Welcome!

Microservices Expo Authors: Pat Romanski, Liz McMillan, Stackify Blog, Elizabeth White, Dalibor Siroky

Related Topics: Microservices Expo

Microservices Expo: Blog Feed Post

ROI - Is It Always Required for a Software Project?

The danger of misclassification is to doom a project to failure even before you have started

Can you think of an instance where a software project had to completed on schedule and the measure of ROI was of secondary importance? When a piece of software is part of a larger initiative the ROI becomes less important and the fallout of any delay may far outweigh the investment on the software.

Latest trend in agile and lean methodologies is to weigh every feature in the scale of “measurable business value” before acting on it. This approach, for some type of projects, may be redundant or even counter productive. In my opinion, software projects can be classified into 5 types - ROI, 7th-Habit, O-Ring, Hype-Cycle & Build-to-Flip.

Let's look at the characteristic of each type of projects and what makes each of them successful. I have also added how agile methodologies can aid the success. The danger of misclassification is to doom a project to be failure even before you have started.

ROI Projects

There is a class of software projects where delivering business value is the key. The measure of value need to be quantifiable and can typically be:

  • Cost saving
  • Revenue generation
  • Customer satisfaction
  • Cycle-time reduction

If I spend “X” dollars I will get “Y” benefit = measurable value delivered to business.

Approval Process: Follow a variant of the following 4-step process:

  1. Identify and quantify business benefit
  2. Translate into software requirement
  3. Estimate – time and money required
  4. Obtain approval based on cost benefit analysis – the analysis may be absolute or relative to other projects

Pitfall: To get the project approved, the benefit may be (consciously or unconsciously) overstated. Alternately cost may be understated or impact of critical technical challenges not fully understood.

How agile can help:

Fail early – This is where use of agile methodology can be of great help. Used properly, it can identify, early in the project lifecycle, if the projected cost-benefit analysis is realistic. If it is not then the project can be allowed to fail early thereby saving considerable expense and heartache.

Incremental value – If the project is such that it will be feasible to make phased releases either to a small community of users or with subset of business critical features, then adopting agile methodology will allow value to be realized even before the completion of the project.

7th-Habit Projects

The seventh habit (see 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey) is “Sharpening the Saw” or about renewal.

These are already running applications and have to be re-written for one of the following reasons:

  • Technology obsolescence – either hardware or software
  • Problem of maintainability – lack of people or unwieldy code base
  • Integration challenge

The applications would have been in use for a long period of time. Though the UI may be archaic, most users will be reluctant to switch to anything different. For such project, value will be intangible and it will be difficult to quantify. The renewed version of the product will normally will need to replicate the functionality of the existing application with some enhancements thrown in.

In the airline industry, majority of the ticketing runs on IBM mainframe and the application is developed using TPF which is a second generation language. IBM has declared that support for TPF is going to be withdrawn and it is to be replaced by z/TPF.

Approval Process: Ask the following questions:

  1. Can we afford to do it?
  2. Can we afford NOT to do it?
  3. Is there any alternate way of satisfying the business need?
  4. Is this application still relevant?

Pitfall: The project will be deemed successful only if users find the version at least as reliable and useful as the old system. The biggest risk is to miss out on the key feature, functionality or usability issue. This may happen when key users are unwilling to spend enough time or knowledge of specific feature is lost and is only available as code.

How agile can help: One of the challenges in using agile methodology for such project is the reluctance of users to contribute time and effort. If no major enhancements are planned then the developers are expected to study the existing system and derive the requirement. However, if the user interface is being revamped, then iterative refinement with constant user feedback can make or break the project.

O-Ring Projects

On January 28, 1986, when Space Shuttle Challenger broke apart 73 seconds into its flight, leading to the deaths of its seven crew members. Disintegration of the entire vehicle began after an O-ring seal in its right solid rocket booster (SRB) failed at liftoff. It had lost its elasticity because of the unusually cold outside temperature.

