The Mobile App Dev Dream Team: Diverse Personalities Are Key
Author(s): Weston Morris, Posted on May 21st, 2015
Modern application development faces the challenge of quickly innovating by means of new mobile applications… without breaking core business systems in the data center. Industry analyst firm Gartner, Inc. recommends that enterprises use what they call, “Bimodal IT” – an approach that blends two modes of operation simultaneously:
- agile innovation on select projects and
- methodical, process-oriented care and feeding of strategic business systems.
To be successful with this two-speed methodology in the area of mobile application development requires a diverse set of people with complementary strengths. I’d like to use the following hypothetical example to illustrate the point Suppose that you are the CIO for ACME Industries. To create Two Speed IT you need to pull together a dream team for the project. After due consideration, you decide that the team needs to comprise three distinct and, occasionally, conflicting personalities:
Paul loves all the standards – every one of them, from ISO 27001, ISO 9000 and ITIL to HIPAA and FedRAMP. Paul makes sure that no one implements changes to the existing infrastructure, network, security or application stack without following the processes that these standards dictate. Paul is an IT veteran and has the battle scars to prove it. He’s lived through the shift from mainframe to client/server, and then from client/server to distributed processing, and most recently from endpoints to mobile and cloud. As Paul reflects on all the changes in IT, he smiles wryly, knowing that within your global company none of these “old” technologies have been completely replaced. The mainframe is still there, processing a few hundred thousand lines of COBOL for a core part of the business. Some of the client/server systems are still operational, and of course nearly everyone who had a PC five years ago still uses one today – in addition to the mobile devices and cloud services added over the last few years. Paul knows that to keep this operation humming, changes must be well-planned, documented and tested. He’s seen new technologies implemented badly – like the multi-million dollar ERP upgrade mothballed before ever going into full production three years ago. As CIO, you love Paul because he keeps the lights on.
Skunk Works Sue.
Much as you love Paul, you love Sue as well – not least because she isn’t Paul. Sue hates being bogged down by process. She quickly drops last year’s hot topic in favor of this year’s trendy tech. Her office is littered with sketches and diagrams of prototypes of each shiny new technology that caught her eye at one time or another. Many of the things she plays with turn out not to be useful in the enterprise. But once or twice a year, something sticks and finds its way into production. Sue regularly helps out business units that can’t wait around for Paul’s Process Police to give them a new technology that they need. Sue sits back, smiling, thinking about the mobile app she pulled together 6 months ago that lets insurance adjusters use their iPhones in the field to take a picture, log the GPS coordinates, and video-record eyewitness accounts of a car accident. Her prototype still requires more work from Paul’s team to verify security, compliance and integration standards. Nonetheless, Sue is already thinking about her next innovation – a mashup of Google Maps data with crowd-sourced Twitter feeds on customer satisfaction with ACME’s latest product line. It may go without saying, but Sue has a brittle relationship with Paul, which leads to a key role for….
Naturally, you love Parvathi as well. Until she joined the team, you constantly struggled between Skunk Works Sue’s rants about how Paul was keeping ACME back in the 20th Century, while Paul constantly complained that Sue’s antics are threatening the security and stability of ACME’s operations. And then you found Parvathi. At first you thought Parvathi was just good at human relations, but then you realized that it was much more. Parvathi intuitively understands “Two Speed IT” – that ACME has to follow processes and standards when doing anything that might affect core business services, but also needs to find ways of testing innovative technologies that might make the company more efficient or open new opportunities for revenue. Parvathi keeps a close eye on Sue’s latest project and brings in selected folks from Paul’s team to evaluate how Sue’s one-off project might be put into production, in a safe, secure way.
By collaborating and blending their disparate but formidable skills into a whole, they consistently deliver a manageable process that keeps your IT infrastructure humming along while smoothly introducing innovation. You can take lot of satisfaction – and pride – in having assembled such a capable crew to solve your most pressing challenge.