The New Year means lots of predictions of what’s to come. One reasonable certainty, of course, is that we can expect more change. In this digital era, we are in transformational times – the digital economy is bringing unprecedented change. The effort behind that is huge; the nature of those changes often bewildering. Providing supporting technology for today’s economy is not for the faint of heart.

Who’s Paying?

According to IDC, a staggering $1.3 Trillion is going to be spent on digital transformation technology this year. But is this new budget? Unlikely… existing IT budgets are being explicitly diverted from “business as usual” systems and projects toward newer digital innovation. In just 4 years, the proportion of IT budget invested in digital systems has climbed from 20 percent to 55 percent, according to a Micro Focus study.

Topical Trends

If you read the prophecies for 2018 and beyond, the digital transformation will take many forms. SDTimes’ top 10 includes DevOps, smarter apps, cross-functional teams and dealing with renewed security threats. Meanwhile, in an Information Age article, the trending topics include security (again), Cloud and IT flexibility. Another perspective I read focused on other technology areas as well as the concept of “accepting failure” and “embracing change”.

The point here is a lot of choice and variance abounds in terms of how best to embrace digital transformation, because it manifests itself in many different ways according to the needs of the organization. Elements covering planning, people, skills, processes, as well as technology, are subject to scrutiny and have all made the watch list. After all, much of this is a major change program all such programs must cover people, processes, and technology.

Yet, despite the effort, despite the focus, it is still a struggle. A 2017 Couchbase survey found that 80 percent of respondents felt at risk of being left behind by digital transformation.

Character Reference

So if the “what’s important” is a fairly broad list, and the level of readiness remains low, what’s the plan? If you are betting the business on a particular technology strategy, how do you choose the best candidate?

For many of the world’s most successful organizations, the candidate is obvious – the IBM mainframe. But, in this age of unprecedented change, do we need to change our thinking about platform too?

Let’s look at what we need from a trusted digital friend in 2018. What credentials do they need to possess to help us in our hour of transformational need? Let’s look at if the mainframe in 2018 stacks up against all the things a dependable helper should offer. What do we need from our best friend?

  • Assured
    • Not a week passes without a major IT security story making headlines. Recent investments in mainframe technology have introduced encryption technology in the box. Additional software innovations provide a far greater level of security through multi-factor authentication for mainframe systems. Safety first? Of course.
  • Available
    • Always on hand, whenever we need them, from wherever we are. That’s a friend indeed. That mantra is the mainframe today. Whether the issue is of access from a range of locales and devices, from iPad or mobile or desktop, the facility (and security) exists. Or whether those applications need to physically execute on a new server, whether that’s a multi-cloud, LinuxOne or other hybrid environments, core mainframe systems have that flexibility today.
  • Adaptable
    • A trusted resource can embrace change and adapt no matter the circumstances. Being open and agile in their approach is critical to achieving this. Getting getting things done faster using DevOps is a viable approach in the mainframe world just as anywhere – indeed Arcati reported that two-thirds of the mainframe world is getting ready to do just that. The flexibility of both the approach and the applications being modernized is going to be vital in a period of transformation.
  • Accessible
    • Technology only does what it’s told, so do we have the people who can communicate effectively? IT Skills remains a challenge, equally true in the mainframe world. Micro Focus, IBM, and other vendors have long advocated an approach that unifies disparate IT skills and enables millennials to acquire technical skills across the entire IT estate, including the mainframe. The continued interest in mainframe skills, such as IBM’s Master the Mainframe Contest, or the SHARE Academy (March 2018), demonstrates this.

Pick your friends carefully

Digital transformation will, of course, require a broad range of solutions, a Hybrid IT approach, and the mainframe sits in the heart of that. As I mentioned in a recent article, the approach “combines the best new technologies and processes, such as DevOps, with trusted core systems such as COBOL applications and IT operations management”

What do you need in your corner? Reliability, trustworthiness, someone able to tackle any challenge. Mainframes have been doing that for over 50 years and show no signs of stopping.

Got Time to Talk Transformation?

The next mainframe world get-together is at SHARE in Sacramento, March 2018. I’ll be among the crowd listening to the latest in mainframe technology, skills, DevOps, modernization and mainframe security. Hope to see you there.

Editors Note

Thanks as always to Derek Britton from MicroFocus for penning this blog, check him out on Twitter @derekbrittonuk .  A variant of this blog was originally posted on www.blog.microfocus.com