IT governance, embedded software and mobile apps - what about quality?

Software increasingly drives product innovation and competitive positioning in conversations that I've had recently, and the consequences of failure with critical systems are untenable for businesses increasingly (not to mention life-threatening...

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Software increasingly drives product innovation and competitive positioning in conversations that I've had recently, and the consequences of failure with critical systems are untenable for businesses increasingly (not to mention life-threatening in some instances). The pressing need for governance of embedded software from a requirements, change management, quality, security and overall application lifecycle perspective is beginning to drive coordination across teams, per these recent discussions with a variety of companies. Typically, in the organizations with whom we've been speaking, we find more disciplined existing software development lifecycle approaches on the IT side for classic enterprise application development. While the needs and specific platform and product demands for embedded software are differentiated and distinct from traditional software obviously, there is consistency and confluence across many of the phases - from requirements and design, through to quality management, change, program, portfolio management and regulatory compliance. In that context, we see automated tools and solution providers angling towards coordination across both the ALM and Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) market areas. More: Last month, in an acquisition which exemplifies this trend, Product Life Cycle Management (PLM) vendor Parametric Technology Corp. (PTC), of Needham, Mass. announced its intent to acquire MKS, a Canadian company with strong software change, configuration management and version control capabilities, and a requirements and software life cycle focus. MKS's product portfolio had begun to engage companies with PLM challenges as part of embedded software development, and PTC's business was focused solely on the PLM arena. With little product or customer overlap and comparable cultures, the companies seem poised for a synergistic, coordinated approach once the deal closes (which is expected in June). As an example on another end of the spectrum, IBM Rational has been targeting this area since 2009 as part of its "Smarter Product" and "Smarter Planet" initiatives. IBM Rational leverages strengths in traditional ALM, while seeking to evolve a differentiated PLM lifecycle approach as it builds out capabilities acquired with Telelogic and its Rhapsody product. IBM Rational's broad lifecycle portfolio, and its relationships and services positioning, along with third party alliances with PLM partners, position the company across a broad spectrum of offerings and resources for its ALM/PLM strategy. I expect to have more current comments about this next month after Rational's Software Conference in Orlando in two weeks. And can traditional ALM vendors target embedded effectively? How do partnerships play out? As IT Project and Portfolio Management (IT PPM) automated solution providers (such as Microsoft, Planview and others) partner with PLM vendors to manage product portfolios, and testing and other ALM vendors evolve PLM strategies, how easy (and possible) is it to extend beyond traditional development environments to encompaas differing form factors, physical hardware, etc. -- to meet the exigencies demands of software in product engineering environments? Governance and management remain key --from ideation and product portfolio planning through to requirements, testing, change management, product deployment in the context of complex regulatory and internationalization challenges in a global market. The pressing needs and appetites of consumers for "intelligent" products as well as product businesses and manufacturers benefit from software governance and life cycle management for embedded software and product engineering. This drive towards running software on a plethora of platforms and devices - which increases the complexity of development and creates both additional opportunities and challenges - is also exemplified in the mad push to quickly create and to quickly adopt mobile applications. The speed to build and the urgent rush to adopt alluring and engaging new mobile software - along with our insatiable need to be constantly connected to key business and personal applications -- is driving exponential growth in the numbers of mobile applications available. Yet the creation of these mobile applications is typically not accompanied with consistent governance and lifecycle management approaches. Users are more concerned about application speed than they are with quality challenges, security vulnerabilities or undermining defects. At the same time, I see a significant increase in the outsourcing and off-shoring of mobile software creation. Many vendors simply don't have the specialized resources themselves to put in effective frameworks to create, manage and test mobile applications. Automation for mobile application lifecycle management is emerging in this context. And I'm curious about your experiences. How are you and your organization dealing with testing, change management and life cycle for embedded software and also for mobile applications? What sorts of policies and processes is your company putting in place to enable stable, consistent, secure mobile or embedded software? Or is your approach ad hoc? What's the worst failure and the greatest anxiety that you have about current approaches? What's your favorite, high performing, stellar mobile application? How long do you have to wait for a poorly performing mobile app before you ditch it? Have you used your existing ALM tools to target mobile or embedded software development? Let's get this thread going and keep it moving. Posted by Melinda Ballou

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