Enterprise Executive: What’s contributing to that gap you described?
Radding: While there are many factors, the largest appears to be that most organizations approach the mainframe and distributed environments as separate worlds. Given the interrelated nature of today’s enterprise, this approach won’t work going forward. Mainframe and distributed teams need a shared view of IT and must be able to communicate on the same level.
Enterprise Executive: In addition to the issue of mainframe and distributed integration, enterprise applications continue to grow in complexity, likely to span multiple tiers, platforms and environments, while involving multiple technology silos in management and support. With that in mind, how do today’s IT organizations troubleshoot enterprise application performance problems? And how do they manage mainframe resources to ensure efficiency?
Radding: In many cases, not very well. Days, even weeks, can be spent in war rooms trying to answer questions such as what exactly is happening? Where did the transaction originate? Whose fault is it? Typical answers include: ‘All my systems lights are green. The CICS transaction is functioning as designed.’ And possibly the answer most indicative of the problem, ‘I don’t care what’s happening over there; my piece of the application is working fine.’
There’s little room for effective collaboration when teams are viewing problems independently. In order to address that deficiency, organizations need a unified, single view of the enterprise—the entire enterprise. Even though today’s applications span multiple system environments, most application performance management (APM) tools focus on a single platform. So, different teams run different tools to address the same performance problems. Plus, numerous workarounds are needed to ensure information is collected, analyzed and shared among teams. An effective APM strategy would eliminate this inefficiency and remove the gap between mainframe and other non-mainframe teams.
O’Flynn: It’s also important to see how a transaction flows and interacts. But the effectiveness of tracing compound business transactions end-to-end fades as the transaction components extend further, crossing multiple systems and management domains. A single, unified view would aid this process.
Finally, it’s necessary to understand the business context of a transaction. Similar to not having a unified view of transaction performance, not knowing the business context of a transaction greatly hinders collaboration. Once a CICS transaction hits the mainframe, the mainframe team can only analyze if each individual transaction is optimized. They need to see what was generating that transaction.
Radding: All these problems hold IT organizations back from achieving higher levels of maturity and realizing the full potential of their mainframe. Bridging the gap and smoothing cultural differences between various technology disciplines will provide a starting point for processes and service delivery improvement.
Enterprise Executive: The first challenge IT faces in almost any undertaking is a resistance to change. Apart from that, what other challenges need to be overcome to achieve mainframe maturity?
Radding: There are a few. One significant challenge is changing skills. And that’s not only about the retirement of skilled mainframe veterans, but now there’s also a need for service-oriented architecture (SOA), cloud and mobile technology skills. The demand for traditional mainframe skills isn’t going to diminish even as organizations seek to cultivate those new skills. To address these issues, it’s important to start hiring and training replacements now. Consider cross-training developers so you can impart mainframe experience to your distributed teams and vice versa.
Enterprise Executive: Any others?
O’Flynn: Yes. There are also things such as management visibility, end-user engagement and culture conflicts.
It’s important that management has measurement capabilities and increased visibility into the expanded IT infrastructure. And equally important are the users. End-user experience needs to be a central element of every technology decision your organization makes. And finally, bringing teams together. By having shared tools that offer a complete view across mainframe, distributed and mobile/cloud environments, you can reduce conflict and start troubleshooting issues more quickly and efficiently.
Enterprise Executive: So, it seems organizations that move up the enterprise IT performance maturity model will be well-positioned to compete in the continually evolving business landscape. What are some key takeaways for an organization seeking to achieve that maturity?
Radding: I’d say there are four areas of focus to keep you on the right path. First, address the skills gap and workforce churn by employing modern mainframe tooling. Second, expand your APM capabilities for multiplatform, end-to-end visibility. And third, navigate cultural divides by continuously engaging multiple organizational units. Finally, you need to leverage your technology to work toward continuous mean time to repair (MTTR) process improvement.
The Enterprise IT Performance Maturity Model can help organizations keep pace with the demands of customers and the business. Mainframes really can be more than just legacy systems; they can be engines for driving optimal business growth and success.