Interview: Otto Berkes on building a modern software development factory

The public Internet is one of the revolutionary technologies that radically changed the world. New business models, including software-as-service are turning traditional businesses inside out.

But not everything is available in the cloud. An organization can’t, for example, buy a mobile app on the Web as easily as one can buy hardware cycles, Microsoft Office 365 or a SaaS invoicing system. So while some organizations can disband their software development teams, others cannot.

Otto Berkes, CA Technologies
Otto Berkes,
CA Technologies

But in a slim new book – almost a pamphlet, really, at 75 pages – CA Technologies chief technology officer Otto Berkes argues that those who have do to software development had better learn to build a modern software factory and turn their backs on the old ways.

That means using agile or DevOps processes with a team from across the enterprise, rapid development aiming at a weekly or daily releases, having clarity of design with security built-in the design from the start, the ability to gather data to refine the work.

The result: Resilient software that engages customers and improves brand experience.

“The cloud is a fantastic tool,” Berkes said in an interview this week, “but it is a tool – it doesn’t have an automated mechanism to connect a business to its customers.”

It’s good that organizations can use a credit card to pick up apps so they don’t have to re-invent the wheel, he said — because it allows the CIO to shift resources to software development that provides a lot more value to the business.

The book targets business who want to know about innovating to business success as well as IT leaders who want to start learning about the change – and how to engage others in management about it.

”I wrote the book because I believe there’s a fundamental shift happening in the role technology is playing and needs to play in the future in business. The focus of technology and business is moving away from being a very internally-focused function to optimize business functions and creating new efficiencies for existing business processes, to a mechanism that’s creating a digital channel of communication and delivery of value outside of the enterprise. All of that is really being driven by this massive explosion of ubiquitously connected devices.”

Today competitive differentiation is increasingly determined by a businesses ability to embrace software-driven business models, he argues in the book, to fend of more nimble competitors.

And while management (or consultants) may tell CIOs they have to build apps, get in the cloud or use big data, IT needs a modern software factory to get it done.

One of the keys is building around agile (customer-focused development based on small integrated teams) and/or DevOps (aligning people and processes to create a lean approach) to gain rapid and continuous delivery of high-quality software.

However, he warns, agile requires developers to behaving in a different way. “To have agile work effectively requires a massive degree of co-operation that’s not possible if you have a rigid management. The primary target has to be customer value, not the process.


“It’s a different mindset, and it requires a culture transformation that takes time and takes determination and requires true by-in from senior levels of an organization.”

The biggest mistake software teams make in trying to go this route is to do it without the deep transformation required, he said. “Taking methodologies that have been adequate for two or three and trying to optimize them for a different set of needs” won’t work.

Given the size of the book – which is available at CA with a registration and in Kindle format for US$9.99 at Amazon (and may be more readable than the small print in the text version) – it’s not a bad introduction into the many steps needed to build a team, understand agile, and realize the importance of APIs, security and metrics in the process.

The advice should be seen more as guideposts than a fixed recipe, Berkes adds.

“Companies do need to be careful they don’t build software just because its fashionable or for it’s own sake. Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. However, I think we’ve seen the transformative power of building software that provides unique capabilities, unique differentiation, unique opportunity for companies to engage with their customers and give them value in a way that no other mechanism can.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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