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Who is Building Systems Today?

Originally published June 17, 2010

Once upon a time, in the miasma of an earlier age, corporations built systems. The requirements analysis, the programming, the testing and the implementation were done by programmers and developers inside the corporation. Fast forward to the workplace of today and what do people who work for a corporation in the IT department do? Typical tasks include:

  • Maintaining networks,
  • Maintaining databases,
  • Staffing help desks,
  • Selecting new software and new technology,
  • Making sure that adequate capacity is not an issue, and so forth.
It is suspected that there are many active IT professionals that have never built anything in their career. It is a good bet that terms like DFD, HIPO, functional decomposition, CRUD, and others sound like a foreign language to the current crop of IT professionals.

One implication that could be drawn from this is that people may not be building systems anymore. But that would be an incorrect conclusion. Indeed, system development is alive and well today. It is just that system development is no longer being done in the corporation.

So where is system development today? The answer is that system development is being done by commercial vendors or by large consulting companies. As an example of a corporation doing development, consider Microsoft. Microsoft has many developers who develop everything under the sun. The next companies developing new systems are the ERP vendors (namely SAP). It is a good bet that a significant amount of the software being built in the world is being built within the walls of Microsoft and SAP. But there are other places where software is being built as well. There is Oracle. Oracle is primarily a database company, and Oracle has built many suites of software in support of its database management system and applications that surround the database. In addition, Oracle, SAP, and Microsoft have all acquired a number of smaller software development companies in recent vintage. In fact, it is safe to say that these behemoths have extended well past their traditional bases.

Another place where systems are being developed is at the consulting firms. There are large consulting firms that take on the task of contracting for the development of large custom pieces of code. Often, these consulting projects involve the implementation of software applications as well as writing new code to enhance or complement the commercial package.

But there is yet another place where system development occurs, and that place is in the homes and garages of entrepreneurs. As long as there has been software, there has always been the entrepreneur who sees building systems as a means of getting ahead. The entrepreneur uses innovation, insight, and tenacity as tools in order to find his/her place in the world. So system development also occurs in a place very different than Microsoft or SAP.

Looking into the future, it is questionable whether systems development will return to the corporation. As long as the economic circumstances are the same, it is doubtful there will ever be a return to corporate system development. 
  • Bill InmonBill Inmon

    Bill is universally recognized as the father of the data warehouse. He has more than 36 years of database technology management experience and data warehouse design expertise. He has published more than 40 books and 1,000 articles on data warehousing and data management, and his books have been translated into nine languages. He is known globally for his data warehouse development seminars and has been a keynote speaker for many major computing associations.

    Editor's Note: More articles, resources and events are available in Bill's BeyeNETWORK Expert Channel. Be sure to visit today!

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