Inside IT
Adding Agility to IT Development

Emerging Tech Trends and Issues 6

Numrique

The stakes continue to rise for organizations to develop and keep fresh web portals to provide a high quality service experience. The emerging “screen economy” relies on the most valuable piece of real estate, the computer or mobile device’s screen. With limited space, the portal remains the critical virtual location where most visitors start their service and journey with your organization. The challenge for IT developers is to continue to figure out cost effective and timely ways to leverage every bit of the computer or mobile device screen with content, features and functions to keep the user attention and to help meet their information needs. Agile systems development methods are an emerging method to help IT professionals to construct new systems or update existing systems effectively.

Recently, I started a new systems development project to plan and implement a portal to help researchers find and use a large array of IT resources. In many cases like my current development project, building a portal is like organizing a messy and cluttered closet. Data, software, storage, technology tools, expertise, and financing are scattered. The end user has very frustrating experiences trying to find the resources they need. Even more challenging end users need to know how to access and use the resource, negotiate permission to use the resource, and figure out how to apply the resource to their needs. They need knowledge about the resource, knowledge about organizational and institutional workflows, knowledge about the technical operation, and knowledge about where to find the knowledge and expertise of others colleagues.

In my experience studying and examining the development of web portals going back to the early days of digital government and e-commerce in the mid-1990’s,portal development has matured to improving the user experience and service quality. As outlined in “Introduction Portals” from the Oracle Portal Development Guide (https://docs.oracle.com/cd/E13155_01/wlp/docs103/portals/intro.html ), the portal provides the following benefits to the user:

  • Aggregation – The user can go to a single place for all content and applications.
  • Customization – The preferences for a user determine how the portal looks and feels.
  • Personalization – The user can obtain content that is specific to their interests and needs.
  • Organization – The user can arrange the content and applications to make better sense of the information.
  • Integration – The user can work with multiple applications and content sources in a unified fashion.

Portals typically include the following features and benefits:

  • Search – Enterprise and web-based search facilities
  • Content Management – Creation, management, and delivery of content
  • Content Repurposing – Including content from multiple disparate data sources
  • Portals optionally include the following features and benefits:
    • Workflow – Business process management
    • Single Sign-On – Allows users to log on once for all applications within the portal

I noticed that current day pressures to build reliable systems on time still center on the ability of the team to understand the user needs and to develop solutions to meet those needs. The problem is that the clock is ticking quickly for development teams to get this done. Traditional development methods centered on using the systems development life cycle model. Known widely as the “waterfall model”, this is a step by step process starting with identifying the user needs, developing alternative solutions, analyzing the organization and processes, building the system, testing the system, implementing the system and maintaining the system. It’s a process that emphasizes documenting the system as a way of capturing knowledge.

The rise of the social media driven information era that we are experiencing has thrown the traditional approach to the side. Agile methods are quickly emerging.   Agile methods are defined as follows:

  • “Range of lightweight development approaches[1]:
    • Facilitate faster time-to-market and continual integration of new requirements;
    • Increase development productivity while maintaining software quality and flexibility;
    • Increase the organization’s responsiveness while decreasing development”

With the Agile Manifesto, developers are using a variety of approaches to develop systems http://agilemanifesto.org/.

The Agile Manifesto began a software development movement to uncover “better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it by focusing on indivduals and interactions over processes and tools; working software over comprehensive documentation; customer collaboration over contract negotiation; and, responding to change over following a plan” http://agilemanifesto.org/.

A quick look online shows a large and growing list of agile methods including https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development:

  • Adaptive software development (ASD)
  • Agile modeling
  • Agile Unified Process (AUP)
  • Business analyst designer method (BADM)
  • Crystal Clear Methods
  • Disciplined agile delivery
  • Adaptive software development (ASD)
  • Agile modeling
  • Agile Unified Process (AUP)
  • Business analyst designer method (BADM)
  • Crystal Clear Methods
  • Disciplined agile delivery

As my team and I continue to work on this large project, we have been delighted to see the explosion of software tools to support our team and the collaboration and project management that we need to pull this off. Of course it is great to see how MS Office and Google Docs continue to add features and functions to support group work and collaboration. Its especially nice to see how these tools work on mobile devices just as smoothly as on a desktop or laptop. There is a new generation of tools that are also worth exploring with your team including:

With these tools agile now has agile tools to help you and your team to develop complex software systems in ways that makes it easier to get the work done on time and within budget. Leave me a comment and share what agile methods you are using and what collaboration and project management tools you are using to get the work done.

Links for previous article series:

(1) Knowledge Management: Digitally Transforming Knowledge into Intelligence
http://www.lgcnsblog.com/inside-it/knowledge-management-digitally-transforming-knowledge-into-intelligence/

(2) Smart Cities, Data Warehouses, Data Lakes and the Information Management Challenge
http://www.lgcnsblog.com/inside-it/smart-cities-data-warehouses-data-lakes-and-the-information-management-challenge/

(3) Mobile Phones, Location Awareness, and Your Digital Entourage
http://www.lgcnsblog.com/inside-it/mobile-phones-location-awareness-and-your-digital-entourage/

(4) Thoughts on Tech Trends for 2016
http://www.lgcnsblog.com/inside-it/thoughts-on-tech-trends-for-2016/

(5) Introducing 3-D Printing Technology
http://www.lgcnsblog.com/inside-it/introducing-3-d-printing-technology/

Written by Jon Gant, LG CNS Blog’s Regular Contributor

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[1] Devedzic, V., &Milenkovic, S. R. (2011). Teaching Agile Software Development: A Case Study. IEEE Transactions On Education, 54(2), 273-278 [back to the article]

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