IT governance stressed at IBM Rational conference

'I don't look good in orange', Rational GM quips

IBM’s software development arm Rational has revamped its development platform to make it easier to track the progress of software development projects and meet increasingly complex compliance requirements.

In March, Rational kicked off a major effort to integrate IT governance tools into its service orientated architecture (SOA) products.

That drive continued last week with the unveiling of major upgrades to 12 components of Rational’s Software Development Platform, several of which specifically aim to improve governance of software development.

IT Governance covers a range of areas from security and reporting accuracy around software development to compliance with company, industry and government regulations. Rational claims IT managers have struggled to keep tabs on development projects as ever more complex compliance requirements are imposed on them.

But many developers see the recent focus on IT governance as little more than an added burden, an attitude Rational’s general manager Daniel Sabbah has little sympathy for.

“Get over it. You’re going to have to deal with it. We had to deal with it internally,” he says.

The presence of increased government regulation alone was making IT governance an essential element of the software mix, says Sabbah.

“We have no other choice. If you’re in avionics or the financial sector, you’re affected by the [Federal Aviation Authority] or Sarbanes-Oxley,” he points out.

“They’re impacting how we work together [on software].”

Sabbah says there is “zero tolerance” in today’s business environment for executives who don’t meet their quarterly financial reporting criteria, because their audit requirements are “written on a napkin”.

“I don’t look good in orange,” he says, referring to the string of executives who have ended up in prison due to financial scandals that went undetected because of poor corporate governance policies.

But it hasn’t taken Enron-like scandals for New Zealand companies to seriously consider IT governance. Faced with local regulation and increasingly subject to international compliance through the forces of globalisation, New Zealand IT managers are increasingly paying attention to governance issues.

Rational rival Compuware recently opened an office in Wellington, sensing strong demand for IT governance software.

In Rational’s case, its ClearQuest 7 software suite, released this month, will offer improved workflow management tools so that project managers can better track software development across an organisation, through the software’s lifecycle. There is also extensive scope in the software for compliance and audit reporting.

Other overhauled Rational tools focusing on governance include software asset management tool Clearcase 7; IBM Rational RequisitePro 7, for tracking document requirements, and Team Unifying Platform, new software that combine’s Rational’s lifecycle management tools.

Rational wheeled out a number of major customers at its developer conference in Orlando, Florida, to sing the virtues of IT governance software. Rainer Ersch, a principal engineer at medical equipment maker Siemens, says Rational lifecycle management software, including the use of e-signatures and deployment tracking, was essential to Siemens’ substantial hardware business.

“Without this functionality, our products would not meet [Food and Drug Administration] approval and therefore would not go to market,” says Ersch.

Griffin attended the Rational developers’ conference in Orlando as a guest of IBM.

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