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COBOL Modernization at Center of Strategic Business Change


New research on the strategic importance of COBOL indicates that 70% of enterprises favor modernization as an approach for implementing strategic change 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.

The survey was fielded by Micro Focus on the heels of the 60th anniversary of the COBOL computing language last September.

“As we see the attitudes around COBOL modernization 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 modernization 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, 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.

Key findings of the Micro Focus COBOL Survey include:

  • Modernization Continues to Drive Strategic Business Change: Modernization 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 modernization and integration of COBOL systems. This was followed by 37% pursuing process modernization efforts and another 38% investing in infrastructure modernization activities.  
  • COBOL is at the Heart of a Modernization Strategy: Modernization was favored 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 organization’s COBOL applications are strategic in comparison to 84% of respondents in a 2017 survey.
  • IT and Business Synergy Remains Strong for COBOL: Senior tech-focused roles are most likely to be seen as leading or influencing application modernization initiatives with 36% for CTOs and 33% for CIOs. Senior non-tech roles also play a role in a significant number of organizations with 27% for 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 a 2017 survey. 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 modernize 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 code base from 8.4 million in 2017 to 9.9 million this year, showing continued investment, re-use and expansion in core business systems. 

For more information, go to the Micro Focus website.  


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