Back to the Future – “Modern” Software Development

In my decades-long career in the industry, I’ve seen a lot of things come and go. I was excited to witness and be a part of some, while I couldn’t wait for others to fade away. Many of the recent trends excite and encourage me as they center around developing solid, well-engineered business solutions in a cadence and timeframes that are vital in this age of speed and agility. Some of these “new” methods and principles around Agile development and DevOps are actually not new at all and, dare I say, they are a bit old school.

How We Did Things “Back in My Day”

In the 60s and 70s, I developed software solutions for big corporations, so I remember an era when analysts and programmers sat WITH the business. We interacted continuously and seamlessly with the line of business leaders and domain or subject matter experts. There were no middlemen, liaisons or physical distances to deal with. We were so in sync that we were finishing each other’s sentences and iteratively sharing ideas about what to do next.

We also did our own testing, integration and release into production. Much of it was done at 2:00am or on the weekend. If we had production issues, we’d get called at all hours to make the fix. Life was simple. The work was rewarding, and it was clear who was accountable. As a result of this accountability, responsibility and sharing of consequences, we were very quality-focused.

Then Something Changed…

For some reason, in the late 70s and 80s, we began removing this intimacy, and I was as guilty as anyone. In the name of building the IT profession, careers, camaraderie, setting standards and creating leverage, we centralized the IT group. Yet we still tried to remain connected to our business partners and their line of business or division.

…And it Kept Changing

During the 90s and 2000s, we went even further. In the name of productivity and leverage, we began to outsource, offshore, hire “variable labor,” encourage work from home and hyper-specialize into Centers of Excellence (COEs). We also pulled people out of the line of business they supported and created huge shared services organizations.

Over time, these trends achieved the opposite of efficiency or effectiveness and created huge blind spots. As a result, the smaller, more intimate companies are able to beat the larger, enterprise-scale legacy corporations. These upstarts and modern companies have better speed, agility, cost and job satisfaction among their technical teams. However, with the RE-introduction of the Agile method, many of the larger companies we work with are returning to intimacy, business engagement, ownership, accountability, connection and fun.

If you live and work long enough in this industry, you’ll witness fads that come and go, sometimes at great expense. You’ll also see the underlying patterns and sound, human principles that sustain throughout and return us back to center. It’s truly exciting to see and be a part of it all.

Author: Charlie Feld, Founder, The Feld Group Institute
Connect with Charlie Feld on LinkedIn

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Russell Villemez

Affiliate, The Feld Group Institute

Head of Technology Strategy, Dialexa – a Feld Group Institute partner

Highly regarded CTO and change agent with IT strategy and enterprise architecture expertise.

Russell Villemez is an Affiliate with the Feld Group Institute and the head of Technology Strategy at Dialexa, a Technology Research, Design and Creation firm that works with organizations on initiatives such as Operational Transformation, Business Growth, and New Venture Creation.

During 17 years in operational roles and 15 years in consulting roles, Russell has worked across a variety of industries in both executive leadership positions and as a subject matter expert. Russell thrives on the scale and complexity of leading major change agendas in large corporate environments.

Recent consulting clients include AmerisourceBergen, the American Automobile Association, Brinker International, Cubic, Equifax, and Cox Automotive. A common thread is the client’s need for strong leadership during a period of change—whether motivated by acquisitions, spin-offs, competitive pressures, or other factors. Clients also benefit from Russell’s expertise in enterprise architecture, agile development, application portfolio rationalization, technology and architecture strategy, as well as business strategy and commercial software product development.

Recognized as a versatile IT executive, adept at solving complex problems with innovative solutions, Russell’s capabilities and achievements span a continuum from business-strategy formation to hands-on IT solution development. His extensive career achievements include pioneering the first use of relational databases in high-volume transaction systems in the ‘80s, applying voice recognition DSPs in public intelligent network services for consumer markets in the ‘90s, and leading large-scale adoptions of open systems, object technology, and middleware frameworks in complex business environments, often in advance of commercially available software products.

Prior to joining Dialexa, Russell served at HP as Enterprise Services Chief Technology Officer for the Americas, leading a global capability for embedded Account CTOs in large enterprises. Russell began his career at Accenture, where he first crafted his consultative problem-solving approach, later honed at A.T. Kearny and the Feld Group. Russell’s deep telecom experience is built upon numerous director and enterprise architect positions at AT&T, Bell Atlantic, Telstra, US West, Pacific Bell, and Sprint, and as V.P. and CIO for WebLink Wireless.

Russell has a BS in Business Administration from Louisiana State University and an MBA from Vanderbilt University. In his spare time, Russell participates in amateur auto racing, and is a driving instructor with the Porsche Club of America.