Join us at the watercooler. The CA Gen community is here.

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The watercooler – the place to be

Picture the scene.  The watercooler in the corner of our CA Gen development centre bubbles away, as four or five of our team members take a break from their development work – coincidentally all at the same time.

The topic turns from Christmas shopping to last night’s “I’m a celebrity…” (for those outside the UK, this is a TV show, you’re probably glad you’ve never heard of).

A few more people join this ‘watercooler moment’ and – as you’d expect – the topic of discussion changes again.  One of the team members reveals they have had a ‘eureka moment’ with a CA Gen modernisation project.  The conversation then becomes frenzied and work-related, with all discussions about Christmas shopping forgotten.  This has become a classic ‘watercooler moment’ and shows just how valuable these informal work get-togethers can be.  Everyone gets back to their desk, encouraged by the fact that someone has achieved something above and beyond their normal remit, and given the customer much more than they’d expected.

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More than just water. The watercooler is the hub for office banter.

This happens everyday in companies across the world  – so why are we obsessing about it here?  Well, during our most recent ‘watercooler moment’, the conversation inevitably turned to the topic of the CA Gen community.  It’s a phrase used widely – and, as you’d expect from such a legacy system, very affectionately.  Which started us thinking; if we could get the entire CA Gen community around our watercooler, what would everyone talk about.  The need for more cups, obviously, but it became the subject of a heated debate.

With no consistent agreement on the big subjects, we decided to find out – in the only obvious way. We’d ask.

So, if CA Gen forms a part of your remit (no matter how small), we’d like to invite you to our virtual watercooler for a a brief chat.  (It’ll only take you a few minutes, and it involved nothing more than clicking a few buttons – certainly with no typing required!

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Get involved…

Join us at the watercooler here 

and take our quick three minute survey.

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We’ll publish the results (but not individual replies) in a forthcoming blog – so we’d really appreciate you taking the time to participate.

Thanks in advance for taking a brief break from the grind of daily life.  There’s nothing like a break at a watercooler for helping you to recharge!

If you’d like more information about our CA Gen modernisation services, please contact us.

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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.

Files on bookshelves

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.

Legacy modernisation: You are here. But where is here?

_MG_0565By Jeroen Wolff, Jumar Solutions

There are many perfectly legitimate reasons why even the most accomplished IT professionals find themselves stumped by legacy systems.  We’ll run through a number of scenarios in a short while, but for anyone finding themselves faced with a complex legacy system, their first question has to be “what have we here then?”.

That question forms the basis of this, our latest blog – where we focus on the importance of knowing PRECISELY what is contained within that system, what it does, and how it can be better used.

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We will take as an example CA Gen, the computer aided software engineering tool, for which we have global expertise – although this analysis can apply to pretty much any legacy system.  Four scenarios initially spring to mind.

Typical scenarios

The following scenarios are typical of those you may find yourself in when faced with a legacy system challenge.

  1. Because (in our example) CA Gen is the ‘well behaved child’ of an organisation’s IT architecture, it has probably run quite uneventfully for many years without anyone touching it.  However, when there is a need to change the models or upgrade to a newer version of CA Gen, it gets analysed in detail, potentially for the first time in years.
  2. An organisation may be in the process of changing its outsourced IT supplier.  Not only does the outgoing supplier need to fully document the legacy system’s functionality (despite maybe never having had much to do with it), but the new supplier needs to take the time and make the effort to understand it.  With many legacy systems, whether CA Gen or something else, there’s a strong chance that the new outsourcer is not a specialist in that product.  That’s where specific reputable external experts come in
  3. It is highly likely that any large company subject to takeover, merger or acquisition will have a number of legacy systems.  The new owner could easily find itself with the headache of trying to unravel years and years of tightly coupled code – potentially without a clear starting point – or the in-house expertise to deal with it.
  4. When undertaking a planned modernisation, or a componentisation exercise, the first part of the exercise is to look at what you’ve got.  You can’t go on that modernisation or transformation journey without knowing where to start from.  It’s all-well-and-good knowing where you want to be – but your roadmap is useless if you don’t know where you are now.

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We’re talking here about IT professionals not knowing their systems in intimate detail – admittedly, this is controversial in a blog aimed at IT professionals.  No offence meant.  The point is, that because of the nature of any legacy system, you can’t necessarily be EXPECTED to know these systems intricately.  They are, by their nature, not new.  They have probably run quietly in the background for so long without needing any nurturing.  The personnel who installed them may have moved on as the systems require so little attention.  Skillsets in general will have advanced.

So, this is not about being deliberately ignorant, or anything that any IT professional should be embarrassed about.  It is perfectly reasonable to not know what is in this mass of code.  What’s needed here is a way of analysing what exists in these many models, how they interact, what issues might they have – and what are the potential corruptions within them.

But what first?

compassThe difficulty comes with the question “where do you start?”.  The task is so unfeasibly complex, that it almost has to be automated.

At Jumar, we’ve seen this scenario again and again, but due to the scale of the task we were forced to adopt the automated approach.  Hence, the development of our Model Analyser tool.  Model Analyser allows the user to quickly get a grasp of the whole model – identifying functionality within those models, such as naming conventions, standard of code, reusability within the code.  Additionally (and this is a subject for more in-depth discussion at a later date) whether there are any potential corruptions which have unknowingly found their way into them over the years.

