Any failure to do periodic reassessments of items deemed good enough is highly problematic. Considerable opportunity cost can be incurred by not taking advantage of new technology—or even by simply neglecting to implement the latest releases of existing software.
Itemizing the Downside of Complacency
Innovation always comes at a price. To move forward, IT organizations must spend the time and money necessary to evaluate technologies, purchase products, and implement and integrate them. Not innovating also has a price that’s reflected in hardware resources, staffing costs, service availability, performance, and opportunity cost. Let’s consider each of these.
Software consumes hardware resources. When mainframes ran below their capacity, IT didn’t think twice about spending CPU seconds to monitor the system or run management tools. If a tool was considered useful, it was implemented. Today, resource costs must be more carefully allocated because it’s essential to avoid or at least delay processor upgrades since such upgrades considerably drive up software costs, too. No one wants to spend money on a processor upgrade just because of their management tools.
But no tool runs for free. Even a data collector takes some CPU and disk space. Network traffic and I/O also are concerns. The trick is to find the tool that provides the necessary functionality at the lowest possible price while minimizing resource consumption. So tools that offer Lightweight Local Presences (LLPs) or that leverage System z Integrated Information Processor (zIIP) capacity can actually save an IT organization considerable money. Some tools also reduce costs by offering User Interfaces (UIs) that run on PCs—further reducing resource utilization. With Graphical User Interfaces (GUIs) and Web and portal capabilities, new tools offer the additional benefits of sharing information more widely. This can help eliminate process “silos” and improve overall team productivity.
Newer products can be easier to install and operate. GUIs make management of any platform more straightforward. This is an especially critical issue as some IT organizations lose their most experienced mainframe staff to retirement. As new, less experienced staff take over, long learning curves can expose the business to serious risk. Easy-to-use products that eliminate requirements for a higher level of expertise—and that include lots of helpful automation and promptings—are well-worth their cost as the torch is passed to a new generation of mainframe professionals.
New solutions also help IT replace homegrown solutions that can be difficult or impossible to maintain, rarely scale as needed, and can be highly resource-intensive. Often, these homegrown utilities are the brainchild of one key employee who may not be there when the next coding change is required. Older vendor products can have the same drawback. They may require historical expertise that will disappear with a single retiree.
Staffing costs typically surpass resource costs so it’s essential to automate mainframe management as much as possible—and keep IT’s most skilled staff free to focus on strategic tasks. This isn’t just prudent from a cost perspective; it’s also vital for retention of key employees, who feel more satisfied and empowered when they’re freed from routine tasks.