogel
3 minute read
Tom Vogel

Flash forward to 2021. Nearly all your experienced mainframe experts have retired. Yet the mainframe is still going strong (89% of the respondents in BMC’s 2016 annual mainframe survey1 of executives and technical professionals consider it to be a long-term, strategic platform for growth). Businesses are continuing to innovate on the mainframe to gain a competitive edge, while dealing with growing transaction volumes, explosive data growth, greater complexity, and increased volatility.

What’s your strategy for ensuring the mainframe in your company continues to deliver the reliability, performance and security needed to meet digital business demands now and into the future? Who’s going to mind the shop as many of the highly skilled mainframe experts exit?

Training Takes Time

Training new staff to fill this void is critical, but getting fully trained doesn’t happen overnight. One of the top priorities today is dealing with the skills gap. People who rated this as a key priority are investing in training, hiring experienced external candidates, using advanced automation, and taking other actions to cope.

  • A whopping 46% said it takes 2 to 4 years to bring an inexperienced staff member up to speed
  • Just 33% said training takes less than 2 years and – believe it or not – some people even said the time to train would be 8 to 10 years

In the 2016 survey, companies that said they were reducing workloads on the mainframe were dealing with the skills issue by moving workloads off the platform, thus removing the problem instead of dealing with it. On the other hand, respondents with companies that are thriving on the platform place focus on hiring experienced professionals and training them internally. This is a longer-term strategy to leverage the platform to its fullest and maximize ROI.

For Many, Advanced Automation Is a Necessity – Not an Option

Furthermore, according to the survey, thirty-five percent of the larger shops that consider the skills gap to be a top priority are using new technologies and automation as one of the key ways to meet this challenge head on. This is where advanced automation can be leveraged to do as much work as possible, with app-like tools that are familiar to GenXers and Millennials.

Here are a couple of examples of advanced automation helping with this skills challenge:

  1. Digital business success requires resolving problems proactively. Without a systems management approach, operations staff can spend too much time writing and maintaining manual scripts. In addition, if alarms are not priority-based they can get ignored. BMC MainView systems management, for example, proactively finds and fixes problems and uses centralized, smart alarms based on priorities. A customizable, intuitive interface provides a single view of entire systems and reduces complexity. Skills transfer is easy because staff can seamlessly drill down into problems and resolve them without requiring specialist knowledge. MainView’s intelligent, self-learning automation also eliminates the effort and skills needed to write and maintain manual scripts.
  2. The cost of the mainframe continues to grow, particularly with key software like DB2, CICS, and IMS (MLC software). Major companies from the Fortune 500 are using BMC R4 MLC Cost Management solutions to reduce monthly charges, which are increasing every year by 4-7%. Intelligent Capping, for example, can save 5 to 20% by dynamically limiting resource usage at key intervals for lower-importance work (which you define). Companies using these technologies are saving up to $1 million per year or more simply by “setting it and forgetting it.”

Next Steps

Dealing with the skills gap is a big challenge for many mainframe organizations, but you can mitigate its impact. BMC offers software solutions and automation to address these issues today and into the future. To learn more about how organizations are coping with the skills gap and their other priorities, read the 11th Annual Mainframe Survey.

1 BMC Software 11th Annual Mainframe Survey of more than 1,200 executives and technical professionals

Access 2020 Mainframe Survey Results

BMC’s 15th annual mainframe survey reveals strategies to adapt, automate, and secure the mainframe for continued success.

These postings are my own and do not necessarily represent BMC's position, strategies, or opinion.

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About the author

Tom Vogel

Tom Vogel

Tom Vogel has enjoyed 25 years in the software industry, in various technical, marketing, and business development roles.
At IBM Corporation, Tom managed product launches for various database products on all platforms. Previously, Tom managed the marketing and communications for a host of middleware software packages, such as OpenTV interactive TV software. At Automation Anywhere in San Jose, Tom was the Director of the ERP Business, managing Business Development and Marketing for the company's rapidly growing ERP process automation and testing automation solutions. Tom is experienced in building customer and partner relationships, and has an MBA from Santa Clara University. Today, Tom is the Lead Solutions Marketing Manager for innovative mainframe cost optimization and data management offerings at BMC Software.