Don’t let the best candidates get away

By Helen Law, Senior Recruitment Consultant, Jumar Solutions

There’s nothing worse than rushing a business decision. But when it comes to recruitment, we’re increasingly seeing that time is definitely of the essence when it comes to snapping up the right candidate.

A few years ago, employers enjoyed the luxury of taking a few weeks prior to making a recruitment decision (whether for an initial interview request or even to making an offer), safe in the knowledge that the supply for roles vastly exceeded demand.

Times have changed and the opposite is now true with companies taking the risk of losing good candidates just because they are taking too long to interview and to make offers.

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Take the fastest route to the right recruitment decision. Avoid the delays that could see the best candidate go elsewhere.

 

At Jumar, our teams of IT recruitment specialists are beginning to this see this more and more often, resulting in employers losing really good candidates. Candidates are often applying for more than just one job at a time or being approached directly.

It is easy to look at each stage of the recruitment process and see how candidates are being lost.

At the beginning: Setting a closing date for applications is a useful exercise, but not reviewing CVs as they come in (or are provided by your recruitment agency) can result in the best candidates sitting on a pile until they are looked at. By the time they are, it’s highly likely that they’ve gone elsewhere.

In the middle: As candidates are increasingly in the driving seat, a lack of flexibility around interviewing can easily see them spirited away to other employers or recruiters. The days of a fixed ‘take it or leave it’ interview date are gone. It’s now likely that they’ll leave it. Does that mean that they weren’t 100% committed to your role in the first place? This could be the case, it also could be the case that the candidate has other commitments that have been previously arranged and cannot be cancelled.

At the end: We have also seen situations where an employer finds their ideal candidate, and then takes several days to offer them. Those employers who are proactive could very easily have swooped by then!

There is a simple remedy and we would highly recommend clients taking the following steps:

  • Instil a sense of urgency into your recruitment processes. You can still be thorough and selective, but keep in mind that a candidate won’t wait for ever.
  • Don’t be suspicious about your recruitment agency chasing you with first-class candidates. The relationship between you and a good recruiter should be strong enough to know that they’re not just trying to make a quick sale, but that they have your interests at heart.
  • Remember that you have competitors for the best candidates.
  • Be confident in your gut reaction. If a candidate looks ideal, take them on. Don’t wait for someone a little more ideal – as they may never turn up.

It is not only the IT Sector that suffers with this problem, we know it to be common across many sectors.

A quick change in mind-set as to how you recruit, will result in considerable savings – cost, time and frustration.

For more information, or to discuss any requirements you have, please contact me on 0161 684 2305 or by email here.

 

 

(Jumar Solutions Provides IT recruitment services from offices in the North of England (0161 684 2305) and West Midlands (0121 788 4550) across all areas of the software development lifecycle)

 

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Cyber security – the stamp of approval

cyberCyber security is never far from the news, and as an organisation which specialises in enterprise-wide application development and modernisation projects, we are delighted to announced that we have achieved the ‘Cyber Essentials‘ standard.

It’s a Government-backed scheme which shows that we are following a range of controls to prevent cyber security incidents.

Certification involved an in-depth independent audit of the our IT systems to make sure we were complying with best practice which protects us and our clients against common cyber-attacks.  This was backed up too, with a vulnerability test, and certification lasts for 12 months.

As a business, we see it as a really positive move, and if you’re considering getting certified, we’d be happy to share our thoughts on the process with you.  While we’re here, if you ‘re looking for application development or IT recruitment services, we’d be happy to help with that too!

Why has CA Gen stood the test of time?

By Andy Scott, Client Director, Jumar Solutions

The minute a technology gets labelled ‘legacy’ (rightly or wrongly), it can begin to inherit a stigma that it is old, outdated, unattractive to young IT specialists and less relevant than its more modern-day counterparts. We’ve been working with CA Gen (also known as COOL:Gen, AllFusion Gen, Advantage:Gen and IEF Composer) since the late 1980s – a time when in the UK, a pint of beer cost less than one pound , and in the USA, a gallon of petrol cost slightly less than a dollar . For most of the intervening period, the ‘legacy’ label has been firmly attached, but in our experience, the stigma of being out of touch with reality could not be further from the truth.

