Mainframe Skills Crunch Still Has CIOs Worried

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    The Top Ten IT Skills for 2014

    Every year to 18 months or so, the issue of dwindling mainframe skills within the enterprise IT professional community raises its head. And with every year that goes by, the issue gets a little more problematic, even though some are trying to advance training and development opportunities around mainframe management skills.

    When vendor Compuware surveyed CIOs in 2011, it found that within that group, worry about the mainframe skill “shortage” was rampant; 71 percent of the CIOs were concerned about the issue. Eighty percent also said that mainframe outages were a major business risk.

    Compuware has a new set of survey results on the topic, and things look, well, pretty similar.

    New approaches to infrastructure and application management notwithstanding, a solid 81 percent of the 350 CIOs surveyed say the mainframe will be a key business asset for the next 10 years. However, they identify a number of threats to that expectation:

    • 55 percent claim their mainframe teams are finding it difficult to keep up with the fast changing demands of the business.
    • 66 percent fear that the impending retirement of the mainframe workforce will hurt their business by reducing their ability to support legacy applications.
    • 61 percent identified an increased application risk.
    • 61 percent identified a reduced productivity risk.
    • 56 percent identified an increase in project overruns risk.

    In 2011, 46 percent of the surveyed CIOs said they were unprepared for the consequences of the skills shortage. In 2014, 40 percent are in the same position.

    Summarizing the situation, Kris Manery, senior vice president and general manager, Mainframe Solutions Business Unit, Compuware, said:

    “Mainframe applications have been updated and extended numerous times over the past 30 years, making them extremely complex to manage. While experienced mainframe developers are familiar with these systems, newer developers can take up to two years to get up-to-speed. As more experienced mainframe workers approach retirement age, businesses need to act quickly to address this pending skills shortage and make concrete plans for a pain free transition.”

    As corporations find that many of their customer-facing, high-transaction applications are still best served by existing mainframe infrastructures, aligning retention of IT staff possessing the skills to manage them efficiently may start to pop up as an issue a little more frequently.

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