Industry Oriented Projects by Students

An Approach by Mike Rana

Background

India is renowned for a large repertoire of IT professionals, yet it has not delivered any generalised product worth its worth. We didn’t produce any operating system like Windows, Unix or Apple, nor did we deliver systems like Oracle, Powerpoint, Word, WordPress, Facebook, Twitter etc. Instead, software developers have tried to call largish software as a product, eg Banking software. The only software that can be called something like a product is Tally, yet it lacks the versatility that is necessary. Barring a few Banking or Payment related applications; nothing exists that can credited to Indian professionals. Even the gap is felt by the absence of applications such as Zoom, Uber or Ola or network oriented software for teamwork or for workflow or work-from-home etc.

The much advertised and enormously funded systems such as Income Tax operations, UID cards, Land revenue records and many others have failed to achieve what they should have achieved ie elimination of corruption. For the UID system, PC Chidambram went on to doubt its reliability and its inadequacy to forewarn the terrorist threat. Of course, it is so, since it has loopholes and it allows illegal immigrant to obtain UID cards. Income Tax department still invites people to clarify doubts and even make corrections manually.

So what is required to change the environment?

Current Drawbacks

Software designed and implemented in India suffers from the following drawbacks

  1. Most of the applications do not cover end-to-end support for transactions related to business processes. Manual interventions are required making the systems prone to manipulation and corruption.
  2. Systems are not designed for running 24×7 operations. Standby arrangement, back-up and failsafe arrangements do not exist.
  3. System designers are unaware of the needs of a product-oriented design and therefore they end up delivering applications and not products.
  4. Database design is rigid and it cannot be changed as the requirements change. In other words reference tables or controlled variables that govern a system’s operation are never separated; instead they lie within the software code and cannot be updated sub sequentially with ease.
  5. Changes required in functionality are generally implemented by structural changes to the database and this requires large-scale migration. The migration methodology and technology has been completely ignored.
  6. The existing databases contain duplication, redundancy and gaps and therefore the data contained therein is not reliable. Even the inputs required from the operators require redundant or un-optimized fields or attributes.
  7. On line helps or guidebooks, that can be created with ease are not written nor ever updated so the user is always in a quandary as to what to do, or how to do things.

Potential

India, in particular the IITs, has the potential of training the youth to develop applications, systems and products of world class. The way we must approach this issue is by taking up student projects that deliver directly to the country.  Some examples of these projects are as follows:

  1. Telecommunication Billing that can be extended to billing for any product or services
  2. Flexible Customer Relations Management (CRM) software that can be adopted for any industry
  3. Billing and CRM closely integrated so that billing uses the CRM’s customer database in real time
  4. Software for handling contacts (persons), Aadhaar+, heath monitoring, social security system that is impeccable and sufficient to meet the requirements of the government as well as individuals across the platforms so that people focus on transactions and not waste time changing the data base contents. For example, the current UIDA systems should feed to banking and payment systems, as well as income tax applications.
  5. Real Time integration of intelligence systems of the government of India to tackle the terrorist threats
  6. Cyber warfare Systems etc

The Approach

It is proposed that students of IIT Bombay and NITIE undertake these projects jointly. We do not rule out IIMs in these ventures (For system integration). The engineers design and develop and the MBA students manage these projects. Some others adopt the integration and testing roles. Some students would work on preparing the data warehouses and its migration from one platform to another, as the live operations go on.

Experienced people from the industry become the guides for these projects and operate in a collaborative mode on the internet. Physical interactions should be reduced to barest minimum.

The items developed by the students will be converted to saleable products along with all the necessary literature, manuals, implementation plans and a separate team will actually implement the systems in the industry.

This approach will bring the students quickly and inherently at par with those in the industry, while the product sales will fetch the IITs and NITIE revenue. Here we are talking in terms of products costing in the range of USD 1 Million and more. Obviously, the institutes will acquire great international reputation and India will attract foreign students for higher education.

Organisation & Participation

  1. MBA students to define the business area specifications and requirements
  2. MBA students to manage the software development projects and their implementation using the assigned budgets
  3. Engineering students to design and develop the systems
  4. Engineering communication and hardware students to integrate modern and future devices including  Telecom Switches and Roaming Platforms, Intelligent Networks, VOIP integrators, Activation devices, prepaid platforms, Digital Set Top Boxes etc
  5. External practicing engineers (No age limit)
  6. Projects to be a guided by Professors of Practice drawn from the industry
  7. If required, students could continue with the project post completion of academic period, with stipend from the govt
  8. Appraisal of the students / participants to be done by
    1. Students / Participants upwards, downwards and cross wards
    1. Appraisals coordinated by HR MBA students of the final year
    1. Certification by external agencies for QA, Project Management

Uniqueness of the projects

  • These projects deal with more than one discipline. Disciplines such as MBA, Computer Science & Engineering, Communication Engineering, Industrial Engineering are handled jointly.
  • Implementing concepts of Integration, Testing, Quality assurance, which are not generally taught at university level
  • International orientation of projects including time zones, multi-lingual and multi-currency issues
  • Introducing the concepts of Product Engineering to students participating in the projects
  • Introducing concepts of pre-sales, sales and post sales maintenance of digital solution products
  • Introducing concepts of budget planning and control of digital solution projects (for project, for products and for teams)
  • Practical use of team working and leadership during project progress, in which HRD department of the university / institute will provide support
  • Project Management and newsletter concepts spanning across disciplines
  • Documentation, testing and integration testing standards for the projects and products
  • Preparation of system requirements documents for Request for Proposals
  • Preparing answers to RFPs, Contracts, Compliance documents and customer presentations during pre-sales and sales 

Mike Rana

India – Gurgaon (Near Delhi)

Professor of Practice – Digital Solutions