Companies worldwide are targeting the mainframe as an opportunity to reduce IT cost. Rapid, low-risk mainframe migrations to distributed environments are becoming common stories in well-run IT departments. Thousands of MIPS are being moved to Windows, UNIX, and Linux, both on premises and in the cloud.
However, like any migration, moving off the mainframe comes with some risk. Selection of the right solution and solution provider is just the beginning. Experience gained through over 30 years of large migration projects suggests these 10 primary best practices.
1: Know what you’ve got
Establish ownership for delivery of each of the following components and obtain firm delivery schedule commitments. There may be more, depending on your environment, but these are the staples:
- Primary programming languages (like COBOL, CA Gen, and Natural)
- Secondary programming languages (like Easytrieve and Assembler)
- Data infrastructure and data stored in files and relational databases
- Batch application infrastructure (including JCL, Supporting Utilities, and Job Scheduler)
- Online application infrastructure (including TP System and User Interface Screens)
- Application and system level security (like RACF, TopSecret, and ACF2)
- Output, content and report management (like CA-View//Deliver, ASG-Mobius, and IBM FileNet)
- Development, test, and QA infrastructure
- Production, failover, and disaster recovery infrastructure
- Application modernization architecture and tooling
2: Know where you’re going
During the Legacy Assessment delivery phase, apply expert advice to technical solution design, with a primary deliverable being a documented solution design that will ensure the right fit for your unique requirements and target environment. Pay extra attention to performance. Will you achieve desired performance levels in a virtualized environment? Can it work in the cloud? What is the support ecosystem for the target environment?
3: Take it seriously
Do not minimize the value of strong project management and solution architect support for your project. Typically, these projects focus on applications that, for many years, have been core to the business. The two biggest drivers of time and cost on mainframe migration projects are confirming technical inventory and gathering test and use case data. Make your experts available and actively vested in the project.
4: Gain executive sponsorship
This point is critical. Without executive sponsorship, finding the resources needed to properly execute can be a challenge. This was a key to the successful mainframe migration for Desjardins General Insurance Group. The management approach relied on the accountability of those responsible, the accountability of IT resources and the involvement of managers and upper management, which ensured the mobilization of resources throughout the project.
5: Address problems early and fast (toward the end of the Build phase going into the Test phase)
Avoid wasted time in post-migration testing and production support. Implement and use the right tools and train a core technical team in problem resolution processes and procedures before going into production. Understand your vendor’s resolution and bug tracking process. Be sure their process is in alignment with yours. This is important for reducing the time it takes to understand and resolve issues.
6: Start preparing test cases early and in parallel with project
Avoid wasted time in post-migration testing and production support. Thoroughly prepare test data and scripts, leveraging your existing testing assets and processes if possible. In many cases, documentation around test cases is rare. Dedicate the resources necessary to ensure proper documentation of all test cases relevant to the mainframe migration.
7: Align incident tracking tooling
Adopt and use an internal incident-tracking solution from the very beginning. Using a help desk incident-tracking solution as a central repository:
- Renders the process immediately efficient
- Ensures visible accountability and reportability
- Avoids “lost issues”
- Makes valuable issue resolution approaches and solutions available on a searchable and reportable basis
8: Include the mainframe ecosystem: operations and support
Include internal stakeholders for support processes and other operational considerations during project planning and solution design. Their input can be invaluable from the outset, helping further define scope and avoid costly Project Change Requests. In many cases, the application team running a project lacks experience with infrastructure projects and related procurement/support processes in the target environment. It is important for the delivery team(s) to understand the internal processes, lead times, change windows, lock-down schedules, and other constraints.
9: Only modernize what you need
Segregate “input files” from other file types and gather all associated record layouts. Only input files (VSAM, QSAM, etc.) require conversion. Therefore, it’s important to identify which are the input files vs. temporary files vs. output files. Data migration can be a significant part of the project, so putting in effort up front saves on budget and schedule.
10: Calculate ROI, track its progress
Gain the expected value from your solution. Implement strong leadership and teaming approaches in your production environment with the mandate and accountability to measure and deliver on the ROI that was agreed upon when the solution was procured. Quantify your ROI opportunity and measure results.
The Mainframe Migration payoff
If you get it right, you’ll be positioned for the future, and these business improvement metrics could be yours:
- 40+% IT cost reduction
- 25+% development productivity improvement
- 30+% system performance improvement
- 15+% application quality improvement
- Debt Recovery Company Finds Money with Mainframe Migration
- Police Mutual Moves from Mainframe to Microsoft