In the book, The Innovator’s Dilemma, author Clay Christensen puts forth the idea of disruptive innovation. This theory holds that established companies, acting on their best self-preservation instincts, will often leave the door open for less established companies to step in and find a better way to accomplish the same goals.
In some ways mainframe sites are experiencing internal disruptive innovation now. A common viewpoint of the changing demographics of the mainframe development staff is that of a hurdle to be overcome; of new people to be recruited, trained and brought into the fold. Another perspective is to see this change for what it is—disruptive innovation. Next-gen mainframe developers are innovation agents—bringing dynamic, dramatic changes to the mainframe development lifecycle that has otherwise remained relatively static for generations. One particularly promising improvement regards the use of visualization to increase IT understanding.
“There is no such thing as information overload. There is only bad design.”
–Edward Tufte, author of Envisioning Information
People are attuned to take in complex information visually. Patterns and anomalies that are hidden in text or tables often are naturally revealed through pictures; concepts are more easily digested and retained longer when presented visually; and a majority of people identify themselves as visual learners.
One quick example is the following population analysis showing the movement of the “mean center” of U.S. population (that point in the continental U.S. where, if we all weighed the same, the scale would be balanced). It is difficult if not impossible to discern a trend in the table—but the same information in the graph becomes self-evident.
Mean Center of U.S. Population (Courtesy U.S. Census Bureau)
This same ability to cut through complexity with visualization is now being leveraged for mainframe development. And, necessity being the mother of invention, in many ways this offers the potential for mainframe development capabilities to leapfrog over other development platforms—going straight from archaic to leading edge. While the mainframe has always been entirely text driven, other IDEs have also been slow to embrace visualization—for the most part Visual Studio is visual in name only.
This is why it’s an exciting time to be a mainframe developer. Not only does it give the programmer a chance to work on programs that run on the world’s most powerful computers (to quote Eddie Sutton, “where the money is”), but also work within a ground-breaking development environment.
Interested in seeing what we mean by using visualization to cut through IT complexity? We invite you to watch the webcast, What is a Picture Worth? Using Visualizations to Understand Your Applications, to learn more.