The chairman of Software Engineering Australia (SEA) has pointed to the organisation's recent demise as a sign that the local developer community is lacking in maturity.
The not-for-profit industry association sold its core training and consulting business to Business Objects last week after it decided the practice was no longer financially viable. SEA was established in 1999 to develop the Australian software industry's engineering skills. The $250,000 profit made from the sale will be transferred to the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIA), which will continue to develop the business skills of the local developer market.
Although the company's educational services had been a success, SEA chairman, John Gwyther, claimed an immature market was responsible for the failings of its core business improvement consulting services.
"Even with two or three state government programs offering subsidies up to 100 per cent, business improvement services are not something small software companies are aware they need or are prepared to invest money in," he said. "It's really a question of maturity as a lot of these companies just write software and think that's all they need to do."
Gwyther warned developers that continued to focus solely on software development would, in the long term, be at risk from cheaper sources of supply.
"Where Australian developers do business with large companies they will increasingly come under price pressure from overseas developers," he said.
"Once you lose control over a slice of functionality you end up sliding back to a contracted services model."
To remedy this situation, and get companies thinking about how to remain competitive in a global environment, stronger leadership was needed at government level, Gwyther said. "While the Government would argue they put $14 million in to start SEA in 1999, we have otherwise had very little in the way of long-term strategy to build up a local software industry," he said. "Back then people thought engineering capability was the difference between succeeding or not, but today it is ability to market and sell which is more important."
SEA's board is due to submit a proposal to members that the business be dissolved and the name deregistered. However, Gwyther said a number of new proposals for SEA mark two were now afoot.
"Small developers continue to need their skills sharpened, but whether the Government sees fit to fund an organisation to do that remains to be seen," he said.