People matter, too

Don't forget the mainframe users when considering plans for Web-enabling

legacy systems, advised Michael Colburn, who directed such an upgrade while

chief of the National Business Center's applications planning and technology

group. Even though many information technology workers have experience with

Web browsers and Microsoft Corp.'s Windows, you still have to accommodate

those who don't, he said.

"People get used to a system and they might not want to change to a

[graphical user interface], even though we have studies that showed there

have been major improvements in the user experience with Windows," he said.

"There are still mainframe users who are not experienced with Windows, and

there's no reason to assume they'll use a browser."

Also, invest well in the training of agency staff members, he advises,

particular in educating mainframe users in the Web and Windows-based development

systems.

Don't create resentment by forcing change on the staff. For example,

the use of a new Web GUI for an Interior Department mainframe application

will be optional, and Colburn expects that as many as 40 percent of mainframe

users will continue with the character-based interface.

However, he believes that's more of an age issue. As the older generation

retires and younger people who are used to the Web take over, "the Web approach

will become the norm," he said.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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