Accelerating Out of Crisis with Digital Transformation

Gouri Mahendru

Undoubtedly, business over the past few months has been unlike ever before. With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting physical stores, restaurants, and offices the world over, organizations of all shapes and sizes were compelled to move their businesses online and we were reminded of the power of technology as an enabler of success.

As businesses look beyond the immediate impacts of COVID-19, it’s time to adopt a connected enterprise mindset and accelerate digital transformation.

The New Customer Experience

When lockdown hit, customer service teams on the frontline found themselves at the centre of a perfect storm. Dealing with both the instant switch to remote working and staffing shortages due to the pandemic, they had to manage a huge influx in phone and email enquiries from customers struggling to keep their cool as they tried to rearrange cancelled bookings and secure refunds.

From market research, we know there is still a significant disconnect between the service businesses believe they are delivering, and the service customers believe they are getting. While the situation remains precarious, now is the time to focus on delivering fast, transparent, and verified support. Putting the right technology at the heart of this transformation will be key to success.

Reimagining CX in the wake of the pandemic

Many businesses shifted their operations online to continue selling safely through the pandemic, with worldwide spending on digital transformation technologies and services expected to rise by over 10% in 2020.

This has opened a vast array of new communication platforms on which organizations can engage with their customers. But businesses must ensure they are strengthening the bridge between their different channels to ensure a consistent customer experience. Omnichannel strategies have become a necessity, as companies find new ways to interact with their customer base on the channels they are using the most. Taking support to their customers rather than bringing them to support is critical.

Here are some useful tips for reinventing your customer experience with a supercharged omnichannel approach.

1.     No two customers are the same

People like to be treated as individuals and want to raise issues in the environment that they’re most comfortable in. It’s no good for businesses to invest heavily in one channel at the risk of another, as they could end up isolating a big customer segment.

Being able to support customers through email, phone, and chat services in a single, streamlined solution can help businesses deliver a better overall experience. The last thing customers want to do is repeat themselves when they switch between a chatbot interaction, text, email, or phone exchange. Offering a seamless experience means a customer’s query is logged once and shared across all communication channels, reducing the likelihood of them becoming dissatisfied with the service they are receiving.

2.     Look inward, as well as outward

It’s not just your customer-facing technology that you should consider, you also need to think about the internal systems that can help improve your target market’s perception of the company. Taking an omnichannel approach to customer communication provides multiple platforms to collect customer data. With more data, you can build a better picture of the average customer journey – from awareness and consideration to purchase – and deliver a better experience for each of them.

By offering your customers multiple touchpoints to interact with your brand, they can get everything they need from a single source of truth, without having to switch between the channels.

3.     Tweak and optimize campaigns as necessary

To succeed in hitting the right tone, keeping existing customers, and attracting new ones, you should understand exactly which marketing campaigns are resonating, and which aren’t. The results right now are likely to be very different to ‘business as usual’ – so the approach taken needs to be tailored to each customer accordingly.

Surveys of sales leaders during COVID-19 found that 62% have directed their teams to spend more time in their CRM system, looking at what insights they can glean from it. The CRM system is a powerful tool for collecting data and learning more about each customer, with the goal of delivering a better experience and building trust between buyer and seller.

Whatever systems you deploy, it’s important to be mindful of how your customers want to interact with you, not the other way around. As customers look to support the businesses that are looking after them the most, offering a consistent experience across your channels is key to securing loyal customers and repeat business.

Smarter CX starts with AI

There is a growing AI revolution taking place in customer service centers. Our own research found that a quarter of businesses want to use AI to improve their customers’ experience of their brand. This is hugely encouraging for the industry, but organizations shouldn’t invest in AI just for the sake of it. They need to find areas in which its use will see the most value.

For example, over a quarter (27%) said that their biggest frustration when dealing with customer service agents was being left on hold for too long. This issue has been exacerbated further by the huge volume of enquiries customer support teams now find themselves facing, with some customers waiting hours before getting through. AI-powered chatbots can remove some of this backlog by automating simple questions and routing customer chats that require urgent attention through to human service agents.

We know that consumers prize human interaction, especially during a time when it is so limited. For this reason, AI should only be brought into augment, not replace human customer service agents. In doing so, businesses can develop AIs that mimic the behaviour of their best agents, while freeing up their time to focus on trickier cases. This will ultimately lead to more positive outcomes, better all-round customer experiences, greater brand loyalty, and increased long-term value.

About the Author –

Gouri is part of the Quality Management function at GAVS, handling the Operations and Delivery excellence within ZIF Command Centres. She is passionate about driving business excellence through innovative IT Service Management in the Digital era and always looks for ways to deliver business value.
When she’s not playing with data and pivoting tables, she spends her time cooking, watching dramas and thrillers, and exploring places in and around the city.

Why is AIOps an Industrial Benchmark for Organizations to Scale in this Economy?

Ashish Joseph

Business Environment Overview

In this pandemic economy, the topmost priorities for most companies are to make sure the operations costs and business processes are optimized and streamlined. Organizations must be more proactive than ever and identify gaps that need to be acted upon at the earliest.

