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A Development Framework That Builds Understanding and Collaboration

on January 22, 2015

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When it comes to application development, there is always some degree of conflict between business and IT stakeholders. This may relate to project prioritization, speed of delivery, governance, or any number of other options.

According to Gartner:

Business managers and users are looking for modern, easy-to-use applications that can be quickly deployed to solve specific problems.

Leadership teams are looking for ways to mitigate risks or take advantage of market opportunities.

Meanwhile, the IT organization is typically working toward a strategic goal of standardizing on a limited set of comprehensive application suites to minimize integration issues, maximize security and reduce IT costs.

While these groups all have unique priorities, it’s critical that all participants learn to speak the same language and share the same objectives. But how can all of these leaders achieve consensus? Gartner’s Pace-Layered Application Strategy illustrates how IT leaders can take control and build a more effective application development strategy that clearly illustrates the variety of projects and priorities within each category. The framework segments business applications by the problems they address, their rate of change, and the distinctiveness of the business capabilities they facilitate.

The Three Distinguishing Layers

Gartner-pace-layer-strategyGartner’s Pace-Layered Application Strategy (or Bimodal IT) suggests that there are three distinguishing layers that represent an organization’s application landscape. Those layers include systems of record, differentiation, and innovation.

Systems of record power core operations, such as your ERP or CRM applications. These systems are used across a variety of businesses and industries to manage commodity processes that vary little from one organization to the next. Application customization happens infrequently at this level given the scale of these solutions. But when change is necessary, it tends to be executed slowly as so much can be impacted.

As we move up each layer within this framework, you see greater variation in the types of applications used across businesses. These variations are meant to differentiate you within the market and enable innovation. Consequently, they are highly tailored to unique business models and processes.

In most instances, applications that fall within the top two layers require tighter delivery timelines, frequent change and greater business involvement. Stakeholders expect a high degree of speed and flexibility to accommodate new and changing business requirements throughout the process. Thus, without the right approach, these projects simply cannot be pursued in a timely or cost effective manner.

Using The Framework To Build Understanding

A pace-layered application strategy can alleviate much of the conflicting needs between stakeholders. The strategy provides an organized view of all existing applications and aims to categorize new applications appropriately as ideas arise. This process helps prioritize development projects in a less biased fashion.

Moreover, this process helps IT leaders ensure that all stakeholders understand the types of applications that exist and the resources required to make customizations or changes within each application type. Greater perspective can help the group come to agreement faster regarding resource allocations and project priorities.

And in addition to greater communication, app development strategies like this one lead to better results. In a recent Mendix survey, we found that those who cited having an application strategy were 1.5 times more successful with application delivery.

[Related Resource: The App Delivery Chasm Benchmark Report]

In the end, not all projects can be completed in the same way, or by the same individuals. To keep momentum within the business, IT leaders need to be clear on the differences within each category. Ron Tolido, chief technology officer at Capgemini, makes a perfect analogy: “Too many enterprises are using ‘bus and train tools’ to build and maintain their ‘car and scooter’ applications.”

Ultimately, he means that the development process for systems of record would be inappropriate when building a system of differentiation or innovation. In these latter instances, the business needs to prioritize speed over control. As stakeholders increase their understanding of the application development lifecycle, greater collaboration becomes possible.

Increasing Collaboration To Increase Results

We recently posted a definition of low-code development and shared more on why this concept has become so prevalent across IT teams. Forrester Research defines it as: platforms that enable rapid application delivery with a minimum of hand-coding, and quick setup and deployment, for systems of engagement.

While we provide greater context to this definition in our blog post, the main theme is clear. Organizations need to deliver new apps more rapidly than ever before. And any platform that reduces hand-coding in favor of visual modeling capabilities will be an appealing option, especially for those business stakeholders that wish to get further involved in the development process.

These rapid application development platforms help level the playing field by providing a common visual language for building apps. This enables more individuals from the business to participate in development efforts, a benefit that many business and IT teams are already using to their advantage.

Savan Vyas, Scrum Master and Mendix Business Engineer at LV=Insurance, knows the value that comes from working closely with the business. In his guest blog post, he shares his perspective on driving for successful development outcomes. He focuses on working on site with the business and keeping teams small to ensure communication and productivity.

Rapid app developers like Savan know the value that comes by democratizing development efforts. He’s found a way to give the business more of what it needs. And for LV=, that means creating more apps in a faster timeframe.

It’s clear that collaboration across groups can benefit IT application development. But collaboration takes greater understanding. And understanding is only possible when IT and business stakeholders are speaking the same language. To kick off this process and reap the benefits of greater involvement from business and IT users, you need to start with a framework. Give it a try and let us know what you think!

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