Sometimes, software becomes an O-Ring in a large infrastructure project or new product release. In such cases, quality and on-time-completion becomes so much more important than any other parameter. 100% budget overrun may be an acceptable tradeoff to either prevent a bug or to avoid short delay.

When you are planning to open a new terminal building in an airport like Heathrow Terminal 5, software will be a small (cost wise) but important component in it. However, it will be at least as critical as any other component or equipment. The complete software has to be ready in time and has to function flawlessly. Even few days delay may lead to revenue loss in excess of the cost of the software. Also, any quality problem can damage the image of the organization.

Approval Process: Since such project will be a component of a larger project, there will be no separate approval process. However, following questions need to be asked:

  1. What to make – what to buy?
  2. How much to automate?
  3. Is the scope too ambitious?
  4. How much premium can be paid to reduce risk?

Pitfall: The biggest pitfall is to underestimate the complexity and technical challenge especially integration challenge. Many of these will surface only towards the end of the project when the deadline pressure will be at its peak.

How agile can help: Since, such project require a big bang release, what value agile can bring is not immediately obvious. However, for such project early mitigation of technical risk may be critical. Tackling them in an agile manner early in the project lifecycle can greatly increase the chances of success.

Hype-Cycle Projects

Hype-cycle is a term promoted by Gartner to provide pointers to how new technology adoption happens. Every technology goes through a “Peak of Inflated Expectations” where everybody jumps into the bandwagon. People want to cash in on the early mover advantage and time becomes of essence.

For such software projects, “being there” as quickly as possible is major driver. Though, cost and quality cannot be ignored, but they take a back seat.

With the release of iPhone from Apple, it became important for organization to release an iPhone application to the market. Scenario one is when you want to be the first and be perceived as the leader. Scenario two is when your competitor has already released such an application and you need to follow suit lest you be perceived as a laggard organization. It is the same story with Facebook applications.

The story of Cloud Computing or SOA is little different – there you are afraid that you may be missing out on something important. Therefore you want to try it out. In all these instances it is difficult to quantify measurable business value which is realistic. It is important to be there as quickly as possible.

Approval Process: Ideally such projects need to be driven by an evangelist. It will be a discretionary spending and money may either come from technology budget or marketing budget. The decision making is unlikely to be logical and based on figures – it will be a right-brain decision.

Pitfall: Normally, chances of failure for such projects will always be high. However, not responding to changing scenario fast enough can lower the chance of success to almost zero.

How agile can help: Since the area is new, the requirement needs to emerge and change during the course of the project. For such projects, it is difficult to envisage any methodology other than Agile.

Build-to-Flip Projects

The term build-to-flip was coined by Jim Collins, the co-author of Build to Last. If you have an innovative idea, you start a company, create a prototype, get VC funding and build your idea to a level where you have sufficient user base to sell the whole venture. Significant percentages of such ventures are purely software projects. Alternately, software would be a major component in the development effort.

Build-to-flip projects have some similarity with hype-cycle project but have its own unique characteristics. The innovator will start with an idea but in most cases it will not be fully formed. Whole plan needs to be flexible and the product needs to morph based on the feedback, likes and dislikes of the early adopters. The innovator needs to be sensitive to unintended usage of the idea. In addition, the early adopters will also become the beta testers. Quality may not be the most critical factor. Twitter, for example, used to crash quiet frequently in the initial days. That did not prevent it from being one of the biggest successes of recent times. Rolling the right features out as soon as possible may be the key to success.

Approval Process: You need an idea which can grow big. You need to sell the concept to a funding agency, probably a VC. If you succeed then you are on.

Pitfall: Not everybody is Steve Jobs – you may not be able to create an iPod or an iPhone in the first attempt. You will need to iterate and listen to early adopters. Not doing so quickly enough is a sure road to failure.

How agile can help: Not only will agile development is mandatory, agile deployment is also critical. Option of continuous deployment is also worth examining – here is a nice example.

