CAST CIO Conference: IT's common dreads


Last week I attended CAST’s Annual CIO Conference on Risk and Productivity Measurement, in Paris. Upon arrival I realised it was somewhat of a meeting of minds. Analysts, consultants, advisors, IT project leaders and decision makers from across industries were in attendance, all to address software risk, code quality, and some of the biggest issues facing IT today.

Olivier Morbe, ‎Partner and Managing Director at Boston Consulting Group, outlined the changing role of the CIO as he sees it, which sounded more like a painful and perpetual balancing act. ‘The most important thing to consider is the balance between quality and productivity, IT is a world of tradeoffs. Today, much of IT is managed by its cost, and an astonishing amount of that cost resides in maintenance.’

Many in the industry view IT as an amplifier of businesses processes and approaches; if they’re bad to start with they’ll only get worse if when IT is applied. ‘If the initial IT asset is complex, reliability on that asset increases the need for contingency, which requires investment. Contingency becomes a costly process, so quality decreases, complexity increases and maintenance becomes even more costly - a vicious circle,’ continued Morbe.

Morbe explained measuring not only productivity, but quality, could break this cycle. IT teams aren’t happy with poor quality software, they like to deliver efficiency. It was apparent that making it easier for IT teams to deliver quality, at reasonable cost, would create massive benefits across the entire organisation.

But first organisations need an insight into their own complexity, tells Morbe, ‘Hundred-year-old banks are struggling to compete with start-up rivals because as consumers, we expect Google-like experience from everything. It’s hard to consistently deliver that level of service when IT is complex.’

During an industry roundtable with Morbe, Jean-Paul Schmidt, Executive Director at Steria noted how measurement is the key to breaking down complexity, “If we have no standards of measurement, our arguments are academic and conflictual. As soon as we start measuring, we see why it’s so useful – to help our teams to emulate each other and try to understand why some people progress faster. Is it a technology issue, a tool issue, a methodology issue? Once again, measurement helps us take the right measures.”

Henry Peyret, Principal Analyst at Forrester outlined the experience gap that creates tension between IT and the rest of the organisation. ‘There is a huge gap between what businesses can deliver and what customers want. They want service in milliseconds, sometimes businesses take minutes. They want transparency into data, but businesses often have a ‘black box’ approach.’

Analyst firm Gartner recently predicted the CMO will outspend the CIO on IT by 2017. There is an ongoing battle between the CMO and CIO in the eyes of Peyret, ‘Today’s CMOs are growing frustrated with CIOs as they aren’t speaking the same language. The CIO is making quality a priority and the CMO values functionality and performance - and if the CIO can’t communicate the impact of quality on things like customer experience, these frustrations are bound to continue.’

With game-changing technology companies like Facebook, Google and Amazon all transforming the playing field, customer and business expectations for what IT can deliver have been completely redefined. These expectations are creating a response from businesses that put enormous pressure on IT - increasing complexity and risk in order to achieve functionality.

At the conference, the priority for each individual may have been different, but one common dread was shared by all. With an ever growing reliance on technology, complexity will be sure to follow. It is therefore essential for successful businesses to understand the level of IT complexity in their organisation through effective measurement.

Schmidt aptly summarised during the roundtable, ‘The most important thing is to adapt to current business issues – we can do ultra-agile or ultra-industrial depending on what customers want. CAST is supporting our continued improvement in that area.’

Tagged: code quality
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Benedict Sycamore
Benedict Sycamore
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