Application Modernization Can Provide CIOs with Peace of Mind

A roundtable with 25 CIOs yields some good advice for tackling application modernization.

I recently had a fascinating roundtable discussion with 25 CIOs on the topic of application modernization. This is a subject of growing interest among IT leaders looking to reduce complexity, gain incremental efficiencies and—imagine this—experience a little peace of mind.

But undertaking such an exercise is far from easy and fraught with potential peril. As I looked over my notes, a few of the most useful tips leapt out as worth passing along.

Beware the “Scrummerfall.” I’d never heard this term, but I Binged it and found that blogger Brad Wilson defined it as “the practice of combining Scrum and Waterfall so as to ensure failure at a much faster rate than you had with Waterfall alone.” The CIOs all agreed that if you don’t train your team properly on agile development methods, you get a toxic mixture of waterfall process with agile expectations. Guaranteed disaster follows.

Hire more business analysts. A number of CIOs said that to ensure the best tracking against business goals, it’s vital for IT to thoroughly understand the exact deliverables for the application being built. So they’ve decoupled development from project management, seating more business analysts with line-of-business groups. There is a growing demand for this position. Many in the room were looking to hire more of these analysts.

Explore visualization tools. If car companies can build a prototype model before mass production, why can’t IT do the same for software? More companies are turning to visualization tools to make sure the time, energy and deliverables are in line before development. Some have saved millions in time and resources. I’m actually surprised that adoption of these tools isn’t more widespread, given how clear the benefits seem to be.

Move beyond “The Scarlet A.” I’ve borrowed this term from CIO’s Editor in Chief Maryfran Johnson, but it can’t be emphasized enough: Alignment conversations should be history by now. They’ve painted IT and business into separate corners for far too long. If the IT goals aren’t aligned with the company’s business goals, the failure rests with IT. The CIOs who resolve alignment troubles and move past them are the ones having the right kind of strategic conversations with their CEOs and business peers.

Spending time with a room full of CIOs talking shop is always an amazing experience, but I love hearing from you, too. Anybody got a better new word than “Scrummerfall”?

Michael Friedenberg, President and CEO

mfriedenberg@cio.com

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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