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Horizons of IT / Software Industry

"This write up is a humble attempt based on my 10 years of professional experience in IT industry to bring some details IT/Software industry and thereby perhaps encourage & instill interest in the minds of bright young guys out there to pursue a career in high tech industry. Originally wrote to my former school in Sivasagar, I am posting this here for general viewing." - Sanjib Phukan *, Author of this Article.

1. ForeWord

Looking back, its amazing and hard to believe that it’s been so many years since I passed my HSLC from Sivasagar Govt Boys’ HSMP school. With memories of our schooldays there still so fresh in mind, it just occurred to me that it might just be a good idea to share -- with current aspiring students some sketches of my professional experience and learning. This small article is a humble attempt with that intention in mind.

2. Objective

Target audience of this article is primarily the senior students i.e. those in 10-th standard or those in +2 standard students who are perhaps starting to wonder about their future career path selection. Yet this article is not an attempt to serve as a career counselor to provide any roadmap to get into the IT / Software industry. I am sure all you bright students are aware of the processes to get into, for example, a BE /B. Tech (Computer Science) course or a MCA course.
This article rather tries to provide some preliminary idea of the broad contours of IT / Software industry in general. I don’t pretend that it’s all-encompassing; certainly I shall be missing certain aspects here and there. Yet if this inspires / enthuses at least some of you bright guys to dream of pursuing a career in areas discussed below that would indeed be great and blissful.

3. Global IT Industry

Very broadly IT / Software industry can be viewed as consisting of these segments

(a) Product Development : Software vendors who are in the business of developing software Components / Packages / Platforms to sell those as a product, targeting general application or specific purpose applications, which brings the following two broad categories
( a.1 ) Software Product as a Platform ( Upon which other software applications are written) - Most of you have heard of firms like Microsoft , Sun, Oracle , IBM etc. these are examples of vendors who develop platform products. E.g. Microsoft offers Windows Operating System (OS) which is the most pervading OS product, Oracle offers Database (DB) engine on which DB applications are written, Sun offers their own OS and most prominently a language compiler engine Java Virtual Machine ( JVM) , IBM offers a platform ( more appropriately an Application Engine) called Websphere for developing Web / Internet based applications
(a.2) Software Products for Specific Business Solution: Vendors who develop software for specific business problem, categories of these are elaborated in later sections of this article. E.g. India’s leading IT Software vendor Infosys offers a Banking business product Finacle , SunGard - a MNC - offers products for fast and efficient analysis financial data for banks and financial institutions apart from products for securities trading ( Share market etc )

(b) Software Services: Businesses large or small require ongoing IT support to address various IT / Software issues either for day-to-day operational reasons or for future business strategic implementations. Indian software vendors like Infosys, Wipro , TCS (Tata Consultancy Services) as well as multinationals like IBM , Accenture etc are into this kind of business. E.g. India’s leading Mobile Telephony services company Airtel contracted its IT support to IBM in a multi million dollar multi year deal, firms like TCS, Infosys support the IT systems / Software development for many of the globally leading banks & financial institutions.

*** With search engines like Google and knoledge repositories like Wikipedia, common people are having esy aceess to vast array of human knowledge. These days very popular has been the Social Networking web sites to stay in touch with one’s long lost friends of school or college as well as interact with like minded people in general .

The advent of Internet / Web based solutions have brought in a complete shift in the ways products or services are delivered while heralding new wave of innovative solutions. Today gaining in acceptance has been concepts like On-Demand software / service delivery as in Software as a Service” ( SaaS) - ; now google for that if you are curious.

4 . Trends in the IT / Software Industry

The software computing space in the decades of 60 / 70 s were primarily dominated by IBM offering Mainframe systems ( these were large computers primarily used by business corporate-s or research firms ). With dwindling price of computer hardware due to advances in hardware electronics research, the giant mainframes gradually started to get replaced with Personal Computers ( PC) . Leading the stride here were companies like Intel , Apple etc. While firms like IBM missed out on this historic change of track , vendors like Microsoft wrested the initiative by offering PC operating system like Windows. These things are history today – but there was a time ( even during my own student days) when the earlier versions of Windows OS was very unstable. Today Windows is very much synonymous with PC.

On a lighter note, the fact that IBM lost out on certain historic opportunities prompted its one former CEO to title his book on his stint there as ‘Who says the Elephant Can’t Dance’ - a story of turning around that giant organization as if it was an elephant that could not or forgot to dance albeit temporarily

And then came the age of Internet - ; something that had initially got started as a laboratory effort to share data or thoughts among research scholars in various American universities eventually got a commercial form. Today almost everyone uses the Microsoft Internet Explorer ( IE) as the default web browser but early days had other vendors like Netscape who also offered competitive browser product. These days Google offers their own browser Google Chrome.

Guess that I don’t need to emphasize that - the very fact that one can communicate or access services over the Internet from / to anywhere in the world is a tremendously powerful idea and hence bringing in opportunities never imagined before. From business corporate-s to governments ,everyone is trying to harness the power of the web.

