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Borland's SDO strategy: Implications for developers

When a toolmaker known for its almost Zen-like focus on developers begins turning its attention toward the business needs and concerns of management, it's fair to ask: "Where will this new strategy leave programmers?"

The toolmaker in question is Borland Software, whose recent unveiling of the next phase of its evolving product strategy, dubbed Software Delivery Optimization (SDO), raises that question.

Borland sees its SDO initiative as another step in the evolution of software development technology, which began with the emergence of the IDE, and has recently morphed the traditional IDE into a new species equipped to manage the entire application lifecycle.

The next step, Borland believes, is to imbue this application life-cycle management (ALM) toolset with additional functionality that will "transform software development from an unpredictable art form into a manageable and repeatable business process."

"ALM was very much about developer productivity," says Martin Frid-Nielsen, VP and general manager of Borland's development services platform business unit. "SDO is about getting it right, doing it cheaper, being more predictable and getting higher quality."

The evolution of these technologies into tools of business reflects the evolving role of the developers who use them, Frid-Nielsen notes.

"The role of the developer is changing, too," he adds. "In IT, they are either developers who understand business or business people who understand development. You don't often see the old approach in which your developers are just coding. That doesn't happen in the commercial software world today."

Unlike previous Borland initiatives, SDO is not a product-centric initiative, explains Boz Elloy, the company's SVP of software products. "We are looking at things from a pain-point removal perspective by role," he explains. "We get the functionality from wherever we need to get it, and then we apply it to take out those pain points."

Borland plans to implement its SDO strategy through a series of projects aimed at delivering subsets of functionality for specific roles within an organization. The fruits of those projects will show up as specific tooling designed for each role. Named for titans from Greek mythology, those projects include Themis, which is about integrated automation for all roles and all platforms for software creation; Hyperion, which is about the visibility and predictability aspect of software creation; and Prometheus, which is about managing software like a business.

All three will provide roles-based access to Borland's ALM tools, along with process management, portal and business intelligence features designed to provide greater control over, and improved visibility into, all stages of the development process.

All of which Elloy sees as nothing but good news for developers.

"[Developers] hate being deployed onto a project, which you are told is the single most important thing you could be spending your time on, and three months later, it's been canned," says Elloy (who is a former developer). "Or you're being pulled off to work on a bug or to maintain a legacy system, or some other system that you built six months ago. Why? Because there wasn't enough rigor in the decision-making process upstream to begin with."

Borland's SDO initiative will provide that rigor, Elloy says.

"Any worthwhile developer I've met is more than capable of designing and developing their code for deployment -- if they know what the exit criteria are to begin with," he says. "SDO is going to help developers approach their jobs with much more confidence and provide much more consistency throughout a project."

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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