The GAO examined: (1) the management implications and economics of reducing the machine resources consumed by Common Business Oriented Language (COBOL) applications in the Federal Government; and (2) the applicability of these findings to different brands of computers.
The GAO found that Federal use of computers is extensive, with COBOL being the most widely used computer language. Significant benefits have been achieved at some Federal installations by modifying COBOL applications to reduce the machine resources consumed. Work can be done to reduce the machine costs of COBOL applications on any brand of computer using COBOL. Despite the potential for improvement, some installations have done little or nothing to examine the machine resource consumption of their COBOL applications. Officials indicated that many programmers are ignorant of techniques, receive little formal training, and have little concern for machine costs. Measurement and verification of benefits can be seen in terms of reduced machine resources and expressed in dollar equivalents. A systematic approach will help efforts to improve COBOL applications. Automated tools can be used to reduce the labor costs involved in reducing COBOL machine costs.
Other considerations besides machine costs are important in software management and should not be sacrificed. Efforts to reduce machine resource consumption must offset labor and machine costs to be cost effective. Agencies with Government-wide data processing responsibilities should publish guides for reducing machine resources consumed by COBOL, and efforts are needed to raise concern with application costs and to raise programmer efficiency. The potential benefits of reducing consumption by COBOL applications are large.