Computerworld US’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.

Overall, some 357 people answered the survey, 58% of whom 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 does your organization or systems use these programming languages?

Language name A lot A little None
Cobol 48% 16% 37%
JavaScript 41% 41% 19%
Java 39% 40% 22%
C# 26% 25% 50%
VB.net 25% 38% 38%
Visual Basic 22% 49% 30%
Base: 202
Is Cobol being used in your organization to develop new business applications?

Yes – 53%
No – 44%
Don’t know – 3%
Base: 131

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

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

None — 28%
Less than 50% — 40%
51%-60% — 10%
More than 60% — 19%
Base: 131

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

Yes – 95%
No – 5%
Base: 131

Which statements accurately reflect your organization’s views about Cobol? (Multiple responses allowed.)

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%
Base: 131

Do you outsource your… (Multiple responses allowed.)

Cobol maintenance – 83%
Programming of new Cobol applications- 42%
Programming of existing Cobol applications – 75%
Base: 12

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Cobol is an outdated language – 49%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
Compared to more modern programming languages such as Visual Basic, C#, C++ and Java, how does Cobol rate for these characteristics:

Function Much better/
Somewhat better About the same Worse/
Much worse
Batch processing 82% 12% 4%
Transaction processing 65% 24% 9%
Handling business-oriented features 55% 21% 19%
Run-time efficiency 54% 33% 8%
Security 39% 38% 15%
Reporting 45% 37% 17%
Development cost 39% 32% 17%
Maintenance cost 43% 29% 18%
Ability to hire programmers 13% 25% 55%
Agility 15% 33% 45%
Base: 131
What’s your organization’s interest in outsourcing Cobol development, either onshore or offshore?

Not interested – 81%
Currently outsourcing – 12%
Interested – 7%
Base: 131

What’s your organization’s interest in outsourcing Cobol maintenance, either onshore or offshore?

Not interested – 73%
Currently outsourcing – 18%
Interested – 8%
Base: 131

Are you noticing a shortage of Cobol skills in the labor market?

Yes – 46%
No – 23%
Not yet, but expect to see it within 5 years – 22%
Don’t know – 9%
Base: 131

Is it difficult to motivate your staff to use Cobol?

Yes – 28%
No – 59%
Don’t know – 5%
We don’t ask them to use Cobol – 8%
Base: 131

What’s the average age of your current, in-house Cobol programmers?

25-35 years old – 2%
35-45 – 21%
45-55 – 50%
55+ – 22%
We don’t have any Cobol programmers – 2%
Don’t know – 5%
Base: 131

What’s the average age of Cobol programmers hired by your company in the past 12 months?

25-35 years old – 8%
35-45 – 11%
45-55 – 15%
55+ – 5%
We haven’t hired a Cobol programmer recently – 55%
Don’t know – 6%
Base: 131

Which of the following best describes your organization’s primary business or industry?

Computer services – 12%
State/local government – 11%
Finance – 9%
Insurance – 8%
Manufacturing (non-computer) – 8%
Wholesale/retail trade – 7%
Education – 5%
Health/medical services – 5%
Base: 212; not all responses reflected



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