Site Reliability Engineering

Vasu

Vasudevan Gopalan

Software engineering is akin to having children; the labor before birth is painful, and the labor after birth is where we dedicate most of our efforts😊.

Software engineering as a discipline spends more time talking about the first period, but research clearly suggests that 40-90% of the costs are incurred after the birth of the systems. These costs are incurred to keep the platforms reliable.

Why should platforms be reliable? Because the average consumer demands speed, convenience, and reliability from every digital experience. While availability focuses on the platform’s operational quotient, reliability focuses on the platform’s useful quotient.

Site Reliability Engineering is a practice and cultural shift towards creating a robust IT operations process that would instill stability, high performance, and scalability to the production environment.

Reliability is the most fundamental feature of any product; a system is not useful if nobody can use it!

Site Reliability Engineers (SREs) are engineers – applying the principles of computer science and engineering to the design and development of computing systems, generally large, distributed ones. As Ben Treynor Sloss of Google states – SRE is what happens when a software engineer is tasked with what used to be called operations. Automation, Self-healing, Scalability, Resilient – these characteristics become mainstream.

An SRE function is run by IT operational specialists who code. These specialist engineers implement a software-first approach to automate IT operations and preempt failures. They apply cutting-edge software practices to integrated Dev and Ops on a single platform and execute test codes across the continuous environment. They possess advanced software skills, including DNS Configuration, remediating server, network, and infrastructure problems, and fixing application glitches.

The software approach codifies every aspect of IT operations to build resilience within infrastructure and applications. Thus, changes are managed via version control tools and checked for issues leveraging test frameworks, while following the principle of observability.

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The Principle of Error Budget

SRE engineers verify the code quality of changes in the application by asking the development team to produce evidence via automated test results. SRE managers can fix Service Level Objectives (SLOs) to gauge the performance of changes in the application. They should set a threshold for permissible minimum application downtime, also known as Error Budget. If the downtime during changes in the application is within the scale of the Error Budget, then SRE teams can approve it. If not, then the changes should be rolled back for improvements to fall within the Error Budget formula.

Error Budgets tend to bring balance between SRE and application development by mitigating risks. An Error Budget is unaffected until the system availability falls within the SLO. The Error Budget can always be adjusted by managing the SLOs or enhancing the IT operability. The ultimate goal remains application reliability and scalability.

DevOps and SRE

We know that DevOps is all about culturally combining development and operations. While DevOps dwells on what needs to be done for this, SRE focuses on how it must be done.

DevOps brings the traditionally separate teams of development and operations under one roof to improve upon collaboration, communication, integration, and software releases. This is accomplished by the focus on end-to-end automation of builds and deployments as well as effectively managing the entire infrastructure as code.

SRE is a discipline that incorporates the various aspects of software development and applies it to issues and tasks in IT operations specifically. The main objective of SRE is to develop a highly reliable and ultra-scalable software application or system. The prime focus is to completely automate (if not all) the tasks to ensure reliability in the systems. The ‘relentless’ pursuit of automation in SRE helps brands eliminate manual work, giving developers more time to innovate and create.

Also, in comparison to DevOps, SRE provides a good set of detailed steps in each part of the framework to reach a particular goal.

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While DevOps and SRE sound like they are on opposite sides of the spectrum, both approaches share the same end goals.

  • To make incremental changes fast and efficiently
  • To reduce the number of organization silos
  • To have a flexible, open-minded, and adaptable working culture
  • Use automation wherever possible
  • To monitor performance and improve when necessary

Just to slightly go back in time. In the old school /era of system administrators – Sysadmin was mostly assembling existing software components and deploying them to work together to produce a service. As the system grows in complexity and traffic volume, the need to have a larger sysadmin team comes into force, thereby increasing both direct and indirect (differences with the dev team in terms of culture, background, skill set, goals, etc.) costs to the organization. While the Dev team would want to launch new features etc., the ops team wants to maintain the status quo, to ensure service continuity. Hence, the two teams’ goals are fundamentally in tension.

Toil is mundane, repetitive operational work providing no enduring value, which scales linearly with service growth. Taking humans out of the release process can paradoxically reduce SRE’s toil while increasing system reliability.

SRE – Google’s approach to Service Management

SRE is what happens when we ask a software engineer to design an operations team, the common aptitude being developing software systems to solve complex problems. Motivated by “as a software engineer, this is how I would want to invest my time to accomplish a set of repetitive tasks.”

SRE teams generally have 50-60% of regular software engineers, other 40-50% being near software engineers who come with rarer skills like Uni system internals, networking expertise, etc.

SRE teams should focus on engineering, to avoid the fate of linear scaling up of the team. SREs, ensure that service “runs and repairs itself”. SREs typically should spend only 50% on ops work, remaining time on coding for the project itself.

Where to start?

Organizations must identify change agents who would create and promote a culture of maximum system availability. They can champion this change by practicing the principle of observability, where monitoring is a subset. Observability essentially requires engineering teams to be vigilant of common and complex problems hindering the attendance of reliability and scalability in the application. See the principles of observability below:

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Tenets of SRE

For a given service, ensuring Availability, Latency, Performance, Efficiency, Change management, Monitoring, Emergency response, Capacity planning, etc.

Google operates a “blame-free postmortem culture”, with the goal of exposing faults and applying engineering to fix these faults, rather than avoiding or minimizing them.

Change Management

Data suggest that ~70% of outages are due to changes in a live system. Remove humans, and automate to achieve the following:

  1. Implement progressive rollouts
  2. Quick and accurate detecting of problems
  3. Roll back of changes safely when problems arise

SRE represents significant break from existing industry best practice for managing large, complicated services.

Benefits of SRE

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No more toiling, organizations should embrace SRE and make their end-customers happy.

References –

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 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.

Balancing Management Styles for a Remote Workforce

Ashish Joseph

Operational Paradigm Shift

The pandemic has indeed impelled organizations to rethink the way they approach traditional business operations. The market realigned businesses to adapt to the changing environment and optimize their costs. For the past couple of months, nearly every organization implemented work for home as a mandate. This shift in operations had both highs and lows in terms of productivity. Almost a year into the pandemic, the impacts are yet to be fully understood. The productivity realized from the remote workers, month on month, shaped the policies and led to investments in different tools that aided collaboration between teams. 

