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Most enterprises facing shortage in IT skills to maintain and manage ageing systems

Most enterprises facing shortage in IT skills to maintain and manage ageing systems

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Concerns around the global IT skills shortage continue to rage on, according to Advanced’s latest annual report on mainframe modernisation. The IT services provider has revealed that 89% of large enterprises worldwide are worried they won’t have access to the right IT talent to maintain and manage their legacy systems.

The skills to modernise these systems are in short supply too. Almost two-fifths (37%) of senior professionals – including CIOs and heads of IT – have admitted their modernisation programmes have failed because they lack the depth and breadth of skills required for newer technologies like the cloud. With 38% also blaming a lack of planning for the success of modernisation projects, it’s startling that businesses are not learning the lessons of the past and approaching modernisation with these elements front of mind.

The 2021 Mainframe Modernisation Business Barometer Report is the second of its kind from Advanced, examining the challenges facing large enterprises worldwide with annual revenues of more than US$1 billion. This year’s report reveals the extent of the IT skills gap in maintaining and modernising legacy systems, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19.

More than three quarters (78%) of organisations have started at least one modernisation programme as a direct result of the pandemic – but it has brought challenges. A third are worried experienced staff are retiring and taking their legacy skills with them, while 36% are concerned that people entering the workforce only have modern skills. In addition, 29% say their staff don’t want to learn legacy skills, even though they are still in high demand.

The State of New Jersey in the US is one example which, at the start of the pandemic, saw hundreds of thousands of residents quickly submit applications to its unemployment system. The sudden 1,600% increase in claims crashed the mainframes supporting critical applications, resulting in an urgent plea from the state’s governor for programmers qualified in COBOL – a coding language that is more than 60 years’ old, yet remains the most prominent language in the mainframe estate for 75% of the enterprises surveyed.

Tim Jones, Managing Director of Application Modernisation EMEA at Advanced, said: “The State of New Jersey isn’t an isolated example. Many organisations worldwide are struggling to find the skilled staff needed to maintain and manage their critical systems. If programmers with expertise in the most prominent languages are retiring and taking their skills with them, large enterprises will continue to experience huge disruption to their operations.

“And, as they move their mainframe estate to a modern environment like the cloud, enterprises could also end up overcompensating on the skills imbalance by hyper focusing on recruiting modern skills and disregarding the need for legacy talent. It’s important they cross-train existing talent to improve existing staff’s ability to support both legacy and modern systems, particularly during and after a major modernisation initiative.”

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