Tuning Agile Delivery for Customer and Employee Success

Ashish Joseph

What is Agile?

Agile has been very popular in the software development industry for empowering delivery to be more efficient and effective. It is a common misconception for Agile to be thought of as a framework or a process that follows a methodology for software development. But Agile is a set of values and principles. It is a collection of beliefs that teams can use for decision making and optimizing project deliveries. It is customer-centric and flexible, helping teams adapt accordingly. It doesn’t make the decision for the team. Instead, it gives a foundation for teams to make decisions that can result in a stellar execution of the project.

According to the Agile Manifesto, teams can deliver better by prioritizing the following over the other.

  • Individuals and Interactions over process and tools
  • Working Model over Comprehensive Documentation
  • Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation
  • Responding to Changes over following a Plan

With respect to Software Development, Agile is an iterative approach to project management which help teams deliver results with measurable customer value. The approach is designed to be faster and ensures the quality of delivery that is aided with periodic customer feedbacks. Agile aims to break down the requirement into smaller portions, results of which can be continuously evaluated with a natural mechanism to respond to changes quickly.

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Why Agile?

The world is changing, and businesses must be ready to adapt to how the market demands change over time. When we look at the Fortune 500 companies from 1955, 88% of them perished. Nearly half of the S&P 500 companies is forecasted to be replaced every ten years. The only way for organizations to survive is to innovate continuously and understand the pulse of the market every step of the way. An innovative mindset helps organizations react to changes and discover new opportunities the market can offer them from time to time.

Agile helps organizations execute projects in an everchanging environment. The approach helps break down modules for continuous customer evaluation and implement changes swiftly.

The traditional approach to software project management uses the waterfall model, where we Plan, Build, Test, Review and Deploy. But this existing approach would result in iterations in the plan phase whenever there are deviations in the requirement with respect to the market. When teams choose agile, it helps them respond to changes in the marketplace and implement customer feedback without going off the plan. Agile plans are designed in such a manner to include continuous feedback and its corresponding changes. Organizations should imbibe the ability to adapt and respond fast to new and changing market demands. This foundation is imperative for modern software development and delivery.

Is Agile a right fit for my Customer? People who advocate Agile development claim that Agile projects succeed more often than waterfall delivery models. But this claim has not been validated by statistics. A paper titled “How Agile your Project should be?” by Dr. Kevin Thompson from Kevin Thompson Consulting, provides a perspective from a mathematical point of view for both Agile and Waterfall project management. Here both approaches were followed for the same requirements and were also affected by the same unanticipated variables. The paper focused on the statistical evidence to support the validity of both the options to evaluate the fit.

While assessing the right approach, the following questions need to be asked

  • Are the customer requirements for the project complete, clear and stable?
  • Can the project effort estimation be easily predicted?
  • Has a project with similar requirements been executed before?

If the answer to all the above questions are Yes, then Agile is not the approach to be followed.

The Agile approach provides a better return on investment and risk reduction when there is high uncertainty of different variables in the project. When the uncertainty is low, waterfall projects tend to be more cost effective than agile projects.

Optimizing Agile Customer Centricity

Customer centricity should be the foundation of all project deliveries. This help businesses align themselves to the customer’s mission and vision with respect to the project at hand. While we consider an Agile approach to a project in a dynamic and changing environment, the following are some principles that can help organizations align themselves better with their customer goals.

  • Prioritizing Customer Satisfaction through timely and continuous delivery of requirements.
  • Openness to changing requirements, regardless of the development phase, to enable customers to harness the change for their competitive advantage in the market.
  • Frequent delivery of modules with a preference towards shorter timelines.
  • Continuous collaboration between management and developers to understand the functional and non-functional requirements better.
  • Measuring progress through the number of working modules delivered.
  • Improving velocity and agility in delivery by concentrating on technical excellence and good design.
  • Periodic retrospection at the end of each sprint to improve delivery effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Trusting and supporting motivated individuals to lead projects on their own and allowing them to experiment.

