How to Thrive in the Application Economy

This post is an excerpt from our recent guide, Agile, DevOps & More: How to Succeed at Government Project Management. To download the guide for free, head here.

Is your organization ready for the application economy?

That’s the question CA Technologies wants the public sector to be asking itself. To learn more about what the application economy is, how to streamline the software delivery cycle, and how to manage high quality applications, GovLoop sat down with Pete Johnson, DevOps Director, Public Sector and Steve Mazzuca, DevOps Strategist, Public Sector, of CA Technologies. CA Technologies helps organizations develop high quality applications faster by leveraging tools that create virtual integrations, enable parallel development and continuous testing.

The first step is to define what the application economy means for the public sector. In short, it is the recent explosion of applications that drive professional and personal behavior. That’s everything from enterprise applications to Outlook to email to social media to online transactions.

“From a mobility vantage point citizens want access to online banking, they want access to retirement accounts, their stock portfolio, Facebook, Instagram and more, and they want it on the fly,” said Johnson. “There is this constant demand for process improvement, and increased velocity within the application economy. That defines our role. We bring value to the application economy by accelerating time to market for these applications, mitigating risk, and raising the quality of the user experience.”

Added Mazzuca, “The conversation in the public sector is all about this today. It’s all about improving delivery of services and technology to serve citizens better.”

In the application economy, the agencies that can deliver software innovation the fastest will succeed with constituents.

This, however, can be challenging for government for a variety of reasons.

“In government, the testing software that they’ve all used for 20 years was built in an older era where you had client server technology, and everything was isolated and stovepiped,” said Mazzuca. “In today’s architecture, with service oriented architecture, and with shared services, for those components to all work, you need to test at the different levels. You need automation, and you need API level testing.”

“Another challenge is the inadequacy of current test environments throughout the federal government as well as state and local government,” Johnson added. “There is limited test capability. And there are also challenges with test data management, and actually using production data in tests, which creates vulnerabilities and exposures that nobody in government wants to be held accountable for. So government needs to focus on a change in overall process there.”

Another challenge in government is culture and attitudes. “A struggle in the government space is finding that change agent, finding that champion, finding that individual that wants to alter the way software is delivered in an effort to really accommodate the application economy,” Johnson said. “The old methodology of throwing manpower at these exponentially growing demands for functionality and transactions is no longer acceptable. Something has to give, something has to change, and change can often times be very, very hard in the federal space.”

In order for change to happen and for the public sector to thrive in the application economy, Johnson and Mazzuca stressed that agencies must focus on enabling early application testing and earlier identification and remediation of bugs. This ensures there is an overall improvement of application quality and performance which increases end user experience. This can be done via more efficient project management and continuous delivery.

“What we really mean by increasing end user experience is just that we’re delivering a better application and a better process to that application,” Mazzuca explained. “This is achieved through the earlier effective testing.

An example Mazzuca cited is that if you find out your new website doesn’t work when it’s in production, you just impacted all of the site’s users as well as cost your organization money. However, if you find out the site doesn’t work in the development stage, all it costs you is a few more days of rewrite.

Our modeling simulation and service virtualization allows the developers to do what they need to do earlier,” Mazzuca said.

Johnson added that agencies should start leading with the concept of continuous delivery.

“The delivery process and the release process now are traditionally end to end, and relatively manual,” Johnson explained. “So you have a lot of manual intervention which creates an opportunity for failure. We have human intervention here, it’s not an automated process, it’s not a repeatable methodology, it’s not automated, therefore there is an opportunity for mistakes to happen. So automating with technology just creates a repeatable, more predictable, more diminished risk in the actual release process itself.”

Continued Johnson, “But what we do is put a process over release from end to end, in an effort to automate it, remove manual intervention, increase reliability, predictability, then take the manpower involved and repurpose them for more meaningful work that is mission critical.”

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