Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Automating the Managed Application Lifecycle Helps Delta Airlines Better Deliver Critical Business Applications

Transcript of a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast, the second in a series discussing a new book on ALM and it's goal of helping businesses become change ready.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

For more information on Application Lifecycle Management and how to gain an advantage from application modernization, please click here.

Dana Gardner: Hi, this is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions, and you're listening to BriefingsDirect.

Thanks for joining this sponsored podcast discussion that examines a new book on application lifecycle management (ALM) best practices, one that offers some new methods for overall business services delivery improvement. Complexity, silos of technology and culture, as well as the shifting landscape of applications’ delivery options have all conspired to reduce the effectiveness of traditional applications’ approaches in large organizations.

In the book, called The Applications Handbook: A Guide to Mastering the Modern Application Lifecycle, the authors pursue the role and impact of automation and management over applications, as well as delving into the need to gain control over applications through a holistic lifecycle perspective.

This is the second (read more about and access the first podcast) in the series of three podcasts on the "Application Lifecycle Management" book. We're here with the authors, but we are also here to learn about how one enterprise, Delta Air Lines, has moved successfully to improve its applications’ quality and impact and to better deliver real business results from those applications.

We will hear Delta story from two IT executives there and gain the reactions to the new application life cycle book’s findings. So please join me now welcoming our panel, David Moses, Quality Assurance Manager for Delta’s eCommerce IT Group, and John Bell, Senior Test Engineer in the eCommerce IT Group at Delta.

David Moses and John Bell: Thanks for having us.

Gardner: And we're joined by book’s authors, Mark Sarbiewski, Vice President of marketing for HP Applications, and Brad Hipps, Senior Manager for Solution Marketing at HP Applications. Welcome back, Brad and Mark.

Mark Sarbiewski and Brad Hipps: Thanks, Dana.

Gardner: Before we get into Delta’s experience, for our listeners, I'd like to explain a bit more about the book. Mark, what were the driving needs or necessities that prompted you to write this and then perhaps get into some of the high-level takeaways and bindings?

Combination of factors

Sarbiewski: It really is a combination of factors, but the headline for me is that, more than ever, business moves as software moves; as your website moves, as your ERP system is advanced, your supply chain, and your financials.

Businesses are driven so much by software now that it's really the long pole in the tent. Standing up infrastructure is a necessity. Potentially, it can be done really fast. How quickly can I innovate on my capabilities for my customers or my internal users?

So, business moves as software moves. When we look at how we've done over the last 10 or 15 years, I could sum it by saying that legacy applications and approaches are just too slow. Not only are they too slow, they are too costly. They're riddled with security holes, which are increasing the challenges out there.

So, we have this dynamic that the business needs to move faster. Software is a prime driver in innovating for the business, and where we've been is simply too slow. We need to rethink our approach across the board, because there is no one silver bullet. It really boils down to I have to leverage the latest technologies for things like reuse, where I get huge leverage for richer customer experiences that need those wonderful new web application technologies that we have.

I have new processes that I can leverage in forms of agile and iterative types of things. To keep the cost in line. I really want to be able to leverage global teams for flexible low cost, but expert resources around the globe. I want them acting as if they were all local, like a dynamic Tiger Team that was all local.

That’s a lot of change to make happen to serve the ultimate business needs. We took the opportunity to take a step back and ask how all these things come together and how you can blend this modern approach to really deliver what you need to deliver for the business.

Gardner: Brad Hipps, do you have anything to offer in terms of what people will take away from the book?

Hipps: A lot of it is the chance to take a step back and have a bit of brain space to consider and contemplate a lot of things Mark just touched on -- what are these ramifications for my organization?

Nine times out of 10, most of us who are in IT developing applications, trying to get on top of what it is the business wants, don't generally have the luxury of taking a step back and asking has the ground shifted underneath my feet with regard to all the things I am now expected to do and the ways I am expected to do them, whether that’s process shifts, organizational shifts, or technology shifts.

Generally the case is that the ground has shifted. Am I equipped, organized, and oriented to respond effectively to all these changes? That’s one of the driving factors of the book and one of the hopes that gives people a chance to step back, contemplate what these changes have been, and also give a bit of guidance about how we might better get on top of these changes and really wring the benefit out of them that we had expected when we first began to make them.

