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Office ban on accessing social networking sites not bright idea

An office ban on accessing social networking sites may not always be a bright idea to ensure that the software workforce is focused on an assigned task, S.Mahalingam, executive director and chief financial officer of Tata Consultancy Services (TCS), said on Friday.

In his key-note address at a workshop of software testing, he said restricting access to these hugely popular and youth-oriented sites did not necessarily enable a supporting environment for innovative thinking or for sprouting ideas.

Addressing an audience of young IT workers, Mr. Mahalingam advocated an environment that enabled the creation of ideas and then working towards its align ment with the management’s vision.

The TCS CFO stressed the importance of “failure tolerance” in the aadvancement of a concept or idea. “Unless, you do that (tolerate failures) you are not ging any further with an idea.”

To illustrate the importance of this attribute, he cited the example of Stanford University where the concept of “learning from failure” was encapsulated in the curriculum.

The workshop was jointly organized by Division II on Software and the Chennai chapters of the Computer Society of India and IEEE Computer Society. Testing as a concept these days had gained greater emphasis and traveled some distance as a specialization, Mr. Mahalingam said. In fact, it was estimated that testing now accounted for 20 to 40 percent of software development projects. According to him, one of the pressing concerns was the sometimes unacceptably high cost of testing software.

At the same time, foolproof testing could also keep down overall expenditure by serving the imperative of catching errors at an early stage. A common experience was that about 40 percent of defects were detected by en users, he said. Once a software error is discovered after a product leaves the company, not only does rectification take longer, correction becomes a prohibitively expensive exercise. Mr.Mahalingam said costs, agility and reliability are the cornerstones of successful software enterprises. A popular practice among companies is what is termed as “follow the sun approach,” where companies regard a working day as a 24-hour cycle instead of an 8-10 hour routine. Companies “follow the sun” by outsourcing work to countries across time zones, he said. The TCS’s finances chief also pointed to critical concepts such as “disruptive technology,” where mimic versions of an innovation shake up the economies of scale of its predecessor and “sustaining technology” where an incumbent market leader constantly pushes for improved performance of established products.

Retracing the early days of the software development industry, Mr. Mahalingam shared his thoughts on the TCS’s gains from exposure to the concept of usability testing in the 80s, the evolvement of testing as a core as well as a specialized function of software development error predictability modeling and the early 90s when the company began looking at giants like Microsoft. An international Certification Software Testing System was launched on the occasion. K.R. Jayakumar, CEO of the Chennai-based Competency Center-Software Quality (CCSQ), outlined the objectives of the ICST, which was designed by CCSQ. Rames Gopalswamy, It consultant and H.R. Mohan, chairman, Division II, CSI Spoke.

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