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Maturation of application development requires better insight into what works in practice

As a researcher, I love the idea of new and accurate metrics on what goes on amid development in the real world. Enterprise or ISV architects should love to really know what tools their developers actually use, how, and to what degree they benefit the bottom line. With such knowledge, enterprises, contractor developers, and ISVs may be able to stop paying for shelfware, and double-down on the investments in the tools, platforms, and frameworks that are actually getting the job done.
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Written by Dana Gardner, Contributor on

Read a full transcript of the podcast. Sponsor: 6th Sense Analytics.
Some 9.5 million developers around the world are toiling away, and their bosses -- either individually or collectively -- have rather small insight and limited information about what they do and how they do it. We see requirements go in one end. We see code come out the other end.
And often there’s a great veil, cloud, or fog over what detailed activities develop the solutions and the processes that create good code. The fact is that while software drives a lot of the growth and innovation throughout the world we do a very inadequate job of bringing visibility to this whole process.
The implications are not just gaining accurate and transparent visibility into the actual work patterns of developers, but importantly amassing the meta data of development productivity analytics.
As a researcher, I love the idea of new and accurate metrics on what goes on amid development in the real world. Enterprise or ISV architects should love to really know what tools their developers actually use, how, and to what degree they benefit the bottom line. With such knowledge, enterprises, contractor developers, and ISVs may be able to stop paying for shelfware, and double-down on the investments in the tools, platforms, and frameworks that are actually getting the job done.
So I recently joined Greg Burnell, chairman, co-founder and CEO of 6th Sense Analytics, in a podcast to explore new ways to gain insight rather than just intuition into the art and science of application development.
Here are some excerpts:

Application development is a knowledge-worker-centric thing. You’ve got very bright, very talented people, but they work in an isolated format, and in many instances there aren't a lot of tangible, visible outcomes to their work. We’ve always kept our hands off of application development. We’ve felt like it’s an area that we don’t want to manage too heavily or monitor -- or even measure, which is an absolutely forbidden concept.

Data that the individual doesn’t see is relatively useless, and data that individuals have -- but that never really makes its way to the manager in an aggregated way -- doesn’t have a lot of value. What we’re trying to do is bring to everyone the same level of visibility, so people can talk about the same things and understand themselves all in the context of the execution of the development project.
The two major tools in the industry are Microsoft Visual Studio and Eclipse, and everybody else is a distant number two in those spaces. Software-as-a-service is an interesting opportunity for organizations to have through the web, and through all the of the infrastructure that is in place from a high-speed perspective. Now, we can really distribute applications very quickly, and we can evolve our application very rapidly to benefit all of our customers at the same time.
What we’re trying to do is say that software development can be measured. The singular or the collective effort of a development team can have associated with it: measurement, metrics, and analytics that the team, the individual, the project, the executive can rely upon. What we’ve done, as we talked about earlier, is create a technology that resides with the development technologies that you use: IDEs, SCM systems, defect trackers, test tools, requirement management systems. These are tools that you use inside of the development process.
As you utilize these tools it’s kind of like a hammer in construction. You have to use a hammer to build a house. In order to build software, you have to use technologies to do it. We sit there with these technologies -- plugins, addins, whatever kind of technology is most appropriate for the tool -- and as you take advantage of these tools, we simply collect data about the process, and then we give it back to you.
This really is a platform for collection of data related to the knowledge-work process that involves a desktop technology. It even goes outside of application development. If you are managing a process, and the worker is using technology to do it, you can call it a human-based process.
Listen to the podcast, or read the full transcript for more on developer productivity metrics. Sponsor: 6th Sense Analytics.

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