COBOL is Finally Trending

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The COBOL programming language became 60 years old in 2019, and the Mainframe environment turned 55. During that time, many technology trends have come and gone. Nevertheless, COBOL has managed to persist through the introduction of PCs (Personal Computers), the Internet, and the popularity of the Java programming language. These major trends seem to find a way to incorporate COBOL instead of eliminating it. The last couple of years, especially with the Global Pandemic, have not been any different in terms of technology trends that have impacted and even strengthened, COBOL. This article touches briefly on 5 of those trends.

  1. Modernization:

One such trend is the Modernization of Computer Systems. For example, there is currently a trend for industries to introduce newer technologies to work with and enhance their existing tools. According to a Micro Focus survey, 70% of companies would rather use this method than replace their old systems. In this trending approach, the COBOL code itself could be modernized, and/or modern interfacing technologies could be introduced.

  1. Digital Transformation

Similarly, an extension of Modernization is Digital Transformation, where organizations rethink their (old) legacy systems in order to overhaul processes, operations, and relationships with customers. In this procedure, the existing COBOL code is kept but modularized to be used with newer technologies like the Cloud.  As Bartollk (2020) mentions in his article,  COBOL forms the Basis for Digital Transformation, in Digital Transformation, the existing system is recognized as an essential foundational technology and is preserved.

  1. New Demand for COBOL Programmers

Since the Covid Pandemic, there has been a higher demand for COBOL programmers, because the old systems are the ones paying the associated benefits such as unemployment payments. According to an article by Murray (2020),  Sudden Demand for COBOL Programmers – They Need Help Too!, COBOL programmers are coming out of retirement to fulfill the need for people to maintain these Benefit systems. This requirement to process unemployment claims on often 40-year-old systems has created a spike in jobs for COBOL programmers.

  1. COBOL Course revival

Another recent trend involves the revival of COBOL courses. Most universities and colleges stopped teaching COBOL many years ago, but in response to the demand caused by the pandemic, two of COBOL’s big names, Micro Focus and IBM, have begun rolling out COBOL courses for both beginners and professionals.

  1. Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI), in terms of COBOL code translation, is another trending topic in the field. For example, the automation involved in AI makes it possible to translate millions of lines of code quickly and generate test cases equally as fast. In this way, legacy code could be replaced with newer technology. In the case of COBOL, an option would be to replace the legacy COBOL code with Java code.

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It is remarkable to see that, after 60 years, COBOL is still such a relevant and newsworthy topic. After all the recent trends related to COBOL, we can only imagine what may be next.

 

What trends have you noticed lately in the programming world? Are there any that have affected you personally?

Listening for ‘COBOL’ in Social Media

Part of providing content through Social Media is to ‘listen’ for information about your chosen niche in order to understand the conversations that you may want to become involved in. Since my focus is COBOL, I make it a point to listen daily for news and articles related to the COBOL programming language. If you have a strong interest in a topic and you are a regular Social Media user, your Social Media listening should evolve naturally as part of that interest. For example, I have instinctively incorporated listening for COBOL topics into my daily Social Media routines, not only to keep up with content others are providing, but because I am genuinely interested in the information shared.

Favorite Social Media Monitoring Tools
Google Alerts

One of my preferred Social Media listening tools is Google Alerts. I set up a daily alert to listen for COBOL content. The results–which generally include articles, courses, and job opportunities–are sent to my email. I can quickly scan through them to find the ones that interest me. I favor this tool because it is free, and it gives me a summary of the information that I am looking for.

A screenshot of an example of a Google Alert email

LinkedIn and Facebook Searches

Another of my favorite listening methods on Social Media is to search within the applications. For instance, if I search for COBOL within LinkedIn, I get lists of courses, groups, companies, posts, events, etc., all content within the LinkedIn realm that concentrates on COBOL. Similarly, a search for COBOL in Facebook provides related groups, posts, pages, etc. I perform these searches frequently enough to know what is new in these applications in terms of COBOL. I like to use these types of searches since I can perform them easily while I am reviewing my newsfeeds.

A screenshot of a search for COBOL within LinkedIn

A screenshot of a search for COBOL within Facebook

Sources of News and Updates
Facebook Newsfeed

One of the best sources that I have of news and updates on COBOL-related topics is a Facebook group called ‘COBOL Programmers’. It has about 18,000 members, and there are frequent, current posts. I have joined this group to get updates into my newsfeed which I review daily. There are articles as well as interesting discussions in this group. This source of information is useful to me since the members are mostly experts in the COBOL programming field.

A screenshot of the COBOL Programmers Group on Facebook

LinkedIn Newsfeed

Another great source of current COBOL information and discussions are the ‘Mainframe’ group and ‘COBOL Programmers’ group on LinkedIn. They have approximately 47,000 and 15,000 members, respectively. There are frequent, current article and discussion posts to these groups by industry professionals, which makes these groups valuable sources of information.

A Screenshot of the COBOL programmers Group on LinkedIn

 

As users of Social Media, we are all listening to our chosen topics. Did you also find that your Social Media ‘listening’ developed naturally, or did you consciously create a listening strategy?

 

Analyzing Diverse Target Audiences in COBOL Blogging

In general, regardless of the online group you are trying to communicate with, you must be aware that your audience will be diverse in terms of gender, generational and cultural influences.  In the context of my interest in blogging about the mostly non-technical facets of COBOL programming, there are two main types of audiences. First, there are the seasoned, technical, fellow COBOL programmers, who can identify with the various discussions. These are the older generation, who may be looking for a good COBOL-related article from someone they can relate to. A second main audience would be a younger group with an interest in COBOL but not necessarily experienced or informed technically. They are a newer generation who may be starting out in their programming career and are looking for technical information. It is important to be conscious of the unique needs of each group when deciding on a communication style.

Audience #1—Experienced Fellow COBOL Developers

The first and probably the largest, audience in my COBOL-related online communications are COBOL programmers. The article, The Inevitable Return of COBOL, states that the average age of a COBOL programmer is fifty-five. Also, an Evans Data Corporation (2019) survey found that 27.5% of software developers in the world are women. Thus, the demographic of an online audience of COBOL programmers is probably men around age fifty-five. Based on this demographic, some psychographic information about this group is that they are conservative, upper-middle-class, and are followers. In terms of unique characteristics, according to the survey mentioned, one-fifth of men software developers have a personal interest in the technologies they are using. Consequently, one in five of my main COBOL audience have a personal interest in COBOL technologies. When communicating with this audience, the fact that this group is highly technical must be considered, since they will be more critical of any technical items discussed.

Audience #2—Younger, less experienced, Group with an Interest in COBOL

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The second audience consists of the younger listeners, who have an interest in COBOL-related online communications. In the online environment, I am assuming that the demographic of this group would be well-educated people younger than fifty. Based on this demographic, some psychographic information about this group is that they are trendy, leaders, who may have an interest in technology in either a formal, professional way or informally. When communicating with this audience, I must remember that they may not have a full understanding of COBOL or technical terms in general, and there will be a need to explain things in more layman’s terms.

In conclusion, this has been a short analysis of two diverse target audiences of non-technical Cobol-related discussions. The first group includes COBOL programmers around fifty-five years old, while the second group is comprised of all listeners, younger than fifty, with an interest in COBOL.  This analysis has emphasized how, as a blogger, it is important to know your audience so that you can be relevant and inspire them to take action.

Which audience type do you fall into? Are the assumed psychographic attributes correct for your group? Can you identify another audience not included above?