The industry has been striving towards efficiency and effectivity in its operations day in and day out. As a reliability check to ensure operational standards, many organizations consider the following levers:

  1. High Application Availability & Reliability
  2. Optimized Performance Tuning & Monitoring
  3. Operational gains & Cost Optimization
  4. Generation of Actionable Insights for Efficiency
  5. Workforce Productivity Improvement

Organizations that have prioritized the above levers in their daily operations require dedicated teams to analyze different silos and implement solutions that provide the result. Running projects of this complexity affects the scalability and monitoring of these systems. This is where AIOps platforms come in to provide customized solutions for the growing needs of all organizations, regardless of the size.

Deep Dive into AIOps

Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations (AIOps) is a platform that provides multilayers of functionalities that leverage machine learning and analytics.  Gartner defines AIOps as a combination of big data and machine learning functionalities that empower IT functions, enabling scalability and robustness of its entire ecosystem.

These systems transform the existing landscape to analyze and correlate historical and real-time data to provide actionable intelligence in an automated fashion.

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AIOps platforms are designed to handle large volumes of data. The tools offer various data collection methods, integration of multiple data sources, and generate visual analytical intelligence. These tools are centralized and flexible across directly and indirectly coupled IT operations for data insights.

The platform aims to bring an organization’s infrastructure monitoring, application performance monitoring, and IT systems management process under a single roof to enable big data analytics that give correlation and causality insights across all domains. These functionalities open different avenues for system engineers to proactively determine how to optimize application performance, quickly find the potential root causes, and design preventive steps to avoid issues from ever happening.

AIOps has transformed the culture of IT war rooms from reactive to proactive firefighting.

Industrial Inclination to Transformation

The pandemic economy has challenged the traditional way companies choose their transformational strategies. Machine learning-powered automations for creating an autonomous IT environment is no longer a luxury. The usage of mathematical and logical algorithms to derive solutions and forecasts for issues have a direct correlation with the overall customer experience. In this pandemic economy, customer attrition has a serious impact on the annual recurring revenue. Hence, organizations must reposition their strategies to be more customer-centric in everything they do. Thus, providing customers with the best-in-class service coupled with continuous availability and enhanced reliability has become an industry standard.

As reliability and scalability are crucial factors for any company’s growth, cloud technologies have seen a growing demand. This shift of demand for cloud premises for core businesses has made AIOps platforms more accessible and easier to integrate. With the handshake between analytics and automation, AIOps has become a transformative technology investment that any organization can make.

As organizations scale in size, so does the workforce and the complexity of the processes. The increase in size often burdens organizations with time-pressed teams having high pressure on delivery and reactive housekeeping strategies. An organization must be ready to meet the present and future demands with systems and processes that scale seamlessly. This why AIOps platforms serve as a multilayered functional solution that integrates the existing systems to manage and automate tasks with efficiency and effectivity. When scaling results in process complexity, AIOps platforms convert the complexity to effort savings and productivity enhancements.

Across the industry, many organizations have implemented AIOps platforms as transformative solutions to help them embrace their present and future demand. Various studies have been conducted by different research groups that have quantified the effort savings and productivity improvements.

The AIOps Organizational Vision

As the digital transformation race has been in full throttle during the pandemic, AIOps platforms have also evolved. The industry did venture upon traditional event correlation and operations analytical tools that helped organizations reduce incidents and the overall MTTR. AIOps has been relatively new in the market as Gartner had coined the phrase in 2016.  Today, AIOps has attracted a lot of attention from multiple industries to analyze its feasibility of implementation and the return of investment from the overall transformation. Google trends show a significant increase in user search results for AIOps during the last couple of years.

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While taking a well-informed decision to include AIOps into the organization’s vision of growth, we must analyze the following:

  1. Understanding the feasibility and concerns for its future adoption
  2. Classification of business processes and use cases for AIOps intervention
  3. Quantification of operational gains from incident management using the functional AIOps tools

AIOps is truly visioned to provide tools that transform system engineers to reliability engineers to bring a system that trends towards zero incidents.

Because above all, Zero is the New Normal.

About the Author –

Ashish Joseph is a Lead Consultant at GAVS working for a healthcare client in the Product Management space. His areas of expertise lie in branding and outbound product management. He runs a series called #BizPective on LinkedIn and Instagram focusing on contemporary business trends from a different perspective. Outside work, he is very passionate about basketball, music, and food.

Customer Focus Realignment in a Pandemic Economy

Ashish Joseph

Business Environment Overview

The Pandemic Economy has created an environment that has tested businesses to either adapt or perish. The atmosphere has become a quest for the survival of the fittest. On the brighter side, organizations have stepped up and adapted to the crisis in a way that they have worked faster and better than ever before. 

During this crisis, companies have been strategic in understanding their focus areas and where to concentrate on the most. From a high-level perspective, we can see that businesses have focused on recovering the sources of their revenues, rebuilding operations, restructuring the organization, and accelerating their digital transformation initiatives. In a way, the pandemic has forced companies to optimize their strategies and harness their core competencies in a hyper-competitive and survival environment.

Need for Customer Focused Strategies

A pivotal and integral strategy to maintain and sustain growth is for businesses to avoid the churn of their existing customers and ensure the quality of delivery can build their trust for future collaborations and referrals. Many organizations, including GAVS, have understood that Customer Experience and Customer Success is consequential for customer retention and brand affinity. 