Impact on Delivery Centers

Technology companies have been leading the charge towards remote working as many have adopted permanent work from home options for their employees. While identifying cost avenues for optimization, office space allocation and commuting costs are places where redundant operational cash flow can be invested to other areas for scaling.

The availability and speed of internet connections across geographies have aided the transformation of office spaces for better utilization of the budget. Considering the current economy, office spaces are becoming expensive and inefficient. The Annual Survey by JLL Enterprises in 2020 reveals that organizations spend close to $10,000 on global office real estate cost per employee per year on an average. As offices have adopted social distancing policies, the need for more space per employee would result in even higher costs during these pandemic operations. To optimize their budgets, companies have reduced their allocation spaces and introduced regional contractual sub-offices to reduce the commute expenses of their employees in the big cities. 

With this, the notion of a 9-5 job is slowly being depleted and people have been paid based on their function rather than the time they spend at work. The flexibility of working hours while linking their performance to their delivery has seen momentum in terms of productivity per resource. An interesting fact that arose out of this pandemic economy is that the number of remote workers in a country is proportional to the country’s GDP. A work from home survey undertaken by The Economist in 2020 finds that only 11% of work from home jobs can be done in Cambodia, 37% in America, and 45% in Switzerland. 

The fact of the matter is that a privileged minority has been enjoying work from home for the past couple of months. While a vast majority of the semi-urban and rural population don’t have the infrastructure to support their functional roles. For better optimization and resource utilization, India would need to invest heavily in these resources to catch up on the deficit GDP from the past couple of quarters.

Long-term work from home options challenges the foundational fabric of our industrial operations. It can alter the shape and purpose of cities, change workplace gender distribution and equality. Above all, it can change how we perceive time, especially while estimating delivery. 

Overall Pulse Analysis

Many employees prefer to work from home as they can devote extra time to their family. While this option has been found to have a detrimental impact on organizational culture, creativity, and networking. Making decisions based on skewed information would have an adverse effect on the culture, productivity, and attrition. 

To gather sufficient input for decisions, PWC conducted a remote work survey in 2020 called “When everyone can work from home, what’s the office for“. Here are some insights from the report

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Many businesses have aligned themselves to accommodate both on-premise and remote working model. Organizations need to figure out how to better collaborate and network with employees in ways to elevate the organization culture. 

As offices are slowly transitioning to a hybrid model, organizations have decentralized how they operate. They have shifted from working in a common centralized office to contractual office spaces as per employee role and function, to better allocate their operational budget. The survey found that 72% of the workers would like to work remotely at least 2 days a week. This showcases the need for a hybrid workspace in the long run. 

Maintaining & Sustaining Productivity

During the transition, keeping a check on the efficiency of remote workers was prime. The absence of these checks would jeopardize the delivery, resulting in a severe impact on customer satisfaction and retention.

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This number however, could be far less if the scale of the survey was higher. This in turn signifies that productivity is not uniform and requires course corrective action to maintain the delivery. An initial approach from an employee’s standpoint would result in higher results. The measures to help remote workers be more productive were found to be as follows.

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Many employees point out that greater flexibility of working hours and better equipment would help increase work productivity.

Most of the productivity hindrances can be solved by effective employee management. How a particular manager supervises their team members has a direct correlation towards their productivity and satisfaction to the project delivery. 

Theory X & Theory Y

Theory X and Theory Y were introduced by Douglas McGregor in his book, “The Human Side of Enterprise”. He talks about two styles of management in his research – Authoritarian (Theory X) and Participative (Theory Y). The theory heavily believes that Employee Beliefs directly influence their behavior in the organization. The approach that is taken by the organization will have a significant impact on the ability to manage team members. 

For theory X, McGregor speculates that “Without active intervention by management, people would be passive, even resistant to organizational needs. They must therefore be persuaded, rewarded, punished, controlled and their activities must be directed”

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Work under this style of management tends to be repetitive and motivation is done based on a carrot and stick approach. Performance Appraisals and remuneration are directly correlated to tangible results and are often used to control staff and keep tabs on them. Organizations with several tiers of managers and supervisors tend to use this style. Here authority is rarely delegated, and control remains firmly centralized. 

Even though this style of management may seem outdated, big organizations find it unavoidable to adopt due to the sheer number of employees on the payroll and tight delivery deadlines.

When it comes to Theory Y, McGregor firmly believes that objectives should be arranged so that individuals can achieve their own goals and happily accomplish the organization’s goal at the same time.

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Organizations that follow this style of management would have an optimistic and positive approach to people and problems. Here the team management is decentralized and participative.

Working under such organizational styles bestow greater responsibilities on employees and managers encourage them to develop skills and suggest areas of improvement. Appraisals in Theory Y organizations encourage open communication rather than to exercise control. This style of management has been popular these days as it results in employees wanting to have a meaningful career and looking forward to things beyond money.

Balancing X over Y

Even though McGregor suggests that Theory Y is better than Theory X. There are instances where managers would need to balance the styles depending upon how the team function even post the implementation of certain management strategies. This is very important from a remote working context as the time for intervention would be too late before it impacts the delivery. Even though Theory Y comprises creativity and discussion in its DNA, it has its limitations in terms of consistency and uniformity. An environment with varying rules and practices could be detrimental to the quality and operational standards of an organization. Hence maintaining a balance is important.

When we look at a typical cycle of Theory X, we can find that the foundational beliefs result in controlling practices, appearing in employee resistance which in turn delivers poor results. The results again cause the entire cycle to repeat, making the work monotonous and pointless. 

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Upon the identification of resources that require course correction and supervision, understanding the root cause and subsequently adjusting your management style to solve the problem would be more beneficial in the long run. Theory X must only be used in dire circumstances requiring a course correction. The balance where we need to maintain is on how far we can establish control to not result in resistance which in turn wouldn’t impact the end goal.

