Voke Innovators streamline software lifecycle

The 2009 Voke Innovators announced Tuesday were the choice picks by analyst firm Voke Inc. of companies showcasing innovation across the software lifecycle through ongoing communication, collaboration and connectivity between stakeholders.

“We are looking at what types of companies are really making a market impact and really helping people transform the traditional linear application lifecycle to a global lifecycle,” said Voke Inc. founder and lead analyst Theresa Lanowitz.

Modern IT organizations must operate in a collaborative manner, said Lanowitz, so it’s necessary to break down those silos that exist within IT, between IT and other parts of the business, and between the organization and others. “And, that is really going to help people function much better,” she said.

Especially in the current economic downturn, businesses are looking to streamline expenses and could make use of available innovative technologies to gain significant return on investment, said Lanowitz. Most organizations have already invested in some form of application lifecycle management, she said, and continuing to spend in this area by extending that core technology will transform how their business operates.

Among the 2009 Voke Innovators is Toronto-based Blueprint Software Systems Inc., a developer of tools to streamline requirements gathering in software development projects. The company’s chief marketing officer, Matthew Morgan, agreed that the current economic environment is driving organizations to seek other ways of running the business.

“No one has increased budgets, no one has increased headcounts, and there is additional pressure to do more with offshore and outsourced teams,” said Morgan. “And, as a result the status quo is just not scaling.”

The standard IT lifecycle process is made up of different groups – business analysts, designers, developers, quality assurance – performing the same tasks repeatedly, explained Morgan. “By doing this over and over again, you introduce risk through translation and a tremendous amount of wasted time,” he said.

Morgan cited industry analyst estimates of a 40 per cent “re-work tax” – or the percentage of resources that must be put to fixing a delivered software that doesn’t meet business needs – that can occur as work teams get increasingly distributed. “It’s the impact of those working costs that is really a project backlog,” he said.

Also part of the 2009 Voke Innovators is Waterloo, Ont.-based MKS Inc., a developer of an enterprise application lifecycle management (ALM) platform for coordinating software development.

Application lifecycle management basically manages all the components of software development like source code, requirements, defects reports, test plans, specifications, said MKS’ CEO Phil Deck. “ALM relates all those to each other, and manages activities regarding developing, changing and collaborating around those,” said Deck.

If, for instance, a specification changes, said Deck, the project manager must know who is making the change, whether they are allowed to, and what else must be changed as a result. “There’s a lot of complexity as you make changes to this fabric of artifacts,” he said.

Organizations rely on a large number of fairly disconnected systems to develop software, said Deck, which makes relating components tricky given the level of complexity that is “spiraling out of control.”

Black Duck Software Inc., also part of 2009 Voke Innovators, provides tools for accelerating the use of open source in software development. Peter Vescuso, the Waltham, Mass.-based company’s executive vice-president of marketing and business development, said that while many developers are making use of available open source components, they tend to do so on an ad hoc basis.

The company helps developers address “unique challenges” associated with open source development like contractual obligations, security vulnerabilities, and the overall management of different source code components, said Vescuso.

Overcoming those challenges, he said, will mean a savings of money and time for developers.

IT organizations that adopt the new and creative technologies available in the market, like those offered by the 2009 Innovators, are “really going to lead the way,” said Lanowitz. “And hopefully reverse the trend on spending more money on maintenance and less money on innovation.”

Vescuso thinks that streamlining the development process with open source components is a definite money saver. “It’s interesting because we are out there evangelizing use of open source to free up resources so we can increase innovation spending,” he said. “If we can bring in open source components and not develop it ourselves, there are savings there.”

When looking at innovation in business software, said Morgan, developers tend to build applications that will render a better user experience for the customer. Having the ability to visualize requirements before building an application allows developers to “think globally about how they can extend (the application) and make (it) more impactful,” he said.

Deck said that, as a software company, MKS shares a similar challenge as many of their customers. As software complexity increases, so does the cost of maintenance, he said: “Software tends to be created but never retired. It has this creep in the day-to-day maintenance and administration … and it really takes away from their ability to innovate.”