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. 

Enterprise IT Support Services USA

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

Design Thinking 101

Vasudevan Gopalan

Is the end-user at the center of everything you do? Do you consider human emotions while conceptualizing a product or a solution? Well, let us open the doors of Design Thinking

What is Design Thinking?

  • Design thinking is both an ideology and a process, concerned with solving in a highly user-centric way.
  • With its human-centric approach, design thinking develops effective solutions based on people’s needs.
  • It has evolved from a range of fields – including architecture, engineering, business – and is also based on processes used by designers.
  • Design thinking is a holistic product design approach where every product touch point is an opportunity to delight and benefit our users.

Human Centred Design

With ‘thinking as a user’ as the methodology and ‘user satisfaction’ as the goal, design thinking practice supports innovation and successful product development in organizations. Ideally, this approach results in translating all the requirements into product features.

Part of the broader human centred design approach, design thinking is more than cross-functional; it is an interdisciplinary and empathetic understanding of our user’s needs. Design thinking sits right up there with Agile software development, business process management, and customer relationship management.

5 Stages of Design Thinking

Office 365 Migration
  • Empathize: This stage involves gathering insights about users and trying to understand their needs, desires, and objectives.
  • Define: This phase is all about identifying the challenge. What difficulties do users face? What are the biggest challenges? What do users really need?
  • Ideate: This step, as you may have already guessed, is dedicated to thinking about the way you can solve the problems you have identified with the help of your product. The product team, designers, and software engineers brainstorm and generate multiple ideas.
  • Prototype: The fourth stage brings you to turn your ideas into reality. By creating prototypes, you test your ideas’ fitness.
  • Test: You present the prototype to customers and find out if it solves their problem and provides users with what they need. Note that this is not the end of the journey; you need to get feedback from the users, adjust the product’s functionality, and test it again. This is a continuous process similar to the build-measure-learn approach in the lean start-up methodology.
Design Thinking

Benefits of Design Thinking in Software Development

1. Feasibility check: Design thinking enables software development companies to test the feasibility of the future product and its functionality at the initial stage. It enables them to keep end-user needs in mind, clearly specify all requirements and translate all this into product features.

2. No alarms and no surprises: Once you’ve tested your MVP and gathered feedback from users, the team can confidently proceed to the product development. You can be quite sure that there will be little to no difference between the approved concept and final version.

3. Clarity and transparency: Design thinking approach allow product designers/developers to broaden their vision, understand and empathise with the end-users’ problems and have a detailed blueprint of the solution they should eventually deliver.

4. Continuous improvement: The product can be (and sometimes should be) modified after its release when user feedback is at hand. It becomes clear which features work and which can be done away with. The product can undergo some series enhancements on the basis of feedback. This leaves place for continuous improvement and software development process becomes flexible and smooth.

Real-world Success Stories

1. PepsiCo

During Indra Nooyi’s term as PepsiCo’s CEO, the company’s sales grew 80%. It is believed that design thinking was at the core of her successful run. In her efforts to relook at the company’s innovation process and design experience, she asked her direct reportees to fill an album full of photos of what they considered represents good design. Uninspired by the result, she probed further to realize that it was imperative to hire a designer.

“It’s much more than packaging… We had to rethink the entire experience, from conception to what’s on the self to the post product experience.”, she told the Harvard Business Review.

While other companies were adding new flavours or buttons to their fountain machines, PepsiCo developed a touch screen fountain machine, a whole new interaction between humans and machines.

“Now, our teams are pushing design through the entire system, from product creation, to packaging and labelling, to how a product looks on the shelf, to how consumers interact with it,” she said.

2. Airbnb

Back in 2009, Airbnb’s revenue was limping. They realized that poor quality images of rental listings may have something to do with it. They flew some of their employees to a city and got them to take high quality photos and upload it on their website. This resulted in a 100% increase in their revenue.

Instead of focusing on scalability, the team turned inward and asked, ‘what does the customer need?’ This experiment taught them a few big lessons, empathy being just as important as code was one of them.

