The language of digital transformation

Despite being 60 years old, COBOL remains the world’s fastest, most robust and thoroughly future-proof programming language, making it perfect for today’s digitally transforming world.

Johannesburg, 01 Oct 2019
Chris Livesey, GM: Application Modernisation and Connectivity Solutions, Micro Focus.
Chris Livesey, GM: Application Modernisation and Connectivity Solutions, Micro Focus.

A number of recent industry studies have highlighted that digital readiness is one of the top risk concerns for 2019. With this in mind, it is concerning that as few as 21% of businesses currently claim to have a comprehensive digital strategy.

Digital transformation is all about adapting and being able to change, but organisations must understand that this does not necessarily mean a complete reset. Instead, one ideally wants to strike a balance that leverages both current and emerging technologies. This enables these businesses to adopt technology that delivers the flexibility to maximise the value of what they already have, while still implementing new capabilities.

According to Chris Livesey, GM for Application Modernisation and Connectivity Solutions at Micro Focus, most large enterprises today typically run a hybrid environment, a direct consequence of adopting multiple waves of technological advancements over time. While each advancement has offered opportunity and progress, it ultimately results in a highly complex and inefficient technology environment. This is why most digital transformation programmes are focused on reducing complexity, creating greater flexibility and reducing total cost of ownership.

“Such modernisation prioritises the protection of what companies already have, exploiting advancements in technology to deploy and integrate applications, and to surface and integrate data, in new ways, with the minimum change to what already exists. Creating portability and operational independence for applications and data is becoming recognised as the fastest and most future-proofed path to building a platform for digital transformation, and the best means to achieve this remains COBOL,” says Livesey.

Created in 1959 as a US Department of Defence project to assist data processing, Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) is today known for its innovation, portability, readability and business-centricity, and over the past 60 years, it has continually expanded and adapted to support new technologies and business demands.

He says most people don’t realise that a lot of their daily routines depend on a 60-year-old technology. Whether it’s using an ATM, booking travel or filing an insurance claim, everyone interacts with COBOL-based systems in some way each day, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. 

“COBOL’s longevity is unusual in an industry where new technologies arise all the time, but there are good reasons for this. For one thing, the language has been constantly evolving over 60 years, in order to meet the demands of the IT industry’s evolution and the shifting technology landscape. Secondly, it is designed to cross-compile, and be transportable across platforms, and it remains the most portable computer language, ideal for supporting hybrid IT or multi-platform systems.

“Another reason for its continued success is that it was designed as a language for business, and remains very business-centric. Furthermore, COBOL’s ease of learning, reading and writing enables IT teams to spend less time on figuring out how to use it and resolving skills concerns, and more time focusing on the business.”

COBOL, adds Livesey, is now a modern language, portable and fully object-oriented and is perfectly positioned to enable a new era of innovation for developers supporting existing business applications, process and data. This, he continues, is because the language was designed for today’s business needs and built to last.

“With advanced optimisation technology and modern development tools, companies are able to modernise COBOL applications in order to keep up with evolving business, performance and digital transformation needs. COBOL is by far the best and most strategic language for business, as it is a fast, robust and future-proof programming language.

“Effectively, COBOL offers the most flexible, multi-platform, auditable language on the market, and it is for this reason that organisations are using COBOL to modernise, thanks to its ability to assist in the move to the cloud, thanks to COBOL applications, containers and DevOps practices,” concludes Livesey.

Download a white paper on why the world needs robust and ever-changing business technology here.