As the developer of software design tools Automate Plus and Supermate, and pioneer of the UK government-endorsed structured systems analysis and design method, SSADM, Learmonth & Burchett Management Systmes Plc is better placed than many to comment on the current and future trends of the computer-aided software engineering market. The company, which has offices in London and Bristol, last week took time out to do just this, in a session that culled a few sacred cows, and kicked off with the assertion that consistent corporate over-hyping and misinformation are responsible for the current slump in the US software engineering tools market, which is considered to be some 18 months ahead of the UK. On the one hand, argued company chiefs, endless excited comments of the and-just-think-where-we’ll-be-in-five years time kind have led to some businesses postponing purchases until the early 1990s, with those keen to be seen aloft the software engineering bandwagon misapplying hastily-implemented off-the shelf solutions, or sticking stubbornly to inappropriate methodologies. Justification that Learmonth & Burchett could plead not guilty on all counts was offered in the shape of the comprehensive planning study customarily carried out by the company before – and if – a sale is made, and by its insistence that building a flexible environment, on the premise that different systems need different approaches, is what we’re all about. In a bid to ensure that full product potential is achieved, the idea that implementation must be treated as a project in its own right was offered as a supplementary philosophical tenet. As far as the future is concerned, the company claims that its next generation of products will be designed to fulfill multi-user project management needs, offering multiple views of – and access to – the same data. Long-term, it argued, products will exploit artificial intelligence, expert systems, knowledge-based and computer-aided manufacturing modelling techniques to embed a set of business rules, problems and solutions into a system, thereby freeing the analyst from routine manual work and, eventually, enabling at least 80% of a system to be generated at the touch of a button. Meanwhile, Learmonth continues to look for a suitable acquisition, although talks with a number of consultancy, training and small software firms have so far failed to throw up a logical extension to its business. A product announcement – presumably the next Autodate or Supermate release – is expected at the end of August, and the company also plans to standardise a number of interchange files. And despite protestations to the contrary, there was one news snippet – the company finalised its first – and major – sale to an unspecified Australian company last week.