Businesses should realign themselves in the way they look at sales funnels. A large portion of the annual budget is usually allocated towards the top of the funnel activities to acquire more customers. But companies with customer success engraved in their souls, believe in the ideology that the bottom of the funnel feeds the top of the funnel. This strategy results in a self-sustaining and recurring revenue model for the business.

An independent survey conducted by the Customer Service Managers and Professionals Journal has found that companies pay 6x times more to acquire new customers than to keep an existing one. In this pandemic economy, the costs for customer acquisition will be much higher than before as organizations must be very frivolous in their spending. The best step forward is to make sure the companies strive for excellence in their customer experience and deliver measurable value to them. A study conducted by Bain and Company titled “Prescription for Cutting Costs” talks about how increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits from 25%-95%. 

The path to a sustainable and high growth business is to adopt customer-centric strategies that yield more value and growth for its customers. Enhancing customer experience should be prime and proper governance must be in place to monitor and gauge strategies. Governance in the world of the customer experience must revolve around identifying and managing resources needed to drive sustained actions, establishing robust procedures to organize processes, and ensuring a framework for stellar delivery.

Scaling to ever-changing customer needs

A research body called Walker Information conducted an independent research on B2B companies focusing on key initiatives that drive customer experiences and future growth. The study included various customer experience leaders, senior executives, and influencers representing a diverse set of business models in the industry. They published the report titled “Customer 2020: A Progress Report” and the following are strategies that best meet the changing needs of customers in the B2B landscape.

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Over 45% of the leaders highlighted the importance of developing a customer-centric culture that simplifies products and processes for the business. Now the question that we need to ask ourselves is, how do we as an organization scale up to these demands of the market? I strongly believe that each of us, in the different roles we play in the organization, has an impact.

The Executive Team can support more customer experience strategies, formulate success metrics, measure the impact of customer success initiatives, and ensure alignment with respect to the corporate strategy.

The Client Partners can ensure that they represent the voice of the customer, plot a feasible customer experience roadmap, be on point with customer intelligence data, and ensure transparency and communication with the teams and the customers. 

The cross-functional team managers and members can own and execute process improvements, personalize and customize customer journeys, and monitor key delivery metrics.

When all these members work in unison, the target goal of delivery excellence coupled with customer success is always achievable.

Going Above and Beyond

Organizations should aim for customers who can be retained for life. The retention depends upon how much a business is willing to go the extra mile to add measurable value to its customers. Business contracts should evolve into partnerships that collaborate on their competitive advantages that bring solutions to real-world business problems. 

As customer success champions, we should reevaluate the possibilities in which we can make a difference for our customers. By focusing on our core competencies and using the latest tools in the market, we can look for avenues that can bring effort savings, productivity enhancements, process improvements, workflow optimizations, and business transformations that change the way our customers do business. 

After all, We are GAVS. We aim to galvanize a sense of measurable success through our committed teams and innovative solutions. We should always stride towards delivery excellence and strive for customer success in everything we do.

About the Author –

Ashish Joseph is a Lead Consultant at GAVS working for a healthcare client in the Product Management space. His areas of expertise lie in branding and outbound product management.

He runs a series called #BizPective on LinkedIn and Instagram focusing on contemporary business trends from a different perspective. Outside work, he is very passionate about basketball, music, and food.

Reduce Test Times and Increase Coverage with AI & ML

Kevin Surace

Chairman & CTO, Appvance.ai

With the need for frequent builds—often many times in a day—QEs can only keep pace through AI-led testing. It is the modern approach that allows quality engineers to create scripts and run tests autonomously to find bugs and provide diagnostic data to get to the root cause.

AI-driven testing means different things to different QA engineers. Some see it as using AI for identifying objects or helping create script-less testing; some consider it as autonomous generation of scripts while others would think in terms of leveraging system data to create scripts which mimic real user activity.

Our research shows that teams who are able to implement what they can in scripts and manual testing have, on average, less than 15% code, page, action, and likely user flow coverage. In essence, even if you have 100% code coverage, you are likely testing less than 15% of what users will do. That in itself is a serious issue.

Starting in 2012, Appvance set out to rethink the concept of QA automation. Today our AIQ Technology combines tens of thousands of hours of test automation machine learning with the deep domain knowledge, the essential business rules, each QE specialist knows about their application. We create an autonomous expert system that spawns multiple instances of itself that swarm over the application testing at the UX and at the API-levels. Along the way these Intelligences write the scripts, hundreds, and thousands of them, that describes their individual journeys through the application.

And why would we need to generate so many tests fully autonomously. Because applications today are 10X the size they were just ten years ago. But your QE team doesn’t have 10X the number of test automation engineers. And because you have 10X less time to do the work than 10 years ago. Just to keep pace with the dev team requires each quality engineer to be 100X more productive than they were 10 years ago.

Something had to change; that something is AI.

AI-testing in two steps

We leveraged AI and witnessed over 90% reduction in human effort to find the same bugs. So how does this work?

It’s really a two-stage process.

First, leveraging key AI capabilities in TestDesigner, Appvance’s codeless test creation system, we make it possible to write scripts faster, identify more resilient accessors, and substantially reduce maintenance of scripts.