3. Mint.com

Mint.com is a web-based personal financial management website. Part of their success is attributed to the human-centric design of the website which tracks and visualizes how a person is spending their money. Bank accounts, investments, and credit cards can easily be synchronized on Mint, which then categorizes the expenses to help the user visualize their spending. They built a product that illustrates a core principle of design thinking: truly understanding the position and mindset of the user. They had 1.5 million customers within 2 years.

Design thinking is a human-centred approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success.

References

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/226141981_Design_Thinking_A_Fruitful_Concept_for_IT_Development

https://blog.brainstation.io/how-5-ceos-used-design-thinking-to-transform-their-companies/

About the Author –

Vasu heads 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 focusses on fitness routines.

The Pandemic and Social Media

Prabhakar Mandal

The COVID-19 outbreak has established the importance of digital readiness during pandemics. Building the necessary infrastructure to support a digitized world is the current mandate.

Technology has advanced much in the past century since we were hit by the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918, and it plays a crucial role in keeping our society functional. From remote working to distance learning, and from telehealth to robot deliveries, our world is set to witness a lasting change post this pandemic.

As with other major and minor events of the past few years, social media is playing a big role in shaping people’s perception of the ongoing pandemic. Not just that, the social media platforms have also contributed to spreading information/misinformation, helping people cope with the strange times, and raising awareness about some pressing issues.

Security Iam Management Tools

Social Media and the pandemic: The Good!

Social media is one of the most effective ways to share news nowadays (it may be the only way for some people), especially if you are trying to alert the masses quickly. First-hand accounts of those who were infected and recovered were available almost in real-time. Scenes of lockdowns from the countries that first imposed it gave us a heads-up on what was due to come. If only we’d paid more heed to it.

With most of the world stuck at home, our mobile devices have increasingly become the go-to option to connect with the outside world. Social media usage has surged during the lockdown, with various apps witnessing a manifold increase in their traffic.

From educating to entertaining, social media platforms have stepped up as well. Movie and video streaming apps have redefined movie/video watching behavior by introducing features that allow users to host long-distance movie nights with friends and family.

We also witnessed a surge in various ‘online challenges’ that people could do in their homes and upload online. While some may view them as naïve, experts claim these are part of the various coping mechanisms for people.

Social media surfing has gained a significant share in the pie of leisure activities. Be honest, how many of us living alone are doing anything but scrolling these apps in our free time? But thanks to the social media ‘influencers’, scores of us are being motivated to workout at home, eat healthily, pick up a book, or learn something new.

Posts from health workers and others on the frontline have also helped spread the word on the difficulties they’re facing and rallied efforts to help them.

Online solidarity has spilled over offline as well. People are taking to social media to offer support in any way they can, such as picking up groceries for those who are unable to leave home or sharing information on how to support local businesses who are struggling. Communities are rallying together to support organizations and individuals by opening fundraisers to a larger audience.

Social Media and COVID-19: The Bad

Unfortunately, the impact of social media has not been all good. News on social media spreads fast, fake news even faster. Misinformation can cause panic, and can even turn out to be fatal on health issues. As a practice, we should all do a bit of research and validate the information from ‘reputed sources’ before sharing it.

This next bit is more of a tip…Whether it’s a business or a personal profile, you should refrain from posting anything that makes fun of, ridicules, or trivializes the situation. Not only is that insensitive, but it could also spell trouble for you, especially as a business.

The ‘influencers’ have been found guilty of misusing their power and taking advantage of the situation. Various inauthentic posts had gone viral before being pulled down. Do social validation and fame know no limits?

It is true that people often turn to social media as a stress-buster, but experts say it is equally stress-inducing for some individuals. It is important to note here that we’re also in the midst of an ‘infodemic’ – an anxiety-triggering over-abundance of information.

It is easy to overlook, especially now, the devastation that mental health issues cause globally. Studies have reported an increase in mental health issues attributed to social media in recent years. Psychologists say the lockdown will only add to that. Needless to say, mental health has a bearing on physical health as well.

Anti-rich sentiments have also gained momentum in the past weeks, as the pandemic makes the class divides glaringly obvious.

Conclusion

From the transparency that we have gained through this current COVID-19 situation, we now understand that we were not prepared to handle it. Many developed countries have had their health systems overwhelmed, those on the frontlines are being overworked and even the most advanced nations are stumbling to get their economies back up. The next pandemic is not a matter of “if it happens”, but “when it happens”.We need to be prepared at an individual and collective level. Indeed, technology has advanced and will continue to advance exponentially, but institutions and societies need to accelerate in adapting to it and continue investing in building the technology systems for the preparedness.

