Borland University Looks to Spring Debut

Borland Corp. will cut the ribbon on Borland University as early as this spring, bringing a new, solutions-driven focus to IT technical training. Get a peek at what educational assets Borland U. will bring to boost success rates for complex IT projects, and how architects and devs could gain skills to play more strategic -- and valuable -- roles.

Tags: Borland, Business, Managers, Barbin, Borland University, Developer, Customers,

Borland Corp. will cut the ribbon on Borland University as early as this spring, bringing a new, problem-solving focus to IT technical training.

Borland University is being designed by Borland -- with advice from service partners and customers. The homework assignment for Borland U. is to deliver on what Borland execs see as two critical missions in the 2000s:

1. Increase the success rate on complex IT projects, and

2. Enable technical staff (architects and devs) to play more critical and strategic roles in making sure that apps meet business requirements.

"With Borland University, we will go way beyond the traditional tactical 'point product approach' to training, where technical staff takes 2-3 days to learn how to work with a new product," Chris Barbin, Borland's Senior Director of Worldwide Services told Integration Developer News.

"Historically training has been silo'ed by product or to just the developer. We want to leverage our whole range of resources to make better use of people, processes and technologies," Barbin said. "And that means an 'up-the-stack' approach that's focused on results, not simply products."

Inside Borland U -- 2005's Face To IT Training?
Barbin quickly notes that Borland will continue to offer developers traditional product-based training, but adds that Borland sees the need for something more for customers, especially those building complex, integrated apps and services.

As envisioned, Borland University will deliver a customizable portal (or dashboard), stocked with a wide variety of 'live' and library online assets to help train, certify, test and educate teams on how to optimize their software delivery practices.

Now in "alpha" with select customers and partners, Borland U. will likely include these features and capabilities:

  • An online experience that can be tailored to a specific company's need (or the need's of a specific project team inside a company) to streamline the scoping and initial design of a project, as well as to provide technical and business managers visibility into the project's progress;

  • A host of Internet-based instructor led training (e-ILT) and a new Borland Professional Certification program;

  • Training will be "solutions-focused" rather than purely "product-focused." Key to this will be access to Borland's 20+-year "knowledge network" of Best Practices, methodologies, and processes for building software with maximum business value. [These resources, branded Borland Accelerate, will also include: strategies, goal-setting; new tools and technologies and implementation practices.]

  • Instruction tools to help devs and architects design, develop and maintain/update software that has continual business value. Skill will include mapping business requirements to code design, code testing, applications deployment, and change management,

    "When we talk about educational services, we truly mean providing a suite of offerings that will let the company's IT shop quickly become self-sufficient, and truly focused on the delivery of their project, not simply to know how to use JBuilder, as an example," Barbin told IDN.

    Borland U. -- Content Plus Community
    In addition to these content features, Borland U's designers also intend for the project to provide a 2-way feedback loop between Borland, and its customers.

    "Borland University will also be used as feedback mechanism enabling our user community to 'rate their experience' and provide ongoing input," Barbin said. " It's a fantastic means to get closer to our customers at every level. Taken as a whole, these steps will help us continually improve the value of our curriculum."

    Inside Borland U.: Reducing IT Failures
    Ask Borland execs why they see the need to change the face of IT technical training, and you get a simple answer: Today's IT projects just fail too often.

    Borland execs point to The Standish Group's latest CHAOS report (November 2004), which found a sobering 28% of all IT projects succeed.

    Further, Standish found that most IT projects (51%) are what the research group called "challenged" -- which means one of four things. The project was either
    (a) seriously late,
    (b) over budget,
    (c) missing some of the key features that were expected to be included, or
    (d) all of the above!

    And, if you thought it couldn't get any worse….try this stat. Standish found almost 1-in-5 IT projects (18%) are simply "cancelled before they're completed" They are either so late, so over budget or just so off-base, they're not worth finishing.

    The CHAOS report is based on a broad survey of some 9,000 projects. So, the stats are significant, and not just a flash in the pan. Borland execs say their approach to Borland University is born of the need to reduce such deep-rooted IT failures, as documented by Standish.

    "We feel there are three key elements needed to make a project successful," Glenn Weinstein, Borland's VP of Worldwide Technical Support & Services, told IDN. Among them, Weinstein lists:
    (a) Strong sponsorship by executive management at the outset of a project;
    (b) Strong support from both IT and business managers during the project; and
    (c) Visibility into milestones, as well as hurdles, of a project.

    Weinstein notes that these conclusions come from Borland's discussions with business and technology leaders, including CIOs, vice presidents and senior engineering staff.

    "Managers tell us that they want some level of reliability or predictability to software. Right now, for many IT shops that just doesn't happen, and so managers increasingly want some on-going reporting or visibility and communications back and forth between all the different roles -- the developer, the architect and the business manager," Weinstein said.

    Does Borland see the top level exec being the one who sits at the console? "I don't know the answer to that. Probably not top management. But some upper or mid-tier manager? Probably yes."

    The 'Real World' Seeds of Borland U.
    Beyond the wake-up call in The Standish Group's report, Barbin also credits Borland's engagement with British Telecom (which began mid-2004) with sewing the seeds for Borland University.

    At BT, the question was: How could Borland best deliver educational services (in conjuction with a large technology contract) that would truly bridge the divide between the different technical and business groups that are often co-responsible for a software project.

    "Going into BT, we actually did a skills assessment, which helped us drive a special curriculum for them. In turn, we built a special portal, which combined training resources, Best Practices from our knowledge base, and appropriate methodologies for testing and deployment," Barbin said.

    The approach gained high marks support from all corners of BT, both technical and business managers, Barbin added, and spurred his group at Borland to investigate how they could scale the approach to fit with other customers' needs.

    "Development Process" Assets Also Key
    There is another outside influence -- now part of Borland -- that will also enhance the Borland U. assets.

    Borland has gained a huge library of sought-after "software development process assets" from its recent acquisition of TeraQuest Metircs Inc., the Austin, Texas-based process consultancy.

    Accumulated over more than 10 years of enterprise IT engagements, TeraQuest brings Borland a rich set of transferable process optimization practice experience, including 30 formal courses on requirements setting, testing, change management and CMO. TeraQuest also brings: (a) templates for roles, (b) project manager checklists, (c) QA policies and guidelines, and (d) ways of capturing requirements documents that are easily accessible by all parties.

    "We do not do method consulting, the process work we do is in helping in architecting the project for success," Dr. Bill Curtis, TeraQuest co-founder and now Borland's Chief Process Officer. "Over the years we've learned that successfully improving a software organization's effectiveness requires the integration of business, development and deployment teams through a seamless process," Curtis said. We bring process assets to help people."

    Borland's Barbin said of the TeraQuest assets: "We were looking for ways to improve our process-focus expertise, and TeraQuest has the richest set of assets, that could be easily transferred to our customers, of more than 40 firms I looked at."

    The Upside for Architects, Devs
    Borland University's approach also echoes Borland's plans for Project Themus, which will offer role-based tools that offer slightly different views of a project depending upon whether you are a developer, team leader, architect or analyst.

    "Given this end-to-end view, that we'll offer in educational services, as well as products, I think there will be lots of opportunity, and incentive, for developers to look outside his traditional EJB [Enterprise Java Bean] role, for instance," Barbin said.