Years of experience in software development
System Integration, SW Service Management and Development: Interview with Dr. Giorgio Broggi, Division Head ITS Software Services and Andreas Jost, Group Manager SW Project Services.
Software components are assembled to applications brick by brick: Dr. Benno Luthiger and Andreas Jost.
insIDe, ITS in-house newsletter: ITS started offering Software Project Services to the entire ETH Zurich only as recently as 2012. Is this due to newly arising needs?
Broggi: Actually the need for this is as old as IT use at ETH. However, in the past many different groups in institutes and departments were engaged in this area. Even within the ITS, different groups were involved in projects for system integration and software development. In each case, those projects were supervised by the division responsible for operating the corrsponding applications.
insIDe: In that case why was this new service initiated?
Broggi: There was a strong impetus coming both from within the ITS and from the executive board. Within the ITS we wanted to concentrate our expertise in the field of project methods and software technologies in a single organization and offer broader distribution. In recent years, the executive board too has recognized the achievable potential increase in effectiveness and efficiency in the area of software projects and thus encouraged the ITS to provide a corresponding service. As a result, the group „SW Project Services“ was newly formed and our services were made available to the entire ETH.
insIDe: How are these global improvements to be achieved?
Broggi: We aim to set up SW projects with clear objectives, expediently and efficiently, based on the needs that arise in ETH units. Obviously, important prerequisites for this are the ability to cooperate, methodological competence and experience, as well as competence in the following fields: IT architecture, project management, implementation and quality assurance. This applies regardless of whether we’re referring to system integration, software development or brokerage services.
insIDe: Which specific services do you offer?
Jost: As a project-oriented group, SW Project Services does not provide standard services. We offer professional assistance where SW solutions are needed. This may include very comprehensive support to the extent that we handle the entire IT project together with and for our ETH partners. Our colleagues can thus focus on the content-related part. Accordingly, we accept orders from all ETH units in the areas of requirements analysis, process optimization, as well as design, implementation, integration, quality assurance and commissioning of IT solutions. Solutions can be based on standard software or on „cloud“ services or customized (Development). Collaboration often begins at an early phase: requirements analysis and specification, design of software architectures or software evaluation, estimation of expenditure for development and/or integration work. ITS can also realize software implementation projects: development of customized software, integration of standard software or cloud services and deployment and implementation of software solutions.
Broggi: Depending on the project, we can also assume a secondary role, in accordance with the basic idea of our service. This may include: consulting in software project matters, software project management, conducting code reviews, allocation of development capacity, providing software quality management (browser testing for web apps, stress & load testing, systematic testing), integrating existing components and software migration.
insIDe: Does your small group have the necessary capacity to offer such a flexible range of services?
Broggi: For a flexible range we use flexible capacity! Seriously: our work is project oriented and accordingly, depending on project requirements, we engage the experts we need. What’s most important is that we can always rely on our methodological, IT-architectural, and quality assurance expertise. Last but not least, ETH know-how is essential for solution integration.
Jost: Obviously, we have our limits. Our „fleet technologies“ are Java (with different frameworks), Adobe CQ5, SAP ABAP, Oracle database development, SAP PowerBuilder, web services and web technologies. If our partners wish to implement different technologies, e.g. Microsoft technologies, we can purchase these externally. In any case, we provide the above-mentioned expertise and monitor results. In the area of project methodology, we work according to the (modified) Waterfall and Scrum models. In this way, we can cover different project situations.
insIDe: How big is the demand for this service?
Broggi: We have had some orders from the departments. However, currently most commissions concern academic support, an area in which the Software Services division has many years of extensive knowledge and experience. To date we have not received any assignments unrelated to teaching and administration.
insIDe: Research projects can be considered „unrelated“ to teaching and administration. Isn’t this rather an area to be covered by the new ITS division Scientific IT Services (SIS)?
Broggi: Scientific IT Services offers a wide range of services for research and software development is one of them. The latter encompasses code optimization for supercomputers, visualization, etc. In this context, software development is often ad hoc with rapid prototyping and has no long production phases between successive adjustments. Whether SIS or SW Services the right partner for a research unit is, is determined by project content. SW Project Services specializes in the realization of enduring, complex solutions with extensive quality assurance. In other areas only SIS has the necessary expertise. In this way we actually complement each other. As long as transparency is guaranteed, it really makes no difference to our colleagues in the research units who within the ITS is handling their project.
insIDe: Which projects is SW Project Services currently engaged in?
Jost: We are currently implementing a system for professorship planning (Development / PowerBuilder) on behalf of the President. We are also working on integrating the visualization solution „tableau“ with SAP, building an interface between SAP and SNF systems with SOA, developing components (Java, CQ5, SOA) for ETH Web Relaunch, integrating two standard applications for the Mobility Office of the rectorate and for SGU respectively (Java, SOA). We are also implementing an application for managing the Student Learning Agreements for D-ERDW (Microsoft. NET). Additionally we are currently realizing smaller projects with MS Office technologies and Open Text archive systems.
Andreas Jost, ITS SWS, Group Manager SW Project Services