Select Committee on European Union Written Evidence



Memorandum by Dr Peter Jagodzinski, School of Computing, University of Plymouth, on the growth of e-commerce and its relationship to skills shortages, changing technologies and the provision of education and training in the UK

CONTENTS

  Executive Summary

  1.  Aims and Objectives

  2.  The IT Skills Shortage

  3.  The Impact of Trends in Software Development Methods on the Growth of e-Commerce

  4.  A Strategy for Education and Training in e-Commerce for the UK

  Annexes (not printed here):

  Annex 1 Examples of Industry-orientated IT Degree Programmes: extracts from the Plymouth University School of Computing Undergraduate Prospectus

  Annex 2 BSc Information Management Systems: extract from the Plymouth University Undergraduate Prospectus

  Annex 3 Information for Applicants to the Plymouth University MSc in e-Commerce

  Annex 4 Training and Education for e-Commerce in the UK: application for a DfEE Innovation Award, October 1999.

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Aims

This report reviews surveys of existing IT skills and predicted shortages and surpluses (section 2), and the skills requirements of e-commerce technologies and industry (section 3). The report concludes with an outline strategy for postgraduate and professional training to facilitate the wider uptake of e-commerce in the UK (section 4).

IT Skills shortage: trends and counter-trends

  There is universal agreement about the rapid growth of e-commerce. Demand for IT skills must therefore also grow, and probably exceed supply for several years. The evidence from the USA is that this shortfall will significantly impede the development of e-commerce. However, there are also significant trends which run counter to the growing skills shortfall which should be recognised and exploited. In particular the decline in demand for the older computing technologies liberates significant numbers of IT professionals who, in most cases, would be well prepared for fast uptake of the new skills. Inflated salaries for key skills will provide strong incentives for re-skilling. Another significant trend which runs counter to the growing skills shortage is the increased productivity of the tools and techniques which accompany growth in e-commerce.

Trends in Software Development Methods

  Software development is not one uniform activity which experiences one set of trends. Rather, it can be seen as at least three very different activities, each experiencing its own evolution in quite different ways.

  (i)  Business systems analysis and design reshapes the structures, processes and human activities which constitute the business. Skills in this field evolve slowly so that existing staff could re-deploy quickly from declining fields to e-commerce projects following training in the new business models and issues ofe-commerce.

  (ii)  Programming takes the designs of the systems analysts and translates them into precise, computable codes. Skills in this field evolve very quickly as languages and techniques change to exploit the continuing power/cost explosion of computer hardware. A requirement for almost continuous re-skilling is thus increasingly a feature of a career in programming. However, many basic programming constructs are transferable between programming languages so that such re-skilling is not necessarily very difficult.

  (iii)  Networking and communications skills are needed for establishing and maintaining the infrastructure of e-commerce. They have been in short supply since the advent of client/server patterns of computing for organisations came into prominence about 15 years ago, and this trend is greatly exacerbated by the growth of the Internet.

Strategy for Education and Training

  The quickest route for accelerating the growth of IT skills for e-commerce is through postgraduate and in-service courses. Qualifications from such courses need to include industry-accredited elements to be widely accepted and immediately applicable by industry. At the higher levels they should also be academically accredited to ensure that enduring principles are taught, to secure the long term quality of the national learning base.

THE GROWTH OF E-COMMERCE AND ITS RELATIONSHIP TO SKILLS SHORTAGES, CHANGING TECHNOLOGIES AND THE PROVISION OF EDUCATION AND TRAINING IN THE UK

1.  Aims and Objectives

Many of the readily available reports on websites, newspapers and trade journals which refer to developments and trends in e-commerce express only broad-brush views of unfolding events. For example:

    "IT jobs demand to soar"

-Computer Weekly 3.2.2000, p 1.

    "Europe lags in IT skills"

-cnn.com/TECH/computing 1.12.1998.

    "Rampant growth of e-business will create $2.7 billion market by 2004"

-Network News 16.2.2000.

    "Jobs: Internet skills buck the trend as demand trails in 1999"

-Computer Weekly 3.2.2000 p 14.

