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Retirement wave sparking mainframe skills crisis

LZLabs has found that in just a few years those with the skills at many firms to keep the mainframe lights on are planning to head off into retirement

Those wondering when the current aging mainframe experts are going to exit the industry and leave customers struggling to keep on top of their applications can count the years down with just a few fingers. 

Mainframe migration specialist LZLabs has carried out a global survey to get a clear picture of what is happening at a customer level and discovered that just shy of half of those responding saw the loss of skills to support applications as the main concern. 

That was quickly followed by fears that skills to operate the systems were also a mounting challenge. The survey found that the average time until retiring staff will significantly impact firm's mainframe workforces is down to 3 years, from 4 in 2018, with it clear that the clock is ticking down to 2022. 

The wave of gold watches and 'thanks for your service' cards being readied might not be such an issue if 99% of respondents had not told LZLabs that the applications on the mainframe were not important or critical to the business operations. 

“Our findings in last year’s survey highlighted the frustration IT leaders have with the cost and inflexibility of their mainframe applications” said Thilo Rockmann, Chairman and COO of LzLabs. “What we are seeing in this year’s is a realization that the loss of mainframe skills poses a significant threat in the coming years, and piecemeal approaches will not be enough to solve this” he continued.  

With almost two thirds of IT decision makers reporting that the loss of mainframe skills presents a big risk to the entire business there are clearly opportunities for those in the channel with the right mix of skills. 

Earlier this month, LZLabs made the point that unlocking mainframe applications and helping users migrate the information was a growing opportunity that partners could take advantage of. 

“The extent of the mainframe skills issue is clearly of concern; however we are encouraged to see that IT leaders are recognizing the need to take action” said Mark Cresswell, CEO of LzLabs. “These findings show that efforts to upskill existing staff, or attract new talent to legacy platforms, simply aren’t enough to solve this crisis. Now is the time for organizations to move their core applications to modern, open systems and reap the benefits." 

The LZlabs report also uncovered a desire from the majority of users to move applications off the mainframe with plenty attracted by the flexibility that the cloud could offer, along with perceived greater agility.   

As it stands 69% of respondents stated that the inflexibility of the mainframe did limit the IT department’s ability to innovate. 

Recent research, from Wipro and Ensono carried out by Forrester, indicated that from a hardware perspective there is still life in the mainframe, although the future uses might be different. The survey found that 50% of businesses are looking to expand their capabilities. 

AI and Blockchain have had a favourable impact and given a fresh lease of life to mainframes, causing 50% of those European and US organisations surveyed to reveal plans to increase their use over the next couple of years, compared to just 5% who are looking to cut their use of the technology. 


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