Tag Archives: agile

Keeping up with technology…a lot like Formula 1

Uniface, being a low-code platform which shields developers from technology changes in the application stack, takes pride on staying on top of the leading edge of technology. To start, the application stack I refer to is based on the Open Systems Interconnection model (OSI) defined by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) about the interoperability and communication layers. So all the technologies needed to maintain applications’ interoperability while communicating to achieve the business goal as programmed by the developers.

In Uniface development, we have a track record of keeping up with technology, nowadays more challenging than 33 years ago when Uniface started of course. 😉

Let me share how Uniface development approaches technology and technological paradigms. Uniface is a technology partner for our customers and partners. As such, we take pride in actively participating in the technological world around us, which should add value to our customers. It also reinforces our relationship with technology resulting in the Uniface direction. Additionally, and with the intention of being transparent, we blog about it.

I want to start by making an analogy between Uniface and Formula 1 (F1 Championships). In F1 racing there are also a lot of technological developments on which all car manufacturers and teams rely on (powertrains, ERS, ES, power units, tire compound, telemetry, DRS, KERS, chassis, etc.). Actually all of the participants follow the evolution of these developments actively or passively depending on their area of expertise (additionally sanctioned by the FIA).

It is the same in our application development world, there is a lot of technology involved and we do actively follow it. Essential to that and following the Uniface value proposition, we need to be up to par with the latest trends in what applications need from technology.

Following our analogy, the Uniface car might today have a power unit from Mercedes, while we simultaneously look at the power units from Ferrari and Renault.

The Lab and the engineers look at all technologies and we make sure that the leading edge in technology is used by the car we build (Uniface) because that is what makes us different. Product Management makes sure that our customer requirements plus the technology innovations are included in the Uniface portfolio.

I think that all of the above confirms to our customers the value Uniface provides is much more than one mere technology, but they can be confident we are looking at a much broader spectrum of the application technology stack.

Rest assured that the direction that Uniface takes will be defined and determined by Product Management and reflected in the Uniface roadmap.

 

If innovation is so important, why isn’t everyone doing it? 

So why isn’t everyone innovating? Sometimes people simply get too comfortable with the status quo to try something new. Think how many users were reluctant to move from Windows 7, which admittedly let them do their job fine, to Windows 8, which some considered less perfect. But, once they were through the Windows 7/8 mourning curve, it was easy to change to Windows 10, with very quick emotional acceptance and significant benefits.

Another major reason for not innovating is that people have more pressing things to do, and this is no doubt true. Throughout life, we often hear phrases like: “I’m too busy,” “I’ve got higher priorities,” and “We have to clear the backlog.” Within the IT function, some technical teams are big enough only to keep up with day-to-day maintenance, leaving no scope to craft new solutions or modernize legacy applications. Large organizations may also find they spend too much time and resources “keeping the lights on,” with little left for innovation.

Innovation

A Catch 22 situation then arises, because by not moving forward, it becomes harder to deliver. This can lead to a failure to give the organization the business agility it needs.

Another reason for failure to innovate at the right pace, is that for many organizations, it’s difficult to make innovation work. As discussed in a recent article by Anderee Berengian, the innovation lab model has often failed. I’m going to elaborate on Berengian’s conclusion that “real innovation comes from outside your company,” as although that may be true for some, for the rest of us there is an alternative.

In my first blog post I addressed the question: What comes first—innovation or agility? In my next post I will look at 3 approaches to innovation for organizations.

This series is based on the paper: Agility and Innovation in Application and Mobile Development.  

You can download the paper here.

What comes first: innovation or agility?

The question of why innovation and business agility are vital –and independent is one that is top of mind for many organizations.

Business agility is essential to survival. With economic uncertainty everywhere, and disruption in many marketplaces, businesses need to respond fast to change. A key enabler for this ability is an IT function that is inherently good at innovating. IT must produce ingenious ideas that will facilitate the required fast business response, for example by equipping the workforce for mobile working. There are any number of innovative uses of mobile technology: for example, a sales person can take and personalize an order while walking around a shop with a customer; a doctor can receive real-time information about a patient’s vital signs.

IT innovation is essential to business agility. However, you also need agility before you can innovate in IT or anywhere else. Which comes first is hard to judge. Organizations tend to start life with both agility and innovation. However, as they get bigger, their agility tends to become constrained for various reasons. Hence their rate of innovation declines, creating a vicious circle.

Innovation and agility

Complex though the relationship between innovation and agility is, we can probably agree that both are vital to a healthy business, and particularly vital when a business is contemplating digital transformation (where the organization rethinks aspects of its existence to take full advantage of digital technology, rather than simply automate the existing way of working). Digital transformation implies that a business must be able to innovate digitally to overtake the competition, with enough agility to reshape itself around the resultant landscape. An agile IT department has the ability and opportunity to create what the business needs – or else to go out and find it fast.

This blog post is the first in a series based on the paper: Agility and Innovation in Application and Mobile Development.

You can download the paper here.

Real Life Scrum: A Presentation to Technology Students in Amsterdam

On Tuesday December 1st, Uniface was invited to deliver a guest lecture at the Technical School in Amsterdam for the students who have ambition in the Technology area. From Uniface Berry Kuijer, JiaoJiao Xia and I were the representatives to share their knowledge, expertise and real-life experiences with the students.

