These engineers will have to overcome the real challenge in enterprise corporate software development—delivering effective applications "in the face of overstated vendor promises and negative perception" of internal development resources, according to Gartner vice president Matt Hotle and Gartner research director Dale Vecchio in their presentation on the future of corporate application development.
At this point, pure coding skills are a commodity, and when you are shopping for any commodity, "all things being equal, you buy it at the lowest price," Vecchio said. This means "we are going to purchase basic program from India, China, Poland or Russia," Hotle said here at the Gartner Symposium/ITxpo.
But "we are going to need better analysts and designers—people who know how to extract business requirements from peoples heads," so that their knowledge and ideas can be turned into software, Hotle said.
Finding and retaining the best software engineers, business analysts and application architects is going to be the "single biggest challenge" for corporate IT departments, they said.
Furthermore, corporate IT departments will have to keep speeding up the development cycle if they want to keep senior managers happy. Hotle said Gartner surveys showed that, starting a year ago, corporate developers were working on a six- to nine-month development cycle. That was down from an average 15- to 19-month cycle three years ago, he said.
But the demand for productivity wont stop there. Business managers will expect corporate software developers to produce new applications in one to two months, Hotle said. In short order, they will expect software architects and designers to "move applications from concept to concrete in a matter of weeks and perhaps even a matter of days," he said.
Corporate software developers are trying to balance market demands, changing business requirements and the need for high-quality software fast, Hotle said. "We are on a high wire overlooking a very long drop," he said, adding that enterprises want to be agile enough to be able to enter new markets quickly but are frustrated by development cycles that are still too long.
One approach that could help speed up the development cycle is the heavy reuse of existing code and application components, Vecchio said. For the next two years, enterprises should be looking how J2EE (Java 2 Enterprise Edition) and SOAs (service-oriented architectures) could help in the development of effective applications, he said.
But IT managers should not regard J2EE as a technology that will simplify software development. It is a complex technology that requires the knowledge of skilled developers, he said.
Vecchio also said outsourcing is not the panacea that business managers think it will be. While the salary differential between programming people in Asia is estimated to be as much as seven to one, only a fraction of that will end up being direct savings to corporate IT or even to commercial developers in the United States, Vecchio said.
He estimated that the overall savings "will top off at about 43 percent," which still provides considerable incentive for U.S. IT managers to pursue this option.
Overall, Hotle and Vecchio contended that the "low cost and high promise of outsourced development represent both the boon and bane" of corporate application development. It is a boon because it promises such high cost savings, but it is a bane because its not as easy to manage as it looks, they said.
There is also the issue of preserving the value of U.S. software intellectual property, Vecchio said. "There are reasons for keeping things inside" the IT organization, not the least of which is retaining competitive advantage, he said.