Enterprises waste big dollars on app development, survey says

At the average North American enterprise, 33 per cent of the budget spent on application development projects are wasted due to immature requirements definition, according to a new IAG Consulting report.

The New Castle, De.-based business and software requirements management consultancy came to this conclusion after 75 per cent of survey respondents were found to have wasted one out of every three dollars they spent on IT software development over the last 12 months.

The firm polled over 400 medium-to-large organizations, with responses coming from CIOs, IT managers, project managers and business analysts. To qualify for the survey, companies must have run at least four applications or software development projects in excess of $250,000 within the last year.

“What surprises us is that it’s so pervasive across the entire organization,” said Keith Ellis, the study’s author and a vice president with IAG Consulting, adding that while last year’s survey found similar results, it was limited to projects of over $3 million. More from IT World CanadaIntegrating IT Knowledge Centre: System/Application Development and Integration

The report also debunks several IT project myths, Ellis said.

“We’ve found that it doesn’t really matter what development methodology you choose — agile, iterative, or whatever — what matters is how you look at the requirements maturity behind it,” he said

The research, according to Ellis, indicates that lower skilled business analysts in higher maturity companies consistently outperformed higher skilled ones in less mature organizations.

“This shows that more important than individual people and individual skills, it’s the collective capability that you need to focus on,” he said.

Developing a proper maturity model framework that covers areas such as staff competency, organizational support, stakeholder communication, and project timeliness is the key in leaving project failures behind, Ellis said.

The ultimate goal is to build a company where IT leaders would never even think about doing a project without having great requirements.

“That would be a company that’s truly begun to institutionalize,” he said. “It’s because they understand what it is the organization needs to deliver in terms of a service, and as a result of that, they understand the knowledge, abilities and skills they need the business analysts to have.”

Once they’ve hired those analysts, Ellis added, the model companies will test that ability and align their training resources to support what the organization is trying to accomplish.

A strong example of an organization working towards a mature application development model is the City of Kitchener, Ont., which recently revamped its integrated financial and asset management system. During the initial stages of the project, the municipality gathered staff from every department to help with everything from the vendor selection stage all the way to the testing of the final product. More from IT World CanadaLearn to be Agile

Mike Bolger, IT manager of business systems and services at the City of Kitchener, said the only way for staff to get the product they want is to actually have staff on-board from the outset.

“If you’re going to build a large system, even if you have a large IT team and consultants, I don’t think you’ll be successful unless the user groups are fully committed to the project,” said Bolger.

“So many times, a finance department wants to put in a system and they just hand it off to IT and say ‘you put it in for us,’” he added. “All they’re leaving you with is expectations and the odds are you aren’t going to meet those expectations.”

Along the way, the city had dozens of staff across various departments testing the system up until launch time.

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