How F1000s Boost Software's 'Business Value'

In 2005, IT architects and devs will focus more on how to build 'business value' into their software, says a managing director for ThoughtWorks, a leading SOA services and consulting firm. See how execs at F1000 firms are combining SOA, agile and even Open Source to tune software to business needs.

Tags: Business, Open Source, Agile, Innovation, Community, Custom, Agile Techniques,

U.S. Managing Director, ThoughtWorks
Before we can discuss the technologies and Best Practices that will improve business software in 2005, architects and developers need to recognize a simple, often painful truth:

Software development creates negative value. It's only when software is put into production that it can start to produce value.

So, with the goal getting software into production (not into development), IT leadership needs to transform itself. Rather than be simply a design shop or workhorse for software projects, IT needs to become a strategic, adaptive and integral partner of the business. CIOs need to be driving change, not just responding to it.

Getting there will not be easy. But, there are several converging technologies in the marketplace today that can become strong allies for those IT shops looking to become more adaptive.

In fact, if properly leveraged, we believe these technologies in 2005 will accelerate and make IT delivery and transformation a manageable evolutionary process. This article takes a look at several key 2005 trends that architects and developers should keep their eyes on:

I. Agile Development Continues to Gain Steam
2005 will see more corporate IT shops adopting Agile processes, either in part or in whole, in reaction to the need to improve cost effectiveness, drive innovation, and deliver measurable business value in the face of volatile business requirements.

A central tenant of Agile development is delivering valuable software quickly and constantly over the life of a project. Agile development techniques include test-driven development, continuous integration and short iterations and help IT deliver value at the pace needed by business.

If you are interested in learning more about Agile, visit the Agile Alliance's Web siteMartin Fowler's blog also has a wealth of information about Agile techniques.

[Fowler describes the appeal of how agile computing provides a way of keeping IT execs and business execs on the same page this way: "One of the basic tenets of agile development is that requirements changes aren't just expected, they are welcomed." (See Link to full blog entry.)].

II. Open Source Will be a Gateway to a 'Global Innovation Network"
Open Source software development is bringing millions of people into the creative processes and is one of the drivers of a valuable global innovation network, or what Open Source devotees call "community.".

In 2005, corporate IT shops will begin to more aggressively explore how to tap into Open Source technologies and communities to benefit from innovation potential of people all over the world. Companies looking to innovate and differentiate themselves should leverage the power of the Open Source innovation network to fully optimize both the innovation enabled and created by corporate IT.

We believe that today's current approaches to custom software sometimes lack the necessary innovation to transform businesses. Leveraging Open Source software development is not only about utilizing the software available from the open source community but also about utilizing the practices used in that community to deliver software.

In fact, Liz Barnett, Forrester Research Inc. recently wrote: "Many of the practices and staffing models used by open source projects are relevant to corporate IT; managers and developers should study and adopt these. Other open source strategies are not unique - in fact many are also principles of Agile development and have been proven to scale on large distributed open source projects." (Applying Open Source Processes In Corporate Development Organizations, Forrester Research, May 2004.)

III. SOA, Custom Development will Gain in Popularity
There is a growing trend away from one-stop-shop packages back to custom software.

More and more companies are building solutions that are specific and strategic to their business needs. That means for us that pre-packaged, commodity software is less attractive. Organizations have found that they had to customize the off-the-shelf products and that these applications were unable to support cross-functional business processes.

According to a December 2004 Forrester report titled Packaged Apps Lag Business Requirements: "Companies are taking matters into their own hands, with close to 60 percent developing their own 'composite' applications to connect siloed apps and increase business relevance."

So, companies are marrying custom development, with new techniques, such as service-oriented architecture (SOA) for easy sharing and reuse. With this new approach to in-house development, coupled with Agile techniques and Open Source, companies' IT departments are delivering at the pace needed by business. The service orientation improves the ability of the business and the IT community to communicate with each other.

IV. Offshorers may get Discouraged
Even though offshoring of software development gained strong popularity over the past year or two -- and continues to be popular for many common tasks, we are noticing a growing level of dissatisfaction. Results from offshoring have been mixed with many organizations dissatisfied with the end product, especially with high priority, strategic solutions.

In 2005, more companies will continue to look for ways to realize the promise of using a global work force by using Agile techniques and many of the lessons learned in the open source community to address distributed collaborative software development.

But, in the end, it's not simply better "distributed development" platforms that will solve all of offshoring's shortcomings. Finding ways to bridge culture gaps and communication issues are key to companies actually getting software they need and can use. Agile processes, open source and SOA will help internal IT staff work more cost effectively with greater success.

Murray White is the U.S. Managing Director for ThoughtWorks, a trans-national IT professional services firm providing application development and systems integration services to Global 1000 companies. For more information, contact Murray at 1.312.373.1000 or visit