More Stories By Udayan Banerjee

Udayan Banerjee is CTO at NIIT Technologies Ltd, an IT industry veteran with more than 30 years' experience. He blogs at http://setandbma.wordpress.com.
The blog focuses on emerging technologies like cloud computing, mobile computing, social media aka web 2.0 etc. It also contains stuff about agile methodology and trends in architecture. It is a world view seen through the lens of a software service provider based out of Bangalore and serving clients across the world. The focus is mostly on...

  • Keep the hype out and project a realistic picture
  • Uncover trends not very apparent
  • Draw conclusion from real life experience
  • Point out fallacy & discrepancy when I see them
  • Talk about trends which I find interesting
Google

@MicroservicesExpo Stories
You know you need the cloud, but you’re hesitant to simply dump everything at Amazon since you know that not all workloads are suitable for cloud. You know that you want the kind of ease of use and scalability that you get with public cloud, but your applications are architected in a way that makes the public cloud a non-starter. You’re looking at private cloud solutions based on hyperconverged infrastructure, but you’re concerned with the limits inherent in those technologies.
Is advanced scheduling in Kubernetes achievable?Yes, however, how do you properly accommodate every real-life scenario that a Kubernetes user might encounter? How do you leverage advanced scheduling techniques to shape and describe each scenario in easy-to-use rules and configurations? In his session at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Oleg Chunikhin, CTO at Kublr, answered these questions and demonstrated techniques for implementing advanced scheduling. For example, using spot instances and co...
It has never been a better time to be a developer! Thanks to cloud computing, deploying our applications is much easier than it used to be. How we deploy our apps continues to evolve thanks to cloud hosting, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and now Function-as-a-Service. FaaS is the concept of serverless computing via serverless architectures. Software developers can leverage this to deploy an individual "function", action, or piece of business logic. They are expected to start within milliseconds...
The cloud era has reached the stage where it is no longer a question of whether a company should migrate, but when. Enterprises have embraced the outsourcing of where their various applications are stored and who manages them, saving significant investment along the way. Plus, the cloud has become a defining competitive edge. Companies that fail to successfully adapt risk failure. The media, of course, continues to extol the virtues of the cloud, including how easy it is to get there. Migrating...
As DevOps methodologies expand their reach across the enterprise, organizations face the daunting challenge of adapting related cloud strategies to ensure optimal alignment, from managing complexity to ensuring proper governance. How can culture, automation, legacy apps and even budget be reexamined to enable this ongoing shift within the modern software factory? In her Day 2 Keynote at @DevOpsSummit at 21st Cloud Expo, Aruna Ravichandran, VP, DevOps Solutions Marketing, CA Technologies, was jo...
The nature of test environments is inherently temporary—you set up an environment, run through an automated test suite, and then tear down the environment. If you can reduce the cycle time for this process down to hours or minutes, then you may be able to cut your test environment budgets considerably. The impact of cloud adoption on test environments is a valuable advancement in both cost savings and agility. The on-demand model takes advantage of public cloud APIs requiring only payment for t...
For DevOps teams, the concepts behind service-oriented architecture (SOA) are nothing new. A style of software design initially made popular in the 1990s, SOA was an alternative to a monolithic application; essentially a collection of coarse-grained components that communicated with each other. Communication would involve either simple data passing or two or more services coordinating some activity. SOA served as a valid approach to solving many architectural problems faced by businesses, as app...
Some journey to cloud on a mission, others, a deadline. Change management is useful when migrating to public, private or hybrid cloud environments in either case. For most, stakeholder engagement peaks during the planning and post migration phases of a project. Legacy engagements are fairly direct: projects follow a linear progression of activities (the “waterfall” approach) – change managers and application coders work from the same functional and technical requirements. Enablement and develo...
Gone are the days when application development was the daunting task of the highly skilled developers backed with strong IT skills, low code application development has democratized app development and empowered a new generation of citizen developers. There was a time when app development was in the domain of people with complex coding and technical skills. We called these people by various names like programmers, coders, techies, and they usually worked in a world oblivious of the everyday pri...
