Analyst company Gartner Group has noticed two trends occurring in the US that UK users are likely to experience in the not to distant future.
The first is where a company that belongs to a user association has built software components which it is then able to resell to other users.
Gartner analyst Mike Bletchar, vice-president for applications development, says that users of high-end development tools such as Sterling and Forte, and rapid development tools such as Visual Basic, Powerbuilder and VisualAge for Java, have an opportunity to recoup development costs. Reselling software components into the user community is an easy way to achieve this.
The second trend identified by Gartner is that implementers are developing systems for end-users from scratch, but offering discounted services if the business user allows the service firm to re-use parts of the applications.
"Users keep 20% of the application for their competitive advantage and get significantly discounted services if the services company can walk away with the application and sell it," says Bletchar. Major services companies including Andersen, EDS, PriceWaterhouseCoopers and IBM Global Services all offer this type of deal to users.
However, users must negotiate their contracts carefully to benefit from shared development costs.
The possibility of slashing development costs by reusing software components is greater today than it was a few years ago. Components are being used to replace traditional business processes, many of which have been developed in languages such as Cobol.
For instance, IBM's e-commerce strategy rests on Java and Enterprise Java Beans (EJB) - the Java component model. Clive Druett of IBM's technical staff says, "Java is enabling e-business. People are writing Java applications where a few years ago they would have written Cobol."
As companies re-engineer their business processes, Druett says IBM sees users increasingly rewriting code as Java components.
One company that is looking to provide an open market for software components is ComponentSource, the online component library. Two weeks ago it introduced an XML interface to its component library that allows corporate developers to link directly to components on the Web.
ComponentSource sees the XML interface as the first step towards enabling companies to seamlessly integrate their own internal development environments with the ComponentSource online component repository.