Jazz and Diversity in Software Development

Over the past few weeks I have come back to a common theme in my discussions with customers.  We have started out talking about Jazz based technologies.  I have been making the point that having the capability that Jazz provides for a balanced and diversified portfolio of open source, cheap source, and commercial tools, allows organizations to be flexible, while still being able to collect enterprise wide software development metrics.  I discuss this in an earlier post on How Does Rational Jazz Compare with Open Source Solutions, in the last paragraph of that blog entry.
What Jazz and a diversified tool portfolio REALLY does for an organization is to reduce their overall risk.  As a user of software tools, an organization can decide on a strategy for how they consume and use software development tools.  They can provide a portfolio of tools, and allow projects to select the tools that best fit their needs.  They can decide to go with a single vendor approach (hopefully that would be IBM/Rational).  They can then change course as the business climate dictates, without a large disruption of development activities, due to the Jazz infrastructure supplying a common interface for ALL Jazz based tools.
The people that I have talked to in the past few weeks have acknowledged this as a strategic benefit for their organizations.  Then we have discussed how Jazz allows an organization visibility into ALL software development efforts, which allows them to monitor offshored and outsourced efforts with greater ease.  They can then decide on what types of projects work well offshore, what types of engagement models work best with outsourced work, who the good vendors are, and who the bad vendors are.
Then on the way back to the hotel the other night it hit me (it took me a couple of weeks to get back to this post).  I was listening to some guy on the radio stressing the importance of having a diversified investment portfolio, especially in light of the recent economic conditions.  My 401(k) has taken a beating, but it could have been much worse, since I was diversified.  So my mind was wandering, and I began to think about what is important for software development today.  I was thinking about the diversity of the people that I meet in a day.  That’s when it hit me.
What are the key aspects that corporations demand from their software development organizations?  I would argue that they are:

  • Contribution to the bottom line – return on investment
  • Development of innovative new technologies and products
  • Reducing the risks to the business

I then thought about a thread that was common to each of these things.  Diversity.  How do you get a good return on investment from an IT Organization, or an R&D organization?  You have a diverse portfolio of projects.  Some will fail, some will succeed.  If your organization is a success, the contributions of the winners will exceed the cost of the losers.  A little bit of simple business math will give you a return on investment for your software organization.  A diverse portfolio of software projects allows you to hedge risk, and maintain a healthy and consistent return on investment.
How does an organization develop innovative new products and technologies?  Thru the collaboration of a diversified workforce.  People with diverse backgrounds bouncing ideas off of each other, collaborating and using original ideas to fuel even more original ideas, in a vicious cycle.  So we are talking about not only cultural diversity, but diversity in work experience, diversity of educational backgrounds, and most importantly a diversity of opinions and viewpoints.  Allowing and encouraging collaboration between a diverse workforce will (one hopes) encourage and foster innovation.
Finally we get to reducing the risks to the business.  This also relies on diversity.  Businesses reduce risks through improved governance of not only IT processes, but all business processes.  They also reduce risks through improved security.  This means electronic, physical, and financial security systems.  Organizations that rely on a single mode of security, or governance, leave themselves open to the exploitation of that mode of enforcement.  A mix of human and automated modes of enforcement will provide a depth in layers (to steal a military term) for these risk mitigation systems.  Diversity.
So what does it REALLY mean?  It was just a thought that hit me, and it seemed somewhat profound.  It is an argument for diversity, but we really don’t need MORE of that today, most businesses and people buy into this philosophy already.  I guess that the real point here is that software organizations should not rely on a single technology, or a single vendor, or a single ANYTHING, when looking at long term strategic direction.  They should realize that a diversified approach, within common frameworks and reporting mechanisms, will be the most effective and least risky in the long run.  Jazz enables this diversity in approaches, tools, teams and platforms.  This is a strategic benefit that is hard to quantify, but very real nonetheless.

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