In the last few weeks on my usual rounds of meeting clients I have been expecting that the topic of the credit crunch would be a major item in each discussion. Amazingly not so, other then for some personal chat about the world going mad. Why? Because they feel they can do very little to reduce their own costs further regardless of what the business may demand, AND, they don’t feel that the enterprise they work for has much cost cutting it can do either, other than straight forward shutting down of capacity.
In the words of one CIO; ‘we feel that we are going to have to trade our way out of this’. My question in return was; ‘What does that translate to in the form of actions?’. The reply involved a number of specific areas, but generically could be describing as ‘do things faster’, and the role of the CIO was either to be seen as the chief enabler of supporting rapid change, or to be seen as the person/department that was holding everyone else back. This particular point finished with the observation that if he could not be the enabler then they would ‘find some one else to be CIO’.

This point, and one other, the speed with which the use of web based tools is occurring at the edge of the business in an unsanctioned manner were the two most common themes. I will come back to what I call ‘safely enabling the edge’ another day, and this time I want to focus on the increasing interest (some would say again) in development tools and methods to solve the first point; quicker faster development of small high impact projects.
It’s at this stage you expect that I will raise Agile Development as the answer, and well it may be for a new generation of requirements, but no, the more immediate challenge is around existing systems. The maintenance of these is an ongoing problem over the years, and that is my point, have you looked at the updated development tools all the major vendors have been pushing out over the last year? Mostly the case for updating is not on the front of the list, but as a productivity enhancer towards both cost cutting and supporting the Business this may be the time to take a look at this issue. However adding or changing development tools is not something to undertake lightly, but you might be surprised to see how much good – unbiased – advice is around to help.
I was first struck by this point following a review of what was on offer at SAP TechEd but in the case of SAP there is also a focus on process design which will be an important part of all the changes coming up for sure at their developer’s site. SAP are really trying hard to bring everyone together using the best of the web 2.0 for communities approach and there is much on offer beyond the old world of web 1.0 lists of the tools and their listed features. Actually I also like the very candid information available at a private site called SimplySAP which is rather chaotic, but contains some interesting discussions and feedback as well as even some objects and code for shared downloads.
Microsoft during their Professional Developers conference made all the announcements, but once again it’s their developer’s network – whose site is a model of clarity for navigation incidentally – that will provide some real help even including blogs from the leading Microsofties working on development tools.
Oracle also has a private site devoted to shared experiences called the Oracle Development Tools Users Group for the interactive candid views on what to do in addition to their own more formally structured site. I am not going to work through a whole list of the industry, but just visiting these sites should show you the two points that I would like to make. First there are a lot if serious improvements to tools to help speed up development; second the past difficulties in assessment and the learning curve in how to really gain the benefit are less of a barrier today.
Funny really when you think about it; Web 2.0 and social communities are helping us to cope with the older generation of technology!