Analyst: In-house app development fraught with waste

A study by the boutique consultancy Voke finds corporate software development in a state of dysfunction marked by budget woes, protracted project lengths and dissatisfied end users.

But at the same time, enterprises are placing higher value on business analysts, who serve as an intermediary between line-of-business employees and development teams, gathering project requirements and acting as "the keeper of a consistent and agreed-upon vision of the applications being developed," the report states.

Voke surveyed more than 125 people in business analyst roles, with about half working for companies with 5,000 or more employees.

Fifty percent of respondents said a typical project cost between US$1 million and $5 million, and 7 percent pegged it at more than $20 million.

As for labor, some 63 percent said it took less than 200 "person-months" to finish a project, while 38 percent said it took at least 2,000.

Meanwhile, more than one-third of projects are abandoned after being implemented, and only 37 percent of finished projects met users' needs.

"Everything we have been conditioned to believe indicates that project time is shrinking. And while I believe this is true in highly optimized and mature organizations, I do think in-house development is fraught with problems, delays, and indecision," Voke analyst Theresa Lanowitz said in an e-mail.

That could change as companies begin placing more emphasis on the role of business analysts. About one-third of respondents said their company planned to hire more.

But the study also found that 45 percent of existing business analysts had previously worked in development and testing, with only 15 percent coming from the line of business. As they add more analysts, companies should try to be more diverse in their choices, Lanowitz said.

Companies are also investigating the use of dedicated requirements gathering tools, the study found.

Right now, they are predominantly using Microsoft Word, "which results in large documents that are not easily reviewed, shared or amended," and therefore contribute to failed projects, according to the study.

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