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Theory X and Theory Y can be directly correlated to Maslow’s hierarchy of Needs. The reason why Theory Y is superior to Theory X is that it focuses on the higher needs of the employee than their foundational needs. The theory Y managers gravitate towards making a connection with their team members on a personal level by creating a healthier atmosphere in the workplace. Theory Y brings in a pseudo-democratic environment, where employees can design, construct and publish their work in accordance with their personal and organizational goals.

When it comes to Theory X and Theory Y, striking a balance will not be perfect. The American Psychologist Bruce J Avolio, in his paper titled “Promoting more integrative strategies for leadership theory-building” speculates, “Managers who choose the Theory Y approach have a hands-off style of management. An organization with this style of management encourages participation and values an individual’s thoughts and goals. However, because there is no optimal way for a manager to choose between adopting either Theory X or Theory Y, it is likely that a manager will need to adopt both approaches depending on the evolving circumstances and levels of internal and external locus of control throughout the workplace”.

The New Normal 3.0

As circumstances keep changing by the day, organizations need to adapt to the rate at which the market is changing to envision new working models that take human interactions into account as well. The crises of 2020 made organizations build up their workforce capabilities that are critical for growth. Organizations must relook at their workforce by reskilling them in different areas of digital expertise as well as emotional, cognitive, and adaptive skills to push forward in our changing world.

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 two independent series called BizPective & The Inside World, focusing on breaking down contemporary business trends and Growth strategies for independent artists on his website www.ashishjoseph.biz

Outside work, he is very passionate about basketball, music, and food.

Gender Microaggressions: Invisible Discrimination at Workplace

Priyanka Pandey

A 2020 headline read, ‘The number of female CEOs in the Fortune 500 hits an all-time record’. It sounds like a great news until you start reading further. Only 37 of the 500 companies on the list were led by female CEOs which is just 7.4%. But it also marks a considerable jump from its preceding years’ rates which were 6.6% in 2019 and just 4.8% in 2018, i.e., 33 and 24 companies respectively. Another report by McKinsey & Co. on the advancing of women’s equality in the Asia-Pacific region, tells us that just around 25% of India’s workforce is female, and only 5% of them make it to the top. This decline in percentage is due to many women dropping out of their jobs. One of the major factors for women to take this decision is ‘sexism at the workplace’.

It has made its way into the ‘work-from-home’ world as well. Imagine this scenario: In a discussion about hiring employees for a new project, a male committee member says, “I think we should hire more men as this project requires spending extra time and effort“. In this case, it is not very difficult to identify the prejudice. But let’s consider another scenario- there is a need to move some machines for which a person asks for help saying, “I need a few strong men to help me lift this“. Most of the time people will not realize how problematic this statement is. This is an example of ‘gender microaggression’. But what exactly is a microaggression? Microaggression is verbal or nonverbal behavior that, intentionally or unintentionally, can communicate denigratory behavior towards the members of a minority/oppressed group which often goes unnoticed and unreported. In simple words, it is a form of discrimination that is subtle yet harmful. There are mainly 3 forms of Microaggressions: microassaults (purposeful discriminatory actions), microinsults (communicate a covert insulting message), and microinvalidations (dismiss the thoughts of certain groups). Different kinds of gender microaggressions are sexual objectification, second-class citizenship, use of sexist language, assumption of inferiority, restrictive gender roles, invisibility, sexist humor/jokes. According to Australia’s sex discrimination commissioner, Kate Jenkins, people typically don’t raise their voice against everyday sexism because it can be seen as too small to make a fuss about, but it matters. As the Women in the Workplace report also reflects, “Microaggressions can seem small when dealt with one by one. But when repeated over time, they can have a major impact.”

Let’s go back to the above example for people who could not identify what was wrong in that statement. When people use phrases like ‘strong men’, it tells that only men are strong and conversely, that women are weak. This statement does not have to be focused on gender at all. It can be rephrased as “I need a few strong people to help me lift this“, and people around can determine for themselves who the strong helpers will be. Few other examples of common gender-related microaggressions are:

  • Mansplaining – Explaining a subject to a woman in a condescending, overconfident, and often oversimplified manner with a presumption that she wouldn’t know about it.
  • Manterrupting – Unnecessary interruption of a woman by a man whenever she is trying to convey her ideas or thoughts.
  • Bropropriating – A man taking a woman’s idea and showing it as his own hence, taking all the credit for it.
  •  ‘Boys will be boys’ – A phrase used to dismiss any traditionally masculine behavior and not holding men accountable for their wrong deeds.
  • Using differentiated words when describing women and men, such as ‘Bossy’ versus ‘Leader’, ‘Annoying’ versus ‘Passionate’.

The pandemic has given way to a new surge of microaggressions for working women. A law firm Slater and Gordon conducted a poll of 2,000 remote workers and found that 35% of women reported experiencing at least one sexist demand from their employer since the lockdown started. For video conferences, some women were asked to wear more make-up or do something to their hair, while others were asked to dress more provocatively. Their bosses also tried to justify this by saying it could ‘help win business’, or it was important to ‘look nice for the team’. Nearly 40% said these demands were targeted at women, rather than equally with their male peers. Also, a lot of women are being micromanaged by their managers while their male colleagues are not. This sends a message of distrust towards them. Researches have indicated that experiences with these microaggressions, and many others not mentioned above, are related to a negative impact on the standard of living, physical health as well as psychological health, such as unequal wages, migraines, heart disease, depression, anxiety, and body image dissatisfaction. As a result, women who experience such insidious, everyday forms of sexist discrimination, are three times more likely to regularly think about leaving the organization. Hence, sexism can not only impact the individual but also the overall performance and working culture of the organization. Eliminating such behavior at the physical and virtual workplace is extremely important and will enable the organization to break down the barriers for equal access to different career opportunities for leadership for women and will help include diverse thinking, perspectives, and experiences in the workplace at every level. As an individual, the most basic yet effective thing to do would be to develop an honest awareness of our own biases and stereotypes.

Unless we tackle everyday sexism, the most innovative policies and initiatives designed to advance gender equality and inclusive and effective organisations will not deliver the change we need.” – Kate Jenkins

Here’s a small story of grace and grit which might inspire some, to take a stand against such gender-related microaggressions. Back in the 1970s, when feminism was a word unheard of, an incident took place. A woman saw a job advertisement by a telecom company, which said it required only male engineers. On seeing this requirement, she wrote back a postcard to the company’s Chairman questioning the gender biases. She was then called for a special interview, where they told her their side of the story – “We haven’t hired any women so far”. To which she replied, “You must start from somewhere.” Her name was Sudha Murty, who is now Chairperson of Infosys Foundation.

