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Chaos Theory and Butterflies for Better IT Management

With chaos theory we accept the fact that the behavior of dynamic systems is highly sensitive

This post is sponsored by The Business Value Exchange and HP Enterprise Services

Let's get straight to the point - there are too many IT management theories out there.

There are too many software program delivery methodologies, too many project delivery mechanisms and too many ideas to explain how technical management should oversee the production of everything from base level software code to higher-level user interfaces in the face of customer requirements.

This "problem" is fine in a sense because we like variety. Plus, anyway, the analyst community and technical media like to investigate new breakthrough ideas and concepts as they come to the fore.

Plus, there are so many companies in the tech market, we find ourselves caught up in a constant desperate scramble for differentiation as vendors try to find USPs (unique selling points) to distinguish what are often essentially "me too" technologies also offered by competitors.

Differentiation Through Performance
This truism leads to the directly consequential development of application performance management (APM) as a discipline in its own right. Through performance management we can (supposedly) analyze which technology teams are working effectively, delivering on time, producing quality products and meeting targets.

Companies like HP will talk about monitoring applications across traditional, mobile, virtual and cloud environments as they look to provide insight into every transaction that occurs. This, in theory, allows us to get quick resolution of application issues with (ideally) one common tool to be able to view both pre-production and production of the software.

We can go further than APM, even with its promises of application diagnostics and "real-time topology-based analytics" improve application quality, as powerful as these tools no doubt are.

The next tier could be the creation of the Software Development Performance Index (SDPI), a precept proposed by Rally Software. This metrics framework offers a set of outcome measures based on analysis of dimensions including productivity, predictability, quality and responsiveness, which are all automatically calculated inside an ALM platform.

The SDPI framework also recommends additional dimensions for customer satisfaction, employee engagement and a so-called 'build-the-right-thing' measure. It then specifies how these disparate metrics should be aggregated to provide an overall indicator of performance. Users of the SDPI are able to get feedback on their own teams and organization, but Rally is using the first four dimensions to extract the relationship between decisions and performance.

Human Humanoid Factors
So far so good - but is it enough? Do we have enough of theoretical engine power to encapsulate the intricacies, complexities and unpredictability of a) software development and, perhaps more crucially b) those human beings who will work to produce it in real-world humanoid scenarios.

The answer is no, we need chaos theory too.

With chaos theory we accept the fact that the behavior of dynamic systems is highly sensitive and impacted upon by individual initial conditions. If that sounds a bit like science class, then try the butterfly effect, which is often used to help explain part of the chaos theory. The butterfly effect states that a hurricane's energy, direction and condition could have been impacted by the result of a butterfly flapping its wings in some distance place some weeks before. The world is that big and that complex and butterflies are that small, but that important.

These are the granular levels at which we need to focus our thoughts if we really want to be able to manage IT projects effectively. Okay sure, this is not practical, practicable or possible in most cases, but it is a clue as to the levels of analysis and control that we actually need to go to in the real world.

Next time you get invited into an Agile Scrum application performance management (APM) software development performance meeting, take a little butterfly chaos in with you as well please.

More Stories By Adrian Bridgwater

Adrian Bridgwater is a freelance journalist and corporate content creation specialist focusing on cross platform software application development as well as all related aspects software engineering, project management and technology as a whole.

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