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How to Digitally Remaster With the Agile Mainframe

Digital transformation is a term that has transcended the IT industry, impacting every company, regardless of size and ambition. Indeed, it?s recently been found that every aspect of a business can see greater results by embracing digital transformation.

In order to fully embrace the new digital age, an Agile mainframe approach is critical and will help ensure that the benefits this new era represents can be felt by your business and delivered to the end user. As a result of adopting an Agile approach, businesses can generate what we at CA call ?innovation velocity? and value to the business.

This concept is explained in detail by my colleague and CA CTO, Otto Berkes in his recently launched book, Digitally Remastered: Building Software into Your Business DNA. In particular, Chapter 4 of the book talks about the Agile journey, taking you on a path from idea to business outcome. Whereas Waterfall development with its monolithic projects, long lead times, and static requirements falls down on delivering speed and value, Agile methodologies decrease cycle times and increase delivered value through the continual iteration of small teams, free from the chains of bureaucratic development processes.

While there are potential roadblocks standing in the way of businesses and true agility, these can be overcome through dedication, planning, and a willingness to adapt. We take a look at how this is achievable.

Business Agility Is a Necessity, Not a ?Nice-to-Have?

As outlined above, Agile is an alternative to traditional linear (or, Waterfall) development processes. Instead of the traditional model, which favors enormous projects and often requires longer lead times, Agile allows small teams to work in short-term intervals to continually assess and reassess project status and direction with the aim to produce or update software in a faster, more effective way.

Basically, Agile helps you deliver upon what the end-user wants, faster. To do this, it requires customer feedback and a high level of collaboration to work. When agility is achieved, it allows organizations to streamline processes, decrease cycle times, and make faster and better-informed decisions.

How does this translate into ROI? A recent study found that Agile companies have been found to grow revenue 37% faster and generate 30% higher profits. The Project Management Institute found that highly Agile organizations are 50%t more likely to successfully complete their strategic initiatives.

A summary of research on project management methods found that Agile approaches yielded 29% better cost, 91% better schedule, 97% better productivity, 50% better quality, 400% better satisfaction and 470% better ROI than the least effective traditional methods.

So, if it?s such a no-brainer and the proof?s in the ROI, then why isn?t everyone doing it?

Don?t Go Chasing Waterfalls

First, adopting an Agile approach is a daunting task for any business, especially with mainframes, with many organizations resistant to the idea of moving from the traditional Waterfall model.

This is understandable, with organizations seeing the Waterfall model as one in which more stability and control can be exerted. It allows cost and scheduling to be planned and minimizes the opportunities for changes to be made during development.

While in the short term this may seem like a good idea, this approach to development can result in mainframe (with more than 70% of enterprise data) being left out of the innovation agenda, and software that doesn?t reflect the evolving needs of the customer.

Agile, however, shifts the focus of work from predefined goals that may not be valid at the end of the Waterfall development cycle and shifts it to customer needs. This requires the organization to shift the focus on how to measure value, and how to prioritize and deliver work.

Feedback is a necessity in the Agile model, for example, with the ability to adapt to the ever-changing needs of the customer resulting in better, more useful software. This is where the idea of innovation velocity, which I mentioned earlier in the post, is generated. Instead of having an end product that misses the mark, the Agile approach allows for fluidity and constant input, resulting in an optimal environment for innovation to occur. Here, change is worthwhile and should be embraced.

Change Is Scary

The move towards Agile requires a change not just in organizational terms, but in the dynamics of the team.

When relying on a number of small, individual teams that work intensively over shorter periods of time, organizations must move to a model in which the teams are trusted to be self-motivated and self-organized, with a well-defined focus.

This requires a balancing act between ensuring disciplined project management and offering creative freedom, ensuring that the right project is being tackled at the right time while minimizing waste and maximizing effectiveness.

The idea isn?t to grow these teams, but to multiply them ? with more self-directed teams allowing the organization to develop or update software in a more effective, flexible way. This requires a level of transparency between the teams, which must be driven by those in charge of implementation.

In fact, CA?s mainframe organization, which has adopted agile practices across its 1,000+ WW teams, recently went through a shift to portfolio-level Agile practices and we?ve been able to free up several teams to focus on additional innovations including data loss prevention, Agile platform for Z, predictive analytics, and machine learning. This is possible thanks to the capacity we now have in the organization that we didn?t before we adopted a portfolio agility mindset.

Break Down the Walls

When implementing an Agile model and working with disparate, silo-oriented teams, it is vitally important that support and a willingness to embrace this model is evident throughout the organization.

Leaders across all aspects of the business, from IT to management, must be willing to help scale its adoption throughout the enterprise. All levels of the business must be implicit in Agile adoption if it is to succeed.

We understand that espousing the values of an enormous change for your business may seem easy from the outside, but we speak from first-hand experience, having moved from a Waterfall model to embracing Agile methodologies, a signifier of CA?s own desire to be able to respond more quickly to evolving technology trends and customer needs.

As a result, we have changed the way we design, develop, deliver, measure, test, and secure applications. It?s a revolution that your business should be a part of.

Join us at CA World this year, where we?ll be bringing experts like our own Agile Scrum Master, David McKenna who will be signing copies of his book The Art of Scrum. To learn more please check out our Mainframe Workload Automation program guide here.

In the meantime, I?d love to hear your own experiences within your organization and how you?ve embraced agile methodologies or share your challenges and obstacles. Together, we can remove barriers and help you succeed on your path to digital transformation.

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ashokr contributed to this article