Gardner: Let's go to David Moses at Delta Air Lines. This isn’t just academic now. This is something probably near and dear to you in your day-in and day-out activities. Maybe you could sum up for us quickly what it is that you are doing there at Delta and why your customer-facing applications are so important to your business.

Innovating for customers

Moses: The biggest thing that we have at Delta is to make sure that we innovate for our customers and give them the latest greatest ability to take control of their situation. If somebody wants to book a flight, they should be able to do it on any media they like.

We want them to be able to make it in as few clicks as possible and as little typing as possible. We really want to make it as convenient for the customer and through the entire experience from the inspiration, all the way to when they are back home. We want to deliver quality products to them.

That comes down to innovation and speed, because you can innovate for ever and never actually release the product. For us, getting it out the door is very, very important. Some of the things that we've heard already from Mark and Brad touch on the need to back away, get out the weeds, and look at your overall lifecycle to make sure that you can get that speed. A lot of times, if you're doing the status quo over and over again, you never realize how fast you can be. So, you raise your head up, look around, and try to make some big changes.

Gardner: John Bell, what do you see as some of the hurdles that you need to continue to get over, in order to get into that innovation and speed? What are some of the complications that are typical, when you're trying to move these applications fast, but you also need to make them of a high quality?

Bell: One of the things that’s really important to us is that we work with multiple vendors in multiple locations and with multiple time zones. It's important to make sure that all of them are using the same processes and that we're all using the overall tools. We use quality center personally to help organize a lot of the requirements and things like that in our testing efforts.

It's important that all of our vendors, whether it's in-house or people outside, are giving us the same processes and that we are able to leverage any of our automation or any of our business process testing or any of those tools, and that we can actually deliver high quality software quickly, can reduce our turnaround time, make sure that we're giving customers their best experience, and that we are getting our time to market in a timely manner.

Gardner: David Moses, we heard a lot of in the book about automation and management and then integrating those as much as possible. Maybe you could give me some perspective on that higher level ability to excel at applications, multiple applications with rapid iteration, but not lose control, and not let the complexity lead to chaos.

It's about getting rid of all the clutter, reducing the complexity, having simple processes, getting rid of all the ones that don't matter, and just really streamlining.

Moses: Complexity is always the enemy of speed and innovation, isn’t it? The idea is to make it as simple as possible by having one version of the truth. You really have to get to that point, a central repository of data, a central tool that everyone can use. As John said, we use Quality Center. We keep everything in that, requirements, tough cases, automation. We pull scripts and things from there for our test plans. We have one area with all that data, so all of our areas can come to that and pull that information.

Whenever somebody needs to start up a script or anything like that, they’ve got a library that they can pull from. They can bring it into their project. When they are done with their manual testing and they place their test plan back in the library, John can then take those pieces and immediately automate them.

Somebody once said they required a form to find out who they were going to, or what pieces they were going to automate. For us, if you have one version of the truth, you know when things are checked back in. You know when your test plan has been updated and your automation people can make that decision. So, it's about getting rid of all the clutter, reducing the complexity, having simple processes, getting rid of all the ones that don't matter, and just really streamlining.

Gardner: Also, David, when you have a lifecycle mentality, you can fall back to that single system of record for the application process. You can extend that not beyond just the development test and deploy phases. It’s something that probably benefits the operation side, maintaining, iterating, and improving on that app over time.

State of the application

Moses: Definitely. It's a great tool, because everyone has access to it. Everyone from our business side people to our IT side, our operations people, can look in this and see exactly what state the application is in at any time. They've got that snapshot. They can go in and determine what new requirements they need to make and what enhancements they want. It's really helpful.

Gardner: John or David, I don't know which of you would be more comfortable, but can you tell us a bit of about the recent development activity, maybe moving towards multiple devices or entry points for customers. I know that's important to me when I fly. Tell us about the way that you have been executing on this innovation, maybe relating that back to some of the principles in the ALM book.

Moses: Recently, we've brought in some of the mobile devices like the iPhone and some of those types of applications. In the past, a large number of our customers have always been using the .com form. Now, we're finding more and more users are going towards the mobile devices.

For more information on Application Lifecycle Management and how to gain an advantage from application modernization, please click here.

We wanted to make sure that a lot of the applications lifecycle testing we had done with the .com could also be used with the mobile. We were able to take automation and a lot of the test cases and type things we had used with .com and use it with mobile.

