Q&A: Application Delivery Priorities Revealed in Survey

What do enterprises want most when it comes to application delivery?

Serena Software commissioned a survey last Fall at Gartner’s Application Architecture, Development, and Integration Summit. The poll asked hundreds of conference attendees about what was at the top of their application delivery priorities. We spoke with David Hurwitz, senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Serena Software about the results of their survey.

Enterprise Strategies: The top priority you found (for 61 percent of respondents) was "Deliver Applications Faster." How "fast" is "fast," and what are the obstacles developers are facing?

David Hurwitz: In this case, “fast” means cutting the existing cycle time in half. Cycle time is defined by the time from receipt of demand through requirements specification, development, and deployment, then into production.

There are many obstacles to this process including poor communications and systemic support, which are perhaps the most important. Most IT organizations are like the proverbial barefoot shoemaker, in that they provide process orchestration systems to the business yet run their own processes by mailing around group updated spreadsheets.

I noticed that your 6th-highest result (at 25 percent) was move applications to the cloud. Does cloud computing/SaaS hold any promise for relieving application developers? Does the new push for SaaS make it easier to find applications that do what they need, or is most work still custom?

SaaS holds the promise of incorporating core functionality into composite apps faster. However, online businesses are unable to get the differentiation needed for competitive success by using commonly available products or services. Instead, industries from financial services, to travel to Telco gain competitive advantage from custom development, even if the custom apps that they create have SaaS components.

The second priority (at 50 percent of respondents) was "Reduce app dev costs." Is most of the cost still in staffing costs, or are other costs encroaching?

The personnel costs are still the bulk of application development costs. However, it’s not just developers—the team also consists of testers, analysts, build engineers, scrum masters, release managers, project managers, outsource coordinators, deployment managers, operations managers, quality analysts, user experience experts, and change control specialists -- the list goes on.

Getting maximum utility from these specialized resources is the key to reducing application development costs.

Doesn't this mean IT management is more likely to outsource application development, since it's big perceived (if not actually realized) benefit is lower development costs?

As organizations try to find a balance between cost-effective expertise and retaining critical knowledge, we are seeing a mix of outsourcing and in-house development, even on the same project. Again, for online businesses, their competitive advantage comes from their ability to develop and deploy unique applications, so they are unlikely to outsource that core competency.

The third priority you list is "Expand use of agile." How is agile being used now, and what will this "expansion" look like --to more projects or larger projects?

Agile today is mostly being used at the developer level. Its expansion will come from enterprise-class agile, where the entire developer force operates via agile principles.

Another barrier to knock down for the widespread use of agile is in operations. Agile development leads to more frequent releases. However, the cost of putting those releases into production has remained high, so agile development often moves the bottleneck down the line to operations, which is another reason that release management automation is such a hot topic now.

What best practices can you recommend to get the most out of agile development?

Agile transforms the developer team. However, it can create headaches for the release and deployment teams as their workload may increase by 10 times -- without an increase in head count or budget. Plan for the whole application development process when you move to agile, especially its effect on release management.

Were there any results that surprised you?

Of the last three years conducting this survey, this is the first time we’ve seen “cutting costs” move down from the number one priority. This result is a strong indicator that businesses are looking to move back onto a growth trajectory, which is good news for all of us.

David Hurwitz is senior vice president of worldwide marketing at Serena Software. He has a quarter century of experience in the enterprise software industry, the last decade of which as a marketing leader. Immediately prior to joining Serena, Mr. Hurwitz served as vice president of corporate messaging and solutions marketing at CA, Inc. Mr. Hurwitz has a BS in Industrial Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology.