By Belatrix Software | Topics: Software Product Development Predictions 2015
Your home lights are now wifi-enabled and connected to your smartphone. Developers create apps for the Philips Hue range of lamps which automatically change your lighting depending on the weather or if you take a later bus home. Underpinning these kinds of highly contextual product experiences is ever more complex software.
Similarly it is software now underpinning the core business critical activities in almost every industry. You book your flight via the airlines´ mobile application. Physicians interact with and view critical patient data via applications while they are on the go. Digital supply chains upend traditional manufacturing. Financial services firms are so heavily reliant on technology, and in particular software, they now employ more technology experts than some major ISVs – Goldman Sachs has over 6,000 developers and approximately 25% of its workforce work in technology.
Developing this type of business-critical, customer-centric, and also user-friendly software is simply a whole different ballgame, and one which requires a fundamentally different mindset and approach than traditional software development methods. So in the midst of this transformational upheaval, where developing software becomes the backbone of organizations and a fundamental business activity, we’ve identified four very specific predictions for the future of software product development in 2015:
We believe each of these will have a fundamental impact on your business and technology agendas for 2015. Lets take a look at each in turn, and what organizations should do to prepare for these changes.
2014 was the year when the increasing complexity of software forced fundamental changes to development processes. The resulting complexity simply requires new approaches to software product development. We believe “design thinking” best captures what will be needed in this new world. Put simply, in software product development, design thinking involves creating multi-disciplinary teams including product managers, developers, QA, and user experience experts. Together these experts take a holistic perspective to problems, applying creativity to customer stories, and rapidly develop prototypes to test new ideas.
Taking a design thinking approach forces greater emphasis on the end customer and the market. Particularly during a time which Forrester Research is calling the “Age of the Customer” (defined as “a 20-year business cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers”) such a customer-centric approach as provided by design thinking will be critical for developing the next generation of products. Design thinking can also help offset and complement the sometimes overly “development-centric” Agile methodologies where the focus on the customer can at times be overshadowed.
Many organizations continue to focus on transitioning from old waterfall approaches to Agile. It may seem challenging then, to add an extra layer of complexity by bringing in design thinking. However as mentioned the two approaches strongly complement each other. If you do not have experience with design thinking, start simply with workshops where team members can share ideas in a non-judgemental environment. Meanwhile, identify your current product development processes to determine where a more customer-centric perspective can be brought in.
Whether it is implementing Hadoop, or experimenting with big data visualization, or predictive solutions, more and more enterprises are finding innovative and highly contextual uses for the emerging world of big data.
For product development, the opportunity to generate a much richer perspective on product usage via the data collected provides tremendous opportunity to improve product sustenance work, as well as providing insights for new product development. Major dynamics, such as mobility, wearables, and the internet of things, are all driving ever increasing amounts of data. Meanwhile the transition to cloud and as-a-service models complements this, requiring continual updates and releases.
In addition we believe there is an additional element to big data which in many cases has been overlooked. As organizations collect more and more data about their partners, customers and business activities, so there are increasingly opportunities to sell this data and create data products – welcome to the world of “big data commercialization”.
The first step is to start looking at the data sources which you already have. Many organizations continue to have disparate siloes of data, where you may not know for example what your marketing or procurement colleagues are collecting. Developing this complete view of the data related to the product or service provides key evidential insights to developing and enhancing your product portfolio. Meanwhile, if you’re interested in taking the data commercialization route, make sure to closely examine potential concerns- you will need active buy-in and consent from your customer base if you plan to start selling data products based on their data. After this, decisions will need to be made whether you want to sell the data yourself, or work with a third party to develop the platform or application. Companies are emerging which can help with these commercialization activities, from helping conceptualize new product ideas, all the way through to helping generate a new market for your data product.
25 cents of every IT dollar spent is now spent on QA and testing. But over a third of organizations report they want to increase this budget. At a time when software defines how your interact and sell to your customers, it is clear that testing and QA has become a key business priority.
But just ask yourself, what do you really think about the quality of the applications you download? While software has become the critical interface between companies and their customers, the quality of that software in many cases fails to delight, entice or even in many cases provide basic functionality. This is occurring at a time when customers have less tolerance than ever for applications which are slow, full of bugs, and difficult to use.
The challenge is simply how do you test effectively in a fast-paced environment. Mobility, social media, and providing geographically contextual services, all present tremendous challenges for today´s testers. Particularly in product development where continuous development, continuous testing, and continuous releases now define the world, this is an even greater challenge. The only option is Agile testing. Agile testing requires multi-faceted changes to traditional testing approaches – from team and organizational behavior and structures, to automation, and Agile adoption.
Testing in product development has long been considered a core and critical capability, as opposed to an after-thought in many IT organizations. However in today´s world testing is harder, but more critical than ever. Organizations which have implemented an Agile testing organization typically require a multi-faceted approach to do this – from changing organizational structures, to increasing the proportion of automation in testing. Meanwhile, if you lack the resources, skills, or willingness to invest in training your QA experts, then partner with a specialist firm that does. But be selective when choosing such a partner- those with a background in product development will likely consider testing to be of greater importance, and will have developed greater focus on testing and QA.
In 2014 news abounded regarding open source – companies from Cisco to Goldman Sachs stated they were embracing open source. Meanwhile the big data open source platform, Hadoop, continues to gain rapid traction within enterprises. But within product development, open source is also having a transformative impact, and one which we believe will become even more important in the next 12-18 months.
For developing products the ability to reuse available open source components and code presents tremendous advantages at a time when speed to market is critical. In addition, standardizing across form factors helps reduce ever increasing complexity. While lowering development costs presents clear motivation for taking the open source route, we believe it is rather the advantages in business agility, quality, and increased development speed which will ultimately drive open source in commercial software product development.
This reflects how the conversation around open source has shifted from cost cutting to business agility, quality, and speed. Indeed it is increasingly difficult to develop innovative software, without open source.
If you haven’t already, start examining the potential of open source in your software product development initiatives. Interestingly many companies embrace open source partly as way to make them more attractive to developers, who are attracted by working in a more open source community, than for closed source software houses. Meanwhile when working with open source look to components which have been widely used and where the community is active- this will help ensure quality, but also that the component is well-maintained in the future. Plus make sure that you’re actively participating in those communities where you are sourcing components from.
Developing the next generation of software products represents tremendous challenges at a time when customers expect more and the risks associated with taking a product not yet ready to market are greater than ever. We believe that using design thinking, to force a more customer-centric approach to your development efforts will result in better products. Open source meanwhile represents an opportunity to cut development times, and take advantage of vibrant development communities at the cutting-edge of technology. Finding ways to commercialise big data meanwhile has the potential to create significant new revenue streams. And finally, advanced and mature Agile testing capabilities will be required to ensure products delight their users.
Achieving all this represents a tall order. Creating an organization fit for developing software products in 2015 will be a tremendous challenge. But if you get this right, customers will interact and view your company in a very different way than in the past.