Since Agile is a collection of principles and values, its real utility lies in giving teams a common foundation to make good decisions with actionable intelligence to deliver measurable value to their customers.

Agile Empowered Employee Success

A truly Agile team makes their decisions based on Agile values and principles. The values and principles have enough flexibility to allow teams to develop software in the ways that work best for their market situation while providing enough direction to help them to continually move towards their full potential. The team and employee empowerment through these values and principles aid in the overall performance.

Agile not only improves the team but also the environment around which it is established by helping employees to be compliant with respect to audit and governance.  It reduces the overall project cost for dynamic requirements and focuses on technical excellence along with an optimized process for its delivery. The 14th Annual State of Agile Report 2020 published by StateofAgile.com surveyed 40,000 Agile executives to get insights into the application of Agile across different areas of enterprises. The report surveyed different Agile techniques that contributed most towards the employee success of the organization. The following are some of the most preferred Agile techniques that helped enhance the employee and team performances.

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All the above Agile techniques help teams and individuals to introspect their actions and understand areas of improvement in real time with periodic qualitative and quantitative feedback. Each deliverable from multiple cross functional teams can be monitored, tracked and assessed under a single roof. All these techniques collectively bring together an enhanced form of delivery and empower each team to realize their full potential.
Above all, Agile techniques help teams to feel the pulse of the customer every step of the way. The openness to change regardless of the phase, helps them to map all the requirements leading to an overall customer satisfaction coupled with employee success.

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A Truly Agile Organization

Majority of the Agile approach has been concentrated towards development, IT, and Operations. However, organizations should strive towards effective alignment and coordination across all departments. Organizations today are aiming for greater expansion of agility into areas beyond building, deploying, and maintaining software. At the end of the day, Agile is not about the framework. It is all about the Agile values and principles the organizations believe in for achieving their mission and vision in the long run.

About the Author –

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

Happy Birthday MLK – My ode to the Free Thinkers, Disruptors, and Iconoclasts

Sumit Ganguli

CEO, GAVS Technologies

While we were gearing up for the weekend, I noticed that Monday, January 18, is Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth anniversary. This coupled with the overcast sky and cool winter day all conspired to make me sit back and reminisce about the events of the past few months.

Working from home, I have become accustomed to keeping my TV on mute, alternating between CNN and Fox News while I go through my emails, video conferences and other work routines. And that is when I saw the traumatic video of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis and the massive demonstrations that ensued across the US and in other parts of the world. The Black Lives Matter movement rightfully gained immense momentum and soon #BlackLivesMatter became one of the most trending of all hashtags.

An avid tennis fan, I got to watch the US Open on TV this year, being played without any spectators.  But I was most inspired by the young Japanese tennis player, Naomi Osaka who went on to win the US Open and decided to draw attention to the #BLM by wearing the names of seven black victims who were being memorialized by the BLM movement. She succeeded in persuading me to read more about the movement and many of the victims.    

Cut to the present, we now have our first Black Vice President elect Kamala Harris who is of Jamaican and Indian heritage. Just the other day, my 90-year-old mother who is in Bangalore and is quite a political junkie, challenged me to name the Indian lady who was announced to be a member of Mr. Joe Biden’s economic committee. Convinced that my Mother was mistaken, I told her that Janet Yellen was not Indian. But she insisted and then I recalled that Ms. Neera Tanden has been nominated to head the Office of Management and Budget.

The Indian diaspora has been deservedly proud of the achievements of the Indian leaders in America – Satya Nadella, Microsoft; Arvind Krishna, IBM; Ajay Banga, Mastercard; Nandita Bakshi, Bank of the West & Federal Reserve Bank; Sanat Chattopadhyay, Merck; Niren Chaudhury, Panera Bread – and with Reverend Martin Luther King’s birth anniversary round the corner, I think it is  opportune for us to celebrate the avantgarde Free thinkers, Disruptors, and Iconoclasts, who made this possible for some of this happen.  

In the morning, I bathe my intellect in the stupendous and cosmogonal philosophy of the Bhagvat Geeta, since whose composition years of the Gods have elapsed, and in comparison with which our modern world and its literature seem puny and trivial…The pure Walden water is mingled with the sacred water of the Ganges” (Thoreau, Walden).