We did write automation associated with mobile and were also able to bring that back into Quality Center, running that via Quick Test Pro. Even though mobile was a newer area for us, we were able to get the speed to market up on that as soon as possible.

Also, we were able to leverage that and use some of those automated scripts. We run those on a daily basis against our production mobile environment. If something is wrong with that, we know early in the morning. We run these scripts early in the morning before we come in, and we can know right away if something is there.

They can go in and determine what new requirements they need to make and what enhancements they want. It's really helpful.

So we were able to take the lifecycle information and the wins that we have got from the .com, and bring that into our mobile apps, and it's really helped us a lot. Our speed to market has significantly improved with that.

Bell: Another case would be our new homepage. We're sitting here at the end of October 2010. About a month ago, we released a new, more streamlined homepage, a lot more innovative. A lot of people looked at that. We hid the logo during usability testing, and people were surprised to find out it was an airline website. They thought of us as one of the cool guys out there in the travel world.

We're getting much better in this area. By using all the feedback that we get from the customers, importing information in the Quality Center, tracking everything that we have in there, we were able to look at what we needed to make changes to. Once we released this, it was something that the customers were wanting, so it got a lot of good response.

Gardner: Mark Sarbiewski at HP, tell me as you are listening to these gentlemen discuss their efforts, how would some of the principles from the book help. It sounds to me as if it was very complex going mobile or recasting your website. It could slow things down. It sounds like because they took the proper steps, and it actually fell right into the place.

Getting visibility

Sarbiewski: One of the keys that I heard them talking about here is giving everyone visibility into not just the state of where things are, but the next things that have to happen. One of the important things that to tease out of those kinds of statements is the integration of the management information. What are the requirements, which have been covered? What remain? What tests have been run? What defects are found against what code?

There are a million things that happen to progress that project along. When a test fails, a bunch of stuff has to happen. You've got to go find that and fix that. In all those granular activities, there's a huge opportunity for lag, mis-communication, finger-pointing, claiming it's not a defect, and all that.

When you have a system that pulls everybody together like that and gives a real-time view, it really helps to advance the work forward as well. I also heard them talking about how tying automation into that management system allowed them to do a cool website, that Web 2.0 feel, very slick with a rich user experience, which is a must today, as well as mobile, which is a must, without slowing things down.

To me the translation: Enormous competitive advantage in the marketplace. This has probably never been more true. The technology teams are giving business an enormous competitive advantage, like the kinds of stuff that they are doing.

Gardner: How about that David Moses? Toot your horn a little bit. The applications that you and John are helping to develop and deploy, how impactful is this for Delta? How many of your airline tickets are now being purchased and the customer service elements being delivered through these apps? Is this sideline or is this much more main stream?

Mobile is the future. Everyone is going towards mobile devices and portable devices.

Moses: It's truly huge. I mean if you look at Delta.com, it's the main revenue driver for the entire company. So it's our face to the world, and streamlining that process where people are making it better and making the customer experience better is our number one goal. We want to really give our customers what they want and make it easy for them, because we have a wide range of customers.

We have pleasure customers who travel with their families once or may be twice a year, sometimes even less, and then we have people who travel with us every week. So we have two very different types of audiences and we have to cater to both. We have to make it fast and enjoyable and we have to allow them to dream a little bit and be inspired by where they want to go.

It's one of the biggest things that we have on our plate with mobile. Mobile is the future. Everyone is going towards mobile devices and portable devices. You're seeing more and more iPhones, iPads, and Android devices out there in the world, especially when you walk through the airport. We don't like that it happens, but sometimes things are out of our control like weather. And, we are always safe, so these things impact our schedule.

Our devices now will allow you to jump right online and rebook, and take care of yourself. We're actually going to do it for you first, and we are going to give you the option of keeping our suggestion, but if you want something different, you have got that choice. Its options and speed that really count, when the customers want to do something that impacts their lives. When they are trying to use the product, they can impact whether they get home to see their kids tonight or not. You need to give them options and you need to give them something really quick.

Gardner: Brad Hipps, as I listen, I also recall that one of the principles of the book you and Mark wrote was about being change ready, and I think you were talking about being change ready in terms of how you develop applications. With Delta, that change readiness comes at multiple levels. Not only do they have to innovate rapidly in their development, but their application themselves have to be change ready. That is to say, they need to be able to react to changing weather and very high scaling multiple variables involved with keeping all the people up-to-date.

