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Digital Transformation

Balancing talent & technology at right cost

Byju Joseph, CTO, Future Generali Life Insurance, discusses key issues associated with inhouse software development:

Ravi Lalwani: What are the commonly used programming and productivity tools used in Future Generali Life Insurance?

Byju Joseph: We use Visual Studio and open tools to create and deploy modern web applications. Development for the web is by using ASP.NET, Node.js, Python, JavaScript, Angular, jQuery, Bootstrap, Azure, Vision AI, Android Studio, Flutter, VS Code, Ionic, SQLite Manager, Notepad ++, Git, Java SDK, Android SDK, JetBrains, Sourcetree, etc.

What new programming tools and programming productivity tools are you looking to adopt to empower digital transformation?

Migration to Visual Studio Code enables us deep remote development and helps connecting to a container running a different OS (build, debug, test, and deploy software containers). In addition, we will be migrating from .NET Framework to .NET Core. Moving code to .NET 5 is not only about supporting future Windows releases, we see it as an opportunity to deliver it to many more platforms and users.


How do you prioritize between better technology vs talent availability vs cost vs other factors?

The way we do business is changing at a breakneck pace. We are spending a large chunk of our budget on adopting new technologies. It is given that technology is going to change just about everything. The thing is, when technology becomes complex, talent becomes even more important to the business because we need skilled employees to successfully use the technology that we have invested in. These days, all the best talent wants to be part of leading-edge organizations that are innovative and efficient. So, if organizations do not invest in technology, existing talent won’t stay, and new talent won’t be attracted. The key lies in balancing talent and technology at the right cost. We look for people with an aptitude to learn new technologies and are able to apply them in different environments and who have the skills to integrate new strategies and resources.

How do tools from smaller companies compare with those from giants like Microsoft, Oracle, etc?

Many fascinating smaller companies that have come from nowhere over the last few years are building best tools and seemingly doing good in otherwise dominant ecosystems. And it has been done largely by creating a new market, rather than competing with giants. There are opportunities to be both found and created, and it is still possible for the right combination of skill, timing and smartness to carve out a niche where the big players will not squash small.

Are the tool costs rising, falling, or steady?

The required sophistication of digital presence continues to accelerate. Unfortunately, the skills required to develop and maintain even a basic app, are in short supply. In my experience, the modern development tools are available at reasonable prices and steady for quite some time. The rising cost of programming talent is the key concern while we still face right skill shortage.

From your perspective, how do open source tools compare with proprietary ones today?

Most important open source engineering software is essentially free, continually evolving, less prone to bugs and no locking into using a particular vendor. Open participation enables co-creation and faster problem-solving, will get quick access to the support offered by technical community. Free exchange of ideas creates an environment where people can learn from each other and contribute to the creation of new ideas. In open source communities, the best ideas win, and everyone has access to the same information. People with the same principles bring together diverse ideas and share their work, facilitating rapid prototyping.
Despite the many benefits, there are many reasons why open source software adoption is as widespread as proprietary alternatives. Since creating a commercial software that would generate revenue is not a requirement here, the needs of the end user tend to be neglected in favour of developers’ preferences. As a result, there are several disadvantages of using purely open source software.
The software interface is much less user-friendly, and often difficult to use unless you have extensive coding experience. When you run into problems, you have only the community of fellow users to rely on for support, which they provide on a voluntary basis. While one benefit of an open system is that many people are identifying and fixing the bugs; however, that also means that it will be vulnerable to users with malicious intentions.

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