“Ladies and gentleman, rock and roll.”
In 1981, those words sounded the launch of MTV, a satellite channel that would become famous for integrating two mediums, music and television, into one and that would have a lasting influence on a generation. Coming of age during the MTV era, of constantly-streaming music videos, ingrained in Gen Xers the desire for continuous feedback before the internet even existed.
MTV didn’t stop with music videos. It continued integrating new streams of instant content into its existing format, beginning in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall, marking the end of the Cold War. Because MTV was a 24/7 channel, it could broadcast the wall coming down while traditional news channels couldn’t.
For those of the MTV generation now working in IT as software engineers, we haven’t forgotten the desires from our earlier days for a constant stream of ever changing information. Just as MTV provided nonstop instant access to our favorite songs and music videos, and eventually to world historic events like the Fall of the Wall, Gen Xers have evolved the art of software development on the same foundation of constancy over the course of our careers.
We demand that things happen quickly. We need instant feedback. We want visuals to see what’s happening—like our beloved music videos of our past—not long reports, meetings, documents and all the mundane extras that slow us down. If we see something we don’t like, we want to change it—quickly.
As Gen Xers have taken the helm in leadership roles across distributed and now mainframe development, we’ve imparted the same expectations of continuous change on younger generations. But Millennials refuse to tolerate the same type of development tools and processes that Gen Xers found in place when we came into the workforce.
Herein lies the major rub with attracting Millennials to mainframe development. They will run away screaming from tools and processes that don’t satisfy their need for instant interaction.
As Gen Xers, we realize we can’t just ignore this truth any longer. We need to knock down the “Berlin walls” that have been built up in our organizations over time and broadcast to the masses that this is the new way forward. If we’re to attract, hire and retain Millennials and guide them to become the next stewards of the mainframe, it’s time to bring in mainframe software development’s version of MTV from the days of our youth: Continuous Integration.
Continuous Integration: The MTV of Software
In my last blog, “How Gen X Can Build a Mainframe Environment Millennials Love,” I wrote about learning how Millennials work and providing them with the modern DevOps tools and integrations they need to understand and succeed at mainframe development.
Another development practice this environment should include is Continuous Integration, a practice that brings developers and the code they’re writing together frequently, allowing issues to be detected rapidly.
Continuous Integration can be used to automate mainframe delivery pipelines in the same way as distributed pipelines. It allows the mainframe to participate in continuous quality inspection processes with tools like SonarQube. It gives Millennials working on the mainframe the same type of short feedback cycles and quick wins they get working on other platforms. It gives management the confidence through fact based metrics and repeatable automation that we have enabled teams to continuously adapt and learn with Lean processes.
Continuous Integration is a critical step required to attract and maintain a skilled force of today’s knowledge workers, to leverage your company’s heritage in mainframe assets, to build the next innovations that will power your business into the future.
Just like MTV made it possible for Gen Xers to watch a continuous stream of their favorite music videos or gain instant access to historic events like the tearing down of the Berlin Wall, we want continuous integration to give us a constant feed of development progress on the mainframe. And with the right tools, Continuous Integration doesn’t need to be any harder than the click of a button to change the tired old channel of mainframe vendors that repeat the same reruns over and over and over.
I encourage all those leading efforts to mainstream the mainframe to adopt Continuous Integration. Together we can bring down the “Berlin Wall” that surrounds mainframe development and end the “Cold War” between platforms with a single, modern, DevOps process.