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Practical advice for IT managers on everything from project management, technology selection, governance, risk and compliance to team building and HR, from's experts.



What Sinofsky's exit means to us

Steven Sinofsky's departure from Microsoft coincides, from what I read, with a shift in corporate culture there, reflecting the need to break down silos - a shift I wholeheartedly agree with, and one we should see in a lot more legacy IT companies

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At a strategic level, Microsoft needs integration across devices and software. Insiders have said "Sinofskyisation" polarised groups in the company. 

While most of us involved in software development have been aware of practices such as the Agile approach for some time, there’s a surprising number of legacy IT companies that still suffer from the silo culture.
Apparently Sinofsky didn’t share the latest internal test versions of Windows 8 and kept the Surface tablet a secret until just before its announcement. This is hard to reconcile in the modern environment - particularly when insiders point to it as the reason the Surface RT tablet doesn’t have a fully featured Office suite. It also doesn’t help that the response to Windows 8 so far has been lukewarm.

Turning away from Microsoft and looking at the broader IT picture, there simply isn’t a credible business case for the silo approach, in my experience.  In the current climate, all big IT customers are faced with budgets demanding more for less. Indeed, in our sector, the insurance market, CIOs are now faced with demands to grow the business on less.
It’s fundamental that software developers - even the big ones - act nimbly and efficiently to make this happen. Long gone are the days of spending a lot on a legacy system, expected to make do for 20 years - as many big names have.
Long gone are the days of delivering behemothic projects in the rigid time frames of complex, binding contracts, regardless of whether they were really of value to the company by the time they arrived, or whether things had moved on.
A better approach is to pick off small wins, maybe self-service, maybe automation, maybe enhanced data integration - smaller projects that immediately deliver operational efficiencies. And roll them out strategically, as building blocks, one after the after contributing to broad business improvements.
To do this, you need to integrate all the skill sets involved, from drawing up contracts, to development and service, so all minds are trained on working together, delivering against these targets and making an impact very quickly. 
The startups at Silicon Roundabout have built businesses from scratch extremely successfully with this approach. And it’s time now for the big players to incorporate Agile ideas into their work practices. 

Posted by Mark Bates, CEO of RDT, a British software company building solutions for the insurance sector
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