IBA Group Modernizes Mainframe Application for German Bank (Part Two)

April 10, 2023  |  Yauheni Soupeev

A leading German bank had a problem. They struggled to improve and extend one of their mission critical Mainframe COBOL applications.

They built this COBOL application — and the Mainframe as a whole — on a complex patchwork of tools and processes, developed ad hoc over decades. It was inflexible to change, and impossible to keep in line with changing business needs, and they were losing customers and market share because of it.

They knew they couldn’t solve this problem alone, and they ultimately chose IBA Group — an IT service provider with 30 years of experience with Mainframe and a specialty in modernization — to help them fix and update the application, take the support burden off IT, and modernize their Mainframe as a whole.

In part one, we walked through this problem in depth, and how the bank came to partner with the IBA Group mainframe teams to solve it.

In part two, we will explore:

  • The five-step process IBA Group followed to fix the bank’s application and begin to modernize the Mainframe
  • The initial outcomes the bank enjoyed from partnering with IBA Group, and what their next steps and ongoing work together look like
  • The measurable ROI and benefits the bank experienced working with IBA Group

The First five Steps: How the Bank and IBA Group Fixed COBOL Application

IBA Group took the lead. They began with a simple — but proven and powerful — five-step process to fix the banking application’s biggest problems promptly while laying the groundwork for a broader, longer term modernization of their Mainframe efforts.

Step One: Achieving Alignment with the Business

This bank’s Mainframe sat at the heart of their operations. Modernizing it would touch every corner of their enterprise. This was more than just another IT project; it was a major business initiative. IBA Group needed to make sure they were aligned with the business leaders — and their broader goals — before they got started.

This was not always easy. The bank’s business leaders were worried that modernizing their Mainframe would be risky and might harm their operations. They wanted to postpone the project, and kept finding excuses to put it off.

To overcome these understandable concerns, IBA Group hosted many sessions with the bank’s IT and business representatives. IBA Group told the business that modernization of their Mainframe COBOL applications would bring big benefits, and ultimately was not optional. IBA Group emphasized that the market was not waiting and that their competitors were already far ahead. Finally, they agreed, and found the right time to start.

Step Two: Discovery

With the business onboard, the IBA Group agile teams could now begin the working process, starting with the Discovery step. IBA Group analyzed the business’ broader strategy, their needs and objectives, and how mainframe modernization could serve all the above. IBA Group assessed and took inventory of their existing state, identified limitations in their existing structures and processes, and developed both strategic proposals and a modernization roadmap.

Step Three: Support

Next, IBA Group went deep into the bank’s existing application. They wanted to see exactly how it worked, what it needed to deliver, and how they could improve and extend the application’s operations without breaking anything critical along the way.

To do so, IBA Group:

  • Developed as much knowledge about the application as possible
  • Analyzed its inbound and outbound interfaces
  • Revealed its dependencies and relationships
  • Reverse engineered its business logic (where required)
  • Began to provide technical support of the application’s software helping the internal teams

By doing this, the IBA Group service teams learned the application — and its place in the business’ operations — inside and out, and felt ready to build something even bigger and better.

Step Four: Proof of Concept

IBA Group COBOL and DB2 teams were now ready to build a Proof of Concept (POC) version of the bank’s new solution.

To ensure that the Proof of Concept (POC) would demonstrate true value to the business, IBA Group conducted an analysis to determine which features of the application were most valuable to their end users. This allowed them to identify the key functions that needed to be included in the POC to showcase its potential and align it with the business goals. To accomplish this, IBA Group took the knowledge they developed in Step Three, and extended it further by:

  • Analyzing the business logic validations and data flows needed to implement the new solution
  • Reusing CORE business logic with existing code, added primary validations in Front, and coded IMS transactions
  • Defining, documenting, and developing new APIs
  • Developing a new frontend for the application based on the bank’s Company Brand Book and design principles
  • Performing stress, load, and security tests of the prototype
  • Defining the authorization and authentication approach to implement next steps

The POC was a success. It seamlessly integrated into the bank’s operations and delivered its required functionality in a faster, more efficient, and more scalable manner than the existing applications. Ultimately, this POC became the foundation that IBA Group extended and improved the new solution on.

Step Five: Incremental Modernization

With the POC in place, IBA Group took an iterative approach to move this bank down their Mainframe modernization journey. The IBA Group COBOL teams began to follow this step-by-step modernization roadmap to transform every stage of the software development process, to sunset retired modules and applications, and to automate the tests.

