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Modern Application Development (MAD) for future fit organizations

Mark Ardito
Paper collage of 3 hands touching apps on an ipad

Thinking of software as an expression of the business

In a world full of ambiguous buzzwords and far-reaching goals, businesses are scrambling to figure out how to create solutions that not only meet but exceed their customer's needs.

In what direction is technology headed? How can we move our enterprises forward on the right path? These were two questions on the minds of tech leaders who joined our recent CIO roundtable.

The event focused on future-fit technology and modern application development frameworks through the understanding of transformation and modernization of the software development lifecycle, as well as the adoption of modern practices and technologies.

Here are some key highlights from the discussion.

What is future-fit technology?

Future-fit technology is a customer-focused approach to technology that allows organizations to quickly reconfigure business structures and capabilities so that future customer and employee needs are met with adaptivity, creativity, and resilience.

The ability to accomplish quick reconfigurations requires changes in mindset and culture. The notion that everything takes at least a year and a $5 million investment belongs to the past.

To move toward future fitness and modern application development, an enterprise must dispel this notion and reorganize around technologies that enable speed and agility.

How important is application development to the future of the business?

The short answer is “very.” Today, software is an expression of the business. If you change the software, you change the business model. Big changes in software are on the horizon, which means that big changes in how businesses work are also on the horizon.

While many companies are still in the middle of addressing the needs of yesterday’s technology disruptions, it’s important for leadership to make the move to modern application development sooner than later.

Agile and DevOps go together like a nice car and safe roads

A common challenge has been the adoption of Agile and DevOps. People may feel like Agile is for the IT side of the business, while DevOps is owned by the infrastructure and operations side of the business. When really, Agile and DevOps are two sides of the same coin.

DevOps requires the same mindset, practices and culture of Agile. If you transform your end-to-end process with both, you can tear down the wall between business development and operations.

Agile gives you that wonderful experience of driving a beautiful car with high quality and speed. DevOps provides you the infrastructure, that must scale and be automated wherever needed, for that car to drive safely, fast, and to enjoy the customer experience.

To drive a nice car comfortably, you need a safe road. And more importantly, the signs on that road need to in a language that the driver understands, otherwise they couldn't drive safely. Meaning to be successful the business must come together and share a common language and goals.

What’s an example of disruptive software development that’s on the horizon?

Low-code programming is an excellent example. This application development method allows workers to create enterprise-grade business software using drag-and-drop functionality and visual guidance with little or no coding experience.

It takes a visual approach that enables faster delivery of applications through minimal hand-coding. The graphical user interface and the drag-and-drop features of a low-code platform automate the development process and eliminate dependencies on traditional programming methods. This is a benefit for software developers and tech-savvy professionals in the business.

The low down on low-code

Low code gives software developers an easier environment to code with. This saves time because the low-code environment helps them get more done faster because the interface is easy to work with.

Additionally, it helps free up IT by moving some development into the business. There is a range of requests from business consumers that will help them be more productive, but that are not critical applications. These requests can now be “do it yourself” tasks accomplished by the business rather than IT.

Shell Oil Company is a great example. In an organization of 80,000 people, they have 4,000 do-it-yourself developers. Instead of asking the IT organization for some of the needed apps, they develop them on their own, saving time and IT resources that could be dedicated to more critical projects.

IT must maintain oversight of the environment. Shell, for example, has a governance framework that classifies the type of applications businesses can build on their own. They provide the development tool, configured to provide only what’s needed to work on acceptable applications.

In other words, IT still “owns” application development. They train the do-it-yourselfers, provide the development tools, and specify the type of applications that can be created this way.

What should companies do to move toward modern application development?

The answer to this question is complex as there is no one-size-fits-all methodology. The way forward will depend on where the company is today regarding its people, processes, and technology. There are, however, key points that apply across the board:

  • Strengthening the IT-business-operations linkage is a must to make the most of new technologies.
  • Start small in terms of project size and required investment, then grow from there.
  • While a start can be made at a grassroots level, active buy-in at the executive level is the only way to effect wider success.
  • Change to the way things work can be unwelcome to managers tasked with implementing anything new. This can produce a bottleneck, even with executive support.
  • The key to clearing any bottlenecks is communication. Remember that each set of stakeholders has specific goals and concerns, so tailor communication by the audience.
  • Promote successes and communication often.
  • Think in terms of years rather than months.
  • Finally, data shows that organizations that work with an external partner on new technology implementation end up ahead of the curve compared to the ones that don't.

When it comes to modern application development, approach is everything. Building sustainable and modern applications is possible through the workers you employ, the processes you implement, and the methods you use to make needed changes.

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