Maybe you can help me get your impressions about how important change ready is and Delta is probably a poster child for that.

Core lifecycle

Hipps: I think that's right. In the book, when we talk about the core lifecycle, historically the SDLC -- we just call it the core lifecycle, so as not to get lost in alphabet soup. Within that we see traits among world-class organizations. There tend to be four traits that these world class organizations have mastered, and we list these traits as being change ready. They have a high degree of predictability, high degree of repeatability, and certainly their output is of high quality.

So those four: change readiness, predictability, repeatability and quality, tend to be abstracting some traits that we see across these great orgs. Those tend to be the key ones that really they are very effective at. David and John have talked about that we have got data points in each one of those, in some of the examples they have given.

A lot of this change readiness to a large degrees is formed by the point that we made in the beginning in the podcast, which is that fundamentally everything that business wants to do is going to have some applications or set of applications behind it. There is going to be a dependency there.

As Mark said, the business is only as nimble as its applications are. That puts applications teams in a position where they are not holding the business off at arms length, and saying, "No, no, no, no, no, I can't do that. No, that will take months." That rigidity may be historically where we came from, when we had fewer applications. They changed less. They were much bigger, more monolithic, and brittle. That is not the world we live in today.

Today, change is the expectation. David and John have been talking about this code being lead revenue generator and delta.com being the lead source of revenue on the Delta side. It's a great example. Clearly, anything the business wants to do to advance its market presence is going to come through that application.

You’ve got to have that one version of the truth. I would highly recommend getting that, the central tool that everyone can use and that you can put everything in.

The fact that they have leveraged automation and asset reuse and taken the time to build requirements traceability are all tick marks you put against organizations that have configured themselves to be change ready. That means they have stripped out as much latency as possible, the time it takes to do impact analysis.

They can see pretty quickly what all the dependencies are as a new change comes across. That’s just speaking of the assessment. There is, of course, the execution, which depends on automation, asset reuse, and all the things they talked about. We probably covered four of those, but certainly the change readiness does stand out.

Gardner: David Moses, the idea that more businesses are going to have to do what you have seems pretty clear. You're already well into updated web, very fast change transactional integrity, bringing in mobile devices, and it sounds as if you are well advised in terms of the ALM principles that the book discusses. For those organizations that are not quite there, that are still getting up to speed that are transitioning from legacy approaches and methods around development, what advice might you give them in terms of trying to get to where you already are?

Moses: This is my favorite topic too. First of all, you’ve got to have that one version of the truth. I would highly recommend getting that, the central tool that everyone can use and that you can put everything in.

Second, it’s about mindset and alignment to your goals. You have to have alignment to the customer. You still have to have department goals, but they should be aligned to what the customer needs.

Contradiction in goals

A lot of times, you see a contradiction in goals between the business group and an IT group. Delivering what the IT group wants to do may not exactly get what the business wants. And if the business was focused on the customer and the IT groups are focused on how many projects they can get out, but doesn’t really matter what projects they are, then there's an issue.

So, you have to really align very closely between business and IT, so much so that if you even have something that is a huge impact to your company, you may want to wrap a special forces team or integrity team around that, and have that group be one. Business and IT all in one group -- that way you completely eliminate the us-versus-them mentality. If you can’t do that, definitely make sure that you're aligned to the customer.

Gardner: John Bell, any further words of wisdom that you might want to share with folks who are making the transition from older legacy, development, deployment, and test practices to some of these newer principles?

Bell: One thing to add to that is that, at first, it can be a little scary moving things in, like moving all your requirements into one area and getting all the test cases and things and even looking at automation.

Sometimes, you have to take a half step back in order to take a full step forward. With us, even as we were moving things and centralizing it, there could be a little pain point in doing that, but that pain point will more than payoff in the long run. A lot of the people who are holding on to the old methodologies and ways of doing business, are thinking, "We're going to have to take a step back to do this."

You're going to get that money back, plus your time, so quickly that you will be shocked.

Whatever step you take in that direction and whatever pain point you take as you move forward, once you start getting the automations in place, once you get these tools in place, you’ll see that you can start moving faster and faster that any initial pain point you took. You're going to exponentially get that money back, plus your time, so quickly that you will be shocked.

