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Should Enterprises Merge IT and App Dev Teams?

With the advent of the cloud and the need to use production-like data sets for application development, IT has become a profit center opportunity for the enterprise.  The CIO and his/her team now have the ability to steer the direction of the company and greatly influence quarterly and annual revenue by creating software and applications that positively affect operations and/or generate revenue.

Every organization is becoming a software business. Every organization is collecting data, analyzing data, and striving to bring new, differentiated products and services to market faster – with the sole purpose of gaining competitive advantage – and the CIO is driving this.

This shift has caused a tension between certain teams that inherently either manage or use production-like data sets in their daily operations.  IT tends to own these data sets; while application development teams need constant refreshes of these data sets to build or update applications for testing, development, and eventually, for release. There is a challenge that IT faces in their ability to deliver updated data sets quickly (especially large ones) in a format that is compliant and useful.  Application Development also faces the challenge of being able to quickly request these data sets.  

Internal application development has grown into a new profit center that aims to develop innovative ways to make their external customer more delighted or give internal customers a better operational edge. Over the past 15 years, many large enterprises have in-sourced their software development, choosing to build out internal application development teams over the outsourced model. This approach has led to an increase in demand for talent, culture development and professional development programs.  It has also led to an increased demand for massive data sets to be made available for testing excellence.  

Application developers need access to real time production-like data sets in order to test and create new versions of their software. This process can take time because they don’t own the data. IT teams on the other hand, own the data and need to provide access to these data sets.  App Dev teams are at the mercy of their IT teams’ ability and speed to clone these data sets and provide them in a timely and secure manner. The challenge lies in the ability for IT (usually database and storage admins) to quickly provide new versions of data for development purposes.  

Should these two teams just merge to keep the peace?

Not necessarily.  

Instead of folding the teams together, which could pose a culture shock and logistical nightmare, there are two tactics that can make the operational model of data requests and data service flow more smoothly:

Set Expectations: Many teams report a lag in IT’s ability to provide data sets, especially large data sets.  Are SLA’s in place? Have those SLAs been communicated and agreed upon? If so, are they realistic? Does IT have the ability to meet them? Over-communication is key.

Optimize the request process: Operationally, a simple change should streamline the request for new data sets. Ticketing systems can be implemented to automate processes and create reminders and deadlines. The goal is to make sure nothing falls through the cracks. Ideally, implementing self service capabilities to access new data sets is recommended. This requires a set of guidelines and security measures to make sure that sensitive data is not released. 

The more quickly new software versions go live, the greater the potential there is to increase revenue. This is more a conversation about teams working better together and being enabled to be efficient and effective vs. one team owning or controlling another.

What other ideas do you have about improving the operational abilities between Development and IT? 

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