A national project aimed at boosting buyer confidence in Australian software by awarding software companies an independent seal of approval has gone better than anticipated by all concerned.
Launched in July by the Federal Government-funded software advocate Software Engineering Australia (SEA) the SoftwareMark initiative is an online business accelerator and certification program targeting software development companies and major software users.
Modelled on the wool industry's Woolmark marketing scheme, the Tasmanian-based scheme seeks to give software-intensive Australian businesses a platform to enhance their capability across a diverse range of business and software development skills by making teaching modules available via a portal. SoftwareMark is aimed at SME’s but is scaleable for larger organisations and seeks to fill technical gaps, and help with project management, software testing and development skills.
SEA chief executive Nathan Brumby says the aim is to help build a sustainable software industry by recognizing and promoting successful Australian software companies, encouraging innovation, attracting foreign investment to Australia, providing ways to help plug the skills deficit in Australian companies and the means to close those gaps, driving software exports and increasing software project successes. That, he says, is good for both government buyers and Australian software vendors.
“The industry and government goal is the same – it’s to have a sustainable and developing industry,” Brumby says. “What we identified, and this has been continually reinforced, is that for the software industry on the whole to be sustainable and competitive and growing, it needs to raise its business capability, and it needs to adopt independent standards to validate its development capability.”
Brumby says government interests are advanced by having a viable local software industry. He says government correctly assumes software is a pervasive technology that drives a lot of the value proposition for other industries, yet research and the data collected “over the last number of years” shows Australia is not performing well in the software industry. SMEs struggle to gain traction and build their businesses, he says.
“The program we’re offering in Tasmania has been very deliberately structured to confront those issues. What we’re trying to see happen here is companies that come out of it that generate more export dollars, generate more R&D dollars, generate more revenue, employ more people,” he says.
And early indications are that it is working. Brumby says two thirds of the way though the pilot the companies taking part are saying it has gone far better than expected. He says most of those companies taking part started the exercise “fairly sceptical” about the value the scheme might give them. But he says it is now clear participating companies are clearly pleased with the benefits the scheme is providing.
“We interviewed all of those companies a couple of weeks ago and we were surprised about how positive they were about what the benefits they have been getting out of doing it,” he says. “We had people from Spain, Brazil, Italy, as part of the European Software Institute that came out working with those companies, so they’ve also got a perspective for development of software on more of a global understanding or scale, and that’s been incredibly valuable in letting them realise the same sorts of issues that may apply in America etc as they do in this part of the world.
“We’ve also been consulting to them on the fundamentals of business, and every one of those 11 companies felt that they’d gained enormous benefit out of having an objective third party come in and have a look at their business and not only identify where they could improve, but also offer suggestions.”
Organisations participating in the SoftwareMark program will become connected to the “software community of interest” and the wider Australian business community.
The SoftwareMark program is currently being piloted with the support of the Federal Government’s Tasmanian ICT industry development program, Intelligent Island. Companies participating in the pilot are: Prologic, Crank Media, TurnAround Solutions, Synateq, Sonar Data/Verdant, Dytech Solutions, Information Solution Works, Geometry, Agent Technology and Human Solutions.
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