  Such reports, on their own, rarely provide more than a superficial summary and consequently an inadequate basis for formulating strategy. This report aims to look behind the headlines and analyse in more depth events and predictions in the field of e-commerce, in order to derive a rationale for addressing the forecast UK skills shortage. The impending growth of e-commerce is taken as a "given". The impressions and conclusions the report expresses do not conflict with any of the sources reviewed, but seek to correlate many separate views into a coherent picture on which future strategy can be based.

  In particular, it will review surveys of existing IT skills and predicted shortages and surpluses (section 2), and the skills requirements of e-commerce technologies and industry (section 3). The report will conclude with an outline strategy for education and training to facilitate the wider uptake of e-commerce in the UK (section 4).

  However, section 2 of the report is based on a sparse review of easily available, low-cost public domain articles and surveys. It does not claim to be exhaustive nor is it based on direct evidence. Sections 3 and 4 of the report are based on a combination of reviews of well established academic sources, Internet sources and newspaper articles. Section 4 also refers to examples of education and training provision and strategy, many of which are based on practice in the University of Plymouth's School of Computing. This is not intended to bias the report but does reflect the fact that much of the strategy recommended here has been put into practice in Plymouth. Several other Universities, particularly the ex-Polytechnics, also take an industry-focused approach in their provision of computing courses.

2.  The IT Skills Shortage

2.1  USA

Further trends in IT in the UK are often said to be evident from current or recent events in the USA. The US National Information Technology Workforce Convocation, 12-13 January 1998, identified a growing shortage of IT professionals, then estimated to be around 346,000 or approximately 10 per cent of the core IT workforce, estimated at 3.4 million. This figure was expected to double in the next decade (www.ices.org/national/docs/infotech/itshort.htm).

  Computerworld's 4th Annual Hiring Forecast Survey (1st March 2000) and Third Quarter Hiring Survey (4th October 1999) provides a more focused analysis of this general trend. The survey identifies shortages in e-commerce skills in particular.

  The need was clearly articulated by the Chief Technology Officer of Petsmart Inc. in a statement which neatly encapsulates the business problems of any company in the US or UK which wants to engage ine-commerce:

    "The shortage of people resources constantly prevents new projects from getting work . . . Our business needs generate a relentless thirst for new functionality. That unquenched thirst represents losses in opportunity to expand our lead in a very competitive business" (p 1).

  The Computerworld Survey suggests that growth in demand for IT staff has accelerated since 1998:

    "Overall, IT staffs will increase by an average of 4 per cent nationwide in the first quarter and 13 per cent during the year" (p 2).

  Computerworld also identified that shortages caused by an overall growth in demand for IT staff are exacerbated by much greater levels of shortage in key Internet skills. In particular they identify:

    —  Relational database (eg Oracle, SQL);

    —  Microsoft Active Server Pages (ASP);

    —  Visual Basic and C++;

    —  Application development;

    —  Network architecture; and

    —  Network administration.

  Understanding of the business philosophy underlying e-commerce systems design is also identified as crucial and in short supply in Computer World's Third Quarter Hiring Survey (www.computerworld.home/features.usf/all/991004).

  Relevant experience is identified as having a high priority for many employers because of the time it takes to train inexperienced staff. The Computerworld Survey refers to strategies which are being used by employers to acquire the key skills. Salary and conditions competition is one obvious result. Some companies are using in-service training to the same end, while others, such as Petsmart, do not:

    "In the dynamic environment of the Internet our (project) needs typically range from immediate to the very near term. We seldom have the opportunity to train or grow an individual into a position". (p 3)

  The certification of IT training is identified by the International Data Group (IDG) as an increasingly important factor for industry. Proprietary industry-certified training, for example that of Microsoft, Cisco and Novell, is a means of ensuring universally accepted standards of training. It is increasingly becoming a requirement, and is forecast to grow into a $4 billion industry in its own right by 2003. (www.idgcorporate.com 27.3.2000).

2.2  UK and Europe

  In line with the forecast growth of e-commerce in UK and Europe, IT skills problems are almost certain to follow exactly the same patterns, in detail, as those in the US. The confidence of this assertion is based on the fact that the UK definitely, and Europe probably, use exactly the same technologies for e-commerce as the US, if somewhat lagging behind in time.

