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Cobol brain drain: Survey results

Organizations are trying to move off Cobol, but still like it for lots of reasons.

March 14, 2012 06:00 AM ET

Computerworld - Computerworld's survey about Cobol use in business and government organizations ran online from February 16, 2012, to March 1, 2012. Most of the questions and answers appear below. (For an in-depth look at various organizations' Cobol plans, read the main story, "Brain drain: Where Cobol Systems Go From Here.")

A total 357 people responded to the survey; 58% of them identified themselves as managers of application development or maintenance for their organizations. Here's how they responded.

Research assistance for this survey was provided by Mari Keefe, editorial project manager.

To what extent do your organization or your systems use these programming languages?

                                              
Language nameA lot A littleNone
Cobol 48% 16% 36%
JavaScript 41%41%18%
Java39%40% 21%
C#26% 25% 49%
VB.net25% 38% 37%
Visual Basic22% 49% 29%
Base: 202 IT professionals.
Is Cobol being used in your organization to develop new business applications?

Yes: 53%
No: 44%
Don't know: 3%
Base: 131 IT professionals

How much of the internally developed business software in your organization was written in Cobol?

More than 60%: 40%
51-60%: 14%
31-50%: 15%
16-30%: 13%
5-15%: 15%
None: 2%
Base: 131 IT professionals

How much of your new software is being written in Cobol?

None: 28%
5%-50%: 40%
51%-60%: 8%
More than 60%: 19%
Don't know: 5%
Base: 131 IT professionals

Is your organization still using Cobol to maintain applications originally written in Cobol?

Yes: 95%
No: 5%
Base: 131 IT professionals

Which statements accurately reflect your organization's views about Cobol?

We'll modernize Cobol applications by using modern interfaces such as Web services on top of them: 40%
We'll use Cobol for some new applications in the future: 37%
We use Cobol on the mainframe but do not see a role for it in our distributed systems: 37%
We're not writing new Cobol applications but our existing Cobol applications work fine and we have no plans to replace them: 31%
We're gradually migrating away from Cobol: 28%
We'd like to move away from Cobol but it is too difficult or expensive to rewrite all that old code: 28%
We use Cobol now only if we're linking to legacy systems: 20%
We'll replace our existing Cobol applications every chance we get: 15%
Increasingly, our Cobol work is outsourced: 9%
Cobol has little or no traction in distributed computing environments: 9%
Base: 131 IT professionals
Multiple responses allowed.

Do you outsource your...

Cobol maintenance: 83%
Programming of new Cobol applications: 42%
Programming of existing Cobol applications: 75%
Base: 12 IT professionals who said that they were increasingly outsourcing Cobol-related work.
Multiple responses allowed.

If your organization doesn't use Cobol, why not? (Multiple responses allowed.)
Cobol is an outdated language: 49%
We no longer have mainframes/We have discontinued Cobol: 42%
Cobol is an inferior language compared to the ones we use: 35%
Lack of Cobol skills in-house or in the labor market: 22%
Our enterprise is too small to have Cobol applications: 21%
Our enterprise is too new to have Cobol applications: 21%
Base: 77 IT professionals


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