Slow development cycles a top concern

One recent study singled out slow development cycles as the number-one obstacle facing application developers. However, some programmers say that’s only true in certain situations.

The 2003 IT Professionals Survey on Application Development, conducted by Farmington Hills, Mich.-based Compuware Corp., asked 200 IT professionals about trends related to the types of application development initiatives their corporations are undertaking.

Thirty-one per cent of respondents named slow development cycles as their company’s top challenge, and more than 72 per cent said speeding up

the development process is either “important” or “critical” to their organization.

However, independent consultant Shaun St. Louis, who is also manager and treasurer of the board for the Ottawa ColdFusion User Group (CFUG), said the extent to which he experiences sluggish application development often depends on what sector he’s dealing with: private or public.

St. Louis, who works with both corporate and government customers in Canada and the U.S., said in the private sector, slow development cycles aren’t much of an issue since it makes business sense to have a short development cycle anyway. They also usually make sure “what they’re paying for is the best bang for their buck,” he said.

The real bottleneck, however, is in the public sector – a “complete opposite situation,” he noted. “It’s not their dollar…so they spend without consideration for how the money is spent.”

St. Louis pointed to a recent United Way project he worked on with Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), which went on for almost two years without a final product available. “They spent $1 million on development alone in one year, half of which went to consultants,” he said. “That’s a lot of money. If [private companies] don’t have a tangible product, [they] would fire everyone. Government just extends contracts.”

According to Randy Kobes, professor of physics and chairman of his department at the University of Winnipeg, the size of the organization also matters. Slow development cycles are not something Kobes said he encounters in his computer modelling and programming work, mostly because his five-person team is small enough to handle any communication or coordination issues that come up.

“I could see it becoming a problem if we had people working on various aspects of things from other locations,” Kobes said. “There we could have problems coordinating things, with some members of our team doing things that the rest of us aren’t aware of. But for now, the magnitude of what we do isn’t that large that we run into those problems in practice.”

A standard flip

Forty-three per cent of those surveyed by Compuware reported that it is mandatory to follow standards. St. Louis agreed that standards are the key to better development lifecycles, adding that with ColdFusion development, programmers rely heavily on the Fusebox Lifecycle Process (FLiP), a methodology or “plan of attack” for developing Web applications.

According to, the FLiP process is closely tied to client feedback and encourages in