School’s in for Summer: Why Training Your IT Team Makes or Breaks Your Business


As organizations face aging IT talent, the legacy systems they manage can become “black boxes” of undocumented coding that can become troublesome for new hires and slow down modernization projects. But with the help of in-house training programs, organizations can help bridge the skills gap between old and new and drive greater business success, explains Brandon Edenfield, MD application modernization, Advanced.

The pandemic has brought about sweeping changes to all aspects of our personal lives, and at the same time, has brought about equally as significant changes in business processes. As our world shifted into a much more distributed structure, organizations were forced to face the challenges of their legacy systems head-on, igniting a multi-industry-wide shift to the cloud and more distributed networks. 

While these technological changes are in full force, dramatic change doesn’t happen overnight, and breaking away from aging technologies is no different. Today, many organizations are faced with teams of IT talent that are aging towards retirement and legacy systems that are essentially patchworked and duct-taped to remain functional. Without these individuals on their teams, newer tech talent focused on languages like Java or C# have little to offer these systems. So, how can organizations ensure business growth, improve the effectiveness of their IT teams and set themselves up for success for years to come? The solution lies in training their own tech teams.

There’s No Room for Legacy Systems in Your Corporate Legacy – Here’s Why

Organizations running on legacy mainframes are dealing with highly specific systems that have been updated countless times to adapt their individual functions and processes to be more suitable for modern business demands. What’s more, these systems are running on outdated programming languages like COBOL. And as more than 60% Opens a new window of existing COBOL talent is over the age of 45, finding the talent required to decipher these legacy systems and also translate their functions into modern environments is especially challenging. As this talent nears retirement age, the pressure for organizations to capture this essential knowledge is on.

To escape the threat of the “black box” of code, it’s vital that organizations prioritize maintaining historical knowledge about their systems and their functionalities. This is because, without this information, organizations run a significantly higher risk of running into challenges or roadblocks with their modernization process down the road. And as the pressure for organizations to shift their systems to the cloud to remain compatible with modern business demands continues to grow, there’s minimal time to spare for added issues. But in-house training will drive this process forward.

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Designing a Functional Cross-Training Program: Upskilling, Reskilling and Everything in Between

Implementing an on-the-job training program will give your organization the best of both worlds: retaining vital information about a system while laying the foundation for modernization and, ultimately, long-term corporate success. Additionally, it will help to ensure that aging talent feels that they still have an active role in maintaining the new system rather than being eliminated once their specific programming skills are not needed as intensely as they had been in the past. What’s more, shifting away from these mainframes will make their skills even more valuable to an organization, as they can provide much-needed context around key functionalities that newer talent can then interpret within the modernized system, thus making the modern developers more knowledgeable than ever before.

In addition to better informing up-and-coming talent, these training programs provide benefits for both ends of the spectrum. This approach to IT talent is a key facet of DevOps and its “always-be-learning” culture, as knowledge shared between these two groups can highlight how a variety of different skills can be utilized in app development to keep up with the rapidly-changing industry.

Tips for Establishing a Successful Training Program

Ready to take on training the IT team of your dreams but don’t know where to begin? To ensure success in this journey, it’s pertinent that organizations remember that a successful on-the-job training program requires four key characteristics: expertise, mentorship and cross-training, scalability and repeatability.

1. Expertise: Building the right program begins with ensuring you have the right knowledge sources to support it. By pulling subject matter experts from all corners of your team, including seasoned COBOL developers, newer Java developers and more, organizations can ensure the necessary information is being disseminated to their teams. By conducting interviews with potential participants in these programs, organizations can develop a “highlight reel” of pertinent information to be shared and further ensure that much-needed expertise can be developed.

2. Mentorship and cross-training: Job-sharing programs hold the potential to benefit all who participate. By creating a formal mentorship process, staff members can have a go-to employee for any and all questions related to the skills they are aiming to develop while simultaneously sharing their own skillsets with these individuals. For example, while a Java developer is learning the ins and outs of the COBOL code on the existing legacy system, they can simultaneously show the COBOL developer the ropes of the modernized system and tips for ongoing maintenance. This ensures vital information is retained while sharpening and improving the capabilities of existing staff members.

3. Scalability: It’s important that organizations prioritize scalability when implementing these programs, as establishing a set track or set of course work for individuals will allow organizations to continually polish and restructure the training program to maximize its overall effectiveness and reach.

4. Repeatability: Create a program so nice your organization wants to do it twice, and three times, and so on. By establishing a central network or source for any and all information sharing and “coursework” related to the program, businesses are better positioned to enable the ongoing and long-term success of these programs by ensuring key information is included in each program cycle while simultaneously ensuring a source of open communication between various groups. Through this process, organizations can continue to clean and adjust the program as needed to maximize its benefits across the board. 

Learn More: A Shift Towards Alternative Education Models Is Key to Bridging Tech Skills Gap

Getting Schooled

The world of DevOps is home to a culture of always-be-learning, and by implementing an in-house, on-the-job training program, organizations are better suited to embrace exactly that. Even as our industry shifts away from mainframes and older programming languages, their critical roles in business function won’t entirely disappear overnight. As a result, by upskilling and reskilling talent from all areas of expertise and years in the industry, organizations can avoid the pitfalls hidden in their current systems while ensuring their IT team is equipped to manage modernized versions of these systems down the line.

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