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Not all legacy technology from the 80s has survived.

In this blog, we look at one particular aspect of CA Gen which should be enough to convince even the most hardened of sceptics that this so-called legacy technology still provides considerable flexibility – and with that, comes significant cost savings.

Consider the traditional legacy situation of CA Gen applications running on a mainframe – with the high licensing and operational costs associated with that mainframe environment. Most CA Gen organisations that are using the mainframe will have probably considered the option of moving to a less expensive hardware architecture, whilst retaining CA Gen and the significant investment already made into the CA Gen applications that are supporting the business.

Exploiting the opportunities that modern mid-range platforms offer, with comparatively (much) lower associated cost seems to be an obvious attractive prospect, however for many mainframe using organisations migrating from the mainframe is, of course, technically challenging. The flip-side is the potential cost saving, with some hardware manufacturers estimating cost reductions in exceptional cases reaching as high as 70-80% over that of its mainframe counterpart – with similar, or even better, performance.

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CA Gen: A thriving legacy technology in a a modern world.

The challenge of replatforming is, however, considerably less difficult if CA Gen has been used to design, develop and generate the applications. With everything already defined within the model-based development environment, the code can be easily be generated into other target platforms just by switching the generation options. Of course, there are difficulties when it comes to objects outside CA Gen such as External Action Blocks (EABs) – but these can be overcome relatively easily and are definitely not a showstopper. We quash any fears over that later in the blog.

Had the code been manually created and generated, then the task of re-platforming it could be huge and highly labour-intensive (unless it is to be ported to another platform using the same development language (potentially with support from 3rd party solutions such as those provided by Micro Focus)). But, with CA Gen, you can deliver the same application functionality – on an alternative platform – with much lower ongoing costs of ownership. Coupled with this, CA Gen is one of only a few CASE tools to have this flexibility, allowing 100% of the model content to be ported across automatically.

This trend is something we’re seeing more and more of as organisations look to drive down operational costs. We’re working with a number of large CA Gen organisations who have identified the potential savings to be realised by replatforming, and who have many application models within their CA Gen portfolio. Instead of generating COBOL/DB2 (CICS and/or IMS) into their mainframe environment, we have worked with them to generate C or Java into their platform, using CA Gen’s ability to package the code into a load module which can then be generated for execution on that new lower-cost platform. This exercise, as you would expect includes all the necessary elements of the solution; the business requirements, action diagrams, business rules, database accesses and user interfaces. CA Gen also makes light work of the new middleware challenges and complexities.

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It’s all about maintaining the value in the application portfolio, while making savings

The only noticeable difference is that the application portfolio is now running on a platform which is cheaper and which does not necessarily have any negative impact on performance for that reduced cost. It’s quite possible that performance can be improved, but behind the scenes, the code has been generated in C or Java, for example, using Tuxedo middleware with data in an Oracle database rather than DB2.

Earlier, we mentioned the issue of EABs (and other external objects required to deliver the solution such as batch job JCL) – and the difficulties they may cause. This user-defined code, written outside CA Gen and specific to the target environment, requires specialist treatment, and organisations considering a replatforming exercise may be, understandably, put off by having to deal with, potentially, a large volume of work associated with the migration / rewrite of these EABs.

The solution is not as difficult as some may think. Jumar has automation tool support which will help to accelerate the re-write of the external logic, for example from COBOL to Java, or from COBOL to C.

By using our highly-automated approach, development time is greatly accelerated, and it opens up an opportunity to carry out further improvement initiatives in conjunction with the replatforming – for example, removing model corruptions, cleaning up models (e.g. to remove unused or redundant objects), the opportunity to improve the architecture of procedures, and other improvement tasks which add value and could prove highly beneficial to future maintenance.