  There may be some local variation in the UK in particular because of the Millennium bug effect. This caused a widespread suspension of new developments in IT, such as e-commerce, throughout 1999. Other countries, such as Italy, are reported to have spent far less on the problem and therefore may have been less delayed in their e-commerce growth.

  The SSP/Computer Weekly Quarterly Survey of Appointments Data and Trends (Computer Weekly 4th November 1999) reported a continued decline in IT recruitment activity, with 23,000 fewer jobs advertised than in the same period in 1998, as the end of the temporary peak of demand for Millennium bug jobs approached.

  However, the same survey on February 3rd 2000 reports an increased demand for Internet-related skills for the second quarter in succession. The survey lists the skills most in demand for the previous quarter:

    —  C++

    —  Oracle

    —  Windows NT

    —  Unix

    —  SQL

    —  Visual Basic

    —  C

    —  Java Internet HTML

  Most of this set corresponds closely with the key skills in the US surveys discussed in section 2.1, although they are phrased differently. The skills demands in greatest decline in the UK are identified as those supporting the older mainframe technologies.

  The SSP/Computer Weekly survey of February 3rd 2000 predicts that:

    "demand will soar again by the early autumn of this year, with Internet and e-commerce skills such as Java and HTML at the forefront... Java, Internet and HTML have all rocketed into the top 10 list of IT skills in demand over the last year."

  The editorial in this edition of Computer Weekly (p 25) identifies three underlying trends in the UK IT skills market:

    (i)  The rise of a new breed of networking professional as IT and communications technologies converge.

    (ii)  The survival and re-focussing of object-orientated programming (eg C++) to support the large back-end systems which enable organisations to integrate their core business with e-commerce.

    (iii)  Relentless de-skilling and shake-out at the lower end of the profession as end-user tools, such as Microsoft Office, become easier to use.

  General statements about shortage of IT skills abound, such as the IDG news service headline:

    "Europe lags in IT Skills"

-www.cnn.com/TECH/Computing/9812/01/eurotech.idg/

  While probably broadly true, such comments can be seen to be less helpful in understanding the detailed nature of the problem and the possibilities for remedy.

  In particular, the decline in demand for skills in older IT technologies and programming languages may be significant. The possession of such skills entails a working grasp of the nature of the IT industry and at least some of the enduring principles and paradigms of software development and implementation. People with this background should in most cases be readily able to be retained in the new technologies. In some cases their extensive experience, particularly with generic underlying core business systems, could be of great value in developing whole business solutions for e-commerce.

2.3  Conclusions on UK IT Skills Shortage

  There is universal agreement about the rapid growth of e-commerce, assisted by a widening of the user base through interactive television, phones and other devices more user-friendly than personal computers. Demand for skills in business systems analysis and design, programming and networking must therefore also grow, and probably exceed supply for several years. The evidence from the USA is that this shortfall will significantly impede the development of e-commerce. Areas of particular shortage for e-commerce skills are predicted to be:

    —  Internet programming;

    —  networking and communications; and

    —  business strategy, systems analysis and design.

  However, there are also significant trends which run counter to the growing skills shortfall which should be recognised and exploited. In particular the decline in demand for the older computing technologies liberates significant numbers of IT professionals who, in most cases, would be well prepared for fast uptake of the new skills. Inflated salaries for key skills will provide strong incentives for re-skilling. The nature of re-skilling programmes and their accessibility will be examined in section 4.

  Another significant trend which runs counter to the growing skills shortage is the increased productivity of the tools and techniques which accompany the growth of e-commerce. Section 3 briefly reviews trends in software development methods which impact on the growth of e-commerce.

