As a professional software engineer for more than four decades it is always interesting to look at how software is continuously evolving. When I started in the industry all products were stand-alone, dedicated mainframe applications. Financial institutions, government organisations and major retail outlets used custom built systems that operationally managed the running of the entire business. All the data was stored together in expansive databases and whilst systems were somewhat clunky the systems were very secure and worked very well.

In the mid-nineties fear of the Millennium Bug led to an explosion in distributed application software development. Smaller purpose-built applications were developed to replace the larger enterprise systems, which in turn led to an upheaval of business as a whole. Where previously everyone in a business dealt with common architecture, now it was being siloed into disparate units, which in turn led to the need to get personally involved in the management of the processes and the data.

In 2001 two things happened - all the work related to the Millennium Bug came to a crashing end. By February the recruiters who used to call with offers of work were now calling seeking opportunities for work. Over the previous five years, in catering for Y2K, every organisation had simultaneously reengineered their systems carefully ensuring their systems were robust, Later in the year the second thing occurred. Because of September 11, security dominated budgets.

Attributed to the growing opportunities of the internet. Off the shelf, customer relationship management (CRM) tools dominated the market with easily configurable solutions that could be configured with minimal IT involvement, thus changing the way application development occurred.

IT underwent a huge shift in the way more people were managing and interacting with technology, which was now openly targeting regular business people and development changed from its traditional entire development methodology to a much more rapid and agile approach.

Enterprise-wide reporting had proven to be a challenge with many businesses employing teams of people who correlated the information manually, and Microsoft’s Excel and PowerPoint became the most used business tools. Due to all the problems related to doing something manually – human error, the time taken, having to train people, security concerns and automating the pointless repetitive task, enterprise-wide reporting systems came onto the scene.

Initially these reporting systems relied on finely tuned complex processing and as PCs and the internet got faster, and storage cheaper, reporting improved through the use of data warehouses and data lakes – purpose built repositories where all the business transactions would reside.

Today, with the advent of the cloud and the speed of the internet, on-premise hardware and software is being replaced with a pay-as-you-use architecture. Services such as storage, databases, application software and virtual computers, dominate the market and data security is more of a concern today than ever before as it is now the prime target for criminals.

Well designed data architecture, with all the associated processes, has always been my business and I am privileged to work in this industry with all the technologies, organisations and people with whom I have both learnt from and shared my knowledge. Data systems are my passion and they do not work properly unless they are implemented well, which means accurate, accessible, easily understood and secure.

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