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IT Innovation? Nothing Has Changed In 50 Years

The founder of a software company says that software development methods have not evolved as quickly as technology, and corporate IT is at fault.

Despite 50 years of business-focused software, users are probably more frustrated than ever before, as development methods are complicated and time consuming, according to the founder an CEO of Pegasystems, Alan Trefler.

"It is increasingly important to democratize technology," Trefler said during a press Q&A at the PegaWorld 2013 conference. "Business users are frustrated. They know what they need, but they can't get to where they want to be. The entire mechanism used to build software is horrible. The business needs to be empowered to take more control."

Trefler contends that information technology is partially to blame for the lack of innovation when it comes to software development. Yes, that's correct. Trefler, a techie at heart, says IT is at fault. "The dirty little secret of IT is that in 50 years, the underlying problem of software development has not been solved." Instead of making development easier for users, IT has made it more complex. "No business person could read java and make any sense of it," the same way that no user three decades ago could make sense of COBOL. "Nothing has changed."

The lack of evolution in software development methods is hurting financial services firms in the current economy, as revenues have declined. "In response to cost pressures in financial services, banks need to find more efficient ways to built technology" and that traditional waterfall development processes are hurting the industry, Trefler said.

The result is a technology disconnect between users and the IT organization. The rift becomes apparent especially when young workers join established companies. "If you go to the typical large company, the systems that people use are appalling when compared to what they have on their own iPhones," Trefler added. "When kids come out of school, they don't want to work at large companies. This is because the technical community has not kept up."

Trefler's company, Pegasystems, offers business process management (BPM) technology that allows companies to improve the way software is developed and deployed. Trefler feels business users should be able to directly influence how software is developed, rather than rely on a software development process that adds complexity, time and cost to the deployment of new technology.

Pegasystems, which is celebrating its 30th anniversary, has added analytics to its platform, following the 2009 acquisition of Chordiant. The addition of predictive analytics allows Pegasystems users to better prioritize data in its system.

The BPM vendor is also one of the early adopters of Amazon Web Services (AWS) as its cloud provider. Many companies are using AWS to run Pegasystems in a cloud environment, Trefler said. "Pega Cloud runs on AWS and we are very happy with it," he added. "If a customer doesn't want to run in the public cloud, we also offer a private cloud model as well."

Granted, Trefler's company provides technology that can improve the software development process and results for customers, so his comment do have to be taken with a grain of salt. But is he wrong? Has the traditional corporate IT process slowed innovation when it comes to software development? Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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