Eric Miller, former senior VP at Trilliant, has decamped the U.S. He is in search of the ideal spot to set up a software development shop focused on electric power and related clean technology. He thinks he has found it in Argentina.
Many of us agree with Eric that the shortage of technical talent is the number one gating factor in the build-out of the smart grid. And software development is the hardest of all the nuts to crack. As utilities (and their suppliers) move from simple standalone applications to enterprise-scale apps and analytics, they can never get the software done with the velocity, quality and scalability needed.
Is outsourcing the answer?
Outsourcing to India or Eastern Europe provides one solution – but also brings some problems, Miller claims. The time zone misalignment for one thing. The cultural misalignment for another, especially around things such as agile methodologies and other modern programming techniques.
Miller has set up SCVSoft in Buenos Aries to reinvent outsourcing so it can become a source of competitive advantage. Why Argentina? Thanks to free university educations, Argentina has more engineers than the U.S., Miller asserts. (Not just per capita, but in absolute numbers, he says.) The big boys like IBM, Accenture, and BAE Systems have had development outposts there for some time.
To these inborn advantages, Miller adds the benefits of specialization. His current areas of focus include smart grid networking, data analytics, and energy efficiency for buildings. By building a boutique operation of specialists, he hopes to overcome pitfalls of traditional outsourcing, where you often find anonymous programmers rotating in and out of your projects.
The quest to optimize software development
Whether or not you buy Miller’s claims about Argentina, he makes a general point that everyone can agree with. We have not optimized the manufacture of software the way we optimized the manufacture of hardware. We have no software equivalent of the global contract manufacturers who have collectively driven down the cost of electronics through relentless optimization.
Miller is out to change this, and Argentina is his first stop.
Photo Caption: Buenos Aires at night.