So, the next time when conversing with a colleague, consider all of this and be kind!

About the Author –

Priyanka is an ardent feminist and a dog-lover. She spends her free time cooking, reading poetry, and exploring new ways to conserve the environment.

Getting The Best From Healthcare AI

Tim perry

Tim Perry

Co-founder & CIO, Healthcare Too

Advisor to the CIO of AgFirst

Is Healthcare Artificial Intelligence The Answer?

To help explain the future of healthcare Artificial Intelligence (AI) let’s borrow a few lines from Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland:

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

So it is with healthcare AI. It really just depends on where we want to go with healthcare in the US (and globally for that matter). Much of the current conversation seems to be on using AI to improve medical care. Hospitals want to use data from retail clinics, homes, government agencies, and more to predict individual medical needs. Big Tech companies try to apply AI to diagnose diseases better than physicians. Insurers collect massive amounts of data to manage better their risk pool through AI.

AI in Healthcare

A common theme for so many of these healthcare AI scenarios is that AI improves the efficiency of the current system. That improvement is supposedly good for everyone: patients, providers, insurers. And that is also where we get it terribly wrong. If we really want to make the most of healthcare AI investments and promote wellbeing there are two things we must remember:

  1. No one wants to be a patient, but everyone wants to be healthy.
  2. AI offers only point solutions, not a universal truth.

Everyone Wants To Be Healthy

No one wants to be a patient, not even doctors and nurses. The patient experience is painful, frightening, and terribly expensive (in the US anyway). Everyone would much prefer to remain healthy and never see the inside of a hospital. In the US sick care system, however, there is a financial incentive only when there is a diagnosis and treatment. Healthcare AI solutions that do not produce more diagnoses and treatments are not viable in our current sick care system. Like Alice, we must know which way we want to go: more sick care or a new system for health and wellbeing?

AI Offers Only Point Solutions

Artificial Intelligence comes in two basic flavors: 1) General and 2) Narrow. Again, we must plan and invest knowingly to get to where we want to go. These investments over the next 5-10 years will largely determine the direction of Healthcare for decades.

General AI

This is the sexy AI, the stuff we see in science fiction. Computers are so smart that they can address any type of problem decisively and with lightning speed. We use words like “reasoning” or “thinking” when we imagine the power of General AI. As far as our investments and resources go for healthcare AI the General AI option is many years away. We cannot afford to invest in fiction.

Narrow AI

That leaves us to consider narrow AI. These are solutions that are focused on a specific task like search, image analysis, or driving a car. Each is a significant undertaking and requires advanced capabilities. These point solutions in healthcare AI are already underway. Unfortunately, many of the solutions are those that focus on more diagnoses and treatments in the current sick care model. This is not where we want to go.

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Focused on Narrow AI, we can envision healthcare where AI promotes health as a state of complete physical, mental, and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity (as the World Health Organization defines health). There are near countless examples of improving health with AI when we think holistically about real healthcare requirements:

  • Instead of more diagnoses and treatments, what about healthcare AI that weans patients off medications with improvements in nutrition and other social determinants of health?
  • Maybe AI that offers an appropriate personalized spiritual thought based on facial expression, voice tone, or body posture?
  • What about AI for positive online social interactions that help filter negative experiences and protect privacy instead of tracking every movement/action to provide more ads?
  • If we allow AI-driven cars on our roads why not self-driving food trucks with fresh produce and prepared foods for areas we currently call “food deserts”?
  • And just imagine, if you will, an AI that evaluated a person’s current health not only against mountains of conventional medical data from the last hundred years but millennia of data from traditional medical systems like Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine?

There are countless applications for real healthcare AI. We only need to decide where we are going. Be Well!

About the Author –

Tim Perry, MPA, MS, CPHIMS, CISSP is the Co-Founder & Chief Information Officer of Consumer Health platform HealthCare Too. At present, Tim is an advisor to the CIO of AgFirst and plays a key role in Strategy and Planning of the organization. Over the past 3 decades, Tim has worked in Fortune 50 executive leadership roles as well as startups and has developed a deep passion for transforming healthcare. He is blessed with a wonderful wife and two inspiring children. Tim has practiced Tai Chi (Taiji Chuan) for 20 years and enjoys cooking wholesome (and easy) meals.

Patient 360 & Journey Mapping using Graph Technology

Srinivasan Sundararajan

360 Degree View of Patient

With rising demands for quality and cost-effective patient care, healthcare providers are focusing on data-driven diagnostics while continuing to utilize their hard-earned human intelligence. In other words, data-driven healthcare is augmenting human intelligence.

360 Degree View of Patient, as it is called, plays a major role in delivering the required information to the providers. It is a unified view of all the available information about a patient. It could include but is not limited to the following information:

  • Appointments made by the patients
  • Interaction with different doctors
  • Medications prescribed by the doctors
  • Patient’s relationship to other patients within the eco-systems specially to identify the family history related risks
  • Patient’s admission to hospitals or other healthcare facilities
  • Discharge and ongoing care
  • Patient personal wellness activities
  • Patient billing and insurance information
  • Linkages to the same patient in multiple disparate databases within the same hospital
  • Information about a patient’s involvement in various seminars, medical-related conferences, and other events

Limitations of Current Methods

As evident in most hospitals, these information are usually scattered across multiple data sources/databases. Hospitals typically create a data warehouse by consolidating information from multiple resources and try to create a unified database. However, this approach is done using relational databases and the relational databases rely on joining tables across entities to arrive at a complete picture. The RDBMS is not meant to handle relationships which extend to multiple hops and require drilling down to many levels.

Role of Graph Technology & Graph Databases

A graph database is a collection of nodes (or entities typically) and edges (or relationships). A node represents an entity (for example, a person or an organization) and an edge represents a relationship between the two nodes that it connects (for example, friends). Both nodes and edges may have properties associated with them.

