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GLiNTECH Managing Director Responds to 'Future of Software Development' Survey

Following the release of GLiNTECH’s ‘glintech_the_future_of_software_development_survey_report_2011-12.pdf′ survey, GLiNTECH Managing Director Dimitri Spyridopoulos was asked for his interpretation of the results and survey highlights.

Q: What were the biggest talking points for you from this year’s survey on the Future of Software Development?

That 67% of respondents stated that ‘better communication’ was needed for IT leaders to improve customer satisfaction. This indicates the importance customers place on communication. It also suggests that there is a gap in that process which is being overlooked by IT leaders and not reported by the general media.

That Cloud Computing and Agile both trended highly was noticeable, yet not particularly surprising as both have featured in the media over the past few years, and are continuing to do so with increasingly regularity.

The other interesting talking point was the theme of the Next Generation Web - specifically, how many respondents were confused as to exactly what it was, or is. Some believe that HTML5 is the root of it, whereas I’ve tended to associate it with everything that is Web 3.0. Regardless of what you might call it, I don’t believe it will be as groundbreaking or change global commercial activities as the web originally did. I think it will be more of an evolution, rather than a revolution. It will enable people to build better websites using a standardised approach.

Q: How do these results of the survey affect GLiNTECH’s business decisions?

We’ve decided to start looking at the problem of a communications gap between IT and business since it doesn’t appear to be well addressed. The development methodology, language or tooling is not the problem when it comes to communication. The origin of project issues lies in mismanaged requirements. Projects fail because key requirements, key functions and expected outcomes were not communicated clearly or tracked properly. In our experience, this is common throughout all enterprise projects. Poorly tracked requirements leads to poor testing.

This doesn’t sound like anything mind-blowing or new, but we found that by using software to correctly track requirements throughout a project’s life-cycle, you can see where inefficiencies lie and where improvements can be made within an organisation; be it your development team, the BAs, the testers or management’s changing expectations.

In the end, communication is becoming more powerful and more flexible. The key to success is to be able to track history, to understand and to make decisions. In software development, in particular, this means being able to determine a root cause, being able to correct it and improve on it. The techniques and tactics to make sure development is optimised are things we’ve definitely been focusing on and will continue to do so for the next five years.

Q: Some respondents indicated outsourcing to be a growing trend. Do you believe it is feasible to keep IT development in Australia in the long term?

Currently, the Australian dollar is too strong to not be making it attractive to off-shore. However, this still requires true economies of scale because sending development over on a peer-to-peer level will eventually add up. Even though you may initially only pay one tenth of the cost, you need to factor in any additional communication costs, plus the time and effort of clearing up any miscommunication. It is also important to remember that the Aussie dollar’s position is not static and, as one has seen in history, it could easily go the other way. If that happened, the viability of off-shoring would obviously also drop. It’s worth noting that off-shoring has been around a long time - in fact it has been around forever, as seen in manufacturing and logistics - but in software development it is just getting more sophisticated and the tools are improving.

To respond to the original question, yes, I believe it is feasible to keep IT development in Australia in the long term but it will predominantly be for smaller, bespoke projects that require complex communication and are more aligned to Agile. For large scale programs, I can see a growing tendency to send it overseas. The focus will then be on growing design best practice, better communication and expectation management. The flow-on effect in Australia (if we lose out on software development projects) will be a loss in our potential design ability. Traditionally, those people who are cut from support roles are the ones that would have eventually ended up being our future architects. If they start to drop away, it could become a major problem in Australia.

Q: How prepared is GLiNTECH to face some of the other predicted trends outlined in the survey results, for example an increase in development teams working remotely or the increased uptake of mobile technology?

Mobility and the whole communication aspect for remote teams is a definite area of focus for us. We have aligned ourselves towards solving this communication problem because too often when a project gets derailed or runs over budget, it is because it simply wasn’t done right in the first place. The mobile workforce – and all the cloud initiatives they are attached to - are always adding channels to the business, so that is nothing new for us. Solving the end-to-end visibility of the project will be our key focus.

Q: This ‘end-to-end visibility’ is part of that greater plan in the communication focus?

Exactly right. Visibility and communications go hand in hand. It’s a matter of being able to trace decisions to see the Why and How and Who was responsible for them. It is becoming more and more important, especially as people want to get more value and make informed decisions. If that is not being done - if IT are not making more informed decisions and not getting more value – businesses will be forced to act, and the way they act will be to cut projects and move off-shore.

Q: Despite the global financial crisis which is causing many businesses to face cutbacks, a majority of respondents to your survey indicated their IT expenditure is set to remain stable or increase in the coming year. What do you think are the main reasons for this?

The main reason for this is that business still values IT. What we are still seeing with most companies is the need to differentiate to compete and, even when things are sliding in a wider sense, IT and online models are still the main drivers of this. The difference between increasing IT expenditure and having it remain stable is that those opting for stability are getting more focused on maximising the value. More and more CIOs are probably being driven by CFOs to cut costs and consider off-shoring and, ultimately, that has to be a consideration taken by any CIO. Otherwise, the decision will be made for them.

Q: As the head of a software development company, what do you personally see as the next big trends being?

Global outsourcing is a trend for Australia. The tendency was towards India a few years ago but now we see work being sent to the likes of the Philippines and Malaysia. Europe and Russia have also grown though, culturally, it’s still difficult to send work over to South America. With outsourcing, the technologies that support communication and enable people to follow development will increase in sophistication, so it will become truly global. Organisations have been dabbling with Freelancer and other such sites and this is part of the growing trend of sending work overseas. However, it must always come back to communication - getting it right and avoiding miscommunication. Off-shoring will inevitably run into some of those problems but having good interpretation and design capabilities is what will make the difference.

Tooling for communication is becoming more sophisticated; translating requirements in different languages, enabling controls, monitoring and reporting across disparate systems and code checking in different timezones. This is the future of software development and this is where GLliNTECH’s focus will be in the coming years.