Model Analyser pulls out all the information about that model, and converts it into an easily understandable, highly detailed report, which allows reports to be run against it.  This is a level of visibility hitherto unavailable in its native format.  In particular, we found it hugely beneficial to build in the functionality to rank logic units based on a number of different complexity indicators which helps to identify where effort needs to be focused.

Model analyser

Watch our Model Analyser video here

From this point on, you have options.  You can begin to make informed choices about what to do with those models.  One immediate potential benefit is that it shows where there is redundant code, which can quickly be removed.

Our experience tends to show that analysing a small number of models initially, gives a good indication of how to proceed with the project.  We can then analyse models further, to begin to form a strategy based upon whatever is the driving force behind the project.  Such analysis can be carried out on- or off-site.

It means you can reduce risk by allowing you to support your portfolio is problems should develop, but also you achieve compliance – by ensuring that all the appropriate documentation exists.  This is something we will look at in more detail in next month’s blog.

More information

Model Analyser was created from real-world project needs and experiences – and therefore has a proven track record.  There’s more information in our YouTube video and our datasheet.  But, if you’d like to talk to someone about legacy modernization or anything detailed in this blog, our team of experts is always happy to chat – by phone, Skype, email or in person. Simply drop us a line.

CA Gen trends for 2013 – Jumar’s predictions

Now that we’re a month into 2013, and the dust has settled after the annual whirlwind that is January, we thought we’d take stock of what’s in store for the rest of 2013. We have, therefore, polished our CA Gen crystal ball to see what the future may hold.

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To do this, we’ll start by reflecting on the last few months, which have been significant for Jumar and our customers. Our expansion into Asia-Pacific is continuing to gather pace, and a number of exciting new projects are beginning, with many getting underway in the first few days of this year. A good basis on which to start our prediction.

First – a little look back

In 2012 Jumar undertook major CA Gen related projects to:

  • transition a European Government finance body’s IT architecture to allow it to exploit the latest technologies
  • facilitate one of the world’s largest companies’ plans to migrate from CA Gen to COBOL
  • upgrade a number of global organisations to CA Gen v8.0 (including Government departments, a major telecoms provider and some of the UK’s biggest household names). Its approach to automation not only saved many (sometimes thousands of) hours compared to a manual process, but its assessment service also allowed that upgrade to take place with maximum confidence
  • provide training to Government and corporate organisations (across all levels from basic CA Gen training to regular specialist academies)

…and that’s just the start of it. We’ve also helped an international insurance organisation to transition .NET and other applications, delivering on-time and in-scope using Agile development techniques. Another significant project was a web-based java project for a governmental transport body.

We could go on – but this is supposed to be about the future, not the past.

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So what are our CA Gen predictions for 2013?

As our portfolio of CA Gen-related services continues to expand yet further, we find ourselves deploying them into new sectors and territories globally – particularly Asia Pac. But just what sort of CA Gen activity do we expect to see over the next twelve months?

There’s a lot of value in CA Gen systems The over-riding buzz we get from the community is that many users are still very much pro-CA Gen, and we’re seeing a significant upturn in customers modernising their CA Gen portfolio. This allows them to continue to exploit the benefits which already exist in their existing systems – and the trend seems to be to use re-platforming as a way of modernising their environments. Whilst each organisation has its own motivations for modernisation, these typically include:

  • business demand for better user interfaces. A common scenario we see is the organisation retaining CA Gen for the server side – where its greatest strengths lie – and moving to some other technology for the presentation layer.
  • the need for better integration of hitherto ‘silo’ CA Gen applications – often within a Service Oriented Architecture
  • downsizing of infrastructure to save money. For example moving off the mainframe or moving from Host Encyclopaedia to CSE

Too many people still believe that it is too hard to do these types of modernisation with CA Gen: splitting block mode into client-server; creating web UIs, componentising, re-platforming, migrating. We disagree and have projects in progress now around the world doing all of these things.

DoitrightA lot is possible – if you do it properly The other popular trend, which we expect to continue to increase in 2013, is the recognition among CA Gen users of the benefits of automation techniques to achieve results which would otherwise be impossible, if reliant on manual methods. We’re seeing a large number of clients who are embracing tools in the Project Phoenix suite of software, which opens up a wealth of possibilities, maximises budgets and saves time and frustration.

The types of modernisation listed above can all be achieved using a largely automated process. The beauty of CA Gen is that the model holds the definition of the application. Each type of modernisation requires changes to the model and the cost of making these changes manually can be prohibitive. Jumar’s approach is to automate what can be automated – which is often 100% of the changes needed. For example, we can convert old block mode applications to client-server 100%, allowing the previously hidden business logic to be exposed and integrated using any of the popular modern technologies.

direction form ms wordWhen the time comes to migrate, ask for help  As we said above, each organisation has different motivations and alongside the CA Gen modernisers we also expect to continue to see some companies taking the strategic decision to migrate away from CA Gen – to other platforms. We appreciate this is not an easy decision to make, but for those companies which have chosen to do this Jumar – as experts in CA Gen – can help. We offer a range of consultancy, outsourced and technical services to support migration initiatives. Our proven track record in migration speaks for itself, and is backed up by our world-class automation tools, but to find out more, please contact us.

