Software and Systems Collaboration

Why collaborate? Doesn’t this expose my IPR? Don’t I stand to lose more than I gain?

Well I think the answer is a resounding “No!”, but it really depends on who you put in the collaboration forums.

I have put a better prepared paper on this topic on my website here, but as I have accepted to chair NMI’s UK Systems and Software Leaders Forum, you would expect me to be a proponent. Over the last year this forum has exchanged ‘problem lists’ and there is a significant amount of common ground (an opportunity to collaborate and save costs on the solution). You can see a video report on my feedback to NMI here.

Where there has been expertise in the group, we have shared, in abstract, how we have gone about it (often 2 or 3 member companies will, independently, have had similar approaches in the solution) which gives the remaining members a flying start…  and some useful contacts/material, but just proves we are also wasting valuable engineering resource in this duplication.

The over-riding impression is that Software (and especially Embedded Systems software) has a large (UK) population who have been very innovative at solving problems (and I don’t mean just Technical ones!). Any one company only sees a small proportion of that problem space, and more than likely those problems already have tried and tested solutions, by at least one other party.

If no-one has a solution to a common problem, then chances are that several members want a solution (opportunity).

If no-one has the same problem, we could probably work out, from our respective networks, who might have an interest in the problem and its solution, or be best placed to define and champion it, industrially or academically.

The bigger our community of industries with common scope, the more we stand to benefit, and the more leverage we potentially have! The key is to have attendees who can ‘abstract’ the problem from the commercial sensitivities of their business, and equally take away another businesses abstract and understand how to apply it for themselves. So good abstract thinkers only need apply!… but then again isn’t that a fundamental trait of a good software engineer?

I hope to get an article in the NMI yearbook for 2014 on this – due for publication in about March.

In the meantime ask yourselves this: Is the collaboration from industrial representatives on Standards bodies entirely altruistic, or is it to sway decisions in favour of their own business’ products and thinking, gain competitive intelligence, spot key talent and, for the individual, a network and career opportunity for seeking out those with more advanced thinking?


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