The need for effective documentation in application modernization
Lately, many organizations across the globe have been focusing on transforming their legacy mainframe applications into a modern platform. Application modernization refers to converting, rewriting, or porting of a legacy system to modern computer programming languages and digital technologies. Enterprises need to prepare, analyze, and perform reverse engineering to transform their legacy applications into modern applications. Most mainframe applications are written using COBOL, and some of them could be as old as 60 years. It is essential for organizations to be well-versed with their applications to complete the legacy transformation successfully. Reverse engineering is a key technique that can be leveraged to achieve this goal.
One of the finer aspects to be considered during reverse engineering is creating technical and business documentation of components involved in the application. A COBOL application mainly has the control flow driven through the online Customer Information Control System (CICS) transactions or scheduled batch jobs – Job Control Language (JCL). The lack of predefined industry standard documentation templates and the versatile nature of the job make it difficult for developers to document technical details. This, in turn, leads to roadblocks in understanding job components that play a crucial role in transforming legacy applications to newer platforms.
Usually, developers have to read the code manually and insert missing bits to form the document as a whole and depict the entire technical details for each job component. This entire process is cumbersome, time-consuming, and has a high probability of reducing the uniformity and accuracy of the created document.
Challenges in documenting legacy applications
It is not easy to document legacy application processes. Some of the main challenges are:
Effort intensive: Manual documentation involves referring to multiple modules for each component program. Moreover, each component will have several users, making it an arduous task. This enormity of the job makes the manual process non-viable.
Decentralized documentation: As the documents are available in local systems, any changes in user log will not be available to other developers/users, making it difficult to track and maintain as a single common document for the legacy application.
Lack of standard templates: Multiple people contribute to the documentation process, hence the final document is an amalgamation of different formats in terms of style, structure, and so on, which is not a good practice.
High probability of human errors: Since the document is prepared manually, fatigue may lead to incomplete or improper documentation with multiple errors.
Time-consuming: Manual documentation is a highly time-consuming process as multiple modules need to be referred to, and multiple stakeholders need to be consulted for documentation.
Automating application documentation
The recommended one-stop solution is automating documentation through an intelligent platform that can scan each batch job and extract technical information to generate an easy-to-use document. This document should be able to serve the maintenance purpose and be referred for the foundation of future transformations while mitigating the challenges of manual analysis. The generated document must contain end-to-end details, from the initiation of the job execution to the various touchpoints such as the files and programs accessed in the job.
Benefits of automation
Some of the benefits of automation are:
Capturing end-to-end details: An automated document will contain details from the execution of each component to all touchpoints in the inventory, such as files and programs. End-to-end information will be captured in the document generated for each job component.
Using editable standard templates: These will provide the flexibility of editing details extracted from the application as the generated document will be available on a responsive UI screen.
Ensuring centralized documentation: The generated document data will be available in a centralized place where relevant stakeholders can access it for further analysis.
Allowing customization: Automation will allow customization of the structure of the created document to suit the requirements of the organization and end-user expectations while ensuring uniformity.
Ensuring error-free documentation: In automated documentation, the intricate application details have a higher level of accuracy as compared to the manual approach.
Improving the turnaround time: Automated document preparation according to the user-defined template from the centralized data repository can be completed within a few clicks in record time.
Automated documentation equips users to understand the intricate details of their legacy applications for maintenance and application modernization. As per our experience, it has been observed that automated documentation leads to almost a 40 percent increase in productivity. This results in saving a considerable amount of effort and cost in application modernization scenarios. The need for automation in documenting mainframe jobs and many other legacy systems is inevitable in the near future, considering the latest global market demand trends