Researcher tells J’can software development firms to level up

Researcher tells J’can software development firms to level up

Senior staff reporter

Thursday, August 27, 2020

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JAMAICAN software development firms must aim for at least a tier-three ranking to be able to attract global contracts.

The suggestion was made by researcher and lecturer in information systems quality at The University of the West Indies, Mona campus, Dr Delroy Chevers, who has assessed software development firms in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, and Guyana. He says the Caribbean Community countries, based on international standards, are way behind countries like India, which is ranked at level five.

Jamaica, according to the researcher, has the skills and competencies and can compete with countries like India, but only if developers adopt “a simplified framework” that will improve their processes and, ultimately, their ranking.

“What we find is that a lot of the software development firms in India, when they are assessed with respect to their level of maturity they are at level five; many of the software firms in America, they are at about level three or four. In some cases we here in Jamaica and within the English-speaking Caribbean, we may be at level one or two.

“That’s why you find that the Indians will get a lot of the contracts — either they stay in India and do the software development or we bring them here to Jamaica, Barbados, et cetera to assist us in developing systems,” Dr Chevers pointed out in a recent interview with the Jamaica Observer.

Level one software development firms are those that have no policy, procedure or system in place. Those at level two have established policies and procedures that are documented and communicated to people. Level three firms have policies that are documented, communicated and followed, while those ranked level four have policies that are documented, communicated, followed, and measured. Those at level five have peaked, and engage in activities to find even more improved ways of delivering quality software.

According to Dr Chevers, Jamaican firms, while making significant investments, have not been reaping the corresponding benefits.

“What is happening now is known as a productivity paradox — firms are making all of this initial investment, buying all of these applications with the promise that we will increase efficiency, increase productivity and that is not happening because, in most cases, we are not delivering high quality and if we are not delivering high quality that means the application is not successful.

“You measure success by the application providing value to the firm, increase in efficiency, productivity and profitability,” he pointed out.

The lecturer explained that, in his research, he looks at a simplified framework that is more applicable to Jamaica based on the country’s culture and constraints.

“The developed countries, they can hire specialists, but in Jamaican firms you are the network person, the database person — you are everything because we don’t have the money. So, we found the frameworks out there [to be] costly and cumbersome,” Dr Chevers said.

He then explained the simplified framework.

“There were 22 practices, we came up with the 10 top ones and used those as a simplified framework; and from that I tested to see if we adhere [to those, if] the software at the end will be of high quality,” he said.

According to the researcher, if Jamaican software developers implement this model they will find themselves in a more competitive position.

“We have the skilled people here, we have the competencies. We can! We just need to adopt this framework. To get global contracts you must be assessed at level three and above. When you are at level one and two you will not get any global contracts. We have firms in Jamaica [which] can implement a good system but they are not utilising this kind of framework, which is known as process improvement, and that leaves you at level one or two and that will not get you any global contracts,” he insisted.

“It is in our interest for software development firms to use process improvement so that they can [be] assessed at level three and above, so we can get global contracts and earn some well-needed foreign exchange,” Dr Chevers added.

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