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COBOL’s credentials as a strong digital technology appear to be set for another decade: Chris Livesey, Micro Focus

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Micro Focus today announced the findings of its COBOL Survey, which reveals the latest global trends and 2020 plans for enterprises utilizing COBOL and mainframe technology. The survey follows data gathered in a previous 2017 survey and indicates that 70% of enterprises favor modernization as an approach for implementing strategic change as compared to the replacing/retiring of key COBOL applications as it continues to offer a low-risk, and effective means of transforming IT to support digital business initiatives.

“As we see the attitudes around COBOL modernization with changes to where and how it needs to be delivered and how its usage continues to grow, COBOL’s credentials as a strong digital technology appear to be set for another decade,” said Chris Livesey, Senior Vice President, Application Modernization and Connectivity at Micro Focus. “With 60 years of experience supporting mission-critical applications and business systems, COBOL continues to evolve as a flexible and resilient computer language that will remain relevant and important for businesses around the world.”

Conducted with Vanson Bourne, a global research and analysis company, the global survey asked COBOL-connected architects, software engineers, developers, development managers and IT executives from 40 different countries about the strategic importance of COBOL applications to their business, future application roadmaps and planning, as well as their development toolchains and resources.

“This survey allowed for Vanson Bourne to gather valuable data from the IT community on COBOL’s continued relevance, as well as the forward-looking insights needed for Micro Focus and others to continue shaping the language for years to come,” said Jimmy Mortimer, Senior Research Consultant at Vanson Bourne.

Key findings of the Micro Focus COBOL Survey include:

Modernization Continues to Drive Strategic Business Change: Modernization as a vehicle for IT transformation and critical business change can take many forms with 53 percent of respondents planning to pursue initiatives aligned to application modernization and integration of COBOL systems. This was followed by 37 percent pursuing process modernization efforts and another 38 percent investing in infrastructure modernization activities.

COBOL is at the Heart of a Modernization Strategy: Modernization was favored over the replacing and retiring of older systems with 63 percent of respondents choosing to improve upon their existing COBOL systems in 2020. Additionally, 92 percent of respondents felt as though their organization’s COBOL applications are strategic in comparison to 84 percent of respondents in 2017.

IT and Business Synergy Remains Strong for COBOL: Senior tech-focused roles are most likely to be seen as leading or influencing application modernization initiatives with 36 percent for CTOs and 33 percent for CIOs. Senior non-tech roles also play a role in a significant number of organizations with 27 percent for CEOs and 9 percent for CFOs. Paired with IT’s focus on supporting the business and driving competitive advantage (46 percent of responses), the relationship between COBOL development teams and the business has evolved and strengthened.

The IT Ecosystem Continues to Evolve: Continued change is shown by the strategic alignment of COBOL systems through modern-day technology with 42 percent seeing Cloud as a core and viable platform to support the business agenda as compared to 30 percent in 2017. As the IT landscape evolves, COBOL remains vital in new ecosystems and its continued evolution is a foundational element of IT and business change.

COBOL-based Systems are Strategic and Growing: When asked about their company’s plans for COBOL in 2020, 63 percent of the survey’s respondents stated that they are planning to modernize their system/applications with a focus on functionality and process. This is further supported by the results with an increase in the size of the average application code base from 8.4 million in 2017 to 9.9 million this year, showing continued investment, re-use and expansion in core business systems.

“Thanks to the original design’s readability, adaptability and portability, COBOL adds tremendous value for companies as a dependable solution that will continue to grow and thrive,” said Chris Livesey, Senior Vice President, Application Modernization and Connectivity at Micro Focus.


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