Thursday, July 4, 2013

CIO as Chief Improvement Officer II: How to Improve Application Development?

Any effort that allows a CIO to deliver value to his/her customers faster than the competition is worth unrelenting focus.

Given the dynamic nature of the business today, any CIO has to play the role of key change agent and Chief Improvement Officer. Do they see application development as an innovator for driving business change? Or would they prefer to just "abstract the problem away" by outsourcing it? Since technology (and hence application development) is the key driver and support function for any change,  CIOs do need to ensure that the application development being carried out is well aligned with the business needs and the change that is taking place accordingly.

Business innovation: App Dev should not innovate for its own sake. App Dev is central to the business's ability to innovate & thus compete effectively. And if App Dev can't keep up with the demand & pace of business change, then there are problems. But AppDev should not innovate simply to amuse itself; and it's wasteful of resources, money, effort in many companies. The business line must be cognizant of innovation opportunities and agree to proceed with the proof of concept if they see merit. Those opportunities can be customer initiated or IT initiated. CIO must ensure that application development does not proceed without a "clear business rationale."

IT-business partnership: The CIO supports the change driven by the business unit - and should monitor those elements of the needed change within the appropriate scope, but the business cannot offload its responsibility for change to the IT organization. The CIO must not fall into the role of facilitating flawed or incomplete business initiatives. The CIO must establish his/her department as part of the business, rather than just a service organization for it so that opportunities for defining a successful business rationale are identified and collaborative. Internal Application Development should not be strictly a "service" that does exactly what being told, the AppDev department must be a partner to the business, listen to it and understanding its needs and wants.

Value delivery: CIOs need to deliver value to the organization. The performance and innovation provided by Applications Development reflect not just on the CIO, but the whole IT sector. Application development projects need to bring up the most business value, the de facto best practices of managing IT project portfolio need to include such as, only manage business project, not for technology's sake, prioritize the portfolio, and manage full application life cycle: from App Dev to potential application retirement, with the right methodology (either Agile, DevOp., etc), talent and metrics.  

Understanding business needs: Internal Application Development can add value to any organization if it understands the various business lines needs and wants; it can provide cross line synergies by understanding the various lines and providing efficient interfaces between lines; understands the direction of the IT industry and of the organizations internal direction/goals and the organizations, industries future, expected direction. If a CIO has an application development shop hopefully it is because the software needed to enable the business were not commercially available or create significant barriers either in cost or capability. If that is true then the CIO has a part in creating and supporting something that is truly transformational to the business. Any effort that allows a CIO to deliver value to his/her customers faster than the competition is worth unrelenting focus.

Periodic assessment: Having periodic external assessments is one way to uncover problems. Because it is maintaining (and publishing) business-focused metrics on App Dev performance. User surveys are also helpful. Some CIOs pay close attention to this, but many can do better. Upon the importance of CIOs minding their development shops in terms of making sure the process delivers what users want, and does so in accordance with current best practices and methodologies All of this applies whether or not all/some development is outsourced.

Long term perspectives: From an Enterprise Architecture perspective, CIOs need to ensure that any applications chosen for a SaaS structure are truly candidates for the long-term. Once you have spent all the time and money bringing an application up on SaaS, it becomes very difficult and very expensive to bring in-house if your architecture strategy changes. A SAAS model has many benefits for organizations that are looking for a low cost and quick deployment solution for an application; however, one needs to perform their own ROI analysis to justify the departure from an in-house solution. One of the top challenges for the CIO, as well as the organization, is to understand that a SAAS model typically does not allow much in the form of customizations. The organization needs to understand that a move to a SAAS model will need to be coupled with an equally strong business process re-engineering effort in the area the application will service.

Tools and training: The CIO should provide the tools and training to fulfill those business needs, and the governance/oversight to guarantee that development maintains conformance to that business need. CIOs care about improving all aspects of IT, proportionately. Appropriate leadership, culture, and environment are critical elements required. Technologies will change as do the new methodologies from the waterfall, agile, etc. Without leadership that values people, a culture of caring and a drive for shared success, it all falls apart.


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