The software development outsource market is booming with India, once the ‘home’ of these operations, facing increasing competition from Russia and other former Eastern Bloc countries as well as Canada and South America.

However, says Graeme Allcock, sales manager at Compuware SA, the boom could bypass SA (included by Nasscom as another ‘mature’ outsourcing destination) - not because this country doesn’t have world-class development skills, but because of a perceived general lack of attention to software quality.

"SA wants to compete in the global arena. First World countries - the largest customers of what’s termed ‘offshore software developers’ insist on quality. SA traditionally has paid little attention to quality - our main focus has been on getting the job done. This could be a hangover from the days when the country was subjected to sanctions.

"However, even when we do produce quality work we cannot prove it: the software development sector in this country seldom employs generally accepted quality methodologies - including the documentation associated with this," he adds.

Allcock believes that one of the reasons why Eastern bloc and other countries are starting to threaten India’s number one spot as the world’s software development leader, despite its large, highly skilled developer population - is quality.

"As demand for quality software improved, India has had to adopt world-class quality standards. This comes at a cost and, coupled with what Nasscom terms India’s ‘below average infrastructure and higher geopolitical risks’, has impacted negatively on India’s traditional price competitiveness.

"SA too cannot rely on its relatively low cost of IT skills to attract offshore customers, particularly in light of the strengthening of the rand. We have to ensure we meet stringent international quality requirements," he adds.

According to Allcock, this should not be too difficult from an operational perspective with the effective utilisation of internationally recognised software development and testing tools.

"The greatest challenge, however, will be to inculcate a culture of quality into the software development sector in SA. We’ve done it successfully in the motor industry - with the result that we are now building motor vehicles for the demanding export market: there’s no reason why this can’t be achieved in the IT sector too," he concludes.