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Tackling the Mountain of Application Development Projects: Does IT Need to Shift Gears?

April 29, 2015 No Comments

Featured article by Johan den Haan, CTO, Mendix

You’re out on a bike ride and start to notice you’re losing momentum. You’re pedaling the same, but with each rotation, you aren’t getting as far as you need to keep pace. You see a hill up ahead: what do you do?

Any biker knows that you have to shift gears to power through hills. Today’s IT teams are facing a hill – no, a mountain – of work as business demands for custom applications rise. As the backlog of development projects builds, some are learning that it’s time to shift gears. A two-speed approach to application development allows IT to quickly deliver new applications that delight customers and support employees, while still maintaining the core systems that keep the lights on.

The two-speed approach — on a larger scale, called Bimodal IT — has already started to permeate IT culture. In a Gartner survey, 45 percent of CIOs stated they currently have a second fast mode of operation, and by 2017 Gartner predicts that 75 percent of IT organizations will have a bimodal capability. While managing business demands for application development may never be as easy as riding a bike, it’s clear people are starting to adopt a two-speed approach to propel the business forward.

The first speed, using traditional application development teams and techniques, is like a bicyclist crossing a busy intersection—full of care and intent, making sure to deliver core systems in a reliable, predictable and safe way. Because the requirements are well defined, these projects require little involvement from the business. They’re typically delivered by highly specialized developers working in linear waterfall projects that span months or even years.

While there will always be a need for this first mode of IT, it’s not well suited for systems of innovation and differentiation—those applications increasingly needed by the business to innovate and compete in today’s digital economy. With demand for multi-channel web and mobile applications surging, organizations with only one speed of IT find projects quickly stacking up. It’s no surprise then that 82% of companies report a growing backlog of development projects.

Designed to help alleviate backlogs, the second mode of IT creates a development ‘fast lane’ geared towards emerging application needs with unclear requirements and tight timelines. This mode is all about rapidly innovating at the pace of business, developing applications quickly and iterating constantly in respond to changing business and market needs. The result is faster time to market and greater agility, helping businesses to capitalize on new opportunities.

It’s important to recognize, though, that this fast lane requires a different mix of people, processes and technology compared to the first mode of IT:

- People – The fast lane requires small, cross-functional teams and active participation from key business stakeholders and end users throughout the entire project lifecycle.

- Process – These teams work short, iterative development cycles in close collaboration with end users, as opposed to the long, linear waterfall projects typical in mode 1.

- Technology – A fast lane requires a modern cloud platform that facilitates rapid application delivery through visual point-and-click development tools that minimize the need for hand-coding.

By embracing this two-speed approach, IT teams can maintain control of projects and easily shift gears when needed, depending on the specific project criteria. This approach allows teams to move through backlog while balancing the conflicting priorities of keeping the lights on and helping the business to innovate and differentiate itself. At the same time, by creating an efficient path to deliver new applications, IT can stem shadow IT concerns and become a more strategic business partner.

Business demand for applications shows no signs of decreasing, and it’s clear that IT teams are tired of cycling through the same motions, falling farther and farther behind. Two-speed application development is a way to get teams back on track and riding smoothly toward accomplishing their goals.

leadership haan 150x150 Tackling the Mountain of Application Development Projects: Does IT Need to Shift Gears?

Johan den Haan is the CTO at Mendix, where he leads the company’s overall technical strategy and research & product development teams. Johan is a renowned speaker and blogger on a range of topics, including PaaS, model-driven development, scrum, cloud computing and software engineering. Follow him on Twitter at @JohanDenHaan.

APPLICATION INTEGRATION, DATA and ANALYTICS 

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