With AI alongside you as you implement an automated test case, you get a technology that suggests the most stable accessors and constantly improves and refines them. It also creates “fallback accessors” when tests run and hit an accessor change enabling the script to continue even though changes have been made to the application. And finally, the AI can self-heal scripts which must and update them with new accessors without human assistance. These AI-based, built-in technologies give you the most stable scripts every time with the most robust accessor methodologies and self-healing. Nothing else comes close.

The final two points above deal with autonomous generation of tests. To beat the queue and crush it, you have to get a heavy lift for finding bugs. And as we have learnt, go far beyond the use cases that a business analyst listed. Job one is to find bugs and prioritize them, leveraging AI to generate tests autonomously.

Appvance’s patented AI engine has already been trained with millions of actions. You will teach it the business rules of your application (machine learning). It will then create real user flows, take every possible action, discover every page, fill out every form, get to every state, and validate the most critical outcomes just as you trained it to do. It does all this without writing or recording a single script. We call this is ‘blueprinting’ an application. We do this at every new build. Multiple instances of the AI will spin up, each selecting a unique path through the application, typically finding 1000s or more flows in a matter of minutes. When complete, the AI hands you the results including bugs, all the diagnostic data to help find the root cause, and the reusable test-scripts to repeat the bug. A further turn of the crank can refine these scripts into exact replicas of what production users are doing and apply them to the new build. Any modern approach to continuous testing needs to leverage AI in both helping QA engineers create scripts as well as autonomously create tests so that both parts work together to find bugs and provide data to get to the root cause. That AI driven future is available today from Appvance.

About the Author –

Kevin Surace is a highly lauded entrepreneur and innovator. He’s been awarded 93 worldwide patents, and was Inc. Magazine Entrepreneur of the Year, CNBC Innovator of the Decade, a Davos World Economic Forum Tech Pioneer, and inducted into the RIT Innovation Hall of Fame. Kevin has held leadership roles with Serious Energy, Perfect Commerce, CommerceNet and General Magic and is credited with pioneering work on AI virtual assistants, smartphones, QuietRock and the Empire State Building windows energy retrofit.

Enabling Success through Servant Leadership

Vasu

Vasudevan Gopalan

Servant Leadership – does it seem like a dichotomy? Well, it is not so. In this new age of Agile and Digital Transformation, this is a much sought-after trait in Leaders by their Organizations.

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The goal of Servant Leadership is to Serve. It involves the leader supporting and empowering their teams and thus enabling Success. The paradigm shift in the thought process here is that – instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader exists to serve the team. And do remember that a Servant Leader is a Servant first, Leader next – not the other way around 😊

In today’s Agile world of Software Delivery, the Scrum Master needs to be a Servant Leader.

So, what are the characteristics of a Servant Leader?

  • Self-aware
  • Humble
  • Integrity
  • Result-oriented
  • Has foresight
  • Listener
  • Doesn’t abuse authority
  • Intellectual authority
  • Collaborative
  • Trusting
  • Coach
  • Resolves conflict

As you can see here, it is all about achieving results through people empowerment. When people realize that their Leader helps every team member build a deep sense of community and belonging in the workplace, there is a higher degree of accountability and responsibility carried out in their work.

Ultimately, a Servant Leader wants to help others thrive, and is happy to put the team’s needs before their own. They care about people and understand that the best results are produced not through top-down delegation but by building people up. People need psychological safety and autonomy to be creative and innovative.

As Patrick Lencioni describes, Humility is one of the 3 main pillars for ideal team players. Humility is “the feeling or attitude that you have no special importance that makes you better than others”.

Behaviors of Humble Agile Servant Leaders

  • Deep listening and observing
  • Openness towards new ideas from team members
  • Appreciating strengths and contributions of team members
  • Seek contributions of team members to overcome challenges and limitations together
  • Be coachable coaches – i.e. Coach others, and simultaneously be easy to be coached by others

Humility’s foe – Arrogance

In Robert Hogan’s terms, arrogance makes “the most destructive leaders” and “is the critical factor driving flawed decision-makers” who “create the slippery slope to organizational failure”.

Humility in Practice

A study on the personality of CEOs of some of the top Fortune 1000 Companies shows that what makes these companies successful as they are is the CEOs’ humility. These CEOs share two sets of qualities seemingly contradictory but always back each other up strongly:

  • They are “self-effacing, quiet, reserved, even shy”. They are modest. And they admit mistakes.
  • At the same time, behind this reserved exterior, they are “fiercely ambitious, tremendously competitive, tenacious”. They have strong self-confidence and self-esteem. And they’re willing to listen to feedback and solicit input from knowledgeable subordinates.

According to Dr. Robert Hogan (2018), these characteristics of humility create “an environment of continuous improvement”.

What are the benefits of being a humble Servant Leader?

  • Increase inclusiveness – the foundation of trust
  • Strengthen the bond with peers – the basis of well-being
  • Deepen awareness
  • Improve empathy
  • Increase staff engagement

So, what do you think would be the outcomes for organizations that have practicing Servant Leaders?