While some developers care passionately about how data centers and clouds are architected, for most, it is only the end result that matters. To the majority of companies, technology exists to solve a business problem, and only delivers value when it is solving that problem. 2017 brings the mainstream adoption of containers for production workloads. In his session at 21st Cloud Expo, Ben McCormack, VP of Operations at Evernote, discussed how data centers of the future will be managed, how the p...
From manual human effort the world is slowly paving its way to a new space where most process are getting replaced with tools and systems to improve efficiency and bring down operational costs. Automation is the next big thing and low code platforms are fueling it in a significant way. The Automation era is here. We are in the fast pace of replacing manual human efforts with machines and processes. In the world of Information Technology too, we are linking disparate systems, softwares and tool...
DevOps is good for organizations. According to the soon to be released State of DevOps Report high-performing IT organizations are 2X more likely to exceed profitability, market share, and productivity goals. But how do they do it? How do they use DevOps to drive value and differentiate their companies? We recently sat down with Nicole Forsgren, CEO and Chief Scientist at DORA (DevOps Research and Assessment) and lead investigator for the State of DevOps Report, to discuss the role of measure...
DevOps is under attack because developers don’t want to mess with infrastructure. They will happily own their code into production, but want to use platforms instead of raw automation. That’s changing the landscape that we understand as DevOps with both architecture concepts (CloudNative) and process redefinition (SRE). Rob Hirschfeld’s recent work in Kubernetes operations has led to the conclusion that containers and related platforms have changed the way we should be thinking about DevOps and...
"As we've gone out into the public cloud we've seen that over time we may have lost a few things - we've lost control, we've given up cost to a certain extent, and then security, flexibility," explained Steve Conner, VP of Sales at Cloudistics,in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 20th Cloud Expo, held June 6-8, 2017, at the Javits Center in New York City, NY.
These days, APIs have become an integral part of the digital transformation journey for all enterprises. Every digital innovation story is connected to APIs . But have you ever pondered over to know what are the source of these APIs? Let me explain - APIs sources can be varied, internal or external, solving different purposes, but mostly categorized into the following two categories. Data lakes is a term used to represent disconnected but relevant data that are used by various business units wit...
With continuous delivery (CD) almost always in the spotlight, continuous integration (CI) is often left out in the cold. Indeed, it's been in use for so long and so widely, we often take the model for granted. So what is CI and how can you make the most of it? This blog is intended to answer those questions. Before we step into examining CI, we need to look back. Software developers often work in small teams and modularity, and need to integrate their changes with the rest of the project code b...
"I focus on what we are calling CAST Highlight, which is our SaaS application portfolio analysis tool. It is an extremely lightweight tool that can integrate with pretty much any build process right now," explained Andrew Siegmund, Application Migration Specialist for CAST, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
"Cloud4U builds software services that help people build DevOps platforms for cloud-based software and using our platform people can draw a picture of the system, network, software," explained Kihyeon Kim, CEO and Head of R&D at Cloud4U, in this SYS-CON.tv interview at 21st Cloud Expo, held Oct 31 – Nov 2, 2017, at the Santa Clara Convention Center in Santa Clara, CA.
Kubernetes is an open source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Kubernetes was originally built by Google, leveraging years of experience with managing container workloads, and is now a Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) project. Kubernetes has been widely adopted by the community, supported on all major public and private cloud providers, and is gaining rapid adoption in enterprises. However, Kubernetes may seem intimidating and complex ...
DevOps is often described as a combination of technology and culture. Without both, DevOps isn't complete. However, applying the culture to outdated technology is a recipe for disaster; as response times grow and connections between teams are delayed by technology, the culture will die. A Nutanix Enterprise Cloud has many benefits that provide the needed base for a true DevOps paradigm. In their Day 3 Keynote at 20th Cloud Expo, Chris Brown, a Solutions Marketing Manager at Nutanix, and Mark Lav...