One of the biggest concerns about maintaining mainframe legacy code is that new developers, and even many of the older ones, don’t really understand what the code is doing for the business on a detailed level.  Even if documentation exists, it isn’t enough to ensure that changes to the code won’t eliminate an important feature, test or function.  Modernizing these applications may prove to be impossible.  But why is it so hard?

The problem stems from the issue of the business-IT disconnect. Developers inevitably view things through the lens of their coding languages, operating systems and platforms.  The business sees the world in terms of delivering functionality to customers in order to reap revenue and loyalty.

To be an application expert, confident that you can maintain and enhance any mainframe application, you have to understand about business rules.  Fundamentally, a business rule is a specific directive that constrains or defines a business activity. Business rules help to provide a more concrete set of parameters for an operation or business process.  Business processes or business logic explains how you apply the rules.  The rules may span many programs and even, in some cases, platforms, so they can be very hard to detect or even understand.  Even if a programmer carefully documents what he did in a COBOL program, these lines probably won’t help you figure out the business rules.  And yet, these rules are why you are writing the code in the first place.  You’re trying to codify the business goals.

Most developers don’t document.  And over the years of different people applying changes to code without explaining what they did, it can become increasingly difficult to follow the logic.  COBOL is designed more for the CPU to interpret than for someone to read.  Figuring out what business functions are coded and understanding all the inputs and outputs can be impossible.

But you have a mandate to modernize.  Platforms that cannot move forward will be left behind and no mainframer wants that.  To ensure your success, you will want preserve the value of the mainframe in your company while speeding the process.  You need some automation ‘smarts’ to find the buried business rules across your code base.  You need CM evolveIT.

CM evolveIT will document the business rules for you, giving you an easy way to visualize the connection between the rules and the code you manage.  The resulting documentation offers a communication touchpoint with the business and your business analysts as well as a common business vocabulary you need to deliver changes quickly.

First, CM evolveIT builds a model and output diagrams that document the system.  With this, the business can easily visualize the business processes and use cases.  Both IT and the business can see the application inputs and outputs and map them to business processes.  You have all the information you need to intelligently modify the code.  See the article Capturing Business Rules in COBOL Systems (pdf download) for more details.

Companies have achieved great success with this methodology.  In fact, CM First has partnered with Sencha, well-known developer of web and mobile enablement methodology.  On their website,, they note that “CM evolveIT uses program slicing computations that enable business rule analysis across language domains and system components. CM evolveIT’s innovative technology can save up to 80% on analysis and transformation costs.”

Learn more about CM evolveIT and how it will help you keep the mainframe alive and thriving throughout your career.

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Authored by Denise P. Kalm.