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 the 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.

Cognitive Computing

Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations

Kalpana Vijayakumar

Is it possible for a computer to think and act without human intervention? The answer is yes, and that is called Cognitive computing.

Cognitive computing includes technology platforms that combine machine learning, reasoning, natural language processing, speech, vision, and human computer intervention that mimic the human brain, and solve problems without human assistance. Cognitive computing involves deep learning algorithms and big data analytics to provide insights.

The purpose of cognitive computing is to build a computing framework that can solve complicated problems without frequent human intervention. To implement it, cognitive computing consortium has recommended the following features.

software test automation platform

Scope of Cognitive Computing

We do have to accept that computers have been faster at calculations and processing than humans for decades. But, in a few cases, they have failed to accomplish the tasks that humans take for granted, like understanding the natural language and recognizing unique objects in the images and processing them. Cognitive computing solves all these challenges. They can act in complex situations and have a far-reaching impact on our lives.

Pera study by the IBM Institute for business value – cognitive computing involves three capabilities. These capabilities are related to the ways people think and demonstrate their cognitive abilities in their day-to-day life.

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The current cognitive computing landscape is dominated by large players – IBM, Microsoft, and Google. IBM being the pioneer of this technology has invested $26 bn dollars in big data and analytics, now spends close to one-third of its R&D budget in developing cognitive computing technology. IBM and Google have acquired some of their rivals and the market is moving towards consolidation. Below are the leading players in this market.

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IBM Watson

Watson assistant is IBM’s AI product that allows you to build, train, and deploy conversational simulators into any applications, device, or channel.

Most chatbots try to mimic human interactions, which can frustrate the end-user when a misunderstanding occurs. Watson Assistant aims to resolve that. It knows how to handle the end-user sensibly and when to direct queries to a human executive. It can be deployed on any cloud or on-premises environment.

Watson supercomputer processes at a rate of 80 teraflops (i.e. trillion floating-point operations per second).To replicate a high functioning human’s ability to answer questions, Watson accesses 90 servers with a combined data store of over 200 million pages of information, which it processes against six million logic rules.

Microsoft Cognitive Services

The machine-learned smarts that enable Microsoft’s Skype Translator, Bing and Cortana to accomplish tasks such as translating conversations, compiling knowledge and understanding the intent of spoken words are increasingly finding their way into third-party applications that people use every day. The democratization of AI is coming as part of Microsoft cognitive services, a collection of 25 tools that allows developers to add features such as emotions and sentiment, detection, vision and speech recognition and language understanding to their applications with zero experience in machine learning.

“Cognitive services is about taking all the machine learning algorithms and AI smarts that we have in this company and exposing them to developers through APIs so that they don’t have to invent the technology themselves”, Mike Seltzer, a principal researcher in the Speech and Dialog research group at Microsoft’s lab in Redmond, Washington.

Machine learning service provider

Google DeepMind

DeepMind was acquired by Google in 2014 and is considered to be a leading player in AI research. If you have used Google, there’s a high possibility that you’ve interacted with DeepMind in some way, as its deep learning tools have been implemented across the spectrum of Google products and services. Some of the most prominent uses for DeepMind AI includes speech recognition, image recognition, fraud detection, spam identification, handwriting recognition, translation, Google Maps Street View, and Local Search.

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Google devices like an Android Phone or Google Home, have invaded our homes and has impacted our lives. Every time you say, “Okay, Google” followed by a question, DeepMind helps Google Assistant understand what you are saying. Unlike Amazon’s Alexa, which uses eight microphones to understand voice commands, Google Home’s DeepMind-powered voice recognition system requires only two.

Cognitive Scale

Cognitive Scale founded by former members of the IBM Watson team provides cognitive cloud software for enterprises. Cognitive Scale’s augmented intelligence platform delivers insights-as-a-service and accelerates the creation of cognitive applications in healthcare, retail, travel, and financial services. They help businesses make sense from ‘dark data’ – messy, disparate, first and third-party data and drive actionable insights and continuous learning.

