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ANZ CIOs estimate 48% rise in mainframe application IT debt

CIOs and IT directors polled across New Zealand and Australia estimate it would take an average of $9.78 million to bring their outdated mainframe applications up to date – an increase of almost half (48%) from May 2012 when the figure stood at $6.6 million.

That’s according to an independent global research study undertaken by Vanson Bourne. Respondents also confirmed the IT debt2 problem will only get worse, anticipating an increase of 8% over the next five years.

On average, respondents across Australia and New Zealand expect their organisations to continue relying on mainframe applications for another ten years, with almost half (48%) believing it to be longer than this.

However, despite the perceived longevity of mainframe applications and mounting IT debt, the majority (80%) find it difficult justifying the expense of maintaining core applications. As a result, 68% of CIOs admit their business is exposed to compliance and risk issues.

Commenting on the research results, Derek Britton, Director of Product Marketing at Micro Focus said: “Core mainframe applications are often the lifeblood of the organisation, yet the burden of IT debt is on the increase.

A major factor in this is that many non-IT people think IT innovation only means brand new technology, rather than improving existing, critical applications. The IT leadership challenge is to find smart ways to blend innovation projects with protecting and evolving their critical systems.”

IT skills gap intensifies the problem

Almost three quarters (76%) of IT decision makers confirm it is difficult to find staff or new recruits with mainframe application skills and predict that an average of 14% of staff members currently responsible for maintaining mainframe applications will retire in the next five years.

Half of CIOs highlight the impact of the problem, confirming that when new legislation or industry regulation requires compliance changes to be made to their mainframe applications, it is highly likely or certain that the original knowledge of the application and supporting data structure is no longer in the organisation.

To make matters worse, three out of four (74%) say that their organisation’s application documentation is incomplete.

While almost a quarter of respondents (24%) do not feel the government is doing enough to assist in addressing the general IT skills gap, the majority of CIOs (88%) assign overall responsibility for addressing the issue to academia saying they do not believe academic institutions are doing enough.

A massive 78% of IT leaders believe it is valuable for students to learn mainframe programming languages such as COBOL and PL/I and more than nine in ten say these languages should be taught as part of the curriculum, whether core (44%) or elective (48%).

The reality is that only 27% of universities around the globe have COBOL as part of their core (18%) or elective (9%) curriculum.

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