Jan 11

Top CIO To-Do for 2018: Mainframe Accountability!

by Christopher O’Malley 

If you’re an enterprise CIO, you have lots on your to-do list—including AI, cybersecurity and continuous delivery.

But there’s one New Year’s resolution you should put at the top of that list: mainframe KPIs.

Here’s why.

You Can’t Improve What You Don’t Measure

Continuous improvement is a foundational tenet of DevOps. Successful DevOps teams rigorously identify constraints, diligently work to remove them, and then quickly move on to the next one.

But to do DevOps, you need the right team culture. That means no sacred cows, no change phobias, no passive-aggressive behavior and no making mountains of excuses out of molehill edge-cases. Just committed people who embrace improvement as a core imperative just like breathing.

You also need to appropriately challenge your DevOps teams through quantified goals for velocity, quality and efficiency. Moving the needle on those metrics—month-over-month, quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year – continuously improves your chances of success in today’s intensely competitive digital markets.

A laissez-faire approach to DevOps, on the other hand, will land you in a whole heap of trouble.

Why the Mainframe?

KPIs for mainframe DevOps are especially important because the mainframe is especially important. The mainframe is where world’s largest enterprises run their core systems of record, databases, and transaction processing. That’s because the mainframe delivers unmatched performance at scale. It’s also supremely reliable, efficient and secure.

Mainframe workloads, thus, continue to grow—not decline—as digital demands on the enterprise escalate.

Plus, we’ve all come to realize that mainframe applications must be subject to the same Agile and DevOps disciplines as web/mobile. The notion that large enterprises could somehow be digitally competitive while allowing their mainframe applications to languish in slow, inflexible waterfall limbo has been definitively falsified.

So to keep pace with market innovation. you must aggressively evolve both your systems of record and your systems of engagement in tandem. Mainframe digital assets must be enabled to play their part in turning your best ideas into your best deliverables—quickly, iteratively and continuously.

Managing Generational Shift

CIOs face two primary challenges when it comes to adopting KPIs for mainframe DevOps.

One challenge is that experienced mainframe artisans have been doing things their way for a long time. So, they often resist new KPIs—and point to the quality of their work as a defense against change. But, just as great athletes keep striving to up their game, so too must IT artisans keep evolving their skills in the face of intensifying challenges.

At the same time, you’re ideally getting serious about shifting mainframe stewardship from platform veterans nearing retirement to the next generation of DevOps artisans. But, to work on your mainframe apps, these next-gen artisans need new mainframe tools that, 1) provide intuitive interface that insulate from underlying platform idiosyncrasies; and, 2) integrate with their DevOps technologies-of-choice, such as Jenkins, SonarQube and XL Release. And, if you invest in new mainframe tooling, you need to make sure your investments pay off. That means closely tracking how people embrace new tools—and continuously pinpointing any training/coaching needs.

In other words, you need KPIs to ensure that your new mainframe artisans rapidly achieve platform mastery and to reasonably challenge your veteran mainframers to embrace the new rules of DevOps

Leadership Demands Commitment

This all comes down to the simple principle that you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Plus, as any effective leader knows, goals motivate people – if those goals are realistic and worthy achievements on are celebrated along the way.

Three KPIs are especially important when it comes to the mainframe:

Yes, there are costs associated with driving continuous mainframe DevOps improvement. And, yes, that cost must be weighed against other imperatives facing the CIO.

But you’re only as fast as your slowest digital asset—so your digital agility depends on setting and hitting ambitious mainframe KPIs in 2018.