The legacy skills gap is reaching a crisis point, warns TmaxSoft

Despite the rush of enterprises to become digitally mature, many organisations are being held back by their reliance on legacy infrastructure that cannot keep up with the pace of innovation. This is according to multinational software vendor TmaxSoft, which points to the diminishing pool of IT professionals with the right skills to maintain these technologies.

Recent research has shown that organisations have lost 23 per cent of their skilled mainframe workers in the past five years, despite being highly dependent on them. With mainframe playing a vital role in underpinning much of the day-to-day IT functions, losing a high number of the workforce puts modern and technologically-advanced organisations out of track.

According to Carl Davies, managing director at TmaxSoft UK, the scale of the threat should not be underestimated: "Since the 1980's, many organisations have used mainframes to perform their most critical applications such as bulk data processing, enterprise resource planning, transaction processing and more. However, the longevity of the mainframe has come with an unexpected side effect, as many of the IT professionals who were responsible for the establishment of these systems are now exiting the workforce, leaving a considerable skills gap.

"As a legacy technology, working with the mainframe often requires specialised knowledge, such as coding languages that have long fallen out of favour – by contrast, the new generation of IT professionals generally focus on the skills required for digital transformation, such as cloud computing. As time takes its toll and the pool of IT professionals with these specialised skills diminishes, organisations using legacy mainframe technology will find themselves competing and paying higher rates for those that remain in the workforce – driving maintenance costs yet still higher. The danger is that organisations will have to either spend inordinate amounts on merely maintaining this legacy infrastructure, or risk neglecting it. Considering this technology plays a key role in a variety of mission-critical applications for almost three-quarters of organisations in this research, that is probably not a viable option."

Tackling this problem, TmaxSoft sought to retain access to all of the mainframe's key capabilities while providing an alternative approach. Carl Davies expands on TmaxSoft's solution, OpenFrame: "Yes, an organisation could seek to train a new generation of IT professionals in these legacy mainframe skills. However, not only is this not a particularly attractive notion to a generation raised on the progressive possibilities of digital transformation, but it also means investing in a set of skills which aren't generally transferable to other areas of IT.

"We decided to attack the problem from a different angle. What if the current standard skillset could be used to work with the mainframe? Instead of investing in re-skilling staff or hiring expensive veteran mainframe-ers, organisations can deploy their existing skillset to access all the capabilities of a mainframe, in a modernised system."

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