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Prepare now for future changes in development teams' makeup

Not all enterprise developers will succeed in mobile apps. Teams need to add skills, James Duggan told attendees at last month's Gartner ITxpo.

Get ready for big changes in application development teams as we know them. Greater emphasis on the quality of the user interface and frequent updates of mobile applications are just some of the forces driving changes in development team composition, according to James Duggan, vice president for research at Gartner Inc.

In ways, the present moment resembles earlier shifts in IT development paradigms, such as those in the '90s when IT moved from a focus on the mainframe and procedural languages such as American National Stardards Institute (ANSI) COBOL to a new focus on client-server systems and object-oriented languages such as Java and C#.

In those days, developers had to be re-educated, and the re-education didn't always take. Some highly skilled developers didn't make the jump to object programming and new development team structures.

Big change may be due again. A point at issue, according to Duggan, is that most enterprise application development groups need new talent to effectively work to develop mobile applications or social media. "I don't find a lot of mobile skills in enterprises," he told an audience last month at Gartner's ITxpo in Orlando, Fla.

"There are a lot of new things you are going to have to train for. That is a situation we haven't been in for a decade or more," said Duggan. "We need to push people into new patterns."

Mobile and social applications have expanded the user base and given more influence to selective consumers. That may hinder some developers.

"There are things like user experience that are dramatically new, and we are probably not going to master them," said Duggan. He said enterprises will often have to go outside the company to hire programmers skilled in user interface dynamics and will have to live with the fact that these programmers may leave for other companies after a while. He recommended team managers be sure to address the usability of applications at the design state -- not the build stage.

Changed application life cycles will likely require another round of analysis of legacy apps within organizations. He recommended that IT portfolio managers move aggressively to offload burdensome applicationsand drive out legacy inefficiencies in order to deal with the new types of applications.

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Is your development team staffed to design consumer facing mobile applications?