3.  The Impact of Trends in Software Development Methods on the Growth of e-Commerce.

3.1  The Nature of Software Development

As with the IT skills shortage, the press usually treat the task of software development as if it were a single, homogeneous activity. They also make optimistic projections for new approaches which claim to overcome the problems with which the software industry has grappled for decades. However, again, the reliability is not uniform. To put it into a proper perspective it is necessary, briefly, to characterise the nature of software and its development. The following quotations, from Brooks' (1995) seminal paper, capture the essence of the problem:

    "software entities are more complex for their size than perhaps any other human construct because no two parts are alike." (p 182)

    "The complexity of software is an essential property, not an accidental one." (p 183)

    "Many of the classical problems of developing software products derive from this essential complexity and its non-linear increase with size" (p 183)

    "I believe the hard part of building software to be the specification, design, and testing of this construct (of interlocking entities), not the labour of representing it and testing the fidelity of the representation" (p 182)

    "The hard part about building software is deciding what to say, not saying it." (p 191)

  In the medium to long term the value of e-commerce will arise not from the current rash of publicly visible, over-hyped shop-front applications, but from its ability to integrate the "commerce value chain" (Treese and Stewart 1998) by means of cheap, efficient and fast information routing. This will entail in particular a high level of business-to-business transactions across the Internet with a minimum of human intervention. Such operations are necessarily complex involving the understanding of incompatible data structures, processes and their transformation. From Brooks' perspective, the main difficulty in achieving changes in the way businesses work will be in "deciding what to say", that is the strategic analysis, design, specification and testing of the new business processes and models. Once the designs are right implementing those designs by programming and configuring software packages is relatively easy.

  The foregoing snapshot of the problems of software development for e-commerce provides some basic distinctions to enable a brief review of evolving software development methods and their likely contributions and effects.

3.2  Approaches to Software Development for e-Commerce

  The design and construction of software solutions for e-commerce applications is supported by the software market, broadly speaking, in three ways:

    (i)  The analysis, design and programming of customised software from scratch. This has the advantage, potentially, of enabling the business to work exactly to suit its own specialised requirements. However, the approach is time-consuming, expensive, highly dependent on having suitable staff and therefore risky.

    (ii)  Purchase of an existing off-the-shelf package. This may look attractive but doesn't overcome the need to conduct the analysis and design of the business models first. The software industry has a long and unhappy history of companies mistakenly being sold such packages and then unrealistically trying to force their incompatible business structures and processes into the new model dictated by the bought-in package.

    (iii)  Purchase of a configurable toolkit (eg Microsoft's Site Server 3 Commerce Edition), augmented by other bought-in packages (eg SQL or Oracle Database). Again, this approach can only be successful if it starts with analysis and design of business systems to ensure that the bought-in packages will support the way in which the business wants to work. Tailoring of detailed functionality normally entails the use of specialised Web-orientated languages and techniques such as Active Server Pages (ASP), Java and Extended Mark-up Language XML. In addition whole functions such as catalogues, shopping cart operations, security and payment functions may be bought-in as reusable software components and assembled to work together.

  The third approach of selectively combining and tailoring reusable software seems to be gaining considerable ground over the other approaches for e-commerce software development because for the majority of applications it is technically of low risk and, commercially, adaptable to most business needs.

  The concept of reuse of existing software components promises substantial gains in the productivity of programmers and is supported by systems architectures and standards such as the Component Object Model (COM) and Common Object Request Broker Architecture (CORBA). However, reusability in itself is not a panacea and must be preceded by proper analysis and design, appropriate development methods and different development team structures (Jacobson, Griss and Jonsson 1997(a) & (b)). Furthermore, it necessitates a different model of the process of software development as an integration exercise in which different software components are assembled together within an overarching framework, rather than the traditional model which focuses on the creation of new software ab initio.

  What we see here is a continuation of the long-term trend in software development for languages, tools and techniques to evolve which reduce "the labour of representing it (the system design) and testing the fidelity of the representation" (Brooks 1995 p 182). Programming languages and techniques evolve rapidly to take advantage of continuing leaps in hardware power per pound. This trend has been going on since the evolution of second generation programming languages from binary code, and will undoubtedly continue, (and to great effect), requiring a culture of lifelong learning with ever-shortening cycle times. This has long been accepted as normal within the profession.

