Borland U. Eyes End-to-End AppDev Training

Just in time for fall semester, Borland Corp. has cut the ribbon on Borland University, a multidiscipline training program that looks at end-to-end appdev - including specification, design, build, test and deploy. Check out Borland's vision of team-driven training and Best Practices might make your traditional appdev and web services projects more successful.

Tags: Borland, Managers, Business, Developer, Practices, Barbin, Assets,

Just in time for fall semester, Borland Corp. has cut the ribbon on Borland University, a bold, multidiscipline training program (online and "live") that aims to look at all aspects of an appdev project, including how they get specified, designed, built, tested and deployed.

Borland's vision for Borland U. is to apply a new end-to-end perspective to appdev projects, with special attention to how different team members interact. The company expects the approach to increase the success rates of complex appdev and web services projects, offering

curricula for analysts, architects, developers, testers, project managers and even process specialists, Borland execs told Integration Developer News.

"With Borland University, we will go way beyond the traditional tactical 'point product approach' to training, where technical staff takes two to three days to learn how to work with a new product," Chris Barbin, senior director of Borland's worldwide services, told Integration Developer News. "Historically, training has been siloed by product to just the developer. We want to leverage our whole range of resources to make better use of people, processes and technologies, and that means an [an approach] focused on results, not simply products."

And Barbin hopes Borland U will also give Java/J2EE devs a leg up in applying their skills to new types of appdev projects, including composite apps, Java-to-.NET integration and web services. "Given this end-to-end view, which we'll offer in educational services as well as products, I think there will be lots of opportunity, and incentive for a developer to look outside his traditional EJB [Enterprise Java Bean] role, for instance," Barbin said.

Inside Borland U -- 2005's Face to IT Training?
Borland U. provides a wide range of in-person and online assets to help train, certify, and test teams on how to optimize their software delivery practices. "When we talk about educational services, we truly mean providing a suite of offerings that will let the company's IT shop quickly become self-sufficient, and truly focused on the delivery of their project, not simply to know how to use JBuilder, as an example," Barbin told IDN.

Borland U.'s cirriculum includes the following offerings:

  • Online collaboration space/Online workgroup software that facilitates/ assists with the scoping and initial design of a project, and allows technical and business manager to track project status An online experience that can be tailored to a specific company's need (or the needs of a specific project team inside a company) to streamline the scoping and initial design of a project, as well as to provide technical and business managers visibility into the project's progress.;

  • Training will be "solutions-focused" rather than purely "product-focused." Key to this will be access to Borland's Best Practices , methodologies and processes for building software with maximum business value. Instruction will include: strategies, goal-setting; new tools and technologies and implementation practices

  • Instruction tools to help devs and architects design, develop and maintain or update software that has continual business value. Skills areas will include mapping business requirements to code design, code testing, applications deployment, and change management.

  • A virtual hands-on lab," designed to provide an online "sandbox" where devs and architects can safely conduct simulations, practice exercises, and pursue self study.
Aside from providing education to customers, Borland U. is also intended to Foster two-way communications between Borland and customers. "Borland University will be used as a feedback mechanism enabling our user community to "rate their experience" and provide ongoing input," Barbin said. "It's a fantastic means to get closer to our customers at every level. Taken as a whole, these steps will help us continually improve the value of our curriculum."

Borland U Curriculum Aims to Lower IT Failures
Ask Borland execs why they see the need to change the face of IT technical training, and you get a simple answer: Today's IT projects just fail too often.

Borland execs point to The Standish Group's CHAOS report from Fall 2004 (November 04) , which found a sobering 28 percent of all IT projects succeed.

Further, Standish found that most IT projects (51 percent) are what the research group called "challenged" -- which means one of four things: They are
(a) seriously late,
(b) over budget,
(c) missing some key features that were expected to be included in the original spec or
(d) all of the above

And, if you thought it couldn't get any worse, consider this stat. Almost one in five IT projects (18 percent) are simply "canceled before they're completed." They are either so late, so over budget or just so off-base that they're not worth finishing.

The CHAOS report is based on a broad survey of some 9,000 projects. So the stats are significant, and not just a flash in the pan. Borland execs say their approach to Borland University is born of the need to reduce such deep-rooted IT failures, as documented by Standish.

"We feel there are three key elements needed to make a project successful," Glenn Weinstein, Borland's vice president of Worldwide Technical Support and Services, told IDN. These keys are: (a) Strong sponsorship by executive management at the outset of a project; (b) Strong support from both IT and business managers during the project; and (c) Cross-team understanding of the milestones, and hurdles, of a project.

Weinstein notes that these conclusions come from Borland's discussions with business and technology leaders, including CIOs, vice presidents and senior engineering staff. "Managers tell us that they want some level of reliability or predictability to software. Right now, for many IT shops that just doesn't happen, and so managers increasingly want some ongoing reporting or visibility and communications back and forth between all the different roles -- the developer, the architect and the business manager," Weinstein said.

Does Borland see the top-level exec being the one who sits at the console? "I don't know the answer to that. Probably not top management. But some upper or mid-tier manager? Probably yes."

How British Telecom Helped Build Borland U.
Barbin also credits Borland's engagement with British Telecom (which began in mid-2004) with germinating the idea of educational services that would truly bridge the divide between the different technical and business groups that are often jointly responsible for a software project.

"Going into BT, we actually did a skills assessment, which helped us drive a special curriculum for them. In turn, we built a special portal, which combined training resources, best practices from our knowledge base, and appropriate methodologies for testing and deployment," Barbin added. It proved a real success to one of our early projects, and gained positive feedback from both BT technical and business managers. At BT, that included a suite of technical support tutorials, Best Practices and other Borland proprietary IP. .

Another outside influence -- now a part of Borland -- will also enhance the Borland U. assets. Borland has gained a huge library of sought-after "software development process assets" from its recent acquisition of TeraQuest MetricsInc., the Austin, Texas-based process consultancy.

Accumulated over more than 10 years of enterprise IT engagements, TeraQuest brings Borland a rich set of transferable process optimization practice experiences, including 30 formal courses on requirements setting, testing, and change management TeraQuest also brings: (a) templates for roles, (b) project manager checklists, (c) QA policies and guidelines, and (d) ways of capturing requirements documents that are easily accessible by all parties.

"We do not do method consulting; the process work we do is in helping architect the project for success," said Dr. Bill Curtis, TeraQuest co-founder and now Borland's chief process officer. "Over the years we've learned that successfully improving a software organization's effectiveness requires the integration of business, development and deployment teams through a seamless process," Curtis said. "We bring process assets to help people."

Borland's Barbin said of the TeraQuest assets: "We were looking for ways to improve our process-focus expertise, and TeraQuest has the richest set of assets, that could be easily transferred to our customers, of more than 40 firms I looked at."

For more information on Borland University, visit