This is a great way to help your new mainframers become familiar with the mainframe and with your specific context, and even improve their Assembler skills. Here’s an approach to consider:

1. Identify all the experienced Assembler programmers in your shop.
2. Assign one or more new mainframers the task of working with your experienced programmers to create a list of all in-house Assembler programs in use, where the source is kept, where the load modules are, how they’re used, by whom, and what business benefits they provide.
3. Next, have the new mainframers put together a list of all mainframe features and packaged software that might offer some or all the functionalities and business benefits of these in-house Assembler programs.
4. Meet with your experienced Assembler programmers and new mainframers and prioritize which Assembler programs should be removed or replaced.

Now your new mainframers get a first-hand learning experience of all the business practices that keep a mainframe environment functional, from creating test versions of the alternative configurations, to testing them, to change control, and production. Initially, it may be optimal to do this for one program at a time to discover the local “gotchas” in your environment.

If these steps seem onerous given the workload your staff already faces, hiring an experienced mainframe consultant to act as a facilitator can help.

Benefits of this approach include:

• Less obscure, obsolete, and challenging Assembler software to maintain
• Leveraging current out-of-the-box functionality that requires little or no regular attention
• A great learning experience for your new mainframers, plus a chance for them to get to know your experienced people and establish mentoring relationships.

That’s not a bad return for eliminating extraneous Assembler. Of course, you could also spruce up your CLISTS and REXX execs, too, and maybe even programs and exits in other languages. After you’ve dealt with the Assembler programs, there are several ways you can renew your mainframe to ensure maximum value as a new generation inherits it. But that's another article.

Acknowledgement: Special thanks to my colleague Kikis Orphanos for providing excellent input for this article.


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