The presentation started with an ‘Introduction of Uniface’ focusing on few key points, by Berry Kuijer:
-History and vision of Uniface
-Customers and the market span
-Business model
-Development and deployment
-A live Uniface application development demo

Next in line were Jiaojiao and I to give a presentation about “Scrum in Uniface lab.” We briefed the students about the software development methodology used for managing the product development in Uniface. First we explained how the agile-scrum methodology are being used in Uniface Lab, by maximizing the team’s ability to deliver quickly, to respond to emerging requirements and to adapt to evolving technologies and changes in market conditions.

Second part of the presentation was about showing the ‘bigger picture’ of scrum by giving a real life example and how to apply it in daily life. We gave an example of what started off as a simple story in the lab and then showed how it became more complex and larger because of additional requirements. We wanted the students to understand that in the “real world” of software development, you can’t always foresee everything in the beginning. With the example we gave—we realized more about the complexity of a feature and its impact on the existing software architecture while started working on the feature, and therefore how a particular requirement would than emerge bigger than it appeared before. There are of course many other examples of how things can change during the process of building software.

Uniface
Uniface Lecture Team

So we took them from defining the features (user stories) into the wish list (product backlog), proceeded by planning those into workable timeslots (sprints) while reviewing the progress on the daily scrums to present the finished result in the review or demo meeting. Concluding with the retrospective to reflect and learn how to improve the process by knowing what went well and what can be improved. This was emphasized while reviewing examples on how it worked in practice in our teams and with our product owners in Uniface. Finally, we told them that they could apply this methodology to their team assignments and their current studies or practices.

The presentation was well received by the students as the whole atmosphere was stimulated by interaction and interesting questions coming from the students. The concept of SCRUM was very clear and they could relate to our “real life” example when requirements change, get larger, etc. It was a great experience for us and we also believe that the students benefited from being exposed to the perspectives that the Uniface guest lecture team provided.

Gartner Symposium, Barcelona: Strategic Decision Makers, Old Colleagues & a Famous Footballer!

This week, Uniface exhibited at the Gartner Symposium held in BarcelonaOur team was composed of representatives from marketing, sales and management, with the aim to promote Uniface, whilst also attending sessions held by Gartner and its sponsors. We also took the opportunity to interact with many other organizations that were exhibiting. We embraced the chance to speak to strategic decision makers, during which we had a number of very good conversations, illustrating the unparalleled strength of the Uniface platform and how it addresses the ‘challenges that keep CIOs up at night’.

We met many new organizations and partner prospects as well as existing customers, and lots of people who are part of the Uniface ecosystem. Some of those we met started their careers as Uniface professionals, a selection of which were over 20 years ago. They remained happy to see us going from strength to strength. We also met a world famous footballer!  

Uniface
Do you recognize this world famous footballer?

 Having spoken to one Gartner analyst, a key message that came across showed that the world is reacting to the concept of ‘business/mobile moments’, which manifests itself as having smaller focused apps that do one thing well. The huge monolithic applications we know today will transition to API services (i.e. a strong integrated backend) and there will be more targeted single function mobile apps. These will compose the enterprise mobile solutions of the near future. This significant change is touching many parts of the IT industry and the way consumers interact with technology.

To achieve this goal, it is important for organizations to explore and embrace modern approaches, including topics such as Agile, DevOps, Continuous Delivery etc…, all with the goal to improve software quality and the velocity of delivery. Annual release cycles of new solutions have become less desirable, with our industry tending to move to small incremental releases, regularly. Consumers are not worried about version numbers, they just want continual improvement. Given the proposed small changes with each regular release, solution adoption will be better accepted, because each change, although continual, will be gradual. Things will ‘feel’ familiar and evolutionary, rather than creating potential rejection through revolutionary change. This does not suggest the complete end to significant updates by the way.

Now this may sound like a big change to an organization’s way of working…..it is. So how do we address this is a sensible way? One answer is to take Gartner’s bimodal approach. We work in the new way for all new development and innovations, while at the same time continuing in the more traditional modes for existing items, then transition this old style over time. I’ve simplified bi-modal somewhat, however I hope you get the basic idea.

Uniface
Demoing Uniface to Gartner Analyst

I spoke to a second analyst who also provided some good common sense reminders we all forget from time to time e.g. “What is the best reason to try and reduce the cost of IT?” Some would say “to improve profits.” This seems like a sensible answer and can be, however, it is flawed. A better answer is “to allocate more of the IT budget to new innovation instead of regular maintenance.” Studies suggest up to 92% of resources goes into maintenance, leaving only 8% for innovation. It is innovation that makes the difference and yields success.

In a conversation with a third analyst, more aspects about future directions were discussed. Hot topics that came up were API’s (…second nature for Uniface), legacy integration/reuse (…another walk in the park for Uniface), web and mobile development (…please give me a challenge) and aPaaS (…you got me!). The last topic is very interesting and something for us to really think about. The market still faces challenges in this area and CIOs are also ‘kept awake at night’ by this. We also talked about the transition from traditional desktop GUI’s to web based and mobile. The trend is rapidly accelerating with the vast majority of new projects now being targeted at API services & mobile, whether that be phones, tablets, wearables or web.  

Given the four days spent interacting with many new analysts & organizations, I could write endlessly, so I will stop now and save some for another day. In the meantime, enjoy some pictures.

Uniface
Uniface at Gartner Symposium