Lifecycle gurus

Whatever benefits software development and application implementation projects may promise to bring to any business, the high proportion of such projects that fail puts software developers and internal IT departments under immense cost pressure.

The UK government, for example, undertook 18 major IT projects in 2002. Only six of these projects were eventually completed successfully.

This failure rate adds greatly to the cost of doing IT business. On top of this is the further expenditure that businesses sink into maintaining applications and development projects once they have been rolled out, estimated by research body the Butler Group to

average 80% of the total cost of an application throughout its lifecycle.

Tools that reduce the risk of failed projects and help to cut the cost of running applications once they have been built or bought are of considerable value to businesses, especially those whose business processes rest heavily on software applications.

Vendors vying to profit from this opportunity offer numerous tools and services, based around a variety of approaches to ensuring application success. These include project portfolio management (PPM), software delivery management (SDM) and, most recently, the application quality ecosystem.

These terms refer to defined processes to manage both internally developed and vendor-bought applications. It is not always essential to buy software tools to support these processes but in complex cases, automation can greatly increase a project’s viability.

The ERP of IT

Take the example of PPM, a process framework that helps companies evaluate the precise requirement of the business and exactly what IT resources are required to serve them. Margo Visitacion, an analyst with Forrester Research, has dubbed PPM “the ERP of IT”.

PPM is the most widely adopted of the ‘IT work management’ processes. In a survey on IT portfolio management, Forrester found that 89% of respondents have undertaken, or were planning, a project portfolio process. Research group IDC saw the PPM market double in value from 2003 to 2004, and predicts it will be worth $1 billion by 2010.

While it is possible to establish such a process without extra technology, process automation and real time analysis can greatly reduce the work load and time involved. Many vendors sell tools to support PPM, and Visitacion identifies three distinct groups: best-of-breed vendors, such as PlanView and Primavera; ERP vendors such as Oracle and SAP, that sell PPM tools to support their products; and ‘solutions’ vendors such as IBM and Microsoft, which limit their target market to development teams.

But according to the Butler Group, the market is demanding an integrated suite covering all areas of application lifecycle management (ALM). This is prompted by IT governance initiatives that require increased accountability in the way IT resources are chosen, planned, implemented and managed.

This need for end-to-end application management services is driving consolidation in this market, as IT service management and application performance vendors begin to chase the same contracts. Recent months have seen Borland acquire data quality tool supplier Segue Software and software management supplier CA purchase PPM vendor Niku.

As well as a breadth of offerings, a key differentiator between vendors is their interoperability with the Eclipse development platform and Microsoft’s Visual Studio .NET. Tools that integrate with each of these popular platforms make for a smooth implementation, and also add to the longevity of any ALM project. It is expected that vendors will continue to polarise between the two.

As with so many best practice processes, the technology employed should play second fiddle to educating and managing the people that implement and use it.

Nevertheless, well-chosen investment in software tools, that tighten the IT department’s control over its application resources, can greatly reduce the risk of failed projects, and improve IT’s standing in the business as a whole.

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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