As “the Mainframe to Cloud Experts”, Astadia works with a broad set of clients and technologies, established and leading edge. Thinking about this I cannot help but appreciate how fortunate we (business and technology professionals) have been to live in this era of unprecedented innovation.  Occasionally this comes-up in conversation because innovation is so critical to an organization’s success.  And yet I believe there is a part of the conversation often missed.

If you ask someone to identify the most critical change which has fueled technological innovation you will typically hear some common responses. These responses include gamechangers like: the hard drive; the mainframe; the microprocessor; the internet; virtualization; cloud computing; and the smartphone (okay, these are typically very young people).  While everyone of these is interesting, I wonder if we have missed the target. Every one of the aforementioned advancements was created by and leveraged by humans. And globalization has allowed more humans to contribute to innovation. Perhaps that is the real gamechanger.

The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; energy can only be transferred or changed from one form to another. I am certainly not going to argue with this basic scientific principle; but I am glad it does not apply to everything. Humans are the one asset we have that has an almost endless capacity to exceed its perceived limits and innovate in ways that can be mind boggling.

You may be asking the question, “So what?” So here you go. Many of the organizations we talk with are wrestling with whether or not, or when to modernize their mainframe based applications. We know this consideration includes costs, skills shortages, and business risks. And some will make the argument these issues can be addressed without exiting the mainframe, which may be true in certain circumstances. However, we also know that business agility and innovation are at or near the top of every organization’s strategic imperatives.  And if the other factors were not significant enough in the modernization debate, the strategic imperative for innovation should end most discussions.

There are still some interesting innovations taking place around some mainframe environments. This is due to a relatively small community applying their human capital in this direction.  But would anyone debate that the vast majority of human capital being applied to technological innovation is being invested in distributed computing and related areas? The question then is “do you want to be on an innovation island or leverage the creativity and capacity of the globe’s economy?

Maybe there was a technology that was the critical log on the fire of innovation; but I have no doubt that humans are the great accelerant. The critical decision is whether your organization needs to take advantage of the capabilities the humans will provide, like next generation business intelligence, artificial intelligence, machine learning, etc.  

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