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Championing Efficient Application Lifecycle Management for Greater Business Gains

Aaron Gette, CIO, The Bay Club Company

With most companies redefining their brand with software, whether it’s delivering services or building products, how does an IT leader manage the ever-growing application lifecycle while keeping the needs of the business in focus? Is it best to build a team in house to drive both innovation and build consolidated effective applications or do you leverage the multitude of vendors and partners the world over to run it all? The best way to manage brand identity is likely somewhere in between, depending on your ability to attract the right talent and governance that keeps your business and data safe. In many organizations, an effective leader aligns with the business and executes strategies based on the team’s capability to create and manage new applications.

Innovation drives competition and having the competitive edge can come down to how your customers and your employees leverage the applications that differentiate your company. Custom applications play an essential role in providing this differentiation. The unique customer experience these applications can provide is the most important way that IT provides value. However these custom applications take a tremendous amount of effort and require the right players to bring them to life. Once they enter the world they need care and feeding from those not just keeping the lights on. The creation and operation of applications are done as part of the Application Lifecycle Management (ALM) process. ALM is not always well understood at the senior Executive level and can be lost in the overall business strategy. As more Millennials become part of the work force and change the way technology is perceived, it’s clear that organizations have to make a concerted effort to include ALM in the overall business strategy. No different from sales, marketing and operations, ALM plays a critical role in the long-term success of any business.

  ‚ÄčIt’s fundamental to establish the ALM strategy that will bring your organization the competitive advantages to delivery success both internally and externally to all your customers 

Apple has built an empire on the idea to “think Different.” Your business may do different things from your competitors by offering innovative products, entering unexplored markets, or just providing similar offerings but in a whole new avatar; the bottom line is to be cut above the rest in the market you serve by being different. Applications, to that end, have emerged as the enabler of creating unique customer experience that is unique that could just be the differentiator for many businesses. Competitive advantage is attributed to the organizations that can successfully create and deliver an experience that crosses devices, platforms and media. The ability to reinvent and stay ahead of the competition is difficult, and with new developers growing up in every household in the world, copycats aren’t the form a flattery you’re looking for.

Being the first to market gives the organization a substantial competitive advantage. Those that initially follow this strategy also gain some benefit from it, but by the time it’s best practice, you’ve lost your edge. That is when innovation becomes a requirement and there are many instances of this in almost every vertical. In hospitality, those hotels to first provide a mobile check in are looked at as industry leaders and are driving the customer experience that separates them from other chains. The next hotels to deploy a mobile experience that gave customers that ability also gained some of that the advantage, but now almost every chain has to have some mobile experience. Eventually successful ALM strategy becomes part of the IT infrastructure. What makes up any organization’s IT infrastructure was all once an innovation that presented competitive advantage. IT innovation eventually becomes IT infrastructure requirements that need support.

The IT organization supports the innovations that provide competitive advantages to the business. In most cases that strategy requires the development of custom applications. Off-the-shelf software may allow most businesses to check the box, but differentiation from the completion is highly unlikely. The development and delivery of these applications are ingrained in ALM. The advantage relies heavily on your ability to rapidly design and deliver custom applications that are then transitioned to best practices, so they are supported applications over the entire life cycle. Executing this well is intrinsic to the success of any ALM strategy. A business’ ALM prowess thus has a direct effect on its capability to produce a real competitive advantage.

A sound ALM strategy is aligned with the goals of the business and is inherent to the overall business strategy. With all the opportunities out there to differentiate the business from the competition, a great IT leader relies on IT investments to support that innovation. Most often those investments are the array of custom applications that create a unique customer experience; these applications that are fashioned and succeeded through application lifecycle management. The IT organizations ability to support business strategies requires the alignment of stakeholders across the business. Many IT leaders place too much concern over operational risks, while losing focus on the true strategic risks that go beyond the ability to just keep the lights on. The reality is that the inability to support to support the business strategy has a much greater impact than an outage or similar systems failure. By losing out on the venture to differentiate the business due to the IT organization’s inability to meet market demands or customer’s expectations won’t benefit your aspirations nor the brand’s ability to succeed in the new economy of disruption. Equally as important is the ability to answer the bell when a competitor is first to achieve differentiation, learning and adapting to the disruption will ensure the viability of the business. Consistency is the name of the game when developing new applications, whose success is determined by efficient ALM. Implementing and championing ALM as the institution for business strategy is a requirement for any successful IT leader. As we build confidence and community across our businesses, it’s fundamental to establish the ALM strategy that will bring your organization the competitive advantages to delivery success both internally and externally to all your customers.

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