Thursday, July 06, 2006

Global Factors Impacting the Software Development Industry

One of the great 'equalizers' in the global economy is the Internet and other forms of modern telecommunications. Today, unlike just a few short years ago, programmers in one part of the world can work seamlessly on projects across the globe. Likewise, work may be distributed to programmers in many locations - unrestricted by time or distance - to be reassembled as working units back home.

What is actually more important than the pure communications aspects of software development and project management can be found in how the software development industry has changed in general during these few years:

• Programming and general software development is no longer a highly 'specialized' or 'rare' skill - universities and colleges throughout the world have increased their output dramatically in these areas of focus for the past 5 to 8 years.
• Private Colleges, business schools and commercial training institutes were even earlier adopters of the IT training and get-rich-with-an-it-diploma programs - flooding the market with truck-drivers-turned-systems-engineers, and network administrators who's previous work provided them with a free paper hat.
• Thanks to the dot-com bust in recent years - many 'web experts' are now on the unemployment line. (Either unable, or unwilling to accept and adapt to the fact that the work they formerly received $100K+ per year for can now be done in Russia for 20 Euros per hour.)
• In the reverse - the global economy also means that companies can sell their products and services to a global market - provided that their products and services can be developed and delivered effectively, efficiently, and for a reasonable price.
As well, many of the recent graduates are lacking in basic scientific, mathematical and analytical skills. They may know how to 'code' - but they may not have a grasp of the creativity and science to develop creative and innovative solutions to business problems. These very skills are what have made the Russian educational system stand out. The Russian focus on fundamentals, science and logical thinking give their graduates the ability to develop creative solutions despite limited resources.

Unfortunately, the situation is unlikely to change in the nearest future. Although universities and colleges are cranking out 'computer science' graduates - many are coming to the market with the hopes of making a lot of money very quickly. Despite the recent downturn in markets - salaries in North America and many European countries are still artificially inflated.

Another problem these days is rapid staff turnover - and a loss of company loyalty. In North America it has become frighteningly easy and popular for people to jump from company to company. Sometimes employees are lured away by money - other times it is perks and benefits or more exciting and challenging work. One would almost wonder when looking at some people's resumes whether they will even be able to stay with one company for just one entire year.
This trend has led to an upward spiral of salaries, benefits and perks - reaching the point where even to attract mediocre staff - you have to give away benefits and salaries formerly only available to top managers and executives. As well, unless you are able continually offer more and more - people will quickly become dissatisfied and move on. This is simply the law of supply and demand at work. (Employees demand - you supply!)

In Russia, and many other countries abroad - the situation is quite different. Companies who are able to offer very modest benefits and salaries as compared with their western counterparts are highly sought after by job seekers. When a person lands a job at a stable Russian company with a good salary and benefits - they are going to put forth their best effort to keep the job - because they know that there are hundreds of people just dying to snap up their position if they leave.

This reversal of demand between the companies and job seekers means that offshore software development companies can pick and choose the best people possible from a much wider selection. Relaxed labor laws and a huge labor pool mean that it is much easier to replace workers who don't perform.

The overall result is that Russian companies typically have a much lower turnover rate than their North American counterparts. People who work together over many years on many different projects tend to have much better communications between team members - teams become tighter, more dedicated and more focused. Working on many different projects gives each team member valuable skills and knowledge to carry through to future projects.

Today, the world is a very small place - and our competitors are no longer just those businesses within our own town or city - they may be anywhere in the world and in many cases are not restricted by time or distance.

During the dot-com boom period, companies used up all the local resources they could find, and used offshore software develoment resources to build staffs they couldn't otherwise find. After the dot-com bust - companies are struggling to survive - and simply cannot afford to pay inflated salaries of internal staff, or local companies for basic work

For details read here