While there are multiple graph databases in the market today like, Neo4J, JanusGraph, TigerGraph, the following technical discussions pertain to graph database that is part of SQL server 2019. The main advantage of this approach is that it helps utilize the best RDBMS features wherever applicable, while keeping the graph database options for complex relationships like 360 degree view of patients, making it a true polyglot persistence architecture.

As mentioned above, in SQL Server 2019 a graph database is a collection of node tables and edge tables. A node table represents an entity in a graph schema. An edge table represents a relationship in a graph. Edges are always directed and connect two nodes. An edge table enables users to model many-to-many relationships in the graph. Normal SQL Insert statements are used to create records into both node and edge tables.

While the node tables and edge tables represent the storage of graph data there are some specialized commands which act as extension of SQL and help with traversing between the nodes to get the full details like patient 360 degree data.

MATCH statement

MATCH statement links two node tables through a link table, such that complex relationships can be retrieved. An example,

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SHORTEST_PATH statement

It finds the relationship path between two node tables by performing multiple hops recursively. It is one of the useful statements to find the 360 degree of a patient.

There are more options and statements as part of graph processing. Together it will help identify complex relationships across business entities and retrieve them.

GRAPH processing In Rhodium  

As mentioned in my earlier articles (Healthcare Data Sharing & Zero Knowledge Proofs in Healthcare Data Sharing), GAVS Rhodium framework enables Patient and Data Management and Patient Data Sharing and graph databases play a major part in providing patient 360 as well as for provider (doctor) credentialing data. The below screen shots show the samples from reference implementation.

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Patient Journey Mapping

Typically, a patient’s interaction with the healthcare service provider goes through a cycle of events. The goal of the provider organization is to make this journey smooth and provide the best care to the patients. It should be noted that not all patients go through this journey in a sequential manner, some may start the journey at a particular point and may skip some intermediate journey points. Proper data collection of events behind patient journey mapping will also help with the future prediction of events which will ultimately help with patient care.

Patient 360 data collection plays a major role in building the patient journey mapping. While there could be multiple definitions, the following is one of the examples of mapping between patient 360-degree events and patient journey mapping.

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The below diagram shows an example of a patient journey mapping information.

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Understanding patients better is essential for improving patient outcomes. 360 degree of patients and patient journey mapping are key components for providing such insights. While traditional technologies lack the need of providing those links, graph databases and graph processing will play a major role in patient data management.

About the Author –

Srini is the Technology Advisor for GAVS. He is currently focused on Data Management Solutions for new-age enterprises using the combination of Multi Modal databases, Blockchain and Data Mining. The solutions aim at data sharing within enterprises as well as with external stakeholders.

Post – Pandemic Recruiting Practices

Prabhakar Kumar Mandal

The COVID pandemic has transformed business as we know it. This includes recruitment. Right from the pre-hire activities to the post-hire ones, no hiring practices will be exempt from change we’re witnessing. To maintain a feasible talent acquisition program now and in the coming years, organizations face a persistent need to reimagine the way they do things at every step of the hiring funnel. 

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In my perspicacity, following are the key aspects to look at:

1. Transforming Physical Workspaces

Having employees be physically present at workplace is fraught with challenges now. We envision many companies transitioning into a fully or partially remote workforce to save on costs and give employees more flexibility.

This means companies that maintain a physical headquarter will be paying much closer attention to the purpose those spaces really serve—and so will the candidates. The emphasis now will be on spaces of necessity—meeting areas, spaces for collaborative work, and comfortable, individual spaces for essential workers who need to be onsite. 

2. Traveling for interviews will be an obsolete

It’s going to be a while before non-essential travel assumes its pre-corona importance. In a study of traveler attitudes spanning the U.S., Canada, the U.K., and Australia, the portion of people who said they intended to restrict their travel over the next year increased from 24% in the first half of March to 40% in the second half of March.

Candidates will be less willing than they once were to jump on a plane for an in-person interview when a video conference is a viable alternative. 

3. Demand for workers with cross-trained skills will increase

Skills-based hiring has been on the rise now and will keep increasing as businesses strive to do more with a lesser headcount. We anticipate organizations to increasingly seek out candidates who can wear multiple hats. 

Additionally, as machines take on more jobs that were once reserved for people, we will see even greater demand for uniquely human skills like problem solving and creative thinking. Ravi Kumar, president of Infosys Ltd., summed it up perfectly in an interview with Forbes: “machines will handle problem-solving and humans will focus on problem finding.” 

4. Recruiting events will look a lot different 

It’s unclear when large-scale, in-person gatherings like job fairs will be able to resume, but it will likely be a while. We will likely see most events move to a virtual model, which will not only reduce risk but significantly cut costs for those involved. This may open new opportunities to allocate that budget to improve some of the other pertinent recruiting practices on this list. 

Digital Transformation Services and Solutions

5. Time to hire may change dramatically

The current approach is likely to change. For example, that most people who took a new job last year were not searching for one: Somebody came and got them. Businesses seek to fill their recruiting funnel with as many candidates as possible, especially ‘passive candidates’, who are not looking to move. Frequently employers advertise jobs that do not exist, hoping to find people who might be useful later or in a different framework. We are always campaigning the importance of minding our recruiting metrics, which can help us not only to hire more competently but identify interruptions in our recruiting process.

Are there steps in the hiring process, like screening or onboarding, that can be accelerated to balance things out? Are there certain recruitment channels that typically yield faster hires than others that can be prioritized? These are important questions to ask as you analyze the pandemic’s impacts to your hiring funnel. 

6. How AI can be leveraged to screen candidates?

AI is helping candidates get matched with the right companies. There are over 100 parameters to assess the candidates. This reduces wastage of time, money, and resources. The candidates are marked on their core strengths. This helps the recruitment manager to place them in the apt role.

The current situation presents the perfect opportunity for companies to adopt new tools. Organizations can reassess their recruitment processes and strategies through HR-aligned technology.

Post-pandemic hiring strategy

This pertains more to the industries most impacted by the pandemic, like businesses in the hospitality sector, outdoor dining, and travel to name a few. Many of the applicants in this domain have chosen to make the shift towards more promising or booming businesses.

