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4 Tips for CIOs to Help Solve their Organization’s IT Debt Crisis

By December 16, 2013Article

As a CIO you’re probably already aware of the threat arising from your application portfolio’s delayed and deferred maintenance, but may not fully realize the scale and impact on your organization—or how to address it. Gartner says the cost of dealing with this dilemma of backlogged maintenance threatens to reach a trillion dollars globally by 2015. There’s only one way IT organizations will ever be able to dig themselves out of this massive hole and solve the crisis: They must fundamentally change the way they deliver applications.  

There are several sources at the root of this growing maintenance backlog problem:

  • Tight IT budgets. This is a decades-old problem that is unlikely to improve anytime soon.
  • Rapid acceleration of the pace of business change. Demands on IT are at an all-time high with multiple departments and business units seeking new applications and functionality for innovation and competitive advantage.
  • IT’s reliance on legacy approaches to delivering services. Customizing legacy systems or coding custom applications increases cost, complexity and risk while slowing the pace of delivering new apps and functionality. IT can’t introduce changes easily or frequently enough and tends to cut corners and make compromises that cause a quickly-growing maintenance backlog and hinder future extensibility. 

It’s no wonder that a high percentage of IT projects are in trouble or fail altogether. 

As a CIO, what can you do to solve the dilemma in your organization? The only way to dig out of the hole is to fundamentally change the way you deliver applications. Taking small, incremental steps to improve the status quo simply isn’t enough to handle the pace at which the maintenance backlog grows. 

Here are four proven steps to eliminate bottlenecks for application development, modernization and change requests and dramatically increase your speed and efficiency for delivering applications that meet today’s accelerating business demands and security and compliance concerns. 

1. Drop code. You can dramatically accelerate application development by replacing traditional coding with new, visual model-driven development. This approach enables the project team to efficiently collaborate, intuitively understand the functionality, and easily make changes. According to global system integrator Capgemini, this tactic significantly decreases development time to 2.5 hours per function point compared to 10.6 hours for Java and 15.5 hours for C#.  

2. Tap non-professional developers. Because professional developers are a small segment of the talent pool, you can dramatically increase your development capacity by using non-professional “business engineers.” Simply replace custom code with intuitive model-driven development so you can tap this larger talent pool of business engineers. Besides creating a larger output while still ensuring maintainability and control, the result will be better outcomes because the business will be more involved in the process. 

3. Stop customizing legacy systems. Instead of focusing your precious resources on long, complex customization projects, extend your legacy apps by adding an agile layer on top of these systems, providing a faster, simpler way to build the new functionality business users need.  

For instance, a $17B manufacturer with 24 operating companies and dozens of SAP instances used Mendix to extend their legacy SAP systems. This approach yielded substantial cost savings and a significant reduction in time to market. 

4. Don’t allow infrastructure to slow down your project. Infrastructure set-up, database issues and security concerns often slow down a development team. To avoid these issues, deploy a platform that enables you to plug and play, making deployment as simple as plugging an appliance into a power outlet.  

For instance, you can deploy applications to the cloud with literally a single click by using platforms where the entire technology stack is already provided and where operational tasks are automatically managed. 

The IT debt crisis from backlogged maintenance is staggering, but it’s not a hopeless situation for your organization. The key is to change the decades-old ways that got everybody into the hole in the first place. It might sound too good to be true or it might sound too radical to reinvent application delivery approaches. But the four tips above are already being implemented by CIOs who have found that they’re just the thing needed to get ahead of the demand and become a true partner to the business. 

Gottfried Sehringer is vice president of marketing for Mendix. With a track record in successful technology marketing in high-growth environments, Gottfried is responsible for the company’s marketing strategy, product marketing, communications and demand generation initiatives. He led numerous companies into new markets, positioned companies for growth, spearheaded technology innovation, forged strategic partnerships and designed high-velocity marketing models for scale. Before Mendix, Gottfried held executive positions with SmartBear Software, SAP, Softrax and several other enterprise software organizations.










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