The global economy has been turbulent in the past several years. Governments and business enterprises alike have struggled to create positive momentum and effect growth in this environment. One significant trend of note is the increasing impact of the internet on the global economy as a whole.

Products and services are increasingly developed by a network of collaborating companies, which contribute to the ecosystem by combining existing products with newly developed elements to form new, even more compelling offerings. Even domains such as embedded software and complex cyber physical systems are increasingly being opened for more networked development, agile creation, testing, integration, and deployment of new features and services on the internet. New, evolving ecosystems and new competitors will alter industry structures, the public sector, supply chains, and many other aspects of the future business environment. Similarly, ICT infrastructures, approaches, and processes have changed dramatically over the last years: faster networks, cloud and web technologies, open source software, IoT (Internet of Things), and open data approaches are all reshaping the digital economy.

In successful software-intensive industries, management will need to be flexible and dynamic to support the continuous scouting necessary for finding new business opportunities. However, the industry has historically had difficulties adopting software product management practices due to their complexity and frameworks, which typically include about 40 activities related to development, product release, marketing, and support. These activities are not equally important and some of them can slow company operations. Companies can miss new business opportunities by focusing on existing processes and products rather than looking outside their areas of expertise to gain new insights from customers and the market as a whole.

As a result, many businesses are starting a major shift toward redefining their next-generation competitive strategy, new leadership approach, and operating processes to prepare for changing economic conditions. The key question is how companies can adapt to radically new business conditions and opportunities in real time or even in advance. The dimensions of the new digital business revolution go broad and deep, even for traditional industry sectors, and will require that companies perform in significantly different ways. The Finnish ICT (Information and Communication Technology) and digital services sector have an excellent technical basis for this change; however, they lack many of the capabilities and competencies necessary for systemic transformation.

Multidisciplinary Software Research

Most future innovative software-enhanced services and products will be created from the contributions of different partners from different disciplines. The integration of electrical and software engineering is a good example. Creating solutions from these two domains requires the integration of continuous and discrete models, as well as the integration of quite different engineering cultures. The N4S program is expected to combine scattered resources from industry and research to reach a critical mass and tackle greater challenges.

The biggest impact of the program will be in software engineering. The traditional teaching method, which starts with requirement specification and subsequent development, needs to be changed to a process of proactive requirement identification that is based on continuous experimentation, live customer feedback, validated learning, and approaches for launching businesses. As a consequence, software engineering will need to deal with experimentation, not only on the technical and process levels, but also on the business level. In addition, software engineering will need to find ways to prepare students to work collaboratively over temporal, geographical, and cultural distance. Establishing Software Factory networks is a promising way to support this. (See Software Factory and M–Group for more on these networks.)

The program will also investigate the availability of Open Source Software (OSS) for analytics and other tool support built on OpenStack and other OSS platforms.

A mini doctoral program will accompany the research activities and lead to in-depth
investigations of key research questions.

From Agile and Lean Development to Real-time Delivery

The N4S program will act as a catalyst for a new way of working where companies can identify future market transformations and create new digital on-demand services. This will mark a quantum leap from agile and lean development to real-time value delivery that uses continuous deployment and market experimentation. Competitiveness is increased because individual experiments can be validated with real users, in turn increasing the ability to deliver the right product or service at the right time.

New revenue streams will be generated from a number of different directions:

  • Vendors who provide tools for managing the complexity of business
  • Companies that help analyze and understand the results of experiments
  • New business opportunities
  • Start-ups