However, once the pandemic blows over and restrictions are lifted, you can expect suffering sectors to come back with major recruitment changes and fierce competition over top talent.

Companies that take this time to act by cultivating relationships and connections with promising talent in their sphere, will have the advantage of gathering valuable data from probable candidates.

About the Author –

Prabhakar is a recruiter by profession and cricketer by passion. His focus is on hiring for the infra verticle. He hails from a small town in Bihar was brought up in Pondicherry. Prabhakar has represented Pondicherry in U-19 cricket (National School Games). In his free time he enjoys reading, working on his health and fitness and spending time with his family and friends.

Business Intelligence Platform RESTful Web Service

Albert Alan

Restful API

RESTful Web Services are REST architecture based web services. Representational State Transfer (REST) is a style of software architecture for distributed systems such as the World Wide Web. In this architectural style, data and functionality is considered resources and are accessed using Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs), typically links on the Web.

RESTful Web Service

REST has some advantages over SOAP (Simple Objects Access Protocol) but is similar in technology since it is also a function call via HTTP protocol. REST is easier to call from various platforms, transfers pure human-readable data in JSON or XML and is faster and saves resources.

In the basic idea of REST, an object is accessed via REST, not its methods. The state of the object can be changed by the REST access. The change is caused by the passed parameters. A frequent application is the connection of the SAP PI via the REST interface.

When to use Rest Services

  • You want to access BI platform repository objects or perform basic scheduling.
  • You want to use a programming language that is not supported by another BI platform SDK.
  • You want to extract all the query details and number of records per query for all the reports like Webi and Crystal, etc.
  • You want to extract folder path of all reports at once.

Process Flow

RESTful Web Service

RESTful Web Service Requests

To make a RESTful web service request, you need the following:

  • URL – The URL that hosts the RESTful web service.
  • Method – The type of HTTP method to use for sending the request, for example GET, PUT, POST, or DELETE.
  • Request header – The attributes that describe the request.
  • Request body – Additional information that is used to process the request.

Common RWS Error Messages

RESTful Web Service

Restful Web Service URIs Summary List

URLResponseComments
  /v1Service document that contains a link to the /infostore API.This is the root level of an infostore resource
  /v1/infostoreFeed contains all the objects in BOE system/v1/infostore
  /v1/infostore/ <object_id>Entry corresponding to the info object with SI_ID=./v1/infostore/99
      /v1/logon/longReturns the long form for logon, which contains the user and password authentication template.Used to logon to the BI system based on the authentication method.
  /v1/users/ <user_id>  XML feed of user details in BOE systemYou can Modify user using PUT method and DELETE user using DELETE method.
    /v1/usergroups/ <usergroup_id>    XML feed of user group details in BOE systemSupport GET and PUT and DELETE method. You can Modify user group using PUT method and DELETE user group using DELETE method.
  v1/folders/ <folder_id>XML feed displays the details of the folder, can be used to modify the details of the folder, and delete the folder.You modify the folder using PUT method and DELETE the folder using DELETE method
  /v1/publicationsXML feed of all publications created in BOE systemThis API supports GET method only.

Extended Workflow

 The workflow is as follows:

  • To Pass the Base URL

GET http:///localhost:6405/biprws/v1/users

  • To Pass the Headers

  • To Get the xml/json response

Automation of Rest Call

The Business Intelligence platform RESTful Web Service  (BI-REST-SDK) allows you to programmatically access the BI platform functionalities such as administration, security configuration and modification of the repository. In addition, to the Business Intelligence platform RESTful web service SDK, you can also use the SAP Crystal Reports RESTful Web Services  (CR REST SDK) and SAP Web Intelligence RESTful Web Services (WEBI REST SDK).

Implementation

An application has been designed and implemented using Java to automate the extraction of SQL query for all the webi reports from the server at once.

Tools used:

  • Postman (Third party application)
  • Eclipse IDE

The structure of the application is as below:

The application file comprises of the required java jar files, java class files, java properties files and logs. Java class files (SqlExtract) are the source code and will be compiled and executed using command prompt as:

Step 1

  • Javac -cp “.;java-json.jar;json-simple-1.1.jar;log4j-1.2.17.jar” SqlExtract.java

 The above command compiles the java code.

Step 2

  • Java -cp “.;java-json.jar;json-simple-1.1.jar;log4j-1.2.17.jar” SqlExtract.java

 The above command runs the compiled java file.

The java properties file (log4j) is used to set the configurations for the java code to run. Also, the path for the log file can be set in the properties file.

RESTful Web Service

The logs (SqlExtractLogger) consist of the required output file with all the extracted query for the webi reports along with the data source name, type and the row count for each query in the respective folder in the path set by the user in properties file.

RESTful Web Service

The application is standalone and can run in any windows platform or server which has java JRE (version greater than 1.6 – preferred) installed in it.

Note: All the above steps required to execute the application are consolidated in the (steps) file.

Conclusion

SAP BO provides Restful web service to traverse through its repository, to fetch structural info and to modify the metadata structure based on the user requirements. When integrated with programming languages like python, java, etc., extends the scope to a greater extent, allowing the user to automate the workflows and to solve the backtracking problems.

Handling Restful web service needs expertise in server administration and programming as changes made to the metadata are irreversible.

References

About the Author –

Alan is a SAP Business Intelligence consultant with a critical thinking and an analytical mind. He believes in ‘The more extensive a man’s knowledge of what has been done, the greater will be his power of knowing what to do’.

Mentoring – a Win-Win Situation

Rama Vani Periasamy

“If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.” — Isaac Newton

Did you know the English word ‘Mentor’ actually originated from the Greek epic ‘The Odyssey’?

When Odysseus had to leave his kingdom to lead his army in the Trojan war, his son Telemachus was left under the guidance of a friend ‘Mentor’. Mentor was supposed to guide and groom Telemachus during his developmental years and make him independent. The word ‘Mentor’ was thus incorporated in the English language. We use the word in the same context that existed in Greek Mythology – to guide a person, make him/her an independent thinker, and a doer.

In the age of technology, there may be tools and enormous amounts of data to get a competitive advantage, but they’re no match for a mentor. The business hall of fame is adorned with the names of people who discovered that finding a mentor made all the difference.