  However, this does not address what Brooks identifies as the hard part of the software development process, that is "specification, design and testing of this construct (the interlocking business entities)." Techniques for the rigorous analysis and design of business systems evolve more slowly as the focus of their attention is on business and other human activity systems where the pace of change is relatively slow. One notable trend is the departure from the technically-centred stance of the 1960s which assumed that careful, rigorous analysis based on business data structures and processes alone could produce designs which would be "right-first-time". It is now recognised that the analysis and design of business systems needs to be more human-centred and to proceed progressively by means of incremental prototyping until an acceptable design is achieved (Preece et al 1994). This style of analysis and design is greatly facilitated by object-oriented programming languages such as Visual Basic which enable prototypes to be built cheaply and quickly, tested with the users and then interactively reworked into improved versions. Nevertheless, data and processes still have to be modelled rigorously at some point in order for them to be mapped onto the databases and programmes which constitute the software system.

3.3  Conclusions on the Impact of Trends in Software Development

  The foregoing characterisation of software development shows us that it is not one uniform activity which experiences one set of trends. Rather, it can be seen as three very different activities, each experiencing its own evolution in quite different ways.

  To summarise, business systems analysis and design, characterised by Brooks (1995) as difficult, looks outwards from the computer to the structures, processes and human activities which constitute the business. Its function is to translate ill-defined, real-world problems into well-defined forms which are amenable to computing. Skills in this field evolve slowly so that existing staff could re-deploy quickly from declining fields to e-commerce projects following training in the new business models and issues of e-commerce.

  Programming, characterised by Brooks (1995) as relatively (and increasingly) easy, takes the designs of the systems analysts and looks inwards to the computer, translating the designs into precise, computable codes. However, skills in this field evolve very quickly as languages and techniques change to exploit the continuing power/cost explosion of computer hardware. Typically programmers now have to be able to integrate and adapt programme code in four or five languages, especially the newer Internet languages. New models of the reusable software development process also have to be learned. A requirement for almost continuous re-skilling is thus increasingly a feature of a career in programming. However, many basic programming constructs are transferable between programming languages so that such re-skilling is not necessarily very difficult.

  In many organisations, particularly small and medium enterprises, systems analysis, design, programming and project management for e-commerce may all be carried out by very small teams or even individuals, taking advantage of packages of configurable and reusable software. The leaders of such projects would need a broad grasp of most of the identified technologies and skills as well as the business models of e-commerce.

  Networking and communications skills are not a direct part of the business software development process. Nevertheless, they are technically key to the creation and maintenance of the infrastructure on whiche-commerce runs. There is a growing need for people who are fluent with the complex layers of communications protocol which lie between the business software and the network hardware. This field has had a skills shortfall since the universal adoption of client/server models of business and organisational computing about 15 years ago, and the problem is exacerbated by the growth in Internet computing. Technologically-driven change, although probably not as fast as that in programming, necessitates continuous updating for networking and communication practitioners.

  These distinctions between trends in systems analysis/design, programming and networking/communications have important implications for the design of strategies to address projected UK IT skills shortages. An approach to these strategies is considered in section 4, following.

4.  A Strategy for Education and Training in e-Commerce for the UK

4.1  Enabling Industry through Education

The strategy outlined in this section is based on the analyses of sections 2 and 3 and is intended to be of general applicability throughout the UK. However, most of the examples given of initiatives and course designs are based on current practice in the School of Computing at Plymouth University. This is not intended to bias the report but simply reflects the fact that much of this strategic view has been enacted here in a local way.

  The potential importance of e-commerce to the UK economy and the global nature of competition viae-commerce lend real urgency to the need for rapid expansion of national capability. This urgency also mandates that sufficient education and training provision must, above all, be industry-focused in terms of its immediate applicability and its accessibility. The latter need is, in general, well known. In 1998 feedback from the UK Committee of Professors and Heads of Computing identified, once again, continued pressure from industry for academic computing programmes to be more industry-focused. In the HEFCE funding plans for 2000 to 2002, David Blunkett MP has referred to the need for universities to "accelerate the development of vocationally-orientated elements within all courses together with improved careers guidance and information".