Source:

https://www.bridge-global.com/blog/5-excellent-tips-to-become-a-supercharged-agile-leader/

About the Author –

Vasu heads the Engineering function for A&P. He is a Digital Transformation leader with ~20 years of IT industry experience spanning across Product Engineering, Portfolio Delivery, Large Program Management, etc. Vasu has designed and delivered Open Systems, Core Banking, Web / Mobile Applications, etc. Outside of his professional role, Vasu enjoys playing badminton and is a fitness enthusiast.

Center of Excellence – Big Data

The Big Data CoE is a team of experts that experiments and builds various cutting-edge solutions by leveraging the latest technologies, like Hadoop, Spark, Tensor-flow, and emerging open-source technologies, to deliver robust business results. A CoE is where organizations identify new technologies, learn new skills, and develop appropriate processes that are then deployed into the business to accelerate adoption.

Leveraging data to drive competitive advantage has shifted from being an option to a requirement for hyper competitive business landscape. One of the main objectives of the CoE is deciding on the right strategy for the organization to become data-driven and benefit from a world of Big Data, Analytics, Machine Learning and the Internet of Things (IoT).

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Triple Constraints of Projects

“According to Chaos Report, 52% of the projects are either delivered late or run over the allocated. The average across all companies is 189% of the original cost estimate. The average cost overrun is 178% for large companies, 182% for medium companies, and 214% for small companies. The average overrun is 222% of the original time estimate. For large companies, the average is 230%; for medium companies, the average is 202%; and for small companies, the average is 239%.”

Big Data CoE plays a vital role in bringing down the cost and reducing the response time to ensure project is delivered on time by helping the organization to build the skillful resources.

Big Data’s Role

Helping the organization to build quality big data applications on their own by maximizing their ability to leverage data. Data engineers are committed to helping ensure the data:

  • define your strategic data assets and data audience
  • gather the required data and put in place new collection methods
  • get the most from predictive analytics and machine learning
  • have the right technology, data infrastructure, and key data competencies
  • ensure you have an effective security and governance system in place to avoid huge financial, legal, and reputational problems.
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Data Analytics Stages

Architecture optimized building blocks covering all data analytics stages: data acquisition from a data source, preprocessing, transformation, data mining, modeling, validation, and decision making.

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Focus areas

Algorithms support the following computation modes:

  • Batch processing
  • Online processing
  • Distributed processing
  • Stream processing

The Big Data analytics lifecycle can be divided into the following nine stages:

  • Business Case Evaluation
  • Data Identification
  • Data Acquisition & Filtering
  • Data Extraction
  • Data Validation & Cleansing
  • Data Aggregation & Representation
  • Data Analysis
  • Data Visualization
  • Utilization of Analysis Results

A key focus of Big-data CoE is to establish a data-driven organization by developing proof of concept with the latest technologies with Big Data and Machine learning models. As of part of CoE initiatives, we are involved in developing the AI widgets to various market places, such as Azure, AWS, Magento and others. We are also actively involved in engaging and motivating the team to learn cutting edge technologies and tools like Apache Spark and Scala. We encourage the team to approach each problem in a pragmatic way by making them understand the latest architectural patterns over the traditional MVC methods.

It has been established that business-critical decisions supported by data-driven insights have been more successful. We aim to take our organization forward by unleashing the true potential of data!

If you have any questions about the CoE, you may reach out to them at SME_BIGDATA@gavstech.com

CoE Team Members

  • Abdul Fayaz
  • Adithyan CR
  • Aditya Narayan Patra
  • Ajay Viswanath V
  • Balakrishnan M
  • Bargunan Somasundaram
  • Bavya V
  • Bipin V
  • Champa N
  • Dharmeswaran P
  • Diamond Das
  • Inthazamuddin K
  • Kadhambari Manoharan
  • Kalpana Ashokan
  • Karthikeyan K
  • Mahaboobhee Mohamedfarook
  • Manju Vellaichamy
  • Manojkumar Rajendran
  • Masthan Rao Yenikapati
  • Nagarajan A
  • Neelagandan K
  • Nithil Raj Tharammal Paramb
  • Radhika M
  • Ramesh Jayachandar
  • Ramesh Natarajan
  • Ruban Salamon
  • Senthil Amarnath
  • T Mohammed Anas Aadil
  • Thulasi Ram G
  • Vijay Anand Shanmughadass
  • Vimalraj Subash

Center of Excellence – .Net

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“Maximizing the quality, efficiency, and reusability by providing innovative technical solutions, creating intellectual capital, inculcating best practices and processes to instill greater trust and provide incremental value to the Stakeholders.”

With the above mission,we have embarked on our journey to establish and strengthen the .NET Center of excellence (CoE).

“The only way to do great work is to love what you do.” – Steve Jobs

Expertise in this CoE is drawn from top talent across all customer engagements within GAVS. Team engagement is maintained at a very high level with various connects such as regular technology sessions, advanced trainings for CoE members from MS, support and guidance for becoming a MS MVP. Members also socialize new trending articles, tools, whitepapers and blogs within the CoE team and MS Teams channels setup for collaboration. All communications from MS Premier Communications sent to Gold Partners is also shared within the group. The high-level roadmap as planned for this group is laid out below.

