Whenever there is a downturn in the economy, two corporate groups that seem to bear the brunt of fiscal conservatism are Human Resources and Information Technology. Unless you are actually in the business of IT to generate revenue, in the corporate world, both of these departments are cost centers. Although they are both productivity enhancement enablers, it is often argued that they produce little to no direct bottom line value through their work.
In stark contrast to traditional business management theory, Dr. Howard Rubin said in a presentation given at an October 2009 Gartner Symposium:
The most opportunistic time for technology investment is during an economic downturn; it is the only area in which investment can change the operating profile of an organization—doing so effectively can create an insurmountable competitive gap. Bad IT economics will put you on the wrong side of this gap and may even be creating advantage for your competitors.
To gain competitive advantage during an economic downturn, smart executives invest in IT if they have the confidence in the IT organization to deliver that which is promised; quality products that meet or exceed customer expectations, on time delivery and well managed budgets. For IT organizations to be successful today and tomorrow, they must evolve into values-based cultures that drive high performance, low turnover, and increased productivity without impeding creativity and innovation. The organization must embrace defined, managed, measurable, repeatable and reusable practices that form the blueprint for their overall systems delivery strategy. The blueprint feeds the continuous improvement cycle. It’s said in the Six Sigma world, “If you can’t measure it, why are you doing it?”
This is where an effective SDLC helps. The SDLC provides a framework that describes the activities performed during each phase of a systems development project; activities that are defined, managed, measurable, repeatable and reusable, just what the doctor ordered. It endorses standards and practices to ensure consistency across projects and tasks undertaken by different groups within IT such as Telecom, Data Center, System Administration, Quality Assurance, Network, Applications Development and others.
Let me point out that I’m being very careful not to use the word “software” when discussing the SDLC. I use the term “system” to emphasize the SDLC’s broader impact across all of IT. Undoubtedly, a major focus of any SDLC is software, but when you think of all the projects that are undertaken in an IT organization, every project team has a responsibility to:
- Elicit and analyze requirements
- Develop systems specifications
- Define success metrics
- Produce clear, consistent and unambiguous artifacts
- Deliver products that comply with the highest quality standards that meet or exceed customer expectations
- Transfer knowledge to operational support and maintenance personnel, sometimes to outsourced, off-shore locations
- Train end users and support resources
- Offer post deployment support and maintenance
Are these statements true or false? If true, then consistent reusable processes and practices across the entire IT organization are critical for an organization’s absolute success.