In 1854’s Boston, Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson, derived a lot of their concept of Transcendentalism, Non-Violence, and Civil Disobedience from the concepts of Ahimsa and Dharma from the ancient Indian scriptures, the Upanishads and the Gita. They read this at the Harvard Library and wrote extensively about it.

In 1893, a man got thrown out of a train in South Africa, which led him to take on the mighty British and launch his Satyagraha movement to fight for India’s independence. His movement in turn was highly influenced by Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience. That man, of course is known around the world as Mahatma Gandhi. 

From 1954 to 1968, Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and other activists launched the Civil Rights Movement in America. He drew inspiration from Gandhi’s philosophy who has been immortalized as the Father of the Nation in India. This is truly a circle of ideas that traversed oceans and continents.

Today, we are all beneficiaries of largesse of the thoughts and visions of these great luminaries. On MLK’s birthday, Monday, January 18, I believe we will be well served to pay our ode to the Reverend and his fellow free thinkers John Lewis, Rosa Parks, and many others for their audacious vision, temerity, and currency of ideas and ideals –  for these disruptors, iconoclasts made it possible for us to live the life of our dreams in America, a country that we have come to love and cherish.  

Vision for 2021

Sumit Ganguli

CEO, GAVS Technologies

God, grant me the serenity to accept things, I cannot change,

Courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

The events of 2020 have reaffirmed in me the ethos conveyed by this stanza, from the Serenity Prayer.

For us, COVID has been up close and personal. One of our key clients, Bronx Care Hospital has been an epicenter of the pandemic in New York City. The doctors, staff and support staff, including GAVS’ IT support engineers have experienced the devastating effect of this pandemic, up close and personal. GAVS’ technical team supported the ICUs and patient care units at the hospitals during the peak of pandemic.

“Every day we witness these heroic acts: one example out of many this week was our own Kishore going into our ICU to move a computer without full PPE (we have a PPE shortage). The GAVS technicians who come into our hospital every day are, like our doctors and healthcare workers, the true heroes of our time.”

Ivan Durbak, CIO, BronxCare Health System

“GAVS Team was instrumental in assisting the deployment of digital contact less care solutions and remote patient monitoring solutions during the peak of COVID. Their ability to react in quick time really helped us save more lives than what we could have, with technology at the fore-front.”

Dr. Sridhar Chilimuri, Chairman, Dept. of Medicine, BronxCare Health System

The alacrity with which our colleagues in India addressed the remote working situation and the initiative that they have demonstrated in maintaining business continuity for the clients in the US have inspired us at GAVS and  have reaffirmed our belief that we are on the way to create a purposeful company.  

The biggest learning from 2020, is that we need to be mindful of the fragility of life and truly make every day count. At GAVS, we are committed to use technology and service for the betterment of our clients and our stakeholders; and anchor this with our values of Respect, Integrity, Trust and Empathy.

The year was not without some positives. Thanks to some new client acquisitions and renewed contracts we have been able to significantly expand the GAVS family and have registered a 40% growth in revenue. 

We have formed Long 80, A GAVS & Premier, Inc. JV and have started reaching out to Healthcare providers in the US. We are reaching out to some of the largest hospitals in North America offering our AI-based Infrastructure Managed Services, Cybersecurity solutions, Prescriptive and Predictive Healthcare Solutions based on Analytics.

“Moving from a vendor-only model with GAVS to a collaborative model through Long 80 expands Premier’s current technology portfolio, enabling us to offer GAVS’ technology, digital transformation and data security services and solutions to US healthcare organizations. We are extremely excited about this opportunity and look forward to our new relationship with GAVS.”

Leigh Anderson, President, Performance Services, Premier, Inc.

This year, we see the Premier team growing by an additional 120 persons to continue to support their initiative to reduce costs, improve efficiency, enhance productivity and faster time to market.

