It doesn’t matter which number is right, because both are huge. And those failures are expensive. The companies that miss the mark not only lose the time and resources devoted to the transformation project, but the opportunity cost associated with it: the increased productivity, the smoother process flow, and the improved customer experience.
The fact is, it’s usually pretty clear that the project has failed once employees and customers start engaging with the system.
This is the story of a software developer who has never seen a project fail.
Steve Sigg started VBS after a career at IBM. It was the early days of business computing. The IBM 400 was the industry’s standard-bearer, but the quality of software was spotty. Companies in specialized industries often couldn’t find applications to fit their supply chain, their regulatory environment, or any number of issues.
During his time at IBM, many of his colleagues became big fans of the GeneXus tool set. Sigg built VBS around it.
“We’ve run some very large, very complex projects with GeneXus, going all the way back to the 1990s,” Sigg said. “Many of those applications are still running today. And we’ve never had a project fail.”
GeneXus in practice
One of those companies was CMC Brands, a clothing company from California, Mo. Greg Bailey, the company’s CIO, has relied on it since the mid-1990s.
Bailey has continuously updated his firm’s application as the industry he worked in went through monumental changes. In the 1990s, clothing manufacturers would make their product domestically. They sold through long-standing distribution channels. CMC specialized in work clothing for farmers and ranchers, with most of its product sold through farm supply stores.
Over time, most U.S. clothing manufacturers began contracting with overseas factories to make their products. This model created new opportunities. Companies that didn’t have contacts with overseas factories could rely on CMC to have it made for them. And when e-commerce and drop-shipping became regular features of Americans’ buying habits, CMC could warehouse and ship products on behalf of other companies.
“When I started in this business, a manufacturer would own every part of its sales chain: design, production, logistics, marketing, distribution, and everything else,” said Bailey said, “But now, some companies can thrive by focus on a narrow segment of that chain, or they can thrive by doing it all on behalf of other. I don’t know of any other platform that would allow a company to continually adapt to a changing global economy the way GeneXus has.”
To Sigg, the key to a successful digital transformation is the ability to meet the needs of the business. That may sound obvious, but it’s really difficult for digital developers to achieve, because their expertise is in development, not business.
Most business applications are built or customized in a way that requires in-depth knowledge of a programming language. Writing code in these languages is difficult. More than 90 percent of the time and effort goes into developing a first prototype.
But once the end users begin experimenting with a prototype, they often point out issues and edge cases that are familiar to them, but never mentioned in the scope of work.
Quite often, these issues put development teams back to square one, requiring them to re-do hundreds of hours of work. Some companies just abandon the effort at first failure, or ignore their employees’ concerns.
GeneXus is designed to let teams work at a higher level. Users establish a set of specifications, and code is generated automatically.
“We can rapidly develop a prototype and show it to an end-user for immediate feedback. That gets us tremendous buy-in,” Sigg said. “We’ve often gone down the wrong path, everybody has. But we’ve always recovered.”
According to Sigg, GeneXus lets his team develop applications five times faster than he could with traditional development workflows. Maintenance is 10 times faster.
And it allows his firm to supply that speed with a relatively small team. A conventional application development team might have experts in C# and Java, and visual languages for the user interface.
“There’s no way a development shop can begin to have the skills to address all of these different technologies,” Sigg said. “GeneXus is all about the future. They have the skills, we can leverage that with a small team.”