Operating Systems

Several articles in the last issue of z/Journal (August/ September) really peaked my interest. So let’s add to the discussion, specifically from the z/VSE perspective.

Support Staff Graying?

“Who’s Minding the Shop?” by Mary Shacklett (page 66) and “A New Generation of Mainframe Professionals” by Micky Reichenberg (page 71) are excellent treatises on the graying of zSeries support staff and current initiatives to deal with it. If you didn’t read these articles, you should (they are available on the Website at www.zjournal.com).

From the z/VSE perspective, we’ve seen an influx of younger people into the community since 1998. They’ve typically been recruited, employed, and trained via the private corporate sector of the business community.

In the late ’90s, it seemed that z/VSE-related companies might resolve this situation (graying of technical staff) by themselves. But by 2003, there was a noticeable slowdown of those efforts, caused by a severe lack of funding and general personnel reductions, stabilizations, and/or consolidations.

Couple those items with a short-range survival strategy, in place because of funding issues, and the lack of time, personnel and funds for a long-range corporate data processing strategy, and it seems we’ve mapped a road to certain disaster in our near-term future.

The graying of the technical staff is a major roadblock in our future, and the budget cuts, personnel reductions and short-term survival strategy will continue to erode our technical staffs, making lack of qualified personnel even more severe and education programs even more important.

Do we need to educate more technical staff? Do we need to re-examine current corporate data processing strategies, plans, budgets and initiatives? Yes to all of the above, as addressing just one of the issues won’t allow the corporation to survive; and if the corporation doesn’t survive, there’s little need for a technical staff.

CIO Churn

Jon Toigo’s “IT Sense” column (page 112, August/September) provides great insights into corporate leadership issues. If you didn’t read it, now is the time.

Jon’s comments on CIO churn are right on, but let’s add some more. I perceive there are more CIO positions than the available, competent CIO resource pool can fill. If that’s true, then CIO churn is inevitable. As the incompetents are ushered out, new CIOs are sought, and because of the issues Jon has identified, the really good CIOs are ready to seek employment elsewhere, hoping the abuse will be less.

When a new CIO comes on board, he/she typically makes certain prognostications to management that are to be realized within certain timeframes. Often, these commitments are based on cursory observations with insufficient consideration of the current data processing workloads, capabilities, and budgets. In other words, they may be doomed to failure.

If the CIO doesn’t deliver on the promises within a reasonable time at a reasonable cost, then a certain waste product hits the fan and the honeymoon with the board is over. Now the board and the CIO are in a new, somewhat adversarial, relationship.

If the existing personnel weren’t happy about the new CIO, they will sense “the blood in the water,” and the new CIO may experience significant additional “difficulties.” Failure is probably imminent.

Within many z/VSE installations, the role of CIO may have fallen on IS management. As if the day-to-day data processing, budget crunches and personnel shortages weren’t enough to deal with, the manager is also subject to the pressures of interacting with the CEO, CFO, and board members as a defacto CIO. That can be a recipe for management churn that often leads to a new position, CIO, and then CIO churn.

Solutions

The idea that a competent, well-educated technical support staff is an asset required for business success must re-emerge in the corporate boardroom. Budgets and staffing levels must reflect the true value of technical personnel to the success of the business.

Thanks for reading!