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Early stage companies look to help CIOs fix software development

The early stage companies honored at this year's MIT Sloan CIO Symposium take aim at one of digital transformation's biggest pain points: the slow pace of software development.

CIOs and CTOs looking to fix the software development process may find some inspiration among the early stage companies making MIT Sloan's IT startup shortlist.

The annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium includes an Innovation Showcase, which highlights companies deemed the cream of the emerging technology crop. The most recent edition, which took place May 22 in Cambridge, Mass., featured startups focused on improving software development.

Speeding development

Gradle Inc., a San Francisco company, provides one example. Scott Regan, who heads marketing for the firm, believes his company's build automation system addresses a critical problem for tech managers: the sluggish pace of software development.

"Most enterprises realize that their capability to drive innovation through software is an existential issue," Regan said. "As a result, many CIOs and CTOs have made developer productivity a strategic initiative in order to stay competitive and execute digital transformation strategies."

Managers and coders, however, lack the basic data required to illuminate the software development process. Gradle Enterprise, Regan said, gives CIOs and development teams "observability and infrastructure services to massively accelerate software development feedback cycles."

The company's technology lets enterprises ship more features to customers more quickly and recoups what would otherwise be wasted research and development costs, he noted.

Improving project management

Clubhouse Software Inc., another Innovation Showcase finalist, provides a project management platform for software developers. The New York-based company also aims to speed things up.

"Legacy project management tools for software development are too complex, overly bloated and slow," said Mitch Wainer, CMO at Clubhouse.

Clubhouse aims to make project management "simple enough that anyone can use it," an approach that encourages collaboration among the technical and nontechnical teams contributing to a software product, he said. CTOs, meanwhile, can use the project management tool to track how products are progressing.

"We believe that in order for CTOs to be effective, they need to have complete visibility into a product's lifecycle from planning to building to releasing," Wainer said.

Securing software coding, with CIO feedback

We're fortunate that we have CIOs who are very willing to help us shape our product. They make sure that we solve a real problem in this market.
Matias MadouCo-founder and CTO, Secure Code Warrior

Secure Code Warrior, a finalist based in Boston, approaches software development from the cybersecurity angle. The company offers a suite of educational secure coding tools. This startup aims to break the habit of inspecting security into software after its creation, rather than integrating security into the product from the beginning.

The challenge "starts with the misconception that finding a problem at the end is easier and cheaper then baking security into the organization," said Matias Madou, co-founder and CTO at Secure Code Warrior. "However, it has been shown with actual data that finding a problem late in the development life cycle is expensive to fix."

Madou said his company's products make the CIO's job easier by ensuring developers "get the tools and the knowledge to write secure code from the start." The result is fewer incidents and greater productivity, he added.

Secure Code Warrior takes feedback from CIOs seriously, a characteristic other early stage companies share. Madou said his company maintains a vision of its own, but constantly bounces off new feature ideas with certain CIOs.

"We're fortunate that we have CIOs who are very willing to help us shape our product," he said. "They make sure that we solve a real problem in this market."

Building AI offerings

The Innovation Showcase companies weren't all focusing on the software development process. Indeed, no list of emerging technology startups would be complete these days without some AI representation. Among the AI-oriented showcase finalists is NLP Logix, a Jacksonville, Fla., company that builds machine learning and intelligent automation systems for enterprise customers.

In addition to customized AI solutions, NLP Logix offers a set of products: Scribe Fusion, an optical character recognition/intelligent character recognition offering; Paypensity, a product for accounts receivable management, credit and debt recovery organizations; and MatchPoint, which automates workflow for recruiting teams.

Samantha Hartman, director of marketing at NLP Logix, said the company views its data science work as a team sport. "To really build AI/automation solutions you need four key members of a team," she said. Those members, according to Hartman, include software engineers to collect and transform data; mathematicians and statisticians to perform analysis and feature engineering; machine learning engineers to apply algorithms and train the computers; and the customer's subject matter experts.

The customer's contribution is usually guided by its CIO, Hartman said. That tech management position, she added, "has a very significant influence on the product direction and features."

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