Just look at the changing world that we live in. With delta.com now, we live here in Atlanta. If you go over to the airport, you realize that our business is not just flying customers within the United States in English. We now have kiosks in six different languages, and you meet people from all over the world that are now using our products and our websites in everything from simple Chinese to French.

It’s important that we realize the global nature of what we are doing, and that our methodology and our IT departments have to align ourselves, so that we can move this quickly. Without the automation and without the centralized tools and things we would never be able to put out as much work as we currently do.

Moses: If I can jump back in, there is one thing that John said that reminded me of something, as far as taking those steps. You need to take a step back to take two steps forward, when you are coming down to requirements -- another one of my favorite topics. I spent so much time trying to convince other managers in the organization, especially the BA manager to really input requirements in the Quality Center. I really wish I had Quality Center 11 at that time, because now it’s like a Word document to enter your requirements, which is what everybody wanted, right?

Back then, there was a lot of resistance to it, because there were forms and windows and things to fills out. So, it would have such an easier discussion. I hear that often too, whenever I am at HP Software Universe and people are talking about this. They say that there is such a resistance to certain things and certain teams incorporating their work, but now it’s so much easier that it’s almost a no-brainer.

As I said, I wish I had QC 11 back at the time I was fighting that battle, but thankfully we won, everybody saw the benefit of it, and we have been going forward ever since.

Requirements are important

There's another benefit, whenever you're talking about companies moving forward and innovating. I'd like to talk about requirements and not having your quality assurance people sitting in requirements meetings. To me, your quality assurance group really wants to know what the requirements will be, not what they may be. So, they're sitting in a meeting for a few weeks or months at a time to get requirements down, talking about what may be, when they could be testing.

You need to get things out to the customer. You can leverage your team like that. We do a ton of work with the small amount of people that’s comparable to other people in the industry, and that’s one of the main reasons we can do that.

Gardner: I guess we could sum that up as being focused on change ready not change waiting.

Moses: Exactly.

Bell: Absolutely.

Moses: Well, you have to have the right tools and you have to have enough knowledge in your group to be able to pull that off, and you have to have great documentation too.

Gardner: Thank you, David Moses. We're going to wrap it up there. We've been discussing how a shifting application’s landscape has provided a huge opening for improving how applications are built, consumed and managed by using new ALM methods and concepts. And we've seen how Delta Air Lines, in particular, has moved successfully to improve its applications quality, and gain the ability to deliver better business results from their efforts.

I'd like to thank our guests today. We've been joined by David Moses, Quality Assurance Manager for Delta. Thank you.

Moses: Thank you very much.

Gardner: And I should also add that he is in the eCommerce IT group there at Delta along with John Bell, who is a Senior Systems Engineer. Thank you, John.

Bell: Thanks for having us.

Gardner: We also have been joined by the authors of the book. That would be Mark Sarbiewski. He is Vice President of Marketing for HP Applications. Thanks, Mark.

Sarbiewski: Thank you, Dana.

Gardner: And lastly, Brad Hipps, Senior Manager for Solutions Marketing, HP Applications. Thanks, Brad.

Hipps: Thanks again.

Gardner: This is a second in a series of free podcast on ALM. We're examining a new book on the subject, The Applications Handbook: a Guide to Mastering the Modern Application Lifecycle.

Our first podcast (read more about and access the first podcast) explored the actual need for the book and why organizations should rethink how they develop and deploy applications, and our final podcast will underscore the conclusions from the book, and explain how other organizations can now begin to change how they deliver and maintain applications that better serves a fast changing world.

We hope that you can join us for the rest of our series, and we also hope that you get a chance to get the book and examine it in more detail.

This is Dana Gardner, Principal Analyst at Interarbor Solutions. You've been listening to a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast. Thanks for listening, and come back next time.

For more information on Application Lifecycle Management and how to gain an advantage from application modernization, please click here.

Listen to the podcast. Find it on iTunes/iPod and Podcast.com. Download the transcript. Sponsor: HP.

Transcript of a sponsored BriefingsDirect podcast, the second in a series discussing a new book on ALM and it's goal of helping businesses become change ready. Copyright Interarbor Solutions, LLC, 2005-2010. All rights reserved.

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