The recent surge in unemployment claims due to COVID-19 is overwhelming many state systems with the unexpected volume. Adding to the stress of an unprecedented number of claims, many of these systems are based on the computer language COBOL, which was written in the 1950s and is no longer a major focus in computer science curricula. Because of this, many states are now facing a shortage in the programming talent used to maintain these systems.
However, it’s not just state governments that are searching for programmers with COBOL backgrounds. The shortage extends to commercial businesses, as well. COBOL is “prevalent and highly mission-critical to many organizations,” said Stephen Hassett, president of GT Software, in a recent CIO Dive article.
DOWNLOAD: See how this government agency kept their systems running during the start of the coronavirus pandemic.
Fortunately, COBOL engineers are stepping up and providing their services to help states and other organizations get their systems on track. But additional workers aren’t the entire long-term solution. Organizations need to leverage available tools to modernize and extend their legacy systems.
“The reality is it takes some amount of time to get them proficient in COBOL and the underlying systems,” said Hassett. “But it takes them a lot longer to understand the entire architecture, the legacy environment. The idea that you can bring volunteers or get people on board in a week is, I think, misguided.”
As further explained, the COBOL talent will need to understand the applications that are based on the language. These applications continue to power the key architecture across many industries, particularly those that handle large volumes of transactions, like banking and financial services, or in this case, state government systems.
Additionally, organizations will need their leaders and their HR teams to properly educate new engineers on current projects to make sure they are up to speed.
“Their problem may be integrating with external systems,” Hassett said. “COBOL is an old language and the way most organizations deal with that is by developing integration with modern systems.”
GT Software’s Ivory can reduce labor requirements for new mainframe integrations 80-90%. With the ability to rapidly create inbound calls, as well as calls out to modern applications from legacy systems, Ivory combines drag and drop capabilities with a no-code platform to allow organizations to maximize the value of their existing resources.
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