  These are clear messages for the design of educational provision. However, in the realm of e-commerce industry too is accused of lacking foresight. Ian Taylor MP in January 2000 wrote:

    "In this country, £2 billion a year is already being transacted online. In Europe generally, the Internet market could grow to US$430 billion by 2003 from about $19 billion today, according to Andersen Consulting. Furthermore, European online business could grow in this period from below 20 per cent to 60 per cent of the value of the American market. Though 73 per cent of CEOs in the United Kingdom (UK) think electronic business (e-business) will significantly reshape their industry, 75 per cent of UK companies have no e-business strategy. The UK risks losing out because of lack of awareness of how and why new technology needs to be applied." (Taylor, 2000).

  This view suggests that there is a crucial need not just for IT skills education and training but also for high level e-commerce strategic awareness-raising in the UK's board rooms.

  Thus on the one hand there is a reported lack of preparedness for e-commerce in industry and on the other hand a perceived lack of relevance in the provisions of education to industry's needs.

  In view of the urgency of the need for growth in e-commerce this suggests that some form of national education and training initiative may be desirable in order quickly to mobilise education providers to address industry needs in the field of e-commerce.

  Such an initiative should start with an analysis of industry's short and medium term needs for embarking on e-commerce. That analysis should then drive the provision of immediately applicable education and training in methods and techniques for the implementation of e-commerce systems. Provision needs to be locally accessible throughout the UK, probably via the Higher Education sector, in collaboration with providers of industry-accredited training (eg Microsoft, Cisco, Novell), by means of franchised courses and distance learning, primarily in short course format which can be taken "in-service" by existing staff as well as by those re-deploying and re-skilling from other fields. (One such initiative, an unsuccessful bid to the DfEE in 1999, is outlined in Annex IV.)

  Qualifications from such courses certainly need to be industry-accredited to be widely accepted by, and immediately useful to, industry. They probably should also, at the higher levels, be academically accredited to ensure that enduring principles are taught, thus securing the long term value of the national learning base.

4.2  Identified Needs in Education and Training for e-Commerce

  Section 2 analysed the forecast growth of the IT skills shortage as it affects the development of e-commerce in the UK. It showed that the IT skills shortage is not uniform but differentiated across a number of the sub-tasks within software development. It also showed that there are effects, such as the reduction in demand for IT skills based on older technologies and improved productivity, which run counter to the general shortage trend and which can be exploited relatively quickly to reduce shortage. It identified the particular skills which are likely to be in short supply and highlighted the importance of industry accreditation for training.

  Section 3 framed IT skills in the context of their contribution to software development and its long term evolution and identified variations between different skills within the IT industry. It then looked at evolving methods of software development, for example reusability, which seem to offer productivity gains which may ameliorate the IT skills shortage but also need training to be applied effectively. These issues have all been reviewed from the pragmatic perspective of industry rather than academia, and to this end we have also identified the importance of certification in enabling universally-accepted industry standards of skilled performance in the technologies that underpin e-commerce.

4.3  A Generic Model of Education and Training to meet Industry's Needs in e-Commerce

  4.3.1  Undergraduate Courses

Typical industry-orientated sandwich degrees take four years to complete, clearly too long to be of immediate relevance to the urgent needs of e-commerce. Nevertheless, some continuous incremental changes in the design of degrees is possible, for example the provision of industry-accredited training elements in practical topics. Offering this material to undergraduates in the years before they go into industry could make their contribution significantly more immediately applicable. Industrially-focused courses at this level are vitally important for the long term in providing the bedrock skills and knowledge of the UK's IT workforce. With a strong base of such graduates it becomes relatively easy to accommodate new trends and directions in IT based industries. Such trends are necessarily only incremental on pre-existing technologies and can easily be accommodated by the well-grounded computing graduate, particularly in a culture of lifelong learning.

  Four distinct areas of undergraduate provision can be identified as relevant to the present and likely future of needs of the IT industry including e-commerce.

    (i)  Business computer systems analysis, design and programming (An example is given in Annex I, the BSc (Hons) Computing Informatics).

    (ii)  The overlap between computing and communications. (An example is given in Annex I, the BSc (Hons) in Computer Systems and Networks).

  In addition, on the periphery of IT:

    (iii)  The overlap between the creative arts and computing, including interactive television, needed to bring UK's advantage in the creative arts to the e-commerce marketplace. (An example is given in Annex I, the BSc (Hons) MediaLab Arts).

