CIO tips for managing software development

The recent wet weather has reminded me of the floods which were experienced during the Spring of 2014 and the havoc that it wreaked on local residents and businesses. Subsequent studies called for better dredging by the Environment Agency which inevitably became politically charged.

More thoughtful bodies started to look at other factors and came to the conclusion that dredging could be counterproductive and what was really required was better management of “upstream resources”, usually where the river tributaries started.

Some of you reading this post may have started to wonder what relevance this has to IT? Please bear with me for a minute whilst I explain further. We are working on a number of digital transformation projects with CIOs, IT leaders and the number one issue is always how are my new applications working from a customer perspective? Pre-production testing is always rushed and in a DevOps culture the pressure is always to get new code deployed. Good analytics are always hard to provide as the infrastructure is always so complicated, with multiple silos and service providers , Cloud, the Internet and the organisation’s own internal IT Function.


What is really needed is the ability to provide an end-to-end view of the service. This is what really matters to the business and the CIO, because without taking notice of the “voice of the customer” all of the investment in a digital transformation will go to waste. This is an area where I believe that CIOs need to “sharpen their game” and become more aware of using world-class metrics to improve both their own performance and that of their IT function.

Those of you who follow sport will know that the most successful teams and athletes are measured at every level. The most successful teams embrace analytics at every level and use them as a benchmark to generate self improvement. There are still some individuals who rail against such control, but they are usually working sub-optimally and are not habitual winners.

From a digital transformation perspective, IT has still got a way to go. In many cases we are brought in to help instrument and manage applications and deployment of new services across the infrastructure. In two recent instances, the code developed by the client was being deployed without the normal “checks and balances” with a subsequent awful experience for the end customers and brand damage.

As digital transformation projects accelerate, this will become an increasing problem. We are seeing a big increase in the deployment of micro-services and containers, with IT teams still treating these exciting new developments as just “a variation of VMs”. Indeed, I have heard several CIOs say recently that container management isn’t that important. I suppose that is true if your organisation is not developing new applications, but more and more are.

Which is where I return to my analogy of floods. In many respects, I think that CIOs are too focused on looking at issues “down-stream” and thinking about the top of the funnel and the impact on the customer across the whole digital supply chain. This is why we think container management is so important as we enter the next phase of digital transformation.

Gartner Analyst Mark Raskino was recently quoted saying that digital business dies without definition and metrics. “You can’t scale up digital business experiments if you can’t quantify what’s going on and you’re not going to quantify what’s going on with proper hard targets and numbers if you haven’t defined what IT is,” Raskino says. “Only if you’ve clarified a strategy can you determine changes and put a KPI [key performance indicator] against it.”

If you have a complete view of the digital supply chain and the way that the applications are performing against quantifiable KPIs, you have a much better chance of a successful digital transformation outcome. In the same way that new studies are advocating upstream flood management for the environment, our view is that the CIO needs to be able to monitor and manage containers. Software development to ensure that there is a true view of the whole digital supply chain and deliver a better service to customers and the business.