IBA Group ensured that every step in this roadmap delivered real value to the business, and slowly built a completely modern approach to COBOL applications on Mainframe.

Initial Outcomes and Ongoing Work

After completing these five steps, the bank already achieved some significant outcomes.

  • Replaced a good number of their retiring Mainframe specialists with the IBA Group end-to-end teams
  • Began to develop Mainframe applications faster (in particular by implementing Mainframe Test Automation and DevOps principles)
  • Created a fully integrated solution by expanding the programming languages and technologies they supported for both Mainframe and the Web
  • Ran legacy and new applications concurrently in production, side by side.
  • Ensured new applications were compliant with their legacy database to allow simultaneous use of the database by both legacy and new applications

These outcomes are just the beginning. The bank is still early in their modernization journey, and continuing to work with IBA Group to reach their long-term goals.

One pillar of this partnership and strategy is the modernization of the bank’s IT department into a fully-integrated Agile approach. This involves transforming the customer IT department of 800+ employees and the IBA Group engineering teams from a traditional “Plan-Build-Run” approach to an Agile methodology.

Working with IBA Group, the bank’s IT functions were reorganized into domains with Agile Release Trains (ART) and Centers of Excellence (CoE) based on the SAFe model. The domains are based on lines of business and bracket the corresponding ARTs.

Each ART is composed of several agile teams, each structured around DevSecOps principles and responsible for developing and operating IT applications. Each ART will maintain IT security requirements, complete their tasks in close cooperation with the business line they serve and which assign them.

Looking forward, the bank plans to add six or seven more IBA Group end-to-end teams to increase their capacity by 50+ engineers. In addition, in 2022 the bank initiated a program to modernize some of the IBM designed legacy IT landscape with the help of additional IBA Group teams.

While these are large, long-term plans that will deliver huge changes and benefits to the bank, the teams and business as a whole underwent significant transformation and experienced substantial benefits to the operations.

What They Got: Key Benefits from Working with IBA Group teams

By working with the IBA Group agile teams, this bank has transformed the way they develop and maintain the COBOL Mainframe applications and expanded the ability to serve their customers.

Doing so, they achieved some key benefits.

They developed new features and capabilities. They retained all of the legacy application’s features, integrated these features across their business, and developed new functionality for the customers. By deploying APIs to integrate the applications and databases, they are now able to provide real time credit scores for the employees, and integrate Mainframe infrastructure like DB2 and CICS/IMS.

They also improved the fundamental performance of the banking solutions and enhanced the Credit Department’s efficiency by reducing manual data entry tasks, automating repetitive activities, and minimizing errors.

Their new solution is scalable, stable, and capable of supporting 3,000+ concurrent users.

They took a big burden off the internal IT teams. They handed most of the critical Mainframe tasks to the IBA Group end-to-end agile teams. IBA Group gave them scalable, cross-functional, self-managed teams that include Architects, Software Engineers, Business Analysts, UI/UX Designers, and Quality Assurance experts (and can include even Data Analysts, Data Scientists, and DevOps professionals as needed).

These teams are autonomous — IBA Group hires, manages, and optimizes the people. They now take care of all daily routines and support for the banks’ Mainframe COBOL applications, and made new feature development their number one priority. They tackle all change requests, develop all new features, and meet all changing requirements — without sharing resources, or juggling conflicting interests.

As a result, the bank improved their SLAs and the time to market, developed new features that attracted new customers and provided a higher level of service, and freed their internal IT teams to focus on strategic responsibilities. 

They delivered measurable ROI and business outcomes:

  • Increasing the number of loans issued each day by 140%
  • Accelerating loan approvals from 3-4 banking days to just a few seconds
  • Reducing the time to onboard a new employee by three times
  • Integrating more remote applications into the Mainframe
  • Implementing CI/CD, and now delivering on demand (instead of once per month)

Bring These Benefits to Your Organization: How to Work with IBA Group

These results are not a fluke. At IBA Group, we have years of experience helping clients like this bank transform the Mainframe COBOL applications and legacy processes in order to accelerate the operations, expand the product lines, and grow their businesses.

To learn more about how to bring the IBA Group proven teams and processes to tackle your biggest Mainframe challenges, schedule a free, comprehensive consultation. During our chat, our experts will discuss the current state of your Mainframe, brainstorm opportunities to improve its performance, and walk you through what a partnership between your organization and our teams might look like. Reach out today.

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