Update - The newsletter for the University of Memphis
More May Features:

Lindner Receives Highest Honor
The U of M Steps into India
Study Abroad a Perfect Cup of Tea
AUSP Lends Helping Hand
Distinguished Teaching Award
Two Honored with Briggs Award
Research/Creative Awards go to 5
Going the Distance
Taking Note
Poteet Honored with Award
Green Fee
Rushing School of Music Director


May 2010 Briefs

The popular “The Delta. Everything Southern!” conference is returning to the University of Memphis June 3 at the Fogelman Executive Center. The conference begins at 8:15 a.m. and has an impressive list of experts on the history, life and culture of the Delta. Past conferences have sold out in advance. New this year is online registration: visit http://www.memphis.edu
for registration information and other details.

The U of M Moot Court travel team finished second in the National Frederick Douglass Moot Court Competition in Boston last month. After winning the Southern Regional Championship, team members LaChina Algers and Joseph McKinney advanced to the national competition.

For More Information:
303 Administration Building
Memphis, TN 38152
Phone: 901/678-3811
Fax: 901/678-3607
e-mail: grussll@memphis.edu

The U of M steps into India with tech training program

By Sara Hoover

Any economics professor will tell you that the most fundamental economics lesson is supply and demand. And demand is exactly what brought the Systems Testing Excellence Program (STEP) at the FedEx Institute of Technology into being, and eventually across the globe to India.

STEP provides software-testing training that began several years ago when FedEx approached the U of M about developing such a program for their software testers.

“The University had a contract with FedEx to develop a technical training program for their testers and developers. As part of that, we developed material using an interdisciplinary approach combining information systems, computer science and engineering perspectives,” said Dr. Jasbir Dhaliwal, director of STEP. “The prior training programs offered in the commercial marketplace weren’t really informed by academia and science. Ours is a very unique program and the word got out. Local companies started asking us about the program and we started offering a public program. We had testers from companies like International Paper, St. Jude (Children’s Research Hospital), First Tennessee and Thomas & Betts take part and even people flying in from Atlanta and Nashville. We realized that there was a bigger market for this.”

The U of M was then contacted by Kothandaraman Sridharan, former CEO of BFL Software and advisory board member for the U of M’s management information systems department. Sridharan connected STEP with Intellisys Technology, a company based in Illinois that already had contacts and an operation in India. They started discussing licensing the STEP material for the Indian market, and out of that grew the venture called IStep Training in early 2009.

The Indian IT market consists of approximately one million professionals, with about 150,000 new workers entering the market annually. Testing represents 40 percent of the Indian IT market. With almost 500,000 professionals engaged in testing in India and nearly 40,000 of those attending training on an annual basis, India represents a high-growth market for the U of M’s STEP offerings.

Intellisys was selected as the partner based on its credibility and expertise.

“When they came to us, they were very eager,” said Kevin Boggs, director of technology transfer and research development in the FedEx Institute of Technology. “While they weren’t the only ones, they were the only ones that really came with a credible package of contacts and expertise, therefore we went with them.”

The next step was to have U of M faculty train the trainers in India who would then be teaching the software testing certification using STEP’s materials. This train-the-trainer training is not ongoing, but one-time and took six weeks. As new modules or supplements are added on an annual basis based on new research, there will be additional training for the Indian partners.

“What we ended up doing was using Skype to train. Each U of M instructor taught for three hours at a time,” said Dhaliwal, associate dean of research and academic programs in the Fogelman College of Business & Economics. “So, our instructors literally got up in the middle of the night because of the 14-hour difference. It was a learning experience for them. Wow, having an audience far away and you’re doing it in your pajamas. We trained all their trainers and now their trainers are training testers in India.”

The trainers in India have now trained approximately 72 testers thus far. Per the agreement, 100 students are to be trained this year, 500 next year and at least 5,000 trained in 2012 and every year thereafter.

As with all new ventures, modifications are necessary and this partnership is no different.

“It’s going well. They have discovered different markets because initially they thought they’ll take this to large software corporations,” said Dhaliwal. “They’ve found that some of the trainers had difficulty with highly experienced testers because our material is researchbased. In some ways, they needed us for such market segments. But, our faculty can’t fly around for these things. That doesn’t make sense as we need them here. But for junior testing or entry-level, it works well. Most of their customers are entry-level people, not the more experienced ones, which is a difference.”

The Indian trainers have been working with several colleges in India as well. According to IStep, once it establishes its brand image, it will impact the Indian IT market within three to four years.

Through the licensing agreement, the U of M gets royalties from a percentage of the revenues. Besides monetary benefits, the U of M brand is going global and setting the standard for software testing internationally.

“It gets the University’s name associated with a high-level industry training program in a place where lots and lots of software engineers are being trained to work all over the world,” said Boggs. “It also allows us to be the standard setter for this sort of thing. If no one else is providing systems testing, software testing training and certification from a University and we are the first, then anybody else that comes along will have to say something in relation to us: They’re better than us, different than the U of M, build on what the U of M has done. In any case, it gets us in the game. The revenue from the royalties helps support research, helps encourage people to work with my office to commercialize their technologies.”

“That fact that these people are saying get yourself trained by research expertise from the University of Memphis is invaluable,” added Dhaliwal. “It attracts more graduate students to our university and even the companies we work with here. They find out and say, ‘Wow, you have a program license in India.’ It’s a pretty big deal. From an insider’s perspective, the biggest benefit to our faculty has been, ‘Our material is being used internationally.’We all hear about a global world, but at the end of the day we teach our class here to local students. And then tonight at 9 o’clock in the evening I have to sign up and train these people on the other side of the world. In terms of mindset, our faculty members have changed based on this experience. That was huge for our team.”

The program may eventually become more global as Intellisys has expressed interested in the licensing rights for China, and STEP has been approached by another company that wants the licensing rights for Eastern Europe.

“We are exploring. At this point, we’re trying to decide how STEP should evolve from here. I want this initial license to work really well (first). Every year we wait, we will learn a lot more. It’s learning as we go,” said Dhaliwal.

The next steps include figuring out how to launch a start-up company based on the STEP program that could grow and incorporate new STEP material, possibly tap the U.S. and European markets and provide a broader range of services.

“Right now, what IStep has is the individual tester training material,” said Boggs. “They don’t have the test auditing and a host of other capabilities that STEP has been developing. They just have that one. But if we were to start, or if entrepreneurs working with us were to start, a company we would look at them probably as a much broader service provider.”

The team hopes to know within six months or less if the start-up will happen and in the meantime will continue to develop the Indian and other markets.

“This is a great beginning for IStep Training, and it intends to deliver the STEP courses throughout India and elevate the Indian software professionals’ testing capability to new heights,” said Vishi K. Viswanath, CEO and president of IStep Training and managing partner of Intellisys Technology.

According to Dean Rajiv Grover of the U of M’s Fogelman College of Business & Economics, “This agreement demonstrates how the College’s world class research expertise and competencies can help open up export markets for our region. I am pleased that our research group in management information systems is making great strides in building interdisciplinary linkages across the campus to generate new sources of revenue for the University.”

For more information on STEP, the FedEx Institute of Technology and the Office of Technology Transfer at the University of Memphis, visit http://www.memphis.edu/fedex/index.php. For more information on the Fogelman College of Business & Economics at the University of Memphis, visit http://www.memphis.edu/fcbe/.

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