At Microsoft, developers will tell you that they "test their own dog food," using their own software before and after shipping to customers. Jo Hoppe, CIO of Pegasystems, prefers a classier term to describe how her colleagues utilize her company's business process management (BPM) software before it hits the market. "We're drinking our own champagne," she says.
"We've essentially become a living laboratory," Hoppe says of her approach to testing Pegasystems' BPM software, which allows business users to design their own applications without actually coding themselves. With this plan, she's taking a step toward aligning nerdy engineers, as well as her IT department, with business users in her own firm.
Two Pegasystems departments have been testing the software, Hoppe says. Employees in HR have been using it to create an application that links open positions to appropriate resumes. Business users in the training department, meanwhile, have been building an application to help Pegasystems customers register for BPM training sessions.
In each case, Hoppe says, the goal is to have the business users own the project. "We're actually having business users be the project managers," she says. Laurie Orlov, VP and principal analyst with Forrester Research, says that IT groups have used a variety of BPM software for similar purposes of alignment in the past but have generally targeted educated users who are well-versed in technology. "Its usually a business analyst who is very technical," she says. "Were not talking about the person on the street or in the customer service department.")
Now, the question every CIO might wonder about: If software like this takes off, have I marginalized IT's role?
Hoppe says no, since IT must handle behind-the-scenes technical elements. For instance, since the applications being built by business users at Pegasystems require reference data existing in other areas of the business, IT is building an SOA repository of reusable services. Frequent check-ins are very important as well. "Were helping provide a level of expertise and guidance," she says.
The result of this project will be a white paper or, as Hoppe calls it, a "manifesto," explaining how business users can actively help build the application.
In the meantime, Hoppe's eyeing another benefit. She hopes the project will cut down on rogue users taking matters into their own hands when needs don't get immediately satisfied by IT.
"In IT, the project list is always five times longer than the resources you have," she says. "So projects are based on ROI and we get to the ones we can. But for those projects that didn't get prioritized, their business problem didn't go away, and now they have to live with it."
If her software works, maybe they won't have to.