Collaboration in software development still lacking

Lack of internal collaboration among various teams within company hinder software development, which ultimately impacts business growth since software has becoming increasingly critical for competitiveness, analyst says.
Written by Jamie Yap, Contributor

SINGAPORE--Companies need to overcome the lack of internal collaboration over software development between their IT team, operational staff and other stakeholders in order to remain competitive, as growth and revenue are increasingly being driven by software innovation, says one analyst.

Melinda Ballou, IDC's program director for application lifecycle management (ALM) and executive strategies, said with the advent of not just the Internet, but mobile applications, connected devices and social media, software innovation is what enables business innovation today. The companies able to develop and deliver software more rapidly and relevant to their business' needs are the ones which will "survive and thrive", she said in an interview at the Innovate 2012 event here Thursday.

In a survey done by IDC on companies in Asean, where the regional economy is experiencing "hyper-growth and hyper-competition", organizations listed improving their operational efficiency by aligning IT with the business as their top priority. The next top priority was reducing the cost of maintaining the application portfolio. Commissioned by IBM, the survey was done between March and April this year and polled 300 enterprise respondents from six countries in Asean: Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Ballou noted that regardless of the IT budget size in any company, approximately 80 percent of it goes into "keeping the lights on", that is maintaining its entire application portfolio, which leaves only 20 percent meant to help differentiate or innovate the business, she noted.

The problem comes when the software developed--and is critical to business success--has a "quality gap", and companies suffer the repercussions, she added. For instance, this includes losing customers due to a poorly-designed mobile app, or experiencing loss of confidential data due to "broken software", which also affects brand reputation.

The increasing criticality and complexity of software applications continue to be challenges for IT that is tasked to innovate the business, but there is another key challenge that is related to human communication, or the lack thereof, Ballou highlighted.

Describing them as interdependent but siloed groups within an organization, she said: "What happens is the business guys, IT guys and operations don't talk to each other…so how do you [ensure] you develop software that works that way it should [once it's deployed]?"

As a result of this "very broken environment", what companies end up with are failed projects and irrelevant software, she added.

Ballou noted that collaboration and coordination between these groups throughout the application lifecycle is "very simple thinking", but the market environment today is not as straightforward. Whereas software developed in the past was mainly for Web and mainframes, companies today must also account for mobile applications, and respond quickly to customer who nowadays expect instant gratification, she pointed out.

"The business [team] has their focus, developers just build what they need to build, and operations just want to maintain everything. This is all too typical. But the thing is now you can't succeed as a business if you keep doing this way."

Wendy Toh, vice president of Rational, worldwide client support at IBM Software, concurred, saying the process of software delivery has to be transformed. She added that the complications of software delivery in companies today are compounded by market pressures, including multiple platforms from cloud to legacy systems interacting with each other, and increasing regulations and compliance pressures.

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