Prioritizing tech projects: How managers make a short list of long demands

Snowed under with requests for mobile, social and analytics apps, IT finds itself juggling priorities to give the business what it wants -- now.

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Currently, Ferguson has brought on five or six student developers who work 25 hours a week on new projects. So far, it's been a win-win situation: Students are teaching their IT counterparts a lot about emerging technologies, while traditional staffers are helping the students understand what it takes to write back-end applications as well as schooling them in enterprise issues like authentication and security.

Tapping mobile development power tools

International transportation company has turned to technology to help IT power through its prodigious project pipeline, especially in the area of mobile development.

Demand from business users for mobile apps was outstripping the IT department's ability to keep pace, according to Jon Yuan, solutions architect in CSX's enterprise architecture team.

What's more, given that CSX has a liberal bring-your-own-technology policy, IT was struggling to stay on top of the wide range of platforms it needed to support, principally Apple iOS and several flavors of Android, and with the pace of updates.

"What we're finding is that mobile is a different animal. There are considerations that we didn't have to take into account with past technologies," Yuan says -- not to mention business users who expect fast turnaround. "People are used to getting things faster with features in near real time," he says. "They don't want to spend six months waiting for new functionality."

To help expedite development, CSX turned to a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP), specifically an offering from Verivo (formerly Pyxis Mobile).

MEAP tools allow developers to design an app once and deploy it anywhere on a variety of mobile platforms without rewriting and in short order, Yuan explains.

Instead of having to write and recode apps to support each individual Android device and for every operating system upgrade, Yuan's team now develops apps using the MEAP's drag-and-drop development environment. Subsequently, they can deploy the app to run on any device without modification.

Keeping rogue IT at bay

Back at Aspen Skiing Co., being responsive to user demand for new technologies, in a fiscally responsible way, defines this new era of IT, says IT director Major.

Without formal methodologies for prioritization and proactive governance, IT departments run the risk of being marginalized -- a risk Major is not willing to take.

"There is not enough space today to miss important technology opportunities. You will be overrun by rogue IT," he says. "Departments will take things into their own hands."

The result, he says, is something most IT managers don't like to contemplate. "Instead of strategic technology decisions, you will end up with one-off projects that go well for six to nine months, and then IT is overrun with calls from people looking for support."

Stackpole, a frequent Computerworld contributor, has reported on business and technology for more than 20 years.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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