This question is one of the most popular I get at IBM. It's often in the form of: Where do my new business developers, in many cases COBOL developers, come from?
I'll start with some background - beginning with: Why is this ? being asked?
Many industry forums and pundits have been saying that the COBOL community is aging. True.
As with any change - the aging and hopefully happy retirement of the COBOL developers that came on board with IT in the 70's needs to be planned for. A few best practices I've developed are as follow.
First, understand when they are retiring and what the potential scope of your problem is.
Second, document what their key responsibilities are today - and what skill sets you'll need to replace them. I'll give some of my thoughts. Some key attributes of business developers are: Great knowledge of your business, ability to churn lots of code and meet needs quickly, ability to not only do new development but understand and maintain vast libraries of legacy,
Third, define the labor pool you have to pull people in from.
Colleges. Think Information Technology, Computer Science, Engineering, and other Business majors. Contact your local college and discuss your needs with them. They may be very excited to work with an employer in the area on any custom requirements you have. As well, IBM is offering "free" education and curriculum materials to colleges for courses including many focused on the mainframe. See http://www.ibm.com/university
Internal talent. Many organizations have technically oriented business people interested in Information Technology. Set up some courses - even night or lunch time courses - and educate them. Create a mentoring program - and the good ones - bring into IT.
Professional hires. Many, perhaps most, areas of the world have skilled resources available. There may however be geographic shortages. Take a look with your recruiters, http://monster.com
Offshoring. Another viable alternative. Works well when key sets of requirements can be fully documented - with check points often - maybe daily - on project progress. Also can work well with legacy where maintenance is reasonably controlled.
OK, now what will they do? or How do they add maximum value to your organization?
Business developers are all about adding immediate business value to a corporation's bottom line.
How? By understanding business problems and requirements, prototyping, designing and architecting, and then coding and completing processing. It's about being more responsive. A popular development paradigm you may have heard of to help developers be more responsive to the business is Agile development. Frequent interaction, delivering small discrete functional pieces of the application, getting feedback, and building to completion.
What types of applications? I firmly believe they will be Rich Web - architected to focus on the end user - with server based processing supporting business rules and data access, ultimately deployed as services in Service Oriented Architectures. Business developers will also need to deal with significant legacy processing. The best will perform well with both.
Many languages and transactional processors will participate in the movement to Rich Web. EGL, COBOL, Java, RPG and more. Languages and runtimes are about meeting specialized requirements - and will focus on supporting the back end of the application. But Web 2 is the defining architecture as it relates to the complete application - which will be driven through the front end or browser.
Perfect for the business developer community - meeting organizational requirements to do more.