Reluctance To Change: Now An Urgent Issue

So here it is, plain and simple. Progression and transformation are essential in this age of exponential technology evolution. Gone are the days when software and hardware would only advance and be enhanced every year or longer. In today’s world, applications are changing at a pace that was unfathomable even five years ago, and it is being done by the user community. Hardware is updated and released every few months, as witnessed in the mobile device sector. One would think that the technology infrastructure would be solid and modernized. Yet this is not the case.

CNN reported that New Jersey, Kansas, and Connecticut – to name a few – have unemployment systems running COBOL programs developed decades ago. As a result, they are seeking “volunteers” to bail them out and fix the current issues in their COBOL programs, so they can process claims. In this article, New Jersey Governor Murphy is quoted as saying “Literally, we have systems that are 40 years plus-years old”. The question I have is why does any organization still have these systems in place? Is it deliberate as a result of not wanting to invest in the infrastructure? Is it an oversight because everything seemed to be working well under normal conditions?

Here we are facing what some experts classify as the worst global pandemic in over a century causing businesses to close, job loss, and unemployment to rise and our infrastructure cannot handle it. (I would extend this to other areas as well, but this post would be much too large.)

In the United States, the largest and still growing rate of unemployment is challenging the infrastructure capacity to manage the unemployment claims process, This is due to the use of systems and applications that are nearly 50 years old. According to a 2017 report by Reuters, there are still 220 billion lines of COBOL Program code in place. The challenge they now face in addition to programmatic modifications and systems capacity limitations, are finding programmers who are able and skilled at COBOL to make the modifications.

In My View

You would think that 20 years ago when the world thought all systems would crash at the turn of the century (remember Y2K) there would have been a push to replace these outdated systems with updated technology and applications. (In all fairness, this article does cite several States as being in process of making this transition, but have not been able to complete it as yet.) Are you kidding? After Y2K and the challenges of finding programmers still familiar with COBOL, Fortran, and other such languages then, a lesson wasn’t learned?

This situation to me is inexcusable and an example of using duct tape to fix a leaking, rusted pipe, only to have to rust continue until the pie once again leaks. What now? More duct tape? It is time that all levels of Government, and many business organizations alike, wake up to the fact that these outdated systems are a major risk.

It is time to stop taking the attitude of “if it ain’t broke, don’t try and fix it”. Just because it is working does not mean it is optimal nor capable to sustain and meet the rapidly changing and growing operational requirements of today. We hear about the needed investment in our transportation infrastructure. It is time to seriously address the modernization and updating of our information and process infrastructure.

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