The Pearl of the Indian Ocean is now well known among buyers of software as a well developed R&D centre for software development. There are many landmarks in the software industry where Sri Lankan brain power is spotlighted.
IFS Applications developed in Sri Lanka has been selected by Lockheed Martin for local Supply Chain Management on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) program Autonomic Logistic Information System (ALIS).
Within the F-35 aircraft system design, ALIS is the information backbone that provides core functionality for in-service operations. As part of its ongoing objective to provide the `lowest cost` Supply Chain Management (SCM) service, the Lockheed Martin project team has decided to extend the IFS footprint in ALIS to cover Enterprise Resource Management (ERM) and SCM with one package - IFS Applications.
The largest Research and Development Centre of IFS was established in Sri Lanka and is now in the process of expansion.
Vice President IFS South Asia Jayantha De Silva said that in the present scenario very few companies are expanding but is optimistic about the future and said that the company is expanding beyond the industry standards which is also a requirement.
The IFS support centre which supports some of the largest customers around the globe is also based in Colombo.
IFS Colombo employs around 800 staffers who are either engaged in R&D or support services but are very experienced in whatever work they undertake.
Tracing the history of the company, he said that way back in 1996 IFS was exploring the possibility of establishing an R&D centre in the Asia-Pacific region and looked at about five countries and selected Sri Lanka for obvious reasons.
Among them are the high literacy rate, good English education, good universities and most of all the adaptability to a R&D environment. He said that there is a huge concept of agility in the product.
Any business solution should be agile. We are one of the most agile business solutions in the world. Software is evaluated by looking at the screen, but it is the technology that matters and to drive technology we need a large number of good people.
Therefore we are happy that we took the decision to establish the R&D centre in Sri Lanka in 1997. Initially we recruited 25 people and trained them in Sweden for a long period.
Then we adopted the Train the trainer concept where people who were trained in Sweden while being involved in the development cycle also trained the new recruits. In addition we also got down many international consultants who imparted their knowledge in our staff. Most of the people who joined initially are still working with us.
IFS operates in 54 countries and compared to other countries, Sri Lankans productivity is much higher. They also don`t complain about working after hours or on weekends and it is a huge plus point not only for IFS but also for the industry as a whole.
De Silva said that attitude and adaptability are two major attributes that the Sri Lankan software industry has and no country in the region can surpass it.
In the year 2000 IFS took a strategic decision to set up a Sales and Marketing Division in Sri Lanka. Subsequently we moved to India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. At present we have 16 successful accounts and Jayantha has also won the most successful player award twice which bears ample testimony that the company and the software it produces is of superior quality. It is a large investment and we have to qualify our prospect as all don`t qualify for ERP.
Any company doing well in the sphere of software is good for the industry. Other ERP companies bring Software, consultants and the support staff from abroad while we bring all the money back to Colombo even from the projects we undertake in India and Pakistan.
At present we are working with ICTA to build capacity while IFS is the only company who recruits graduates from universities and trains them. In addition we also recruit A/L qualified people and give them full-paid scholarships to study at universities. By this they not only have work experience but also a degree apart from being financially stable.
In the present scenario technology alone cannot be sold though it matters much. Therefore a student who does well in any discipline will have many opportunities in the future but the demand for a knowledge of mathematics will increase by the day.
Speaking of the country scenario, he said that they are very optimistic and this situation cannot continue forever. Also investors come to Sri Lanka as people are highly literate apart from the cost advantage. He said that IFS has their own generators, contingency site as well as the dedicated telephone lines which makes the work much easier.
* Jayantha De Silva was awarded a US Government scholarship in 1986 to pursue studies in Computer Science. IFS operation established in 1997 in Sri Lanka. Entrusted to form the local IFS R & D operations from its inception.
* In 1998 he was appointed Vice President IFS Asia Pacific. He is a Past President of the BCS Sri Lanka and the Immediate Past Chairman of the Software Exporters Association. He is currently a member of the Board of Management, University of Colombo School of Computing (UCSC) and a Fellow of the BCS.