A lot of people have been able to achieve greater heights than they imagined because they were able to tap into their potential and that is the energy mentoring brings in.

In today’s world, a lot of corporate offices offer mentoring programs that cut across age groups (called the cross-gens), backgrounds, and experiences that benefit everyone. But sometimes the mechanisms and expectations of a mentoring program are not clear which makes the practice unsuccessful. Today’s young generation think they have the internet to quench the thirst of their knowledge. They do not see mentors as guiding beacons to success but only help them meet their learning needs. Citing it with an example, mentoring is equivalent to teaching a man to not just fish, but also share the experiences, tricks, and tips, so that he becomes an independent fisher.  More often, our current generation fails to understand that even geniuses like Aristotle and Bill Gates needed a mentor in their lives.

When mentoring is so powerful, why don’t we nurture the relationship? What stops us? Is time a factor? Not really. Any relationship needs some amount of time to be invested and so is the case with mentoring. Putting aside a few hours a month is an easily doable task, especially for something that is inspiring and energizing. Schedules can always be shuffled for priorities.

Now that we know that we have the time, why is it always hard to find a mentor? To begin with, how do you find a mentor? Well, it is not as difficult as we think. When you start looking for them, you will eventually find one. They are everywhere but may not necessarily be in your workplace.

We have the time, we have a mentor, so what are the guidelines in the mentoring relationship?

The guidelines can be extracted very much in the word ‘MENTOR’.

M=Mission: Any engagement works only if you have something to work on. Both the mentor and mentee must agree on the goals and share their mission statement. Creating a vision and a purpose for the mentoring relationship adds value to both sides and this keeps you going. Articulating the mission statement would be the first activity, to begin with in a mentor-mentee relationship.

 E=Engage: Agree on ways to engage that works with your personalities and schedules. Set ground rules on the modes of communications. Is that going to be a one-one conversation periodically or remote calls? Find out the level of flexibility. Is an impromptu meeting fine? Can Emails or text messages be sent? Decide on the communication medium and time.

 N=Network: Expanding your network with that of your mentor or mentee and cultivating productive relationships will be the key to success. While expanding your network will be productive, remember to tread carefully. Seek permissions, respect, and even ask for an introduction before you reach out to the other person’s contacts.

 T=Trust: Build and maintain trust with your mentoring partner by telling the truth, staying connected, and being dependable. And as the mentorship grows, clear communication and honesty will deepen the relationship. Building trust takes time so always keep the lines of communication open.

O=Opportunity: Create opportunities for your mentee or mentor to grow. Being in a mentor-mentee relationship is like a two-way lane, where you can come across opportunities from both sides, which may not be open for non-mentors/mentees. Bringing in such opportunities will only help the other person achieving his/her goal or the mission statement that was set at the beginning.

R=Review and Renew: Schedule a regular time to review progress and renew your mentoring partnership. This will help you keep your progress on track and it will also help you look for short goals to achieve. Reviewing is also going to help retrospect if a different strategy is to be laid out to achieve your goals.

Mentoring may sound irrelevant and unnecessary while we are surviving a pandemic and going through bouts of intense emotions. But I feel it is even more necessary during this most unusual situation we’re facing. Mentoring could be one of the ways to combat anxiety and depression caused by isolation and the inability to meet people face-to-face.

Mentoring can be done virtually through video calls, by setting up a time to track the progress of your goals and discuss challenges/accomplishments.  Mentoring also proves to be the place to ask difficult questions because it is a “No Judging” relationship and the absolute safe place to deal with work-related anxiety and fear. I still recall my early days as a campus graduate where I was assigned a ‘Buddy’, the go-to person. With them, I’d discussed a lot of my ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘how’ questions of the work and the corporate world, which I had resisted opening up to my supervisors.

Mentoring takes time. Remember the first day you struggled to balance on your bicycle and may have fallen down hurting your knees? But once you learned to ride, you would have loved your time on the saddle. The same applies to mentoring. Investing the time and effort in mentoring will energize you even better than a few hours of Netflix or scrolling on Instagram. Let us create a culture that shares knowledge, guides & encourages nonstop, like how Socrates taught Plato, Plato taught Aristotle and Aristotle held the beacon for many. There is an adage that goes “when you are ready to become a teacher, the student appears”.

“A mentor is someone who allows you to see the hope inside yourself.” — Oprah Winfrey

The article is based on the book “One Minute Mentoring” by Ken Blanchard & Claire Diaz Ortiz.

About the Author –

Rama is that everyday woman you see who juggles between family and a 9 hours work life. She loves reading history, fiction, attempting half marathons, and traveling.
To break the monotony of life and to share her interest in books & travel, she blogs and curates at www.kindleandkompass.com

Center of Excellence – Security

The Security Center of Excellence was instituted to set standards in the practice and be the point of contact for technical solutions, problem solving, etc. The broad objectives of this CoE are as follows:

  • Develop and maintain technical assets that can be leveraged across GAVS.
  • Enable Quality Governance by providing support in gating of architecture and design related deliverables.
  • Enable Operational Governance by establishing cadence for tech review of projects.
  • Create domain-based SMEs within the practice.
  • Train and upskill members in the practice.
  • Improve customer satisfactory index by implementing new ideas and innovations across all engagements.
  • Create additional SOC services for market competency.
  • Automation – Detect, investigate and remediate cyberthreats with playbooks and response workflows.

COVID and the changing nature of threat landscape

For many industries, it has been challenging period ever since the COVID outbreak, more so for those in security. Clearly, the bad actors have lot of time at their disposal which is reflective in the innovative techniques being used to attack targets. The level of vigilance required in monitoring the alerts and application of threat hunting techniques is key to diagnosing problems at initial stages of compromise in the worst-case scenario.

Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider

Remote Infrastructure Monitoring Services
Source: IBM X-Force Research

For enterprises that have no clue about MDR (Managed Detection and Response), this is a good time for them to start. We have innovative, cost effective solutions – “Make Hay while the Sun shines”. Small and large corporations alike have lost business and money because of lapse in security controls and monitoring. Now is not the time to make headlines that you are the victim of a major breach.