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Jumar Solutions’ Andy Scott. Tel: +44 121 788 4550

This ability to switch generation options targeting alternative hardware and software platforms goes to demonstrate one of CA Gen’s biggest strengths – its platform independence. It is because of this that applications written, by programmers drinking 95p beer and driving for a dollar a gallon, are still of considerable value today but ported to more modern and cost-effective platforms. There aren’t many legacy systems which let you ride these wave of technology change with such comparative ease.

If you are planning, or have even started, a replatforming exercise in which CA Gen is involved, please feel free to drop us a line to discuss the options available in terms of automation, best practice, dealing with external objects, the potential for further modernisation, or just to find out more about our experiences. We’ve gone through this process with our customers many times, and we are confident that we can add value to your re-platforming initiative and can help you realise those significant cost and time savings.

For more information, please contact Andy or any member of the team on +44 121 788 4550 or drop us a line.

Leading the national news – Jumar shares apprenticeships experience

We’ve been in the news today.

Jumar was invited to take part in a feature on youth unemployment on the BBC News Channel this afternoon: the lead story on the 3pm bulletin.

Jumar’s newest recruit, apprentice Natalie Ball, interviewed about her experiences in taking an an apprenticeship with the company – one of a number of options available to her after leaving school.

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Natalie, who is part of Jumar’s admin team, told the BBC that while university was an option for her, the fact she could learn real-life situations, while getting paid, was a much more attractive route.  She also said that it gave her valuable transferrable skills for the future.

AH BBC News crop 2Marketing Manager, Andy Holmes, also told of how Jumar had taken on many apprentices over the years who brought enthusiasm, commitment and loyalty to the company , resulting in a much lower staff turnover rate.

This whole culture stems from Jumar’s Managing Director, Wendy Merricks.  Wendy, who left school with very few qualifications, runs the non-profit organisation, Starfish (www.starfish.org.uk) which motivates young people into a career in industry by forging closer links with schools, colleges – and ultimately students.

For more information, please contact Jumar Solutions on 0121 788 4550.

Legacy modernization: How to avoid fumbling in the dark

_MG_0565Jeroen Wolff continues his analysis of issues faced by legacy modernization professionals in this latest blog post.

In our previous legacy system modernization blog, we focused on the importance of understanding exactly what your legacy system does, and how it does it – before planning your route to modernization.

This seemingly obvious process, like the subject of this particular blog, is often not given the priority it deserves.

And that takes time, as well as increasing frustration and delay.

Today, we’re talking about documentation – and the importance of creating and maintaining both user and support documents. It does sound obvious, doesn’t it? And you’d think it would be done as a matter of course. But, as we’ll see, that can sometimes not be further from the truth.

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Missing documentation – it’s not helpful

Consider the software engineering tool, CA Gen, where we have specialist expertise. The whole idea was that, being model-based, the documentation effectively WAS the model. This was a fundamental principle of the IEF, the forerunner to CA Gen. In theory, any competent person, involved in any part of the life cycle – from analysis to implementation – should be able to pick up the model, and understand how it was encoded. However, there are a number of reasons why the reality differs from the theory.

  • The theory still requires the developers to enter descriptions and annotations where necessary. Developers are, of course, not writers. They like to code, and the need to add those descriptions gets put on the back burner and ultimately become “forgotten”. After so long, it simply gets overlooked as the path of least resistance becomes a little more trampled.
  • Development methods inevitably move on and the development tools lose their synergy with the method. For example, whereas CA Gen had full support for information engineering methods, it is less suited to support current trends like UML and analysis methods of writing user stories
  • There are many people with an interest in the documentation who don’t necessarily have access to CA Gen or the skillset to find the relevant documentation within it.

The impact of all this is self-explanatory. As discussed in the previous blog, you find yourself looking at a legacy system, scratching your head as to where to start. Had there been a mindset that documentation was maintained (for both users and support staff), you’d have a much better idea of how to begin.

Tools like Jumar’s Model Analyser and Model Reporter can be used to automate the analysis of the ‘as is’ state of the applications, but having documentation to complement this means you can make even more educated decisions at the start of the process.

What, therefore, can be done?

