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Key Success Factors for Mainframe Renewal [Part 2/6]

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My earlier blog talked about approaches for non-disruptive renewal of mainframe systems. Now, let's look at what are the key parameters for a successful transformation.

Whenever we discuss mainframe renewal with senior business & IT leaders with large mainframe footprints, they are worried and concerned about specific areas. It's important to address these concerns and risks to lay down a good foundation and business case for the Mainframe renewal. What are these concerns?

Knowledge (What, Why, How): The mainframe applications have been developed and enhanced over decades and during this period, several programmers would have enhanced and updated the code. In most organizations, there is minimal documentation and even if it exists, it's dated and point in time. Most of the knowledge resides with few SME's and it's all there in the head. Due to the subject matter expertise, they are too busy with day to day operations and it's very difficult to get quality time from them to capture the knowledge. It's important to understand the inventory, data flows, program/job flows, critical business path, and dependencies on other jobs/programs in order to develop a least disruptive, ring-fencing, renewal and migration approach.

This is where the discovery and reverse engineering tools available in the market have an important role to play. However, very few tools make the knowledge available in a software readable format so that it could be used to perform 'what-if' analysis, build correlation between code and issues/tickets/logs, determine critical paths, map it to business process and capabilities and use it to make modernization decisions (retain, retire, optimize, invest, transform etc). Infosys modernization platform can be used to accelerate the knowledge discovery process as for a large US credit card issuer, Infosys curated knowledge from million lines of code in a very short period of time.

De-Construction: Most of the mainframe application portfolios are like spaghetti ball, which are very tightly linked to each other, to the databases and data files. Depending on the size of the mainframe portfolio (1 million line of code to 100 million lines of code), the complexity could significantly increase. For such large and complex portfolios, a big bang approach will not work and hence an evolutionary approach is required. The big question in the mind of senior leaders is where to start and how?

The mainframe portfolio should be deconstructed into a set of firelanes and each firelane should be ring-fenced so that they could be evolved independently with minimal impact to the other programs/applications. To deconstruct into firelanes, the portfolio should be analyzed through multiple lenses - business (core, differentiated and commoditized business capabilities), rate of change (required across the different tiers of applications from front office to back office) and technical complexity. A 'de-construction framework' based on these patterns is required to make this process data driven and more pragmatic.

Next Generation Architecture: While planning for renewal, while it's important to understand the current systems using the knowledge discovery approach highlighted earlier, when envisioning the future state business capabilities and architecture, one should always look at the front mirror (future state solution) and not the back mirror (current systems). This will ensure we architect the solution using the best technology available and for future business capabilities and business model.

The next generation architecture has to be open, infrastructure independent, hybrid (to enable old and new world to co-exist during transition), reactive, DSL based (to separate 'what' from 'how') and leverage platforms (saas, paas, iaas).

People + Software: Renewal of large mainframe footprints is a herculean task and given that most of the workforce supporting these systems are ageing or are too busy with their other daily operations, doing all the renewal activities manually would take longer and would be very cumbersome. Automation using tools and accelerators can significantly accelerate the knowledge discovery, optimization, renewal, migration and testing activities. Automation coupled with Modernization SMEs can shrink the timelines of these renewal projects by up to 30%.

Tooling would be required in 4 key areas - reverse engineering, analysis of current portfolio, forward engineering and enabling functions like DevOps, testing, operations etc. There is no single tool vendor that can comprehensively support all these areas in a very integrated and efficient manner and hence you will have to integrate multiple best-in-class tools or accelerators to fulfill your needs.

Business Case: This is the single most important critical success factor for mainframe renewal. As most of the mainframe systems have evolved over a period of time and would be stable, there has to be a very strong business case to accelerate, renew or transform out of mainframe. While cost is an important driver, it's always worth looking at other drivers like improved time to market for business initiatives, delivering new business capabilities, new customer experience and new business models to build a compelling case.

In order to make a compelling business case, outcome based pricing model is a good option and it also forces everyone to look hard into the desirability, feasibility and viability aspects of the program. Would like to know the concerns that are giving you sleepless nights.

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