Years back, in the early days of Internet, Microsoft’s then chairman Bill Gates wrote a book ‘The Road Ahead’ envisioning the revolutionary changes that Internet is capable of bringing about to the ways of business houses as well as individual lives. Pretty much everything that was mentioned there is perhaps a reality today and ; people are getting so accustomed to all these that they are kind of becoming a way of life.

Yet the fact is that in a developing economy like India, penetration of Personal Computer is still very low compared to the developed economies of the America or Europe which what is a limiting factor for Internet usage or web based application delivery. Reason why many people would rather advocate for usage of Mobile computing – software delivered on our mobile phone devices. Buoyed by ever decreasing hardware cost , India has seen a phenomenal growth of mobile subscriber base, which is a opportunity for businesses to deliver solutions on mobile devices. E.g. one can see many leading banks in India like ICICI are providing mobile banking facility.

(NB : There is a historically famous observation known as ‘Moore’s Law’ - espoused by Gordon Moore , a co-founder of Intel on dwindling computer hardware cost . Curious readers can of course google on this )

5. About Software Business World

In this section , I am primarily trying to elaborate on (a.2) of section 3.

5.1 Software as a Business Enabler
One commonly understood aspect of deploying software is for automating tasks like record keeping , repetitive tasks often involving strenuous calculations etc. - something that brings down operational costs and enhances accuracy. Beyond that the value addition / business incentive lies in the capacity provided by various software products to analyze relevant business data ( historical or current) thereby helping in decision making or even forecasting. Intentionally I am avoiding giving details herein but interested readers can check out on the Net about things like Business Intelligence (BI) software, Data Ware-Housing , Data Mining , CRM ( Customer Relationship Management), MIS ( Management Information Systems) etc

5.2 Software in Business Verticals
There are vendors who provide software solutions exclusively to particular business vertical like firms that specialize in providing software solutions for Banking & Finance sector or for Travel sector or for Telecommunication industry or for HealthCare industry etc. These are vendors who work in close coordination with specific industry and understands their needs , demand gaps of that specific market segment in order to be able to provide solutions for industry specific sector

5.3 Software in Governance
Slowly but surely Software has been adopted in various government functions. Many of you might have heard of e-Governance initiatives of the govt. of Assam or for that matter govt. of India. E.g. some state governments have been storing / computerizing all land records of revenue department in electronic format. Other initiatives include online income tax filing etc. You must have read in newspapers about recent initiative underway to issue Unique ID to all Indian citizens an ambitious project still at its nascent stage.

5.4 Software in Electronic Equipments
One wide area of software deployment is in Electronics equipments , something that’s called as Embedded Software , which are engraved in semi conductor chip of control units of equipments such as automated Washing Machine, Mobile Telephony devices, Interactive Tv Set Top boxes etc.

5.5 Software for Design Automation Software products are available to do design automation as in Automobile industry for designing various Car components or in Aviation industry for aircraft design. Similarly Civil engineers use design Software for architecting building design etc. Interested readers may like to gather more info on about computer aided design (CAD / CAM ) software .

5.6 Super Computing , Parallel Computing for Huge Number Crunching

Applications that involve millions of calculations to be done within a timeframe tolerable for the business employs super computers or Grid computing ( grid computing refers to an array of computers each computer node having multiple processing units (CPU / Core) which is a parallel computing example )

6. Interdisciplinary Developments in Software Application

With advances in computing space, for certain business verticals, various human knowledge disciplines are coming together for practical business solutions. One example from financial space is what’s known as Quantitative Finance a interdisciplinary development where knowledge of Physics, high end Mathematics & Statistics are being applied to solve Financial problems. These being complex problems they of course get done with Software programs written by quantitative finance wizards. Similarly, graphical animation design software also finds a lot of applications of mathematics & physics.

7. Indian IT Industry

Today India enjoys a position of prominence in the map of global IT software industry ,primarily on the strength of software service industry ( explained in section 3 (b) ) . A major chunk of India’s export earning comes from software service export. Yet fact is that there are very few products developed in India that can be called as globally leading. Although there are various factors attributable to this , Indian IT industry still don’t have enough to take pride in product innovation.

8. Where One can Start

Ambitious students can perhaps start by learning certain computer programming language in order to imbibe some interest in this discipline before proceeding to earn appropriate technical professional education to gain access to the industry or academic research. What’s needed to thrive in this sector is a sharp analytical mind with good reasoning ability & logical thinking.

9. Conclusion

In changing times, awareness about computers in general & software in particular has rapidly increased specially among young population. When I was doing my schooling in Sivasagar, we were so curious to see the first computer that came to our school .During my college days I had to attend a seminar for my first encounter with Internet where one supposedly distinguished individual was demonstrating the ways & means of Internet ! Compare that with the fact that these days there are net cafes almost everywhere.

If this small write up is somehow successful in encouraging some of the bright young students out there to ponder about pursuing studies in the areas touched upon above – that I would indeed consider as a big deal.

* - Sanjib Phukan is alumni of 1991 class-X batch, Sivasagar Govt H.S & M.P School. Thanks a lot to him for contributing this article.

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