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Shiny and new vs. tried and true

If your business operates on a COBOL mainframe and you’re lacking resources, don’t worry. You don’t need to get rid of COBOL or upgrade to a different system—you just need the right support, and it’s still out there. 

Crisis calls for COBOL 

The pandemic has created a resurgent need for COBOL programmers across the many organizations and industries that operate on a mainframe system—and there are more than you might think. Even though it’s a 60-year-old language, more than half of the United States rely on mainframe systems based on COBOL.

Recent massive ransomware attacks, amongst other security threats, system failures, and barriers to innovation have shown there is an ever-resurging need for COBOL programmers across the many organizations and industries that operate on a mainframe system. There’s more than you might think, and between the pandemic and rise of AI technology, the issue of technical debt has only gotten worse. Even though it’s a 60-year-old language, around half of the United States relies on mainframe systems based on COBOL.  

Many companies and government agencies have grown acutely aware of their heavy reliance on COBOL, as experts estimate that the overall technical debt for the US now sits around $2 trillion. This is especially true for banks and financial institutions, where a large majority remain on COBOL based systems. According to WSJ, “Technical debt has parallels with our national debt, in that it compounds over time, ballooned during the pandemic, and has reached worrisome proportions.”

Some of the biggest barriers to addressing this issue are the now commonplace cultures of rushing things out the door with a lack of quality control or code optimization, jumping ship to shiny new technologies without a solid foundation or futureproofing, and reluctance to allocate resources unless it will bring new technical capabilities. There are also concerns amongst software experts that AI will only exacerbate the issue, allowing less-experienced coders to push out bad code faster, while other companies like ADP are using AI to bolster and modernize their systems by translating old code, including COBOL.

This shows us now, more than ever, there is a huge opportunity and need for those with COBOL programming expertise for the technical debt related issues to come.

Resource roundup 

Having a COBOL mainframe is one thing. Finding programmers to operate an older system is another challenge. As newer systems developed and younger programmers followed the hot, new technology, companies who use COBOL began to outsource programming to other countries. 

There are talented, local resources available. You just need to know where and how to look for them, and how to place them within your organization. Element Consulting can help with your COBOL needs. From implementation and support to upgrades and advisory, we provide COBOL mainframe “lifecycle” services. We also have the right people for the job. Our base of senior-level consultants have a minimum of 5 years experience in COBOL mainframe programming. 

Like anything in our world, something sexier and faster always comes along and mainframe systems like these were no different. But the fact of the matter is, what’s come along isn’t always necessarily better. Say what you want about COBOL, but it works and it works well. It’s not going away anytime soon. 

We speak COBOL. Connect with us to start talking.