Respected and passionate leaders from the Infocomm (and Engineering) Industries have commented regrettably that university graduates are selecting business major and shun engineering majors because graduates felt that “Engineering is not sexy” and “Software Engineering is boring code development.” Personally, I think Software Engineering is not sexy but charming.
Why charming? It’s charming because Software Engineering is attractive and definitely the lifelong companion required in any ups and downs of economic development. I am not referring to the basic Infocomm maintenance needs of any businesses, but the trend of evolution of Software Engineering towards higher value, cross-disciplinary problem solving computing models.
Let me illustrate my thoughts from three dimensions of business demands: Managed disruption to mission critical services, rapid implementation of new product-services in business transformation, and innovating new business models from new technologies.
In the first dimension, mission critical services, especially banking-financial services, traditionally rely heavily on robust technologies and planning for business continuity. However, with the complexities of regulatory intervention and the need for stronger governance, the business-as-usual approach to mission critical services no longer suffices. The need to design systems that are more automated with self-recover and human-in-the-loop is important. There are recently numerous unplanned outages that were prolonged and caused serious disruptions to business service. In this regard, tighter governance and architecture designs will need to be further industrialized. We should soon begin to experience the use of integrated intelligence where hardware and software are setup-tuned-maintained-monitoring-workload optimized according to proven architecture and usage patterns, with greater emphasis on ensuring end-to-end service quality of mission critical services. At the same time, there will be designs for provisions in timely human intervention to address higher-order maintenance of mission critical systems. For example, the use of Watson -like deep query computational intelligence may allow human actors to intervene for proactive trouble shooting and deeper analysis of root causes among throngs of voluminous diagnostic information. Therefore, in this first dimension, software engineering shall trend towards development of tighter governance with robust and intelligent systems, while designing with integration of human intervention. Premium will be placed for hiring software engineers who possess this level of higher value knowledge and skills in integrating computational intelligent systems and governance.
In the second dimension, whether in good or poor economic conditions, many enterprises and organizations are constantly transforming themselves to stay ahead of competition. These business transformations are usually planned in measured steps for meaningful outcomes, while consciously avoiding major changes and disruptions. New business services and processes are discovered in this transformation journey with a greater client-centricity. Implementation of these new services would require integrating many back-end silo systems to provide integrated improved processes and services. While traditional challenges like integrating silo information technology systems shall remain, integration will evolve beyond traditional enterprise application integration. Instead, analytics will drive the integration of back-end systems and user for outcome-based improvements in transformation, e.g., surfacing problematic processes to address, analyzing outcome of new services, prioritizing areas requiring improvement, deriving insights to reduce length of business processes, understanding why business services are not profitable, predicting new services that are likely to be profitable in a new branch, and so on. With this trend, new tools will be developed that are more user-friendly for both IT and non-IT users who are designing collaboratively new business process and service transformation.
In addition, many enterprises use enterprise architecture (EA) to drive top-down business imperatives to achieve business-IT alignment, governance and operational excellence. Many good standards and tools are available for EA, but too many and too complex. The need for highly skilled professionals who use EA pragmatically and effectively to generate profitable outcomes will accelerate. Moreover, as general IT outsourcing services become gradually commoditized and specialized IT outsourcing starts to emerge, highly skilled EA practitioners will be required to design-manage funding and IT resources for profitable business outcomes.
Urban city development has also accelerated its transformation in recent years. New city services that better serve the public through integration of intelligent sensors, engineering platforms and Infocomm technologies are accelerating transformation of sustainable development in water, energy, buildings, transport, environment, people. In order to address complex urbanization challenges, software engineering professionals would need to collaborate with experts from other disciplines like mathematics, operational research, business, management, engineering, psychology. In Singapore, the development of new industries in livable cities and water is heralding a bright demand for new grade of researchers, software and systems engineering professionals.
In the third dimension of innovating new business models from new technologies, the potential of new Infocomm technologies in creating new business models is vast. For example, as data continued its explosive growth path, software and hardware architectures may eventually evolve into data-centric architectures that allow faster processing and analytics, therefore creating new business models for information services. Technology like Cloud Computing and Mobility would drive new business models from telecommunications and how services can be consumed. Emerging technology like Internet of Things shall also change the landscape of how business services are designed with secured end-to-end service quality management.
To conclude, from my humble view, the future of Software Engineering is bright and charming; a companion who rides through ups and downs of economic trends. It is no longer just a discipline of systematic software development, but evolves to embrace higher value, cross-disciplinary application to problem solving. The future for Software Engineering professionals with this higher order of skills is very bright.
This article is written with courtesy from Mr Foong Sew Bun (IBM Distinguished Engineer, Chief Technology Officer of IBM ASEAN-Singapore-ASEAN Software Group) for SCS and InfoPier.