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article imageQ&A: Anatomy of the perfect team in a modernized IT environment Special

By Tim Sandle     May 29, 2020 in Business
What is the best way to assemble and lead a team using agile DevOps and emerging technologies – while still leveraging key legacy knowledge? Brandon Edenfield, Director of App Modernization, Modern Systems an Advanced Company, outlines a strategy.
Legacy systems hold mission critical workloads and information, but in many cases, organizations do not have a single person who is trained to run these processes on their legacy systems when aging tech talent retires. This is creating a daunting skills gap. According to Brandon Edenfield, for a business to be successful, it’s vital they implement a strategy that leverages and protects past IT investments while maintaining the valuable skills and expertise related to areas like COBOL as employees retire from their current roles.
Modern Systems' Edenfield explains more to Digital Journal.
Digital Journal: What does DevOps bring to a business?
Brandon Edenfield: DevOps is a discipline that integrates development and operations teams and duties to develop software. It allows companies to create enhance and deliver products at a faster pace than with traditional software development approaches. Ultimately, successful DevOps adoption leads to shorter development cycles, increased efficiencies andfaster innovation. It is also often a desired target state for mainframe modernization efforts, since most mainframe development is implemented through siloed, waterfall methods. The combination of a modernized legacy system with the agility and efficiency of DevOps brings added, exceptional value to legacy modernization projects.
DJ: How can a successful DevOps team be assembled?
Edenfield: In most cases, legacy system development cycles are measured in months, but in a DevOps environment, they can be measured in weeks or even days. Developing mentorships and cross-training programs are key for successful DevOps implementation across newly modernized legacy systems. The key though is to find ways to cross-pollinate old school and new-skill knowledge. Most resources who hold the “legacy” positions typically also have historical business SME knowledge from the many years they’ve maintained the application. It can therefore create a powerful mix to have these employees apply that insight to new technologies alongside resources who also understand the newer tech. In the same vein, staff members who are familiar with DevOps, the company's CI/CD pipeline and standards for release cycles can bring the "legacy" resources up-to-speed on DevOps concepts, broadening the available resource pool for developing against the modern environment.
DJ: How can a firm implement cross-functional training and enable legacy staff members to implement business knowledge in new technologies and staff?
Edenfield:The key is to focus on area of expertise, repeatability andscalability. First, establish a central repository for information sharing. Many companies use products like Confluence or SharePoint to make knowledge accessible on the fly. Next, recruit subject matter experts from within the disciplines that pertain to the legacy system's lifecycle, as well as experts familiar with the new DevOps lifecycle. Interview these individuals and establish a punch-list of training items that each should cover within the broader context of the DevOps adoption initiative. Use situationally appropriate media such as video for screen shares and white-boarding or Wiki-style entries for documentation. Finally, establish a track for staffers to follow based on their role and the goals they're looking to accomplish while maintaining open communication across functional groups throughout the process. As resources iterate through tracks, continue to polish and formalize the process to maximize scalability and effectiveness.
DJ: What is the value of formalized mentoring and job-sharing programs?
Edenfield:Mentoring and job-sharing programs will enable the cross-pollination of old school knowledge and new skills in a scalable, repeatable way. By formalizing this process, your organization can ensure broad adherence to best practices and the overarching strategy and processes involved in the DevOps culture you wish to instill. It also eases the burden of onboarding and scaling resources as demand increases. And mentoring and job-sharing programs broaden the skillsets of everyone on the team, reducing the risk of contingencies and unforeseen demand.
DJ: How else can firms best preserve specialized corporate knowledge?
Edenfield:Legacy systems are a snapshot of the evolutionary posture of business processes and systems. They are honed over decades to meet the demands of the business and vary widely between organizations. In most cases, modernization efforts seek to retain as much of that evolved process as possible. Regardless, the process of modernization does introduce change, and we recommend source code archiving, business rules definition (through code slicing and extraction), and data archiving tools and practices to retain a record of the legacy system once it's retired.
These tools preserve the legacy estate in its original form while extending navigation and documentation capabilities that can be utilized by a variety of business resources. Many firms take the extra step of housing the extracted business processes and any thought leadership or relevant folklore that may provide context to the concepts driving their existence and format in a Wiki-style repository, such as Confluence.
DJ: What are the key criteria to look for when choosing a vendor to aid maintaining and monitoring application health, performance and overall business value?
Edenfield:Requirements and underlying criteria vary broadly across companies, even divisions and teams. First, it's important to determine the expected division of labor between internal resources and outsource monitoring or management expectations. Next, executive and subject matter expert buy-in is key. Reviewing the proposed division of labor with key resources will vet inherent constraints that must be verbalized to a managed services provider prior to executing an agreement. Finally, and most importantly, it is important to document the components and variables that should be monitored and determine thresholds for each. For example, one company may want to be alerted if a batch job exceeds a certain clock time. Another may want to have visibility into network utilization. Both can be provided by managed services providers through monitoring, but each carries its own unique criteria and constraints, and the best services provider may be different for each.
Overall, a post-modernization application management service can help ensure your modernization effort is properly set up for long-term success.
The service should include 24×7 monitoring and support of both the application and infrastructure, with a focus on verifying availability and performance of the business logic and processes. This service could include the following:
Monitoring application health and connections to related applications
Continuously collect health and performance metrics from application components and organize them in real-time
Presenting an animated display of the application’s current state and enable customer IT teams to focus on extending business value of modernized applications
Being available via on-premise, virtual or cloud-based infrastructure, increasing service levels
Delivery of a predictable OPEX support model
DJ: How can firms take advantage of, and benefit from, vendor/partner trainings and certifications?
Edenfield:Vendor certifications and trainings can benefit organizations in a number of ways, but the primary impacts are maximizing the capabilities of the company's resources while optimizing the use of vendor tools and services, and communicating to prospects and customers that your firm's expertise in vendor-specific disciplines can be quantified. Choose a subject matter expert to engage with certifications and trainings for a given vendor who can then elucidate values and propose certification tracks and paths that are most relevant to the function of the team and resources within. When investing in organization-wide certifications, be sure to choose vendors whose ethos and goals align closely to yours and your customers' in order to maximize the impact of the spend both monetarily and in time and effort.
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