January is a time for leaders to prioritize objectives for the coming year which, in my experience, are best set by being open to new ideas and tackling big challenges.
The biggest of challenges for mainframe leaders is the growing skills shortage. While mainframes continue to run the most critical of enterprise applications, large numbers of professionals are aging out of the workforce while next-generation developers view the mainframe as a career limiting option.
Mainframe software development has consistently delivered business value by pairing talented teams with tools that empower them to code, build and test at their best. Our DevOps portfolio has been serving the most demanding mainframe shops for decades, helping them deliver quality code while adhering to rigorous enterprise demands. CA Endevor SCM, for example, is a robust DevOps platform used to optimize software delivery performance.1
However, the world beyond mainframe has changed and the next generation of developers are now DevOps natives with hands-on experience with powerful cloud and open source tools that address specific problems. These tools help them work smarter by automating more of the workload in a “shift-left” environment.
The lack of tool choice on the mainframe has become a real problem. In a recent survey by Stack Overflow, a site where modern devs congregate, 69% of those developing on the mainframe were not interested in continuing to do so. For those familiar with the new world, being restricted to mainframe native tools means being handcuffed.
How to Attract & Retain the Next Generation
In their recently published book, “Accelerate: The Science of Lean Software and DevOps”, authors Nicole Forsgren, Jez Humble and Gene Kim highlight 24 key capabilities that, based on their research, improve software delivery in a significant way.
Within this rich set of 24, two stand out in context of the mainframe skills challenge:
Architect for empowered teams
Research shows that teams empowered to choose their tools based on what’s best for the users of those tools drive better performance. As the authors state, “When the tools provided actually make like easier for the engineers who use them, they will adopt them.” Further, “No one knows better than the practitioners what they need to be effective.”
Provide resources and tools that make work meaningful
The research also indicates that job satisfaction depends strongly on having the right tools and resources to do the job well. The ability to exercise skills and judgement are key elements of meaningful work which, in turn, drive organizational performance. Work that next-generation devs know can be easily automated, or eliminated entirely, is not meaningful.
This research aligns with the Stack Overflow survey which also indicates developers are attracted by languages, frameworks and other technologies, second only to compensation and benefits in terms of job selection. And when you consider the wide universe of skills that LinkedIn tracks across all jobs, they identified Cloud Computing as the single most in-demand career skill. Attracting top talent means offering cloud-like skills.
How Zowe and CA Brightside change the game
Together with IBM and Rocket Software, we cofounded Zowe, an open source initiative within the Linux Foundation’s Open Mainframe Project, to enable mainframe developers to use a broad array of modern tools and DevOps practices in their day-to-day work.
Zowe, along with our commercially-supported version called CA Brightside, allows mainframe developers to use tools like JEST & Mocha.js for test automation, Gulp for build scripting and Jenkins for CI/CD. A virtually unlimited range of desktop and cloud applications are available to those hungry to improve their productivity.
Not only do they see these tools as appealing from a career perspective, millennial developers are already familiar with scripting and command-line interfaces like Zowe/Brightside. These are now day one skills for DevOps Engineers.
Helping mainframe teams attract and retain the next-generation of talent by enabling tool choice, and the opportunity to exercise judgement that comes with it, motivates us. With Brightside and Endevor’s Enterprise DevOps option, team members can build the skills they desire while continuing to work with mainframe native DevOps tools like Endevor, File Master Plus and OPS/MVS, protecting the existing investment.
The combination of in-demand cloud skills combined with the compute power of big iron presents an opportunity to which even the snarkiest of developers would offer a tip-of-the-hat.
And stayed tuned. In the coming days we’ll introduce Brightside 2.0 which will bring another of the book’s 24 key capabilities to the mainframe – Use a loosely-coupled architecture.
Know a next-generation mainframe developer? Have them try CA Brightside Community Edition for free.
1: Did you know “Endevor” is an acronym for Environment for Development and Operations?