The Trade and Industry Department is investing almost R1.5m in a programme run by the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering to make local software developers more globally competitive. The aim is to help companies take part in the Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) programme, which is becoming an international standard for assessing the quality of software houses.

Yusuf Timol, the electrotechnical director of the department's Trade and Investment SA (Tisa) division, said CMMI was becoming a common feature in tenders from overseas companies. "When offering a multimillion-dollar tender, companies want to know that the company they award the tender to is capable of completing the project.

"CMMI provides a benchmark to evaluate suppliers, with most large tenders requiring CMMI level four or five," he said.

While a country like India has more than 70 CMMI level-five companies, SA does not have one as yet, and is lagging a good two to three years behind the rest of the world. As CMMI gained momentum internationally, local companies with the qualification would become more globally competitive, Timol said. The challenge for local companies is that the CMMI process has been too expensive, as staff had to be trained overseas or CMMI trainers had to be flown to SA.

An introductory course costs R20,000 at the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, US, excluding the travel and accommodation costs. But now CMMI training will be offered by the software centre from its premises at Wits University. An introductory course will cost R7900.

Academic director Barry Dwolatzky said the money from the trade and industry department would go towards training the staff who would present the CMMI training and assessment services.

Business Day