Integrating New Mainframe Developers without Impacting Quality & Productivity
Whether via growth, insourcing, outsourcing, retirement, or normal attrition, we regularly need to integrate new developers and other technology workers into our unique mainframe environments containing complex, internally-designed applications. The learning curve is immense and there is significant risk of decreased quality and reduced productivity during this assimilation period, which frequently takes months before the new team members are fully productive.
According to Work Institute, “… employees who have a great experience in the first 90 days are 10 times more likely to stay for a long time than those with a poor experience those first few weeks..”. Further, another recent study showed that 21 percent of employees who left within the first 6 months referenced ‘more effective education’ as a key factor that could have kept them from leaving.
How do we provide this ‘effective education’ to shorten this new hire assimilation period while hopefully reducing the chance of additional turnover?
For teams developing and maintaining unique, complex, internally-developed z/OS mainframe batch applications, technical assimilation of new team members is a significant issue. Whether you use traditional Waterfall, more modern Agile development methodologies, or a combination of both, manually maintained documentation and architectural diagrams with full data flow diagrams are seldom complete or up-to-date.
Unless there is automatically generated application architecture information illustrating how:
- Each component (e.g. Program) fits within each batch application
- Each application relates / shares data with other applications
- The data flows within and outside of the application
The learning process is typically dependent on the most seasoned, and most relied on, senior team members. This process typically includes:
- Months of buddy system mentoring which impacts team productivity
- A significant amount of ‘learning from your mistakes’, impacting quality.
How often has a junior developer made a ‘simple change’ to one component of an application which then caused a seemingly unrelated error within another component of the application, or even an interrelated application? All because they didn’t have a complete picture of ALL of the interrelationships and the complete data flow into, within, and out of the application.
Automated Information Is Key
One key is the use of other tools which can help the new hires learn the new environment and specifically the custom, in-house applications with which they are going to work. XREFplus+ DBr from Software Engineering of America (SEA) can help! It is a component of the Plus+Pack suite of JCL and Batch Management software, from SEA. XREFplus+ DBr automatically maintains accurate information on the design and flow of z/OS batch applications, and the interdependencies between applications. New employees can use the intuitive web browser UI to obtain insight into the architecture and internal processing of your custom, internally-developed applications. XREFplus+ DBr uses a comprehensive set of data collectors and analysis engines that include:
- Interfaces with automated schedulers to maintain application Job and Program execution sequencing information
- Automatic full resolution and analysis of the Production JCL to maintain the details of all statically allocated components (Programs, cataloged Procs, Datasets, DB2, etc.)
- Automatic capture of SMF Job history to complete the picture with dynamically allocated components (e.g. Programs, Datasets) and relating those to the static JCL components
XREFplus+ DBr minimizes the amount of mentoring time needed by senior team members. Further, using XREFplus+ DBr also dramatically reduces the ‘learn from your mistakes’-related quality issues by providing the data flow / usage information needed to clearly understand how each batch application component relates to all other batch application components.
Effective training methods to assist in the assimilation of new employees are critical for ensuring both the continued quality of production changes as well as their job satisfaction. Automation is key in helping to provide an accurate understanding of existing business processes. This is the core functionality of XREFplus+ DBr; avoiding/preventing Production impacts caused by changes having unforeseen impacts on other batch application components. Its value in assimilating new technology workers is an added benefit of all of the automatically captured and maintained batch application component information.