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Prioritizing tech projects: How managers make a short list of long demands

Beth Stackpole | Feb. 16, 2012
As top technology dog at Aspen Skiing Co. for the last 16 years, Paul Major has honed the art of keeping multiple balls in the air.

"Previously, we took a more traditional IT perspective and worked through management to get priorities approved and get funding as needed," he explains. "Now, with the impact of things like social media and mobile so widespread, we're listening more to end user demands and are less worried about back-office [computing] as we go through the prioritization process."

When it comes time to actually develop new mobile and social media projects, Williams has access to a unique resource: students in the university's information technology program who were bred on these new technologies. "They've grown up with this technology, they are connected, and this is the way they've always worked," explains Ferguson.

Currently, Ferguson has brought on five or six student developers who work 25 hours a week on new projects. So far, it's been a win-win situation: Students are teaching their IT counterparts a lot about emerging technologies, while traditional staffers are helping the students understand what it takes to write back-end applications as well as schooling them in enterprise issues like authentication and security.

Tapping mobile development power tools

International transportation company has turned to technology to help IT power through its prodigious project pipeline, especially in the area of mobile development.

Demand from business users for mobile apps was outstripping the IT department's ability to keep pace, according to Jon Yuan, solutions architect in CSX's enterprise architecture team.

What's more, given that CSX has a liberal bring-your-own-technology policy, IT was struggling to stay on top of the wide range of platforms it needed to support, principally Apple iOS and several flavors of Android, and with the pace of updates.

"What we're finding is that mobile is a different animal. There are considerations that we didn't have to take into account with past technologies," Yuan says -- not to mention business users who expect fast turnaround. "People are used to getting things faster with features in near real time," he says. "They don't want to spend six months waiting for new functionality."

To help expedite development, CSX turned to a Mobile Enterprise Application Platform (MEAP), specifically an offering from Verivo (formerly Pyxis Mobile).

MEAP tools allow developers to design an app once and deploy it anywhere on a variety of mobile platforms without rewriting and in short order, Yuan explains.

Instead of having to write and recode apps to support each individual Android device and for every operating system upgrade, Yuan's team now develops apps using the MEAP's drag-and-drop development environment. Subsequently, they can deploy the app to run on any device without modification.

Keeping rogue IT at bay

Back at Aspen Skiing Co., being responsive to user demand for new technologies, in a fiscally responsible way, defines this new era of IT, says IT director Major.


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