Spark Cognition Spark Cognition is an Austin-based start-up formed in 2014. Spark Cognition develops AI-Powered cyber-physical software for the safety, security, and reliability of IT, OT. The technology is more inclined towards manufacturing. It is capable of harnessing real-time sensor data and learning from it continuously, allowing for more accurate risk mitigation and prevention policies to intervene and avert disasters.

Cognitive Computing Use Cases

According to tech pundits, cognitive computing is the future. Many successful and established businesses have already integrated the technology into their business affairs. There are a number of successful use case scenarios and cognitive computing examples that show the world how to implement cognitive computing, efficiently. Let us look at some successful use cases of the technology.

Cora- Intelligent Agent by Royal Bank of Scotland

With the help of IBM Watson, Royal Bank of Scotland developed an intelligent assistant that is capable of handling 5000 queries in a single day. Using cognitive learning capabilities, the assistant gave RBS the ability to analyze customer grievance data and create a repository of commonly asked questions. Not only did the assistant analyze queries, but it was also capable of providing 1000 different responses and understand 200 customer intents. The digital assistant learned how customers ask general questions, how to handle the query, and transfer to a human agent if it is too complicated.

Healthcare Concierge by Welltok

Welltok developed an efficient healthcare concierge – CafeWell. It is a holistic population health tool that is being used by health insurance providers to help their customers with relevant information that improves their health. By collecting data from various sources and instant processing of questions by end-users, CafeWell offers smart and custom health recommendations that enhance the health quotient.

Personal Travel Planner by WayBlazer

Powered with cognitive technology, WayBlazer’s travel planner makes it easier for travelers to plan for trips by asking questions in natural language. The concierge asks basic questions and provides customized results by collecting and processing travel data as well as insights about traveler preferences.

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Such type of cognitive-powered tool helps travelers save time while searching for flights, booking hotels, and planning other activities. Travel agents have been successfully using such tools which have helped increase their revenues and customer delight at the same time.

Edge up’s Smart Tool to Manage Fantasy Football Teams via Mobile App

Fantasy Football is a very popular entertainment for more than 33 million people around the globe. With the help of cognitive learning and computing, Edge Up Sports developed a tool and integrated with their mobile app that helped users to draft their fantasy teams by asking simple questions.

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The questions, drafted in natural language, making it easier for users to take a decision which is then analyzed by the system by browsing through data about a player across social media, news reports, and gauging user sentiment that help team managers make better decisions.

Conclusion

Cognitive computing doesn’t bring a drastic novelty into the AI and big data industry. Rather, it urges digital solutions to meet human-centric requirements like act, think, and behave like a human in order to achieve maximum synergy from human-machine interaction. It is believed that soon every digital system will be measured based on its cognitive abilities.

Cognitive computing will be a significant step towards digital humanism!

References

About the Author

Kalpana is a database developer. She strongly believes that “It’s not that we use technology, we live technology.” Outside of her professional role, Kalpana is passionate about travelling and watching movies.

Dashboard SAP Lumira Designer – Write Back Functionality

Mohammed Fazal Uddin Kashif

Dashboards are considered to be one of the key success factors of businesses. Easy access to real-time KPIs allows them to be proactive and address business challenges before they impact the bottom line.

SAP Lumira Designer, formerly known as SAP Design Studio, is one of the robust products available in the market for developing top-of-the-line analytical applications and business dashboards. However, every tool by its core functionality has limitations for some use cases and business processes. One of such considerable cases is the ability to write back to a database directly from the dashboard.

Write back functionality assists business users to modify the data while analyzing from the dashboard rather than doing it in the source system. This functionality facilitates business users to manipulate the data and reflects refreshed data in the dashboard for further review and assessment.

This article introduces the use of Lumira SDK Extension component, POST RESPONSE PARSER, which enables the core range of Lumira designer to expand its boundary to include write-back functionality by integrating external Web API into the Lumira Dashboard.

Integrating Post Response Parser SDK Extension, the Lumira dashboard could be transformed from a pure data visualization application into an interactive data management analytical application.

Data Exploration & Smart Visualizations

Dashboards are analytical tools that visually track, analyzes and display Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to the business processes or the portfolios. It provides a comprehensive snapshot of the performance of a key component within the portfolio. KPIs are business metrics which assists the leadership team to arrive at key decisions and drive towards the goals.

