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November 30, 2020 - Comments Off on Application knowledge is the foremost skill developers need for rapid legacy-system success

Application knowledge is the foremost skill developers need for rapid legacy-system success

November 30, 2020

by Todd Erickson

The COVID pandemic has highlighted the importance of maintaining legacy computing systems, and the need for more mainframe software developers.

But as Bill Hinshaw, owner of COBOL Cowboys, says in the latest Phase Change podcast, learning a "legendary" mainframe language such as COBOL is only about 10% of getting developers productive in applications they don’t understand.

Learning COBOL is probably about 10% of getting a person productive. It's the other 90% learning about that organization, how they handle business rules.

The other 90% is educating developers on how the applications run and what business rules the organizations have embedded in the applications.

Bill and Eileen Hinshaw founded COBOL Cowboys to provide software development and support for legacy environments. Bill has nearly 60 year of experience in mainframe software development and IT.

In this Phase Change podcast, Bill points out that while many organizations have announced plans to move away from legacy applications to newer technology, they won't be able to quickly rip-and-replace the 200 billion-plus lines of COBOL code currently in use.

Bill says that one reason why we won't see widespread replacement of COBOL-based applications is because a lot of companies lost the expert developers that built and understand the legacy systems through the years.

He explains why public and private organizations are struggling to find people willing and able to maintain applications written in code developed decades earlier, and how programmers that are new to legendary applications often take months to learn the systems before they are productive.

The podcast also includes our conversation about the coming role of AI in software development and how critical it will be for helping developers become more productive with mainframe systems more quickly.

Learn more about the COBOL Cowboys and how critical mainframe applications are to the world in this Phase Change podcast.

Todd Erickson is a Technology Writer with Phase Change. You can reach him at