Producing IT systems is costly, too slow to meet business requirements and highly risky, but a research project is looking at how the answer could be to take programmers out of the equation.
Researchers at Brunel University have warned that companies need to start asking awkward questions about the way they develop systems because accepted methodologies are failing to deliver on their promises.
The Fluid Business research project, funded by £1.3m from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will look at how 'extreme non programming' - a means to automatically translate business statements or rules into code - could be the way forward.
Tony Morgan, a Fluid Business consultant and visiting research fellow at Brunel, explained that companies had become too accustomed to a fixed set of ideas about how to rollout IT projects. "We technologists have a lot to answer for. There's enormous scope for improvement," he said.
Despite an almost unlimited number of IT project failures, the overall process for developing software has remained virtually unchanged since the 1960s.
Morgan explained: "Business statements are picked up by an analyst who turns them into a specification, then that's picked up by a programmer who interprets the specification into code.
"There's a lot of Chinese whispers going on. In 80 per cent of cases what goes wrong is due to misunderstandings.
"Most people think that developing software is computer programming but that's only about 10 per cent of an IT project.
"The evidence suggests that it makes no difference what line of attack you take in terms of the programming language you use."
Figures from analyst Giga estimate that worldwide project failures cost business up to $300bn every year. "This project is not just about saving money, it's about getting more predictability and management control into a project," said Morgan.
Widespread use of extreme non programming is at least 10 years away, and Morgan admitted that resistance to change is inevitable.
"We're expecting squeals of protest from the IT community because, at the end of the day, we're talking about people's jobs," he said.
"But the advantages of something like extreme non programming are so astoundingly huge. The idea has been around for a long time but the missing link to date has been getting the specification logic in the first place and having that statement read by a machine," concluded Morgan.
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