Developing new ways to work

Technology is constantly being improved and working practices revised, so when the two come together there are bound to be fresh...

Technology is constantly being improved and working practices revised, so when the two come together there are bound to be fresh issues to consider.

The application development arena, for instance, has seen many changes in the past few years as new technologies have enabled developers to work in different ways.

"The manner in which many application development project teams collaborate today is a far cry from how they have worked traditionally," says Chris Purrington, managing director of development tools supplier Borland UK. "The development teams of yesteryear simply worked in one language, contemporary development teams are far more varied. They now include such diverse skill sets as application developers, Web designers, content artists and graphics specialists."

Purrington says project team members are increasingly based in different locations around the world. In the past they would have been located in, say, London or San Francisco, and would be focused on building applications specifically for their own regions. "Pioneering companies are now working towards centralisation of applications and are designing applications on a global scale. We are no longer talking in terms of vertical teams but horizontal teams," he says.

To find out what challenges these working practices present to project managers, Borland surveyed users of its tools. Drawing on the results, Purrington lists the challenges for the management of application development:

  • Lifecycle management is becoming more difficult - project-tracking across different environments and markets is not conducive to providing a single view.

  • Distributed development is the norm - 65% of developers are working remotely. Leaders need to keep track of this and know who is working on what.

  • n More projects are outsourced - 60% of companies now outsource portions of project development. Managing the third-party provider is now a consideration.

  • The greater the reliance on technology, the greater the risks - only about 5% of companies have disaster recovery plans to cover for project hiccups.

  • Increased security requirements - companies are finding it difficult to guarantee a safe environment in which to share project information. Security worries are also exacerbated by the explosion in digital assets and the increasing shortage of skilled security staff.

  • There are a variety of developer tools in use - the integration of tools is increasingly complex.

  • The use of e-mail in the development process can unify teams in the short term, but is cumbersome and time-consuming and can result in the loss of vital information.

  • Supply chains have been extended - in industries such as telecoms, where there is a strong supply chain or a business model that works through joint ventures, there is an extended developer environment.

  • Skills shortages - firms are turning to developers in international markets to combat local skills shortages, which leads to an increase in multi-lingual, cross-border teams.

  • n Poor documentation - most projects are implemented from scratch, rather than by redeploying existing knowledge and experience.

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