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The .NET CoEfocused on assistingourcustomers in every stage of theengagement right from on-boarding, planning, execution, technical implementation and finally all the way to launching and growing. Our prescriptive approach is to leverage industry-proven best practices, solutions, reusable components and include robust resources, training, and making a vibrant partner community.

With the above as the primary goal in mind the CoE group is currently engaged inor planning the following initiatives.

Technology Maturity Assessment

One of the main objectivesof this group is to provide constant feedback to all .NET stack project for improvement and improvisation. The goal for this initiative is to build the technology maturity index for all projects for the below parameters.

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Using those approaches within a short span of time we were able to make a significant impact for some of our engagements.

Client – Online Chain Store: Identified cheaper cloud hosting option for application UI.

Benefits: Huge cost and time savings.

Client – Health care sector: Provided alternate solution for DB migrations from DEV to various environments.

Benefits: Huge cost savings due to licensing annually.

Competency Building

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.” – Henry Ford

Continuous learning and upskilling are the new norms in today’s fast changing technology landscape. This initiative is focused on providing learning and upskilling support to all technology teams in GAVS. Identifying code mentors, supporting team members to become full stack developers are some of the activities planned under this initiative.  Working along with the Learning & Development team,the .NET CoE isformulating different training tracks to upskill the team members and provide support for external assessments and MS certifications.

Solution Accelerators

“Good, better, best. Never let it rest. ‘Till your good is better and your better is best.” – St. Jerome

The primary determinants of CoE effectiveness are involvement in solutions and accelerators and in maintaining standard practices of the relevant technologies across customer engagements across the organization.

As part of this initiative we are focusing on building project templates, DevOps pipelines and automated testing templates for different technology stacks for both Serverless and Server Hosted scenarios. We also are planning similar activities for the Desktop/Mobile Stack with the Multi-Platform App UI (MAUI) framework which is planned to be released for Preview in Q4 2020.

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Additionally, we are also adoptingless-code, no-code development platforms for accelerated development cycles for specific use-cases.

As we progress on our journey to strengthen the .NET CoE, we want to act as acatalyst in rapid and early adoption of new technology solutions and work as trusted partners with all our customer and stakeholders.

If you have any questions about the CoE, you may reach out to them at COE_DOTNET@gavstech.com

CoE Team Members

  • Bismillakhan Mohammed
  • Gokul Bose
  • Kirubakaran Girijanandan
  • Neeraj Kumar
  • Prasad D
  • Ramakrishnan S
  • SaphalMalol
  • Saravanan Swaminathan
  • SenthilkumarKamayaswami
  • Sethuraman Varadhan
  • Srinivasan Radhakrishnan
  • Thaufeeq Ahmed
  • Thomas T
  • Vijay Mahalingam

Observability versus Monitoring

Sri Chaganty

“Observability” has become a key trend in Service Reliability Engineering practice.  One of the recommendations from Gartner’s latest Market Guide for IT Infrastructure Monitoring Tools released in January 2020 says, “Contextualize data that ITIM tools collect from highly modular IT architectures by using AIOps to manage other sources, such as observability metrics from cloud-native monitoring tools.”

Like so many other terms in software engineering, ‘observability’ is a term borrowed from an older physical discipline: in this case, control systems engineering. Let me use the definition of observability from control theory in Wikipedia: “observability is a measure of how well internal states of a system can be inferred from knowledge of its external outputs.”

Observability is gaining attention in the software world because of its effectiveness at enabling engineers to deliver excellent customer experiences with software despite the complexity of the modern digital enterprise.

When we blew up the monolith into many services, we lost the ability to step through our code with a debugger: it now hops the network.  Monitoring tools are still coming to grips with this seismic shift.

How is observability different than monitoring?

Monitoring requires you to know what you care about before you know you care about it. Observability allows you to understand your entire system and how it fits together, and then use that information to discover what specifically you should care about when it’s most important.

Monitoring requires you to already know what normal is. Observability allows discovery of different types of ‘normal’ by looking at how the system behaves, over time, in different circumstances.

Monitoring asks the same questions over and over again. Is the CPU usage under 80%? Is memory usage under 75% percent? Or, is the latency under 500ms? This is valuable information, but monitoring is useful for known problems.

Observability, on the other side, is about asking different questions almost all the time. You discover new things.

Observability allows the discovery of different types of ‘normal’ by looking at behavior, over time, in different circumstances.

Metrics do not equal observability.

What Questions Can Observability Answer?

Below are sample questions that can be addressed by an effective observability solution:

  • Why is x broken?
  • What services does my service depend on — and what services are dependent on my service?
  • Why has performance degraded over the past quarter?
  • What changed? Why?
  • What logs should we look at right now?
  • What is system performance like for our most important customers?”
  • What SLO should we set?
  • Are we out of SLO?
  • What did my service look like at time point x?
  • What was the relationship between my service and x at time point y?
  • What was the relationship of attributed across the system before we deployed? What’s it like now?
  • What is most likely contributing to latency right now? What is most likely not?
  • Are these performance optimizations on the critical path?

About the Author –

Sri is a Serial Entrepreneur with over 30 years’ experience delivering creative, client-centric, value-driven solutions for bootstrapped and venture-backed startups.

