Three Essentials for Reducing Risk When Undergoing a COBOL Conversion

20/02/2015 minute read Rob Anderson

Whether migrating management support systems, operations infrastructure or reporting applications, the COBOL modernization process can be highly complex, risky, expensive and time consuming. Below, we'll outline three essential techniques you can employ to reduce the risk and complexity around a modernization effort – whether you choose to convert your COBOL applications to Java, C# or another modern equivalent.

Narrow the focus, Reduce the Risk

Legacy systems have passed through many hands over many years, often without proper documentation of features or functional relationships. A detailed analysis of legacy applications and databases is essential for risk mitigation and proper decision-making in any COBOL modernization effort. By analyzing the legacy inventory in detail, you will uncover mountains of dead or unused code. This discovery can significantly reduce the scope of a legacy modernization, reducing the cost of the project as a result. In a survey of 21 Advanced customers, we see an average scope reduction of 40%. In addition to cost reduction, trimming dead and unused code reduces the complexity of the modernization effort, a huge win considering these systems are almost always undocumented.


Know Thyself

For many organizations, the legacy system is a "black box" - a vast entanglement of intertwined code written by developers who retired or left the firm long ago, leaving behind little documentation or applied standards of any kind. These unknowns make planning a COBOL migration extremely risky. A Gartner survey of CIOs and other IT leaders in the U.S. insurance industry states that only 18% of modernization projects were completed within the originally planned time frame, a direct result of poor legacy application understanding.

Another common risk associated with COBOL migrations revolve around understanding the breadth of influence of the business rules housed within the legacy system, and planning based on the accuracy of the assessed complexity of the system itself. The depth of understanding of the source environment is directly related to an organization's ability to plan for and implement a successful modernization strategy. With an accurate, detailed understanding you reduce the potential of cost overrun by understanding the inner workings of the project earlier, are able to set more realistic timelines, and understand the impact of scope and time on the level of effort required to be successful.


Not All COBOL Migration Tools Are Created Equal

Sifting through the cornucopia of tools and services on the market to facilitate COBOL migrations can be daunting. Commercial off the shelf solutions typically turn into endless nightmares and the automated conversion market is saturated with tools that produce garbage code that's virtually impossible to extend and maintain after the migration is complete. If your IT teams want to take advantage of agile development methodologies such as DevOps, it is important to choose a solution that produces maintainable code.

Advanced offers an extensive Legacy Assessment solution that will help you narrow the scope of your legacy application migration and shine light on the business rules hidden in the black box of the legacy environment. Further, our COBOL Automated Conversion solution results in a 100% functional equivalent object oriented target application with a fully maintainable, easily extensible, code base.

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