The solution can be boiled down to a three-step iterative process, comprising improvement, extraction and monitoring:

Documentaion diagram

  • Improve the information that is within the model. Tool like Jumar’s BulkUpdate allows for descriptions and notes to be added quickly and efficiently, using Office tools. Other Jumar tools can be used to extract information from various different development tools and bring it together. For example, Jumar has experience linking different development tools (IBMs Rational, CA ERwin Data Modeler, etc) with CA Gen and vice versa, thus allowing for the full life cycle coverage once again.
  • Extract as much as possible from the models. Automation tools like Jumar’s Model Reporter and Model Analyser greatly help here. The first allows for automatic generation of User and support documents in different formats. The latter extracts all important model information to a local database where it can be queried easily. It also allows for complexity reporting so that you know where the focus of the documentation should be. It can also help in terms extracting certain business rules and problematic code constructs.
  • Monitor for quality purposes. Once the documentation is up to date, ensure it is maintained by setting up appropriate QA processes. Again, tooling can help to carry out QA activities. Especially important when supporting a system which is only updated every so often or when quick production fixes are applied.

A word of caution though; using Model Analyser and Model Reporter can be a ‘quick fix’ – but it’ll be much more cost effective for your organisation if they are used as the starting point for a concerted, on-going plan to improve documentation.

While we’ve touched on CA Gen as an example here, this is true for practically any legacy system, but is a warning that we see repeatedly going unheeded.

Case study

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The old adage. Which would you rather be? Especially when assisted by automation.

In a recent client assignment we undertook here at Jumar, one of our experienced legacy experts took six weeks to complete the documentation of a system which should have been done by its previous custodians. Six weeks may sound like a long time, but it was dramatically accelerated by the use of automated analysis tools – and this investment in time ensures that any future development within that legacy system can take place at a fraction of the time and cost than it would have done without those robust documents.

So, what is our advice to alleviate the problems caused by a lack of documentation? Quite simply, you can AUTOMATE your understanding of the system. By ‘automate’, we do genuinely mean that the process is not a manual one. There is an understandable suspicion towards claims of automation – with many thinking that there’s a low-cost development shop somewhere carrying out intensive tasks which vendors claim to automate. But the tools described here (and others within Jumar’s Project Phoenix suite of software) ARE genuinely automated – and we can demonstrate this. This will form the basis of next month’s blog – but for now, we hope this latest post shows the importance of documentation, and why now could be the time to grasp the nettle and get on top of the issue in your organisation.

We can help make it cheaper, faster and less stressful – just get in touch to find out exactly how.

New YouTube video: (Part 2) Are you really doing agile software development?

The second video in our series of “Are you really being agile” is now online.

This bitesize video follows on from our successful first agile development video, in which Doug Michael analyses ways in which organisations may misconstrue the agility of their projects.

It also offers advice on how to make projects truly agile, and the benefits this brings.

If you’ve not seen the first in the series, please view this first as its better to watch them in order.

The video is now here…

If you’d like more information, please contact us – and do feel free to comment on the video and share your thoughts on this topic.

Make someone happy – simply by transforming your monolithic CA Gen systems

You can’t go far these days without being bombarded with lists of what’s ‘trending’. This mainstay of the social media world got us thinking: What’s trending in our world? The world of CA Gen development, modernisation, and getting the best out of CA Gen. A straw poll within Jumar came up with the almost unanimous response: ‘to provide better customer service’.

In this blog post, we’ll look a little deeper at why – and how.

Who’s your customer?

The reason for modernising CA Gen: It’s all about the customer.

‘Customers’, in this context, means both internal and external customers to the business. Regardless of which category a person falls into, the key is to ensure they have what they want, when they need it – and without having to wait an inordinate amount of time for it. It is generally becoming more unacceptable to have to wait – or be given with a response comprising separate batches of uncoordinated data. The data is there, the business logic is there – but how do you unlock its potential?

