Driving business innovation and growth with improved DevX

By April Hickel, VP, Product Management, Intelligent Z Optimization and Transformation (IZOT) for BMC.

  • Thursday, 23rd November 2023 Posted 3 months ago in by Phil Alsop

In a perfect world, developers would focus on delivering solutions rather than concerning themselves with all the infrastructure necessary to make that happen. However, countless different methodologies and development tools can come together over the course of an organisation’s journey from formation to scaling, creating an extra level of complexity for your mainframe application development teams. Building a better developer experience, or DevX, is invaluable in streamlining the development process and helping developers focus on what matters most.

DevX is about meeting developers where they are, at every stage of their career, and delivering connectivity to the tools and devices that they want to use. This enables them to focus on what they do best: Coding and releasing high-quality mainframe applications faster and more frequently, in turn fostering better productivity and greater innovation.

Automation plays a key role in removing friction for developers. A modern integrated development environment (IDE) with built-in automation allows developers to find and manage code more efficiently, with greater quality, and move seamlessly from coding to editing to debugging to testing.

Modern tooling can simplify and accelerate how developers work by giving them a visual representation of their code layout in a single-pane-of-glass view. They can move quickly in a natural, easy way with more information at their fingertips while built-in automation offers assistance at the right moment without getting in the way.

However, this can seem difficult, especially when dealing with mainframe application development and longtime mainframe developers who are still working with tools from the 1980s and haven’t directly benefitted from the intervening decades of improvements. What they might not realise is that the improvements made for other platforms are available to mainframe developers, too. By engaging them in DevX modernisation efforts, their experience—and that of their team members—can be improved.

What Makes a Productive Mainframe Developer Experience?

· Flexible agile processes that give developers predictable capabilities and enable smaller, iterative changes with faster feedback. It also syncs distributed and mainframe development teams to foster greater collaboration for additional process improvements.

· A platform-agnostic DevX, which creates a development environment where developers can focus on the functionality of the applications they’re building instead of the deployment mechanism, levelling the playing field for every generation of developer.

· Developers can achieve the full potential of DevOps with an improved DevX. Implementing DevOps for source code management (SCM) functions allows developers to understand the scope of any changes needed before they start coding, which helps speed approvals through concurrent work streams.

· The single biggest boost to productivity—and an integral component of DevX—is shift left automated testing that enables developers at all skill levels to test new code immediately and find and fix bugs earlier in the development cycle when they’re easier to fix—and before they reach the end user. Continuous testing also automatically prepares test data within the DevOps toolchain.

· An improved DevX delivers operational insights, so developers aren’t just catching issues but also understanding and prioritising them, working hand in hand with the operations team to make the overall system better. It also empowers newer developers to address and correct any issues that arise in legacy code without poring over hundreds of modules to find what they need to improve. DevX tools work together to give developers an opportunity to leverage operational data in a whole new way.

With the right tools, mainframe developers just need to be supported by a culture and education that teaches them how to use them and understand the benefits they offer. If nobody will use new tooling that is being implemented, the transformation is for naught. It’s important to start with the user experience and find the right tools to address it rather than starting with a tool and forcing its use just because it’s new. Continuous improvement is an important part of this; otherwise, the mainframe developer experience could be brought from the 1980s up to today’s standards only to have it freeze in place. This is why metrics and analytics are so important.

It's important that businesses ensure quality improves in line with improved delivery speeds. With an improved DevX, defects can be consistently caught earlier in the life cycle, which results in safer, more efficient delivery of better-quality code. Tracking velocity with metrics such as user stories delivered in one sprint makes it possible to gauge how those changes are making a difference, as well as demonstrate how automation helps eliminate human error, increases code drops, and improves business agility.

If an enterprise gives its mainframe developers everything they need to do their jobs easily and more efficiently, they’re exponentially more likely to adopt the tool and advocate for it—because a better DevX improves the day-to-day employee experience for longstanding and next-generation developers. By removing the drudgery of tasks that take developers away from writing code, they’re free to unleash their creativity and achieve even greater levels of innovation—with hiring and retention practices improving as well.

Improving the mainframe DevX pays dividends across businesses. It lays the foundation to more rapidly roll out new features that benefit customers, and also gives the agility to enable a competitive response for revenue-generating solutions. The mainframe is here to stay—but its development environment doesn’t need to stay the same. Building a modern development environment that empowers developers to respond nimbly in the face of change keeps businesses in step with the market and makes change an advantage.