Developers more of a challenge than software

Getting 1200 developers to agree to one idea is like herding cats.

For ANZ Bank's Denis McGee, chief technologist for enterprise and staff technologies, that was the biggest challenge of a multi-year project to standardise the maturity of its software.

Getting buy-in from many developers - who were cynical about a change in process – was the toughest aspect for McGee who had the mammoth task of getting all software operations at the ANZ Bank to Capability Maturity Model (CMM) level five.

"There are always cynics who think 'why do I need to change?' So strong leadership is definitely necessary," McGee said.

"We went through the typical valley of despair period, but after we got a couple of wins on the board even the most hardened cynics turned around." He added that no organization wins over 100 percent of its staff; there are always a few that will resist based on the belief they can do without process.

McGee said ANZ decided to introduce a methodology to more effectively measure and manage its software operations and the process started in October 1999. Speaking exclusively to Computerworld, McGee said most of the IT organization is currently at CMM level three so there is still plenty of work to be done. (CMM was developed by the software community with stewardship by the Software Engineering Institute and became a de facto standard for assessing and improving software processes.)

"We found a lot of financial information was poorly organised which is why we have taken a structured approach. The biggest holes were in the development lifecycle and scope management; we want to try and get it right before testing," he said.

The bank's developers are principally based in Melbourne but are spread across other parts of the country and also in India, London and New Zealand.

"We have a three-pronged approach to software. First, we try and reuse it. If we have to buy a solution we build the interfaces and reports around it and the last thing we want to do is build from the ground up, it takes too many development dollars," McGee said.

"When we set out on this journey I promised there wouldn't be any staff reductions, I would simply add more value to the business." That has certainly happened with a productivity increase of 40 percent.

"In the time it took to do four standard releases, the team are now doing six because there is less rework and more output," he said. Production errors have dropped considerably and McGee said there has been a 70 percent reduction in downtime.

"I estimate savings of about 30 percent, half of which has been ploughed back into delivering function into the business. The reality is that the business is not going to give us more dollars so we have to create value wherever we can," he said.

Asked about project failure rates as a result of CMM, McGee said ANZ is down to "very few surprises".

"Anyone can push a project over the line if they are willing to throw more cash at it or extend the deadline," he said.

"But the number of failures at ANZ is steadily dropping; really, you can have the best processes in place and still fail, but we can reduce errors because we can measure and manage our development."

To integrate internally developed source code for customization and third-party code while still enforcing business rules and processes, the bank purchased a change management tool from Merant Dimensions.

The tool helped ANZ gain control of its development process as it tracks the content of releases and takes a snapshot at any point in time which can then be used to build new releases.

"We now have a fully integrated enterprise change management framework; our processes are repeatable and controlled," McGee said.

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