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At Gartner AD Summit: SCM is not just about software

[Los Angeles] -- Developers, notoriously stereotyped for a nerdish lack of people skills, will have to pay more attention to political and social issues within their organizations if they want their projects to succeed. That was the tough love analysis Jim Duggan offered to an audience made up largely of programmers and their managers at the Gartner Application Development Summit 2003 in Los Angeles on Monday.

Half of IT projects fail because of issues that have nothing to do with technology, the Gartner research director told a standing room- only audience that came to hear his take on the future of software change management (SCM).

Duggan made it clear that, in Gartner’s view, managing change is more than just checking for defects and making sure new code works with old systems. Communications failures in IT projects are not always about network connections; it is often a failure of IT people to communicate the value of changes and new configurations to end users and executives.

“Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic,” he quipped while explaining to his largely programmer audience how non-programmers, including CEOs, view much of what they do.

It isn’t enough, or even wise, to discuss how change and configuration management tools will make IT more productive, Duggan warned.

In Duggan’s view, the key to making applications changes successful is to keep in mind the various points of view of the audiences within an organization. For example, he said that while programmers love to make changes to software, end users often hate it because they have to learn how to work with a new system or interface when they were comfortable with the old one. Here it is important to communicate values they will understand, such as easier access to the information they need to do their jobs.

Similarly, the value of changes must be communicated to executives in terms they understand, such as reduced risk to the organization from downtime, Duggan said.

About the Author

Rich Seeley is Web Editor for Campus Technology.

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