    (iv)  The overlap between business management and IT, the so-called "hybrid" business IT manager. (An example is given in Annex II, the BSc (Hons) Business Information Management Systems).

4.3.2  Postgraduate and Short Courses

  Minimum turn-round time for a Masters programme is 12 months. If such programmes are offered in the form of a sequence of short courses, optionally leading to lower qualifications (Post Graduate Diploma or Certificate), then they can effectively deliver highly focused learning within a few months. The IT industry has an unconventional career structure in which graduates and non-graduates from many disciplines can, after a few years experience in the industry, be equally valued and equally able to claim to be "IT professionals". Many academic degree subjects now include some programming which can provide an entry into the IT industry through some additional training. Industrially-focused post-graduate programmes can take account of this diversity by means of Accreditation for Prior Learning (APL) and Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning (APEL). This approach, combined with short-course delivery formats, can make such programmes highly flexible in meeting the re-skilling and redeployment needs of the industry and individual within IT.

  This relevance can be further enhanced by the inclusion of industry-accredited technical training courses, probably incorporated into practical sessions, as part of the diet. By this means the training is assured universal industry recognition and the equivalence of taught skills, as well as immediate applicability in an industrial setting.

  Emerging from the analysis of the IT skills shortage and the nature of software development in sections 2 and 3, the following list identifies areas of need in postgraduate education and training provisions:

    —  Overview of strategic business issues for e-commerce to enable systems analysts and designers to accommodate new business models and whole value chain business concepts.

    —  Business systems analysis and design for e-commerce including electronic payment, escrow, and trading models such as auctions.

    —  Applications programming for Web applications, incorporating the current state-of-the-art languages and tools; (expected to change annually).

    —  Communications and networking technology and techniques to support implementation of networked systems including security, integrity and privacy mechanisms.

    —  Database design and implementation (currently relational) to support business data structures.

    —  Integrated development environments to cover reusable software development platforms and techniques; (expect to change annually).

    —  Practical training: integrated proprietary industry-accredited training modules leading to recognised certification eg Microsoft Certified Solution Developer (expect to change annually).

    —  Marketing issues for e-commerce: taking business advantage of Web capabilities and the global economy.

  Annex (III) contains an outline of a particular instance of this generic model, an MSc in e-Commerce, which is planned to start at the University of Plymouth School of Computing from September 2000. Unlike most Masters level courses, this Plymouth programme has not emerged from a research background (although other Masters programmes in the School do have that provenance). Instead it has been enabled by the University policy of supporting spin-out companies, co-owned with groups of academic staff. One such company is engaged in e-commerce software development, and it is that which has provided the confidence and commercial focus necessary for the design of a course specifically aimed at addressing the urgent needs of the e-commerce industry.

  Although not strictly in the domain of IT skills, the quotation from Ian Taylor in section 4.1 showsthat there is also a need for more strategic level business-orientated e-commerce education and training,such as the Carnegie-Mellon University Masters programme in e-commerce (seewww.heinz.cmu.edu/project/ec/hb/lectures/module.html). e-Commerce education could be seen as a continuum from business-focused to IT-focused, with individuals opting for combinations of topics from both sources to meet their own perceived career needs and the opportunities of the job market.

Journal and Book References

  1.  Brooks FP (1995) The Mythical man-month Addison-Wesley. Reading, Mass.

  2.  Jacobson I, Griss M & Jonsson P (1997) (a) Software reuse Addison-Wesley, New York NY.

  3.  Jacobson I, Griss M & Jonsson P (1997) (b) Making the reuse business work IEEE computer, vol 30, no. 4.

  4.  Preece J. Rogers Y, Sharp H, Benyon D, Holland S E, Carey, T (1994) Human computer interaction. Addison-Wesley. Wokingham, England.

  5.  Taylor I (2000) "Has the UK lost its way in e-commerce?" Ingenia. Journal of the Royal Academy of Engineering January 2000 vol 1, no 3, page 8.

  6.  Treese W T & Stewart L C (1998) Designing systems for e-commerce Addison-Wesley. Reading, Mass.

11 April 2000

  Annexes not printed here. Contact Plymouth Unversity for details.


 
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