Don’t get stuck–get ALM
I once had a manager who had a sign on his wall that read “It takes 1,000 ‘Attaboys!’ to make up for one ‘you dimwit!’” The same might be said for misdirected application software deliveries versus moments of technological genius. Having been in the IT world for thirty plus years now, I have seen my share of truly brilliant, “that is so cool!” application development moments. But all that wow-factor enthusiasm can be quickly crushed by a delivery that significantly misses the business need, or by an audit report that reveals serious business risks and/or plain ol’ bad communication between business, development, and IT. The fact that most of the biggest IT pitfalls could be avoided with the right processes, people and technology in place should make you feel confident that the uplifting moments will prevail and the “oh no” moments can stay at bay.
I thought I’d share some of the biggest pitfalls that I have seen in an IT shop, and some suggestions on how to avoid them. I think most people prefer to bask in the glow of great accomplishments rather than learning about failures the hard way.
Pitfall #1: siloed teams
“Collaboration” may be a ubiquitous (and sometimes overused) buzzword these days, but smart organizations can’t deny that a greater connection between disparate teams can produce amazing results. And yet when it comes to connecting the Dev team with the IT Operations team, and then the business side of the house, so many organizations fall short. Ultimately that lack of collaboration hurts the whole company.
As I mentioned in a previous post, when there is no central system coordinating application development efforts it’s very easy for business requirements to get lost in the mix, for builds to go wrong or for deployments to fail and/or delivery dates fall off track. Business users end up screaming “where’s my application!?” Everybody loses. In short, the lack of visibility for development and operations can quickly translate to serious business problems (and potentially career issues).
Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) and a proper DevOps initiative is a clean and easy answer to this transparency problem and keeps you out of that silo ditch. The right ALM system gets business users, development, IT and operation all operating from the same system, so IT can deliver the applications that the business wants, automate delivery processes, quickly spot red flags as they come up, and fix them collectively. The ALM system generates all kinds of role-specific reports so each manager regardless of department, gains project visibility and can plan accordingly. Basically everybody gets what they need, when they need it and can collaborate on projects together speaking the same language. It’s a win-win-win.
Pitfall #2: using the wrong tools (and too many of them)
In its early days, a development shop typically had to make do with a limited set of tools and resources. Have you heard of the cobbler’s children? They are the last ones to get shoes. Similarly, developers only acquired tools that were directly related to writing and building code. Many IT shops started out using free version control tools to manage development projects–and then neglected to upgrade several years down the road. They had their development tools but no move to production automation. They were writing code like the cobbler at the corner shoe store sold shoes rather than like the highly automated environment of an online shoe seller like Zappos. They found what they liked, knew, and didn’t want to take on something new. As the saying goes, why fix it if it ain’t broken?
While this “make-it-work” attitude is certainly commendable, it ignores an unfortunate reality about using the wrong tools to manage some of your most important company assets: the applications that run your business. They often lack reporting, process automation and activity tracking functionality necessary for keeping projects on track. Not to mention the security and compliance concerns that many of these tools bring due to their open source nature.
There’s a solution available that is the best of both worlds. By adding an ALM solution to the mix – one that easily connects with the various version control tools out there – it becomes a real-time, anytime, anywhere control center for everything related to your software development and delivery organization. The ALM system creates automated, repeatable, traceable, and secure processes across all your development efforts – something version control tools just are not equipped to do. The most important thing in this entire equation is that you can install the ALM solution and the developer’s world doesn’t change at all. They continue to work with the tools they know and love without disruption. Yet they can begin to collaborate with other team members, business users and management.
Pitfall #3: the audit frenzy
So, it’s that time of year again—the auditors are coming. You spend all week poring over spreadsheets, documenting workflows and approval processes, pulling info from email databases, inputting who’s touched what code and what code has been touched. Maybe your other work is falling behind as you attempt to ensure everything is documented. Some things you just abandon because you know you won’t be able to fix the problems before the auditors arrive. Don’t you wish you could just press a button to deliver all the documentation the auditors need? You may think that’s impossible; that your infrastructure is too complex and your version control tools too simple. But it’s not impossible at all. In fact it can happen now.
That’s where ALM comes in. It automates and enforces your compliance procedures from the time a change request is generated until the time the solution is delivered. It will give you precise and accurate information at any point, no matter how many people touch the application request, no matter how complex. If there is a discrepancy that would impede you from getting what you need to pass an audit, you will be alerted. If legislation has changed or a regulation needs updating, you can quickly adjust. And because it gives you complete control and enforces workflow and process every step of the way, you can meet as many regulations for as many audits as you may have—over and over—thereby keeping costs down.
Share your stuff!
So these are a few IT pitfalls that I have seen, but I am interested in hearing some of what you’ve seen, so share your pitfall stories too. You can do that right here or ping me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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