Business with a Heart

Balaji Uppili

People and technology are converging like never before, as the world is gripped by COVID – 19. Just a few months ago, nobody could have predicted or foreseen the way businesses are having to work today.  As we were strategizing on corporate governance, digital transformation and the best of resiliency plans to ensure business continuity, no one ever anticipated the scale and enormity of COVID 19.

Today, it has become obvious that COVID 19 has brought about the convergence of technology and humanity and how it can change the way businesses work and function.  While we as leaders have been thinking largely about business outcomes, this pandemic has triggered a more humane approach, and the approach is here to stay.  The humane approach will be the differentiator and will prove the winner.

There is no doubt that this pandemic has brought an urgent need to accelerate our digital capabilities. With the focus on strong IT infrastructure and remote working, workforces were able to transition to working from home, meeting through video conferencing, and surprisingly, this has turned to increase the humane aspect of business relations – it has now become alright for both parties to be seeing children, spouses or pets in meeting backgrounds, and that in itself has broken down huge barriers and formalities.  It is refreshing to see the emerging empathy that is getting stronger with every meeting, and increasing collaboration and communication. It is becoming increasingly clear that we have overlooked the important factor of how it is that people have been showing up to work.  Suddenly it is now more visible that people have equally strong roles within the family – when we see parents having to home-school their children, or having other care obligations, we are viewing their personal lives and are able to empathize with them more.  We are seeing the impact that business can have on people and their personal lives and this is a never like before opportunity for leaders to put our people first.

And with customers being the center of every business, the situation of not being able to do in-person meetings has now warranted newer ways to collaborate and further strengthen the customer-centricity initiatives even more.  It has become evident that no matter how much we as leaders are thinking of automating operations, it is human connections that run businesses successfully. Lots of things have been unraveled – Important business imperatives like criticality of clean workspace compliance, the fact that offshoring thousands of miles away is not factually a compromise, but a very cost-effective and efficient way of getting things done. Productivity has also increased, and work done this far by, has a positive impact of at least 20% or even more in certain situations. As boundaries and barriers are broken, the rigidities of who should work on something and when they should work on it have all become less rigid.  Employees are less regimental about time.  Virtual crowd outsourcing has become the norm – you throw an idea at a bunch of people and whoever has the ability and the bandwidth to handle the task takes care of it, instead of a formal task assignment, and this highlights the fungibility of people.

All in all, the reset in the execution processes and introducing much more of a humane approach is here to stay and make the new norm even more exciting.

About the Author –

Balaji has over 25 years of experience in the IT industry, across multiple verticals. His enthusiasm, energy, and client focus is a rare gift, and he plays a key role in bringing new clients into GAVS. Balaji heads the Delivery department and passionately works on Customer delight. He says work is worship for him and enjoys watching cricket, listening to classical music, and visiting temples.

JAVA – Cache Management

Sivaprakash Krishnan

This article explores the offering of the various Java caching technologies that can play critical roles in improving application performance.

What is Cache Management?

A cache is a hot or a temporary memory buffer which stores most frequently used data like the live transactions, logical datasets, etc. This intensely improves the performance of an application, as read/write happens in the memory buffer thus reducing retrieval time and load on the primary source. Implementing and maintaining a cache in any Java enterprise application is important.

  • The client-side cache is used to temporarily store the static data transmitted over the network from the server to avoid unnecessarily calling to the server.
  • The server-side cache could be a query cache, CDN cache or a proxy cache where the data is stored in the respective servers instead of temporarily storing it on the browser.

Adoption of the right caching technique and tools allows the programmer to focus on the implementation of business logic; leaving the backend complexities like cache expiration, mutual exclusion, spooling, cache consistency to the frameworks and tools.

Caching should be designed specifically for the environment considering a single/multiple JVM and clusters. Given below multiple scenarios where caching can be used to improve performance.

1. In-process Cache – The In-process/local cache is the simplest cache, where the cache-store is effectively an object which is accessed inside the application process. It is much faster than any other cache accessed over a network and is strictly available only to the process that hosted it.

Data Center Consolidation Initiative Services

  • If the application is deployed only in one node, then in-process caching is the right candidate to store frequently accessed data with fast data access.
  • If the in-process cache is to be deployed in multiple instances of the application, then keeping data in-sync across all instances could be a challenge and cause data inconsistency.
  • An in-process cache can bring down the performance of any application where the server memory is limited and shared. In such cases, a garbage collector will be invoked often to clean up objects that may lead to performance overhead.

In-Memory Distributed Cache

Distributed caches can be built externally to an application that supports read/write to/from data repositories, keeps frequently accessed data in RAM, and avoid continuous fetching data from the data source. Such caches can be deployed on a cluster of multiple nodes, forming a single logical view.

  • In-memory distributed cache is suitable for applications running on multiple clusters where performance is key. Data inconsistency and shared memory aren’t matters of concern, as a distributed cache is deployed in the cluster as a single logical state.
  • As inter-process is required to access caches over a network, latency, failure, and object serialization are some overheads that could degrade performance.

2. In-memory database

In-memory database (IMDB) stores data in the main memory instead of a disk to produce quicker response times. The query is executed directly on the dataset stored in memory, thereby avoiding frequent read/writes to disk which provides better throughput and faster response times. It provides a configurable data persistence mechanism to avoid data loss.