Modern technology means we always expect a familiar, user-friendly interface, which gives us what we need with the minimum of fuss. Sounds simple, but with old, tightly-coupled 3270 green-screen type systems still in operation, potentially containing many CA Gen models – extracting the right data efficiently, and presenting it in the desired manner, is perceived as being far from simple. We’re all so used to information being presented in a user-friendly, efficient form these days, that when that information is buried deep in a monolithic system, and not particularly accessible, that frustrations start to creep in. Draw a parallel with your general web usage. It doesn’t take long before you abandon a clunky, unfriendly and uncooperative website for something a much more polished competitor can provide. How the data is structured in the back-end is of little concern to the end user; they just want it to work.

"Monolithic" isn't always this stunning.

“Monolithic” isn’t always this stunning.

However, transforming a monolithic CA Gen-based system to give it the required user interface, with granular access to the data, can be done. And it can be a lot simpler than many people think, if the correct approach and technologies are adopted.

The journey

In situations like these, the ‘as is’ scenario is comparatively inflexible, and perceptions are that it’ll take a lot of work to break it down into more manageable chunks (see SOA and CBD on our website). Change, therefore, is feared.

The ‘to be’ situation is the polar opposite. It is flexible, can respond quickly and allows real-time delivery to the web, intranet or the wealth of new mobile devices.

from and to

The concept behind the transformation from ‘as is’ to ‘to be’ is simple. The process belied by the small arrow above, we tend to find, can be quite off-putting – even in scenarios where there is an urgent desire to expose those CA Gen applications to the web or a more flexible front end.

But, regardless of the mindset, there regularly seems to be a common driver to use existing systems to provide a better customer service. Not to completely replace them with this year’s technology (as that could be prohibitively expensive), but to re-architect them in order to make them to be more ‘friendly’ with the systems we want to consume them. If this happens, the eventual end-user is happy, and the requirement to provide good customer service can be ticked off.

You CAN make it easier

Any such transition contains a unique combination of architecture analysis, re-factoring, platform change, exposure of CA Gen services and other processes – but years of experience has taught us that this is much less painful if as much as possible is automated. Experience also teaches us that an Agile approach to the process is favourable – but this is considered on a case-by-case basis.

So, why do we think striving for customer service is currently ‘trending’ as a reason to modernise CA Gen systems? Simply, because that’s what our clients are requesting.

Examples

CA Gen transformation: It’s all about putting a smile on someone’s face

A major piece of work recently was for a major national telecommunications provider, which had more than 50 CA Gen applications – mostly 3270 block mode, but with some client server architecture. This had a major impact on front-line staff faced with even simple customer transactions, meaning they had to access multiple systems – many with a rigid menu-based structure. By exposing the functionality of the back-end of the system, and using web services to allow it to interface with more user-friendly technology, meant that those staff could access what they needed, quickly, easily and using familiar and intuitive interfaces. This satisfies not just the customer service requirement to the ultimate paying customer – but also to the responsibility of the business to its internal customers i.e. those on the shop floor or call centre. Happy staff, happy customers and all that.

In a separate assignment, we’re working with a government department in the Middle East to transform a very old block mode architecture into client-server, with a web services layer to make it much more flexible and scalable. This ensures that the CA Gen models are no longer constrained by the 3270 limitations, and the functionality is substantially freed up, allowing it to be more easily accessed by customers – be they internal customers (colleagues) or members of the public.

Another recent example was the requirement of an insurance company to allow its clients on-demand access to policy documentation. Again, unlocking the applications to expose them to the Web ensured that the investment already made in the back end system was protected, but that a modern-day audience could receive the level of service they expect.

These are only three examples of ways we’ve exposed the services held in legacy systems to the web – but they are typical of the upward trend we are seeing in CA Gen (and indeed non-CA Gen) related transformation projects. The common theme is that someone’s life is made easier, more efficient and using an interface they are familiar with.

In short, it enables people. They are better placed.

What next?

Phoenix box device smallThe moral of the story, though, is that you don’t have to re-write your applications. It’s not hard if you automate the process and apply the methodologies used by Jumar on projects of this type. Our Project Phoenix automation software also significantly reduces the need for error-prone manual work. If you’d like to find out more about releasing the potential of your CA Gen applications by integrating them with new and emerging technologies, making them faster to access, more flexible and more scalable, please contact us.  Your customers will be glad you did.