June 19, 2023 | IBM Z

Considering Cost Reduction and JCL Testing Tool Replacement


Depending upon your industry, the disruptions of the early 2020s—including the pandemic, inflation, interest rate hikes, continued technological shifts, labor shortages and more—have added uncertainty to your business. IT organizations are experiencing budget cuts, delayed or canceled capital projects, increased telecommuting, and continued knowledge erosion as mainframe subject matter experts transition out of workforce.

As you evaluate and adjust priorities for the next 12 months, how might you weight consideration of vendor claims to help you reduce cost for existing mainframe JCL testing tools?


Unless your horizon is 12 months or less, I would suggest that cost reduction is rarely a standalone priority justifying commitment of IT resources for change.  When it is introduced by a vendor, informed assessment of “cost” must always be analyzed in the context of multiple intersecting factors impacting “net value” to the business. In such context, a vendor’s proposal to reduce maintenance costs on a JCL testing product might cost the business a great deal more than maintenance savings if outcomes result in reduced quality, reduced adoption, unexpected production defects, or inability to quickly enable the tool to support architecture requirements driven by modernization needs.


To explore the topic further, I would like to discuss the most common elements impacting “cost” and subsequent “net value” associated with a vendor proposal for JCL testing tool conversion.


1) Price

Price reduction is probably the most common topic for new or inexperienced sales representatives. It might be interesting, and it must be followed with an informed appreciation for other critical factors that will be discussed later in this posting.


Important considerations for “price” include:

  1. Comparative spend for both vendors for license, maintenance and capacity, over the next 3 to 5 years? This would include exploring opportunities for sub capacity licenses, decoupling unneeded functionality, understanding existing agreement terms for renewal, third party access rights, use restrictions after maintenance termination, and current license terms that will obligate your business into future years.
  2. How long will it take to complete the conversion? Can you do so prior to upcoming maintenance renewal for the current product?
  3. What is the required effort (cost) and availability of resources, both internal and from the vendor, needed for the installation, customization, conversion, testing and training on the new testing product?

2) Risk

Assuming the minimum requirement is “like functionality replacement”, how do you assess with high confidence that expectations will be achieved quickly and with no disruption to production service delivery?  Considerations might include:

  1. Can production delivery be compromised in any way by unexpected outcomes during implementation or future use of the product?
  2. If the JCL testing tool is unreliable or detracts from user adoption, what are the potential costs in reduced quality, unexpected production defects, or delays in delivery due to additional rework costs.
  3. What are the opportunities to reduce risk through lower complexity, better automation, training new team members, and tailoring the implementation to user preferences?  Exploring this question may be very interesting if your vendor is knowledgeable and willing to spend time understanding your deployment while focusing on high leverage opportunities for better automation, more precise testing, elimination of unwanted “static” messages, elimination of any manual quality review steps, and a user training refresh.
  4. How will the vendor help you address, with high confidence, limited in-house resource availability or expertise on the current tool’s administration and use?

3) Vendor Experience and Delivery Capabilities

  1. What proven experience do specific vendor team members, working on your engagement, offer based on having helped multiple customers deliver similar conversions?
  2. How does the vendor approach delivery?  Do they offer a repeatable methodology with a high level of automation, no duplication of effort and complete knowledge transfer?
  3. How do they document deliverables, milestone dates and resource expectations for delivery of PoC, Implementation and success validation? Do they charge additional for this?
  4. Can the vendor execute quickly and effectively in a remote environment where your team members are participating from remote working locations? Are there any system access or data security requirements that need to be considered?
  5. In addition to establishing credibility in their understanding of technical requirements, does the vendor understand the unique testing needs of Development, Release Testing, and Production Support Users?  How are these needs articulated and addressed for maximum value before, during and after the conversion?

4) Modernization Considerations

If your organization is making enterprise modernization investments for common enterprise tools and processes enabling early defect elimination and accelerated high quality delivery; the potential “cost” and “net value” impact of your JCL testing tool could become of much greater significance.

Does the vendor understand what you are trying to achieve through investments in DevOps Practices or your organization’s articulation of SAFe?  How might a deployment utilizing their expertise and JCL testing product enable outcomes consistent with your expectations now and into the future?


  1. To provide the most predictive testing, the JCL testing product must simulate as closely as possible, run time conditions in the target environment. How would a vendor’s deliverables address the use case where JCL testing is initiated from a developers Eclipse IDE, requesting predicative testing based on a remote production system’s expected run-time conditions?
  2. How does the vendor enable access to JCL testing from non-mainframe platforms, frameworks and CI/CD tools (i.e. Zowe, GitLab CI/CD, Jenkins, Eclipse IDE)
  3. Does the vendor appreciate the essential need for metrics and measurements? How is this understanding articulated in the defect avoidance metrics produced by its testing tool? How might they be consumed in your environment for added value?
  4. Does the vendor’s product architecture instill high confidence that will help you achieve;
    • The most predictive and reliable testing possible
    • Easy testing service accessibility across the complete domain of possible enterprise end user, tool and process requesters.
    • The ability to quickly leverage an existing mainframe testing network to meet enterprise needs with low complexity, no redundancy, and accelerated delivery.
    • If your current vendor does not provide needed or anticipated modernization capability, what are the costs and timeframe needed to achieve it? What are the costs to optimize your current mainframe deployment to enable it with modernization investments required?  If your vendor does offer add on capabilities, what are the costs for license, ongoing maintenance and resources (vendor and internal) to optimize your base deployment and needed enhancements. Where else have these capabilities been deployed?

5) Vendor Consistency

Does your vendor instill confidence they appreciate your ultimate goals for the highest value JCL testing in your target state?

  1. In the new world JCL testing tools are no longer viewed as an add on to a workflow scheduler or a standalone tool for production services teams.
  2. The ultimate results of predictive testing would be observed in an environment where the testing environment is consistently approaching 100% predicative outcome for expected production system runtime conditions. The vendor’s understanding of the unique testing requirements for each Development, Testing and Production Services User, and the paramount importance of a fully predictive testing environment cannot be overstated.
  3. Common tools by definition imply limited redundancy. If your vendor offers multiple JCL testing products; in what way is this consistent with the outcomes desired from reduced complexity, reduced inconsistency, constant improvement in predictive outcome and elimination of potential points of failure that one would logically expect from one tool?

In summary, cost reduction is rarely a standalone consideration driving a business decision. Based on the right conditions it can be a legitimate consideration as a weighted criterion within a multi-dimensional business case recommending an accelerated, low risk JCL testing tool conversion.


Regardless of the benefits expected, cost reduction should always be entertained as the starting point as you consider giving valuable attention to vendors suggesting further dialog on this topic.