Redis is an open-source in-memory data structure store used as a database, cache, and message broker. It offers data replication, different levels of persistence, HA, automatic partitioning that improves read/write.

Replacing the RDBMS with an in-memory database will improve the performance of an application without changing the application layer.

3. In-Memory Data Grid

An in-memory data grid (IMDG) is a data structure that resides entirely in RAM and is distributed among multiple servers.

Key features

  • Parallel computation of the data in memory
  • Search, aggregation, and sorting of the data in memory
  • Transactions management in memory
  • Event-handling

Cache Use Cases

There are use cases where a specific caching should be adapted to improve the performance of the application.

1. Application Cache

Application cache caches web content that can be accessed offline. Application owners/developers have the flexibility to configure what to cache and make it available for offline users. It has the following advantages:

  • Offline browsing
  • Quicker retrieval of data
  • Reduced load on servers

2. Level 1 (L1) Cache

This is the default transactional cache per session. It can be managed by any Java persistence framework (JPA) or object-relational mapping (ORM) tool.

The L1 cache stores entities that fall under a specific session and are cleared once a session is closed. If there are multiple transactions inside one session, all entities will be stored from all these transactions.

3. Level 2 (L2) Cache

The L2 cache can be configured to provide custom caches that can hold onto the data for all entities to be cached. It’s configured at the session factory-level and exists as long as the session factory is available.

  • Sessions in an application.
  • Applications on the same servers with the same database.
  • Application clusters running on multiple nodes but pointing to the same database.

4. Proxy / Load balancer cache

Enabling this reduces the load on application servers. When similar content is queried/requested frequently, proxy takes care of serving the content from the cache rather than routing the request back to application servers.

When a dataset is requested for the first time, proxy saves the response from the application server to a disk cache and uses them to respond to subsequent client requests without having to route the request back to the application server. Apache, NGINX, and F5 support proxy cache.

Desktop-as-a-Service (DaaS) Solution

5. Hybrid Cache

A hybrid cache is a combination of JPA/ORM frameworks and open source services. It is used in applications where response time is a key factor.

Caching Design Considerations

  • Data loading/updating
  • Performance/memory size
  • Eviction policy
  • Concurrency
  • Cache statistics.

1. Data Loading/Updating

Data loading into a cache is an important design decision to maintain consistency across all cached content. The following approaches can be considered to load data:

  • Using default function/configuration provided by JPA and ORM frameworks to load/update data.
  • Implementing key-value maps using open-source cache APIs.
  • Programmatically loading entities through automatic or explicit insertion.
  • External application through synchronous or asynchronous communication.

2. Performance/Memory Size

Resource configuration is an important factor in achieving the performance SLA. Available memory and CPU architecture play a vital role in application performance. Available memory has a direct impact on garbage collection performance. More GC cycles can bring down the performance.

3. Eviction Policy

An eviction policy enables a cache to ensure that the size of the cache doesn’t exceed the maximum limit. The eviction algorithm decides what elements can be removed from the cache depending on the configured eviction policy thereby creating space for the new datasets.

There are various popular eviction algorithms used in cache solution:

  • Least Recently Used (LRU)
  • Least Frequently Used (LFU)
  • First In, First Out (FIFO)

4. Concurrency

Concurrency is a common issue in enterprise applications. It creates conflict and leaves the system in an inconsistent state. It can occur when multiple clients try to update the same data object at the same time during cache refresh. A common solution is to use a lock, but this may affect performance. Hence, optimization techniques should be considered.

5. Cache Statistics

Cache statistics are used to identify the health of cache and provide insights about its behavior and performance. Following attributes can be used:

  • Hit Count: Indicates the number of times the cache lookup has returned a cached value.
  • Miss Count: Indicates number of times cache lookup has returned a null or newly loaded or uncached value
  • Load success count: Indicates the number of times the cache lookup has successfully loaded a new value.
  • Total load time: Indicates time spent (nanoseconds) in loading new values.
  • Load exception count: Number of exceptions thrown while loading an entry
  • Eviction count: Number of entries evicted from the cache

Various Caching Solutions

There are various Java caching solutions available — the right choice depends on the use case.

Software Test Automation Platform

At GAVS, we focus on building a strong foundation of coding practices. We encourage and implement the “Design First, Code Later” principle and “Design Oriented Coding Practices” to bring in design thinking and engineering mindset to build stronger solutions.

We have been training and mentoring our talent on cutting-edge JAVA technologies, building reusable frameworks, templates, and solutions on the major areas like Security, DevOps, Migration, Performance, etc. Our objective is to “Partner with customers to realize business benefits through effective adoption of cutting-edge JAVA technologies thereby enabling customer success”.

About the Author –

Sivaprakash is a solutions architect with strong solutions and design skills. He is a seasoned expert in JAVA, Big Data, DevOps, Cloud, Containers, and Micro Services. He has successfully designed and implemented a stable monitoring platform for ZIF. He has also designed and driven Cloud assessment/migration, enterprise BRMS, and IoT-based solutions for many of our customers. At present, his focus is on building ‘ZIF Business’ a new-generation AIOps platform aligned to business outcomes.