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The Agile Enterprise and Beyond

Proper tools can bring flexibility to application development


illustration by Mark Stephen

Henry Ford didn’t invent the automobile, just the end-to-end process that made cars affordable for the masses, the assembly line. Bringing the parts and tools to workers in a logical sequence was a revolutionary idea.

After decades of use, mainframes are the heart of many organizations, providing highly reliable financial transactions and delivering vital business services. However, for the sake of stability, system changes have been deliberately slowed down by adding layers of approval and management processes. As a result, we often hear that IT is slow, costly, error-prone and late; in short, a place where good ideas go to die. What’s needed in centralized IT is a revolution.

The New Assembly Line

With existing systems doing much of the heavy lifting, the distributed world was free to innovate. Iterative development—in which small changes are coded, tried, recoded and tried again—certainly accelerated the development process. An attempt to bring order to this process without killing innovation gave birth to the agile methodology (see Figure 1, page 12).

A way to achieve change without the overhead of traditional project management, agile is the de facto standard in the open-systems world adopted by Windows* and UNIX* developers. Most organizations, accordingly, have a plethora of tools on different platforms to help simplify implementation.

Mainframe tools have also emerged for agile development. Providing a way to assemble the needed tools in a repeatable, orderly fashion is a good first step. In fact, modern software change management (SCM) for the mainframe uses an integrated development environment to do exactly that. This developer interface invokes the right tool at the right time with the right parameters already pre-selected, so the complexity of knowing where data sets are, how to code job control language and which test scripts to utilize can be largely screened off from the developer. This reduces the learning curve and eliminates redundant effort.


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The Agile Enterprise and Beyond

Proper tools can bring flexibility to application development

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