Preserving the skills base

Innovations networks: building complex SW modules to make software development cost effective.

The putative argument for offshore outsourcing goes: if we can clearly delineate our application’s core functional requirements, we can ship development off to a country with cheaper programmer labour, saving our meagre IT budget.

However, for budget reasons, whether we like to admit it or not, this practice, although perhaps a business necessity, hurts Australia’s competitive stance. We are losing IT capacity and critical mass, and weakening our local skills-base and services revenue.

But what alternatives exist?

If you were offered a proven methodology for building applications in-house, which decreased risk, increased software quality outcomes and dramatically reduced costs (50 per cent savings, on average) would you feel compelled to investigate further?

Gartner has produced a study on Open Source User Innovation Networks which outlines one aspect of this approach. The study reviews what transpired when the investment arm of Dresdner Bank, Dresdner Kleinwort Wasserstein (DrKW) developed and open-sourced a piece of core messaging infrastructure called OpenAdaptor. The benefits that accrued to DrKW were great, ranging from amortising development problems and costs across numerous interested parties, increasing the quality and robustness of the codebase and dramatically lowering mid-to-long term maintenance risks and costs, often the grim-reaper of in-house bespoke development.

Additionally, global services firm Accenture has undertaken its own internal study in using existing open source infrastructure components and incorporating these into successful medium-size software development projects undertaken for global and Australian clients. Figures presented publicly indicate a minimum 45 per cent reduction in project costs, increased software quality and decreased risks of timeline blowout and project failure. This occurs because your coders are building upon robust, mature, well-known open source technologies, rather than immature just-wrought in-house code.

The current en vogue activity of enterprise application integration (EAI) is perhaps an excellent arena for instigating pilot projects utilising the Open Source User Innovation Network methodology. Not only can you save a slice of your precious IT budget pie, but you will also save your programmers’ jobs. All this while helping improve the state of our national ICT industry. Now that’s what I call a clever business process.

Con Zymaris is CEO of Sydney-based Cybersource.

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