Software development, like software integration, is almost always expensive – for many businesses, too expensive. Decades worth of return-on-investment analyses show mediocre results.
There are two keys to solving the problem: good management, both inside and outside the IT department; and using good, modern tools and implementing flexible, resilient architectures. Both are obviously easier to say than do.
Communication between the business and the IT department – where there is a so-called alignment gap – is a crucial issue. An IT department that understands precisely what business managers want at a strategic level, and takes into account the experience of the end users, will be more successful than one which approaches projects from a technology viewpoint. Improved alignment will speed development, reduce the likelihood of overspend, and allow CIOs to make a more informed decision about whether to build, reuse or buy the appropriate solution.
This area is now the key focus of the approaches and the tools of modern software development. Both the model driven architecture (MDA) and BPM, for example, are focused on enabling managers to translate their models into code quickly. “Business requirements change and you need to be able to just change those bits if requirements that are effective,” says Rob Hailstone, of analyst group IDC. “You need everyone involved in one model, using the same definition of what it is they are building and to see the same change at the same time.”
“If you respond to what the business wants, you are cutting the time from getting the idea to market and that eventually translates to dollar value,” says Sophie Chang, head of software at IT consultants 1E.
This strategy has also helped to drive interest in the SOA: It is inefficient to rebuild an application to accommodate small changes in strategy, and it does not make sense to rebuild the same components for multiple applications. Building applications up as composites of individual processes will be cost effective – once the underlying architecture is in place.
A similar approach applies to another oft-mentioned cost-saving exercise: opening up legacy systems as web services and reusing the functions as part of an end-to-end process.
Hard ROI evidence for these more advanced products and approaches, however, is difficult to find. This lack of evidence is partly because these approaches are new, and partly because many projects involve other, simpler cost-saving benefits.
Infoconomy research has shown that BPM, web services and using a development/integration platform all produced good results – as did keeping projects small. Combining all these in one service oriented framework might produce spectacular results.