So, our main expectations are threefold: more organisations maximising the value of their core CA Gen systems through modernisation and integration, more organisations using automation to push the boundaries of what’s possible, and more organisations taking the strategic decision to migrate.

Whichever of these categories your organisation falls into, it’s pretty much a foregone conclusion that Jumar has already ‘been there, done that’. Our new clients in the Asia Pacific region are already benefiting from this extensive experience, and their roadmap to transform and improve the business value delivered by their CA Gen portfolio is now more than just a vision.

Over to you

So, we’d now like to hear from you. What are your predictions for CA Gen in the coming year? What are your plans for the coming year – and what difficulties are you facing, or expecting to face? What level of support do you need? Jumar can help you understand the scale of the task, and the resources you will require. Have you made strategic decisions regarding the future of your CA Gen applications? Are you going to modernise, downsize or migrate? Again, we have the know-how to support you in this change.

Jumar: taking CA Gen on the road to Mandalay

As promised, we are pleased to reveal more details about our upcoming presentation at CA World at the Las Vegas Mandalay Bay resort – where Richard Branson (no less) will be the keynote speaker.

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Andy Scott: Richard Branson is his ‘warm up act’.

The excitement surrounding Mr. Branson’s appearance is nothing compared to the buzz around Jumar’s hour-long session on CA Gen modernisation.

Doug Michael and Andy Scott will present on the benefits of automating IT transformation, and how our extensive experience in CA Gen can streamline the process yet further.

Some of the world’s biggest names have already recognised this – and seen the cost savings and benefits of working consistently, while harvesting the investment already made in the system.

The official summary of their talk is:

When modernising or upgrading any CA Gen system, it is
vital that the investment in that system is not lost – but exploited. Some of the world’s largest insightful organisations are realising the benefits of using automation to accelerate and simplify major modernisation projects. This leads to a reduction in costs and the ability to carry out tasks more consistently – all while harvesting the existing knowledge and functionality within that system. Typical examples include a re-platforming, a move to from GUI to Web, a service oriented re-architecture, healthcheck or upgrade. The session will show automation in action and demonstrate how CA Gen development teams can intelligently match customer demand more quickly and accurately by using automation rather than manual methods.

It takes place on Tuesday 23rd April at 11.15am at CA World, Mandalay Bay Resort, Las Vegas from 21st-24th April.  You can register here – or for more information about Jumar’s presentation, please contact us.

If you can’t make it to the event – that’s no problem… we’ll more than happily come to you.  Just let us know.

Don’t ‘gamble’ with your CA Gen investment – and other bad Las Vegas puns

The biggest CA event in the world is looming.  The huge “CA World” takes place in Las Vegas in April and Jumar will, of course, be there.

So will Richard Branson as it happens; he’s the keynote speaker.  No doubt he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet Jumar’s Doug Michael and Andy Scott who will also be taking to the stage to demonstrate ways of maximising the investment you have already made in CA Gen.

What’s the secret?  Well, the best way to find out is to attend the event itself which takes place at the Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas from 21st to 24th April 2013, but by way of a teaser…

CA Gen modernisation is best achieved using automation tools.

Why? Because it enables you to undergo a complex IT transformation in a fraction of the time it takes to do manually.

How do we know?  Because we’ve proved it – over and over again.

Why should you care?  If CA Gen features anywhere in your enterprise, you will no doubt have made a major investment, not only in the tool itself, but also in its functionality   Modernising your CA Gen application portfolio using automation, ensures you retain and exploit that existing functionality.  Doug and Andy will be explaining this more fully at the event, and we’ll be blogging more and more about this over the coming weeks.

These sessions always prove popular, so if you are attending, we very much look forward to meeting you at the event.  If you’re unable to make it, we can bring the presentation to you.  Just drop us a line, and we’ll arrange to talk.

New YouTube video: Are you really doing agile software development?

Doug Michael - CTO, Jumar Solutions

Doug Michael – CTO, Jumar Solutions

Often the subject of intense debate, and also regularly misunderstood, the “agile” approach to software development is a subject upon which people get rather animated.  There are all sorts of misconceptions about agile – many fuelled by organisations which claim to be doing agile, when they’re not.

Jumar’s CTO, Doug Michael, is no stranger to agile – and has lived it for many years.

In the latest in our series of YouTube videos, Doug examines the differences between agile and other more ‘traditional’ methods of software development, such as waterfall for example.

He then goes on to look at the mistakes made by organisations who claim to ‘do agile’, specifically, their attitudes to

  • fixed timeboxes
  • sprints
  • scrums

…and how these should be carried out properly in order to conduct a truly agile process.

The video is the first in a series of two YouTube presentations focusing on Agile.  Part two will be made available later in the year.  For more information about Agile Software development, please contact us.  If you’d like to speak to Doug directly, please also drop us a line, and we’ll be in touch.