Our team is developing a vulnerability alerting tool, which we intend to equip customers with to provide qualified bulletin alerts, i.e. alerts only on vulnerabilities that affect them. This is a first of a kind in the market. This will greatly benefit existing and new customers.

Expanding into IAM and PAM

Security practice is expanding into Identity & Access Management (IAM) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) services. With new customers being onboarded into this focus areas for products such as Sailpoint, Thycotic, Ping, Cyberark, Okta and Azure PIM, we are expanding our talent pool through recruitment and through training and certification. This should largely benefit our existing customers and prospects who intend to leverage our security practice to fulfil their cyber security needs.

Expansion of our Red Team

Our Red Team within the practice has been expanded with many talented members, including some with bug bounty bragging rights. This has enormously helped in performing intensive tests on our internal product platforms, security assessments for customers. We have also extensively invested on tools for the Red Team to help them reduce assessment times.

Certification drive

With some more analysts having certified across AZ-500, Cyberark and trained on Darktrace. GAVS’ security analysts are taking full advantage to increase their knowledge thanks to the generosity of our alliances and training sites like Pluralsight. Even the mighty Microsoft opened their learning website for free, enabling young talent to equip themselves with critical DevOps and Cloud security skills.

As part of CoE initiatives, we have;

  • Aligned our security roadmap based on industry trends and to ensure solutions tailored for customer pain points.
  • Extended our SOC practice with IAM and PAM in 2020.
  • Identified domain-based SME and product-based SME for quick support.

We are currently in the process of creating security products, GVAS and GSMA, to help customer in proactively identifying and addressing vulnerabilities and self-maturity assessment of their cybersecurity posture. We are also underway to add Operational security to our Security practice.

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

CoE Team Members

  • Venkatakrishnan A
  • Shivaram J
  • Alex Nepolian Lawrence
  • Ravindran Girikrishnan
  • Aravindah Sadhasivam Subramanian
  • Vijayakumar Veerapandiyan
  • Thubati Uday
  • Ganta Venkata Sandeep
  • Sundaramoorthy S
  • Sukanya Srinivasan

Center of Excellence – Server

Our Server CoE is a team of highly skilled individuals and experts in various server technologies who promote collaboration, standardization and best practices to drive business or customer-valued results.

The CoE is focused on providing expert level support in technologies like Windows / Linux Servers, Exchange / O365 Messaging solution, Virtualization with VMWare / Hyper-V / Citrix / Linux, Patch & Compliance Management, Application Availability & Performance Monitoring and Backup / Recovery solutions, etc.

The Server CoE also focuses on in-depth assessment of customer end server infrastructure components to study and analyze the existing design implementations, configurations, and operations to identify strengths and weaknesses to implement technical and economical improvements to businesses, wherever applicable, and perform upgrades, migrations and transformations as necessary.

IT Automation with AI

A wide range of server technologies comprise the Server CoE and not every business or customer can practically leverage all of them. And in the same way, not all the members can practically become an SME in all the server technologies.

Service Offerings

AI Devops Automation Service Tools

Current & Upcoming Engagements

A farm credit bank of US – Server Assessment – In Progress – July 2020

  • MS Active Directory Assessment
    • MS Exchange Assessment
    • VMWare Assessment
    • MS SCCM Assessment
    • MS SCOM Assessment
    • Storage
    • Backup Assessment

A global professional services firm – Hybrid Exchange 2016 Migration – July/August 2020

  • SOW Sign Off – Completed
    • Background verification process for 2 Technical Resources – Completed
    • Migration Environment Setup – In Progress
    • Assessment / Pre-requisites Review – Next Steps
    • Migration Test Phase – July 2020
    • Production Migration – July-August 2020

A Multinational Dairy Company – Active Directory & Exchange Server Migration / July – August 2020

  • Microsoft Active Directory Server Assessment
    • Microsoft Exchange Server Assessment
    • Migration of Active Directory from Windows Server 2008 R2 to Windows Server 2016.
    • Migration of Exchange from Exchange Server 2016 to Exchange Server 2019.

A Wellness Services Agency – Resolve Issues with Exchange Database / DDL – July – August 2020

  • Customer Call / Technical Solution / SOW – Completed
    • SOW Sign Off – In Progress by July 2020
    • Assessment / Migration – Next Steps

A Leading FMCG company of India – Digital Transformation to O365 – July – August 2020

  • Zimbra Mail to O365 Migration
    • Licensing Model Finalization – In Progress
    • Migration Plan & Execution – Next Steps

A Leading FMCG company of India – DNS Migration between Service Providers – July 2020

  • 30+ Domains are registered with Net4India
    • Availability & Support Issues with current provider
    • Assess current domain lists and Migrate to new Provider

A Diverse Hardware Group – Azure Cloud Integration & Support – July/August 2020

  • SOW – in Progress

Road Map

AIOps Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations

Contribution to Organization’s Growth

The Server CoE’s contribution is not limited to one activity with one customer at a time, but involved with multiple simultaneous activities in different server technologies in different customer requirements. Server CoE contributions:

  • Participating in RFPs / Proposals by providing technical solutions to prospects’ requirements
  • Participating in full time Infrastructure Assessment projects for various customers
  • Participating in full time Implementations & Migration projects for different customers
  • Providing Standard Operating Procedures, templates & best practice recommendations in various server technologies
  • Provide internal training to individuals to upskill and strengthen the team
  • Responding to requests and providing solutions to issues faced in various customer engagements

The members of our CoE are dedicated to in carrying out all CoE related activities in addition to their day to day activities in their assigned projects without any impact. We aim to contribute to the organization in terms of technological capability establishment and financial growth with new business opportunities.

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

CoE Team Members

  • Balamurugan Rajamanickam
  • Dilipkumar Dhanasekaran
  • Dinesh Kumar
  • Karthick Mani
  • Karthickmanikandan G
  • Manoj Akula
  • Marimuthupandi Kalimuthu
  • Ramkumar Janakiraman
  • Sabari Nivas
  • Sathishkumar Jayaraman
  • Selvaganesh Kothandan
  • Sivakumar Duraisamy
  • Lakshmi Srikanth