Software crisis will require creative professional input – Lero

Prof Mike Hinchey, Lero
Prof Mike Hinchey, Lero

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4 January 2017 | 0

Successful software development in the future will require the creative input of more than just developers, according to research from an Irish team for the European Commission.

A report prepared by Lero, the Irish Software Research Centre, commissioned by DG Connect (Directorate-General of Communications Networks, Content and Technology), sought to address maximising the benefit of European software research funding under the €80 billion Horizon 2020 programme.

It found that creative professionals, such as graphic designers, artists and perhaps even science fiction writers, will be required to help develop successful software in the future that can be understood and implemented by end users.

The report characterises the current situation as a “Software Crisis 2.0” bottleneck, which it attributes to an explosion in demand across most industries, from medicine and healthcare to automotive and mobile telephony, combined with the increased complexity needed to serve these sectors.

When this is combined with the report’s assertion that most successful companies today are effectively software firms, it represents a distinct need for improved processes across the board to produce the software that will underpin future developments.

“It is well accepted that Europe will require more software professionals to cope with this explosive demand and complexity,” said Prof Mike Hinchey, Lero, and co-author of the report. “But such is the widespread application of software today, across all sectors, that we will need input from creatives in the visual and written arts in order to help develop software that can be understood and implemented by end users.”

The report quotes research which found that despite the advances in software such as agile development, managers believe that more projects fail now than would have been the case five or 10 years ago. Furthermore, almost a third of software projects will be cancelled before completion and over half of those that are completed will cost almost double original estimates.

“The fact is that most of today’s successful companies from music and booksellers to taxis and travel are effectively software firms,” said Prof Hinchey. “And the traditional companies which they are overtaking are reverting to becoming software-intensive organisations. This is placing tremendous pressures on the software industry’s ability to deliver.”

The report recommends that EU initiatives should forge their own way, rather than mirror those in the US, recognising the increasingly broad reference of software.

“It is not sufficient to allow each industry sector, nor each member state, to set its own research agenda, as this will result in duplication of effort and inefficiencies, leaving Europe in a weaker position vis-à-vis the rest of the world” states the report.

Along with Prof Hinchey, other authors of the report were Prof Brian Fitzgerald and Prof Tiziana Margaria from University of Limerick, and Prof Brian Donnellan, Maynooth University.

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