Seven in 10 businesses are now seriously concerned about the financial and operational impact of the worsening mainframe skills shortage.

As mainframe experts continue to retire in their droves, a large survey of chief information officers has revealed that concerns are beginning to reach the level of the chief executive.

Some 71 percent of businesses are worried about the skills shortage. Eight in 10 said mainframe outages were a major business risk.

The survey of 520 CIOs found that on average, each minute of an outage costs businesses nearly £9,000.

Some 78 percent of the CIOs, interviewed on behalf of Compuware, said mainframes will be core to their business operations over at least the next decade.

The skills shortage has worsened as the experts retire, and IT graduates go into areas seen as more fashionable, such as Java programming.
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Neil Richards, European mainframe director at Compuware, told Computerworld UK that businesses had developed complacency around mainframes. “The systems are so reliable that people just haven’t been worried about downtime. But as the mainframe workforce retires, the risk awareness is growing.”

The skills shortage would hit applications, productivity and projects, the CIOs warned.

Richards advised businesses to quantify the problems they face, including making a chart of the age groups and skills of their mainframe experts.

“You then need to ask: how can I make people on the mainframes more productive? And how can I attract the new generation to work on mainframes? They are core to your business.”