Business Dashboards and analytical applications provide at-a-glance visual and graphical representation of data which eliminates the need to go through long and complex excel spreadsheets.

Also, it’s time-consuming and difficult to pull out the most important business information whereas presenting that information in an appealing, visual way is more result-driven and effective.

Interactive dashboards enable us to visualize the data, filter on demand and simply click to dive deeper, quickly engage end-users, and provide an intuitive experience and insights.

Among various visualization tools available in the market, SAP Lumira has an edge being an SAP tool where end-user consumption of analytical applications is governed and secured by the SAP Business Objects BI Platform.

Extending the Dashboard Functionality

Lumira designer provides extensive customizations through scripting, styling with CSS and above all, the integration of external SDK Components makes it a pinnacle tool to achieve the desired functionalities.

Like any other technology, dashboards are constantly evolving, with versatility and impactful ability of integrating SDK components assisting the rapidly developing scope and scale of visualizations for the organizations.

Along those lines, Business users expect the ability to modify the data that lies behind a visualization component by providing data inputs to the dashboard while analyzing the data and anticipate the changes to be reflected immediately in the dashboard.

Lumira designer leverages support for updating or modifying the data in underlying database through write back functionality.

Benefits of write back in the dashboard:

  • It transforms a traditional dashboard to Interactive analytical application which supports business data modifications
  • It allows data analysis and data update from the same dashboard, rather switching over different applications for each task

SDK Extensions

SDK stands for Software Development Kit. SDK is set of tools, libraries, code samples, processes and guides that allows developers to create applications on a specific platform.

SDK Extension components can be integrated flawlessly into the core application to utilize its features for the customized product developments. The visualization of extension components is based on HTML, JavaScript and CSS.

Web Application Programming Interface

Web API is an Application Programming Interface over the web which can be accessed using HTTP protocol.

Web API is an extensible framework for building HTTP based services that can be accessed in different applications on different platforms such as web, windows, mobile etc.

Integrating Web APIs into the Lumira designer enhances the dashboard functionality by adding abilities not offered in the baseline version of the tool, such as providing the possibility of writing back to the source database directly from the dashboard itself.

Post Response Parser

Post Response Parser is an SDK Extension, with which you can model your application to make AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) calls to any Web API and evaluate the response for desired interactivity in Lumira designer.

Feature of Post Response Parser:

  • Opens a request via AJAX call to any specific URL
  • Accepts parameters along the Request
  • Supports BIAL (BI Action Language) Scripting for interactive control at runtime

Business Use Case

In Banking, Credit Control & Monitoring department uses exception reports on their day to day operations for the analysis of their customers credit performance. Based on the outcomes, the team decides on the action to be taken for the respective customers with the various levels of audits.

Business Team faces challenges to maintain and track the remarks and comments on each customer by looking at the reports. So CCM wants to develop a dashboard with the ability to update their observations and comments on the same dashboard which in turn gets stored in database.

Lumira designer provides sub-optimal workarounds for capturing the filters and remarks with technical components like Bookmarks and Comments which comes along with the core application, but these components cannot not write back to the database, but incorporating  SDK Extensions along with the core would be able to achieve the desired customization in the dashboard application.

Functionality and Process Flow

The Post Response parser integrates external Web API into the Lumira designer, this SDK extension passes the parameters from the dashboard to the underlying stored procedure in Web API which in turn updates to the database.

Snippet of process to be followed:

  • Install Post Response Parser SDK Extension at client and server system
  • Encapsulate the parameters as global variable and enable its property to expose as URL Parameter
  • Create a Web service for dashboard to accommodate the database updates
  • Define an event to trigger the SDK Extension in Lumira application
  • Reload the data source through script to reflect the changes in dashboard

Conclusion

Lumira designer is competent to build Business Intelligence Applications that can be dynamic and customizable as per the business users’ workflow.

An interactive prototype is the best way for both users and designers to learn about their specific needs.

In conclusion, Lumira Designer with SDK Extensions offers that capabilities to accommodate our design process and it stands strong in its ability to build simple or complex Analytic Applications and Executive Dashboards.

