Monday, September 14, 2009

A CTOs IT CHALLENGE - Do it in 7 Days

At Zend, I am lucky to meet and talk to a lot of innovative people who take technology such as PHP into imaginative ways in their business. I had such a conversation recently with a CTO from a large Bank who had called us for advice. During the conversation he and his team were really excited to share the details of a new PHP project that they were just about ready to release out of development, but had a problem with it. It turns out this project was the first public PHP application at the Bank, and they were typically doing everything in Java in the past. So I got curious and I asked them, What made you pick PHP for this?

The CTO said that its because PHP had proven itself to be a faster way of getting web ideas out the door. He was already a big Open Source proponent and bet big on Java at the bank. His firm had built most of its systems in Java technologies but when the projects started to pile up on his desk he got creative. He wanted to see if there was a better way to get some of this work done faster on his desk. So back in the beginning of this year, after last years books were closed, he decided to run an internal coding contest with his team. He selected one of the more common requests on his desk with a list of requirements and he sent an email out to his IT staff with a simple challenge. You have 7 days, use any technology or software in the bank even open source and proprietary applications were allowed, but you could only have three team members max on the project working on the requirements (an average size for them.) There were three submissions, one from a JAVA team who wrote everything on a Java/JBOSS platform, one from a team that used sharepoint, and a final winning team who used PHP and met most of the requirements of the project in the time alloted. They started with a popular open source PHP CMS and some custom coding to deliver on what the CTO had requested, and in turn helped him prove something important out during the contest. That it doesnt have to take months to rollout an idea or prototype at the bank. A small team can put an idea together in a just a few days to a few weeks, and then keep evolving it over time. And it doesnt have to take months to get his team upto speed either, most of his JAVA developer have now become very addicted to working on ZendFramework projects, just by initially prototyping in it. They already have many intranet PHP apps developed since the the contest. And as this most recent new project moves from the internal labs and enters public beta, the CTO was interested in sharing more details behind his early success with PHP. So an upcoming customer case study is bound to happen, but I did think his idea on how he jumpstarted PHP development at the bank (with a contest) was something that needed to be shared.

A different approach was used by another fortune 50 firm CTO I work with, he measured productivity of web projects during certain stages in the development cycle for both PHP and Java projects. Although the process used was a bit less fun then the first, the results also showed that PHP projects were more then 30% more productive then the Java way. He will be presenting the details at ZendCon.

So have you measured how much more productive PHP makes your business?, if so, drop me a line and let me know how you measure it for your firm. Also let me know what else you're doing to improve that productivity with PHP.