Part 5: Innovation Blog Series – Development Efficiency

The Lights are on, But No-one’s Innovating

How do you rate your IT organization’s development efficiency? If the answer is “I don’t rate it at all”, then you have a problem. Efficiency in any organization is crucial if it is to run like clockwork, which is equally true for the IT division. If businesses are finding it hard enough just to “keep the lights on”, how can they even imagine taking on the challenges that new innovation presents without greater emphasis on efficiency? Unfortunately, the majority of IT organizations spend approximately 70% percent[1] of their time and budget just on “keeping the lights on”, leaving hardly any time or money for innovation or strategic IT projects.

Development Challenges
Core skills are valuable
A development team is not only confronted with the task of maintaining and modernizing applications, but also with modernizing the way in which those applications are developed, tested and delivered. To do this efficiently, you need the right people for the right job. Yet one of the biggest challenges in achieving development efficiency is finding skilled staff to support core, more traditional development environments.

The relative rarity of COBOL skills, for example, leads to bottlenecks in a key element of the IT arsenal. Without the adequate skilled staff, collaboration between different development teams – due to different tooling, processes and structures – becomes strained, and so does the efficiency of the work. Furthermore, deployment approaches are not as streamlined as they should be, which means the time to delivery across a growing range of platforms and devices gets longer and longer. As a result, applications are built sluggishly, testing efforts are more difficult, and overall application quality is potentially compromised. Delayed deployments means the business ultimately suffers.

Skill deficiencies in core systems is a growing concern. Considering that COBOL runs over 70% of the world’s businesses, and over 200 times more transactions are processed daily by COBOL business applications than there are Google and You Tube searches made, the scale of the concern comes into sharp focus. Filling the skills gap between existing systems which continue to run the business, and the next generation of contemporary applications, is an absolute necessity.

Lack of skills leads to lack of money
The delays in delivery to the business from this gap in skills is often referred to as IT debt – a burden weighing heavily upon many organizations. No wonder there is such an unbearable backlog of tasks if, “nearly one fifth (18%) said it [the application portfolio] contained legacy applications that no one knew how to update and that they were afraid to touch”. This IT debt has a knock-on effect. Budgets for new innovations or strategic initiatives are squeezed due to the increased need for “business as usual” systems maintenance. With such focus on the here and now, new customer requirements are sacrificed, architectural strategy is lost, and so the business is dragged along a terminal voyage of decay. Finding ways to improve the throughput of development projects is a key requirement in reversing this trend.

Keep an ear to the ground

Composite applications that are multi-language and multi-platform are in high demand. Web 2.0 and mobile – using a mixture of Java, C# and COBOL – are prime examples. Consumer demand can only be satisfied if businesses manage to keep up with supplying them with what they want. This typically involves a rethink in how IT services need to be provided, and modernizing to adopt innovative technologies will enable greater efficiency in delivering these services to customers. The trick is to find a way to integrate both new and established technologies as part of a composite application architecture.

Shining a light on the problem

By embracing the challenges brought about by innovative technologies, organizations can fast-track towards benefits which would otherwise never have been obtainable. Updating is essential for advancement and advancement is crucial for success.

So how can your business advance? The answer is twofold: firstly the development process and technology need to be unified. All developers can and should use the same development environment (IDE) to support all languages, removing inefficiency and building streamlined collaboration. Secondly, the deployment mechanism must be unified.  Teams must be empowered to work on one application then deliver it across a range of platforms and devices as needs dictate, to establish a streamlined method of service delivery.

The Micro Focus solution

These advances can be delivered by a single technical solution, which can improve service delivery speed by increasing development efficiency by around 30%[2]. Visual COBOL’s IDEs allow COBOL, Java and C# developers to work in the same sandpit, generating improved team collaboration. Development teams will produce a higher quality output as they can write once and deploy everywhere. Risk for the business is reduced as applications already exist, therefore the functions already work. On top of all this, the service delivery will be faster.

Visual COBOL promotes the rejuvenation of the programmer skills pool, with universal application deployment, which will not only enable your business to have all the lights on, but it will shine a bright light ahead towards innovation too.

[1] Approximately 70% of IT budget is spent on maintenance tasks, according to a Forrester report (June 2011).

[2] Statistic taken from a Visual COBOL customer testimonial for Micro Focus by Mr. S.K. Goel, Vice President of Information Technology, at OM Logistics.

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