Developer

10 ways to improve time-to-market for your applications

IT is under increasing pressure to move at a breakneck speed, rapidly delivering solutions that support business goals and allow the company to stay competitive. These 10 tips can help.

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The application backlogs in nearly every organization are expanding exponentially as companies try to keep pace with competitors and their own internal needs. How can you improve the time-to-market of your applications so they can be inserted into production quicker? Here are some suggestions.

1: Collaborate

Agile development methodologies, like scrum, encourage ongoing collaboration in application requirements definition and development between end users and IT. The more you can keep end users actively engaged in the application development process, the less you will have to worry about the application drifting from what the business expected. When you meet business expectations dead-on the first time, your applications can be placed into production without delay.

2: Prototype often

Application developers now have app prototyping tools that enable users and developers to see the flows and the looks of applications as the apps are being built. This is important in terms of user acceptance and ultimate app readiness. Every time you incorporate a new application element, create a working prototype for end users to test drive and comment on. It is easier to make adjustments in earlier stages of app development than right before the app is scheduled to be moved into production.

3: Virtualize development and test environments

It takes time to configure physical hardware and software for application testing and development. A better approach is to use a cloud service or to virtualize your own development and test environments so that your developers can have dedicated test and development systems. With virtualization, the strain on your DBA and system programmers will also be reduced, since configuration and deployment of virtual systems is quicker.

SEE: 7 tips for cleaning up after a failed sandbox project

4: Hold users accountable

Users get busy, too—so there is always a tendency for them to walk away from the development and testing process after they feel they have given IT all their app requirements. Don't let this happen. Ensuring that applications stay on course with requirements during development should be as much of an end-business responsibility as it is an IT responsibility.

5: Work on usability as much as you work on features and functions

You'd be surprised at how many data errors and end user trouble reports are generated because of poor navigation and screen or report design. Giving equal time to usability as well as to technical design can go a long way toward ensuring that apps are accepted and placed into production the first time.

SEE: 10 ease-of-use considerations for building topnotch apps

6: Implement a standard library of routines you can reuse

The easiest way to ensure app compatibility with other software you use is to standardize routines (e.g., a date routine) so that they can be pulled from a common library and used over and over again.

7: Don't forget quality assurance

It is important to thoroughly QA an application—from both a usability and a technical performance standpoint. Organizations are still seeing 50% of IT's programming time being committed to software maintenance—which happens because apps fail or don't do what they are supposed to do. You can help prevent this by designing apps that work correctly the first time and every time, thereby freeing up maintenance staff so you can redirect those resources into more new development.

8: Regression test for performance

Organizations continue to unit test applications and then try to rush them into production without performing a full regression test to ensure that the new app will handle the transaction load it is supposed to be able to handle—or that it is compatible with all the other software it must run with. When an app breakdown occurs in production because regression testing wasn't done, it can become a major embarrassment for a company.

SEE: 10 ways to implement fast IT without risking failure

9: Train your support staff and your users

User training should be a project task for any new application. If business users aren't trained in how to use an app, they will get frustrated and end up calling your support staff. Before any app goes live, the IT support staff should also be thoroughly trained. If they're not knowledgeable and can't respond to user questions quickly, it could reflect negatively on an application to the point where it must be pulled from production.

10: Design for simplicity

Applications should always use a modular design structure. This enables developers to test and debug individual routines without having to read through an entire program.

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Other tips?

What other suggestions do you have for speeding up time-to-market? Share your advice with fellow TechRepublic members.

About Mary Shacklett

Mary E. Shacklett is president of Transworld Data, a technology research and market development firm. Prior to founding the company, Mary was Senior Vice President of Marketing and Technology at TCCU, Inc., a financial services firm; Vice President o...

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