About the Author:

Kashif is a SAP Business objects consultant and a business analytics enthusiast. He believes “Ultimate goal is not about winning, but to reach within the depth of capabilities and to compete against yourself to be better than what you are today.”

Machine Learning from Programmer’s Perspective

Gireesh Sreedhar KP

Introduction

Machine Learning (ML) is key pillar of the Artificial Intelligence (AI) domain. ML solves problems which are unimaginable using traditional programming paradigm. During my interactions with people on ML, I am frequently asked following key fundamental questions.

  1. What is Machine Learning (ML)?
  2. What is the need for ML programs when traditional programs have served us well for decades?
  3. What differentiates ML from traditional programming paradigm?

Let me answer above questions from a programmer’s perspective to build understanding irrespective of your ML background.

Traditional Programming Paradigm

We are familiar with traditional programming, where we use selected programming language (like C, Java, etc.) and program specific instruction or rules to process inputs which creates output we need.

Let us understand with an example, a retail store wants to write a program to find amount to be paid (Amount) given Quantity (q) and price per unit (p). We will solve this by writing code as below.

  1. Read two inputs ‘q’ and ‘p’ (Data)
  2. Amount = p*q (apply Rules, Rules are part of program, but shown as input for illustration)
  3. Return Amount (Output)

The need for Machine Learning

Let us try to solve same problem of computing ‘Amount’ from inputs ‘p’ and ‘q’. However this time we are required to read the inputs (p and q) from a piece of paper with digits either handwritten or printed. This needs program to recognize the digits from paper (images of digits received by program) before digits can be assigned to ‘p’ and ‘q’.

Let us examine traditional programming approach (writing rules) to recognize the images of digits received by program

  • Are rules scalable?
  • Can rules handle recognizing digits written in different orientations and styles? Say, when image received is program should recognize the image as digit 8.
  • There are over 70,000 samples of handwritten digits which are commonly used (refer MNIST database, sample below), can we write rules to cover all possible combinations?

Now it’s clear to us that rules-based approach will break and it’s not practical to build all rules and program those. We need something else instead of rules to solve these types of problems and that something else which replaces rules is Machine Learning.

What is Machine Learning?

Let us ask ourselves

  1. What differentiates the first problem statement (easily solved using rules) from the second one?
  2. Why a problem easily solved by humans (recognizing different styles digits by vision), is such a difficult task for computers?

We humans learn to identify digits which are written in standard format, however when presented with digits written in different styles and orientations, we are still able to recognize the digits identifying the patterns which are the beauty of human learning process. Can we make computers (machines) do the same and learn like humans? Let us understand how we make a machine to learn this task and perform like humans.

We will feed the Machine Learning program (ML) with lots of data (examples) containing images of digits in different styles and orientations along with actual digit it represents (supervised learning). Say one data point will be an image and mapped to corresponding digit 8. We are providing data along with the intended output as input to ML for learning. Processing lots of inputs, ML comes up with Rules or Patterns or Models to map an input to output we need (like humans).

This Rules/Pattern/Model learned by ML will be used to process new incoming data to produce output or sometimes called as Predictions.

What differentiates ML from traditional programming paradigm

The major difference between traditional program and ML is, traditional program applies rules on input data to produce output. However, ML takes output (outcomes we need) as input and produces Rules/Pattern/Models as output which are then used to process new inputs.

Why Machine Learning

Data-driven decisions increasingly make the difference between keeping up with the competition or falling further behind. Machine learning can be the key to unlocking the value of corporate and customer data and enacting decisions that keep a company ahead of the competition.

Machine Learning at GAVS

GAVS has own in-house Artificial Intelligence research team building advanced Machine Learning algorithm and techniques powering its products and solutions. ZIF (Zero Incident FrameworkTM) Artificial Intelligence-based Technology Operations (AIOps) from GAVS is powered by state-of-the-art Machine Learning algorithms developed in house.

About the Author:

Gireesh is a part of the projects run in collaboration with IIT Madras for developing AI solutions and algorithms. His interest includes Data Science, Machine Learning, Financial markets and Geo-politics. He believes that he is competing against himself to become better than who he was yesterday. He aspires to become a well-recognized subject matter expert in the field of Artificial Intelligence.