Borland tackles CIOs' information desert

Thirty years after computers became mainstream, software projects are still late and over budget because CIOs are underserved by their own industry.

Thirty years after computers became mainstream, software projects are still late and over budget because CIOs are underserved by their own industry.

So says Tod Nielsen, Borland's CEO, and a veteran of Microsoft and Oracle. Improving a CIO's ability to manage software-based projects is the platform on which former software giant Borland plans to rebuild its fortunes, Nielsen told Computer Weekly.

Borland was once a contender for PC-based database management system of choice, but has had a rough time since Microsoft cornerned that market. Borland has since reinvented itself as a maker of software development tools such as Turbo Pascal, and more recently, as a source of tools to manage, develop and deliver applications.

BT, with 15,000 seats, is now a prime global customer in the UK, as is the Met Office. Systems integrator EDS is Borland's biggest customer internationally with 30,000 seats.

"CIOs can see (software driven) dashboards that show the status of the company everywhere except the IT department. All CIOs have is a graph that goes from green to red instantly when there is a problem. We aim to give them a yellow," he said.

Nielsen has repositioned the company as life cycle management (LCM) products specialist, launching its suit in July under the Borland Management Solutions banner. Nielsen is also concentrating on agile development.

The company is pitching the tools to traditional user firms, software houses, and increasingly, firms that build embedded systems. He said a Mercedes Benz manager had told him there are now about 1.3 billion lines of code in the average Mercedes, thanks to all the electronic systems. "That makes companies like Bosch, which supply those components, potential customers," Nielsen said.

The key to successful software projects is getting the initial requirements right, he said. "Thirty percent of software projects are never delivered because they took too long and requirements changed," he said.

That is also why he prefers the agile style. "We can divide work packages into daily 'stand-ups', weekly 'sprints', and project 'marathons'," he said. "This granularity gives CIOs complete visibility, and thus early warning, of what is going on with each of their development projects."

It also allows software development teams to take in changes in requirements in incremental chunks. This helps cut the cost of changes.

Nielsen's aquistion of Segue, maker of the Silk software testing tools two years ago, gives coders tools to test their output as they go along. Catching bugs early in the system life cycle cuts costs hugely, he said. As the former manager of a Microsoft development team, he should know.

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