New survey finds COBOL’s modernisation is key to strategic business change

Micro Focus has announced the findings of its COBOL Survey, which reveals the latest global trends and 2020 plans for enterprises utilising COBOL and mainframe technology. The survey follows data gathered in a previous 2017 survey and indicates that 70% of enterprises favour modernisation as an approach for implementing strategic change as compared to the replacing/retiring of key COBOL applications as it continues to offer a low-risk, and effective means of transforming IT to support digital business initiatives.

“As we see the attitudes around COBOL modernisation with changes to where and how it needs to be delivered and how its usage continues to grow, COBOL’s credentials as a strong digital technology appear to be set for another decade,” said Chris Livesey, Senior Vice President, Application Modernisation and Connectivity at Micro Focus. “With 60 years of experience supporting mission-critical applications and business systems, COBOL continues to evolve as a flexible and resilient computer language that will remain relevant and important for businesses around the world.”

Conducted with Vanson Bourne, a global research and analysis company, the global survey asked COBOL-connected architects, software engineers, developers, development managers and IT executives from 40 different countries about the strategic importance of COBOL applications to their business, future application roadmaps and planning, as well as their development toolchains and resources.

“This survey allowed for Vanson Bourne to gather valuable data from the IT community on COBOL’s continued relevance, as well as the forward-looking insights needed for Micro Focus and others to continue shaping the language for years to come,” said Jimmy Mortimer, Senior Research Consultant at Vanson Bourne.

Chris Livesey, Senior Vice President, Application Modernisation and Connectivity at Micro Focus added, “Thanks to the original design’s readability, adaptability, and portability, COBOL adds tremendous value for companies as a dependable solution that will continue to grow and thrive,” said

Here are the key findings of the Micro Focus COBOL Survey:

Modernisation Continues to Drive Strategic Business Change

Modernisation as a vehicle for IT transformation and critical business change can take many forms with 53% of respondents planning to pursue initiatives aligned to application modernisation and integration of COBOL systems. This was followed by 37% pursuing process modernisation efforts and another 38% investing in infrastructure modernisation activities.

COBOL is at the Heart of a Modernisation Strategy

Modernisation was favoured over the replacing and retiring of older systems with 63% of respondents choosing to improve upon their existing COBOL systems in 2020. Additionally, 92% of respondents felt as though their company’s COBOL applications are strategic in comparison to 84% of respondents in 2017.

IT and Business Synergy Remains Strong for COBOL

Senior tech-focused roles are most likely to be seen as leading or influencing application modernisation initiatives with 36% for CTOs and 33% for CIOs. Senior non-tech roles also play a role in a significant number of organisations with 27%or CEOs and 9% for CFOs. Paired with IT’s focus on supporting the business and driving competitive advantage (46% of responses), the relationship between COBOL development teams and the business has evolved and strengthened.

The IT Ecosystem Continues to Evolve

Continued change is shown by the strategic alignment of COBOL systems through modern-day technology with 42% seeing Cloud as a core and viable platform to support the business agenda as compared to 30% in 2017. As the IT landscape evolves, COBOL remains vital in new ecosystems and its continued evolution is a foundational element of IT and business change.

COBOL-based Systems are Strategic and Growing

When asked about their company’s plans for COBOL in 2020, 63% of the survey’s respondents stated that they are planning to modernise their system/applications with a focus on functionality and process. This is further supported by the results with an increase in the size of the average application codebase from 8.4 million in 2017 to 9.9 million this year, showing continued investment, re-use and expansion in core business systems.