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Communications of the ACM


Lessons from the Tech Transfer Trenches

Lessons from the Tech Transfer Trenches, illustration


As researchers employed by a company, we wear two hats. One of our roles is to participate in the research community. The other is to channel some of our research toward "business impact" on the company we work for. In this Viewpoint, we present our experiences in taking our research project on test automation to business impact. Notwithstanding differences between organizations, we hope our colleagues in other research institutions will find some of these lessons useful in their own attempts toward business impact.

The work we describe here was done in the context of IBM's service delivery organization. Since this context may be unfamiliar to many readers, we first explain it briefly. Software businesses fall roughly into two categories: those (for example, Microsoft) that manufacture and sell software—essentially licenses to pre-packaged software—to other businesses and consumers, and those (for example, Accenture) that sell software development as a service to other businesses; some companies engage in both kinds of businesses. Both product and services businesses employ lots of software engineers, and both serve very large markets. Product companies differentiate their offerings based on the features in their products. By contrast, services companies differentiate their offerings based on the cost and quality of service. As such, prowess in software engineering is directly connected to their success.


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