We aim to hit some milestones in our journey of enabling AI-driven Digital Transformation in the Healthcare space. We have constituted a team dedicated to achieving that.

We are contemplating on establishing the GAVS Healthcare Institute in partnership leading institutions in India and US to develop competency within GAVS in the latest technologies for the healthcare space.

GAVS is committed to being a company focused on AI, and newer technologies and promote GAVS’ AI led Technology Operations, Zero Incident Framework. In 2021, we will work on increasing our ZIF sites around the US and India.  

Based on inputs from our Customer Advisory Board, we at GAVS would like to build a competency around Client Relationship and empower our Client Success Managers to evolve as true partners of our Clients and support their aspirations and visions.  

GAVS is also making strong progress in the BFS sector and we would like to leverage our expertise in AI, Blockchain, Service Reliability and other digital technologies.

GAVS has the competency to support multiyear contracts and there will be a push to reach out to Sourcing Companies, Influencers and partners to garner these long-term predictable business.

We will continue to build competency and expertise around Innovation, and there are some initiatives that we will be putting in place to promote a Culture of Innovation and have measurable successes under Novelty of Innovation.

Our experience of 2020 has inspired us to once again remind ourselves that we should make GAVS an aspirational company, a firm that is purposeful and anchored with our values.

Container Security

Anandharaj V

We live in a world of innovation and are beneficiaries of new advancements. New advancements in software technology also comes with potential security vulnerabilities.

‘Containers’ are no exception. Let us first understand what a container is and then the vulnerabilities associated with it and how to mitigate them.

What is a Container?

You might have seen containers in the shipyard. It is used to isolate different cargos which is transported via ships. In the same way, software technologies use a containerization approach.

Containers are different from Virtual Machines (VM) where VMs need a guest operating system which runs on a host operating system (OS). Containers uses OS virtualization, in which required processes, CPU, Memory, and disk are virtualized so that containers can run without a separate operating system.

In containers, software and its dependencies are packaged so that it can run anywhere whether on-premises desktop or in the cloud.

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Source: https://cloud.google.com/containers

As stated by Google, “From Gmail to YouTube to Search, everything at Google runs in containers”.

Container Vulnerabilities and Countermeasures

Containers Image Vulnerabilities

While creating a container, an image may be patched without any known vulnerabilities. But a vulnerability might have been discovered later, while the container image is no longer patched. For traditional systems, it can be patched when there is a fix for the vulnerability without making any changes but for containers, updates should be upstreamed in the images, and then redeployed. So, containers have vulnerabilities because of the older image version which is deployed.

Also, if the container image is misconfigured or unwanted services are running, it will lead to vulnerabilities.

Countermeasures

If you use traditional vulnerability assessment tools to assess containers, it will lead to false positives. You need to consider a tool that has been designed to assess containers so that you can get actionable and reliable results.

To avoid container image misconfiguration, you need to validate the image configuration before deploying.

Embedded Malware and Clear Text Secrets

Container images are collections of files packaged together. Hence, there are chances of malicious files getting added unintentionally or intentionally. That malicious software will have the same effect as of the traditional systems.

If secrets are embedded in clear text, it may lead to security risks if someone unauthorized gets access.

Countermeasures

Continuous monitoring of all images for embedded malware with signature and behavioral detection can mitigate embedded malware risks.

 Secrets should never be stored inside of containers image and when required, it should be provided dynamically at runtime.

Use of Untrusted Images

Containers have the advantages of ease of use and portability. This capability may lead teams to run container images from a third party without validating it and thus can introducing data leakage, malware, or components with known vulnerabilities.

Countermeasures

Your team should maintain and use only trusted images, to avoid the risk of untrusted or malicious components being deployed.

Registry Risks

Registry is nothing but a repository for storing container images.

  1. Insecure connections to registries

Images can have sensitive information. If connections to registries are performed over insecure channels, it can lead to man-in-the-middle attacks that could intercept network traffic to steal programmer or admin credentials to provide outdated or fraudulent images.

You should configure development tools and containers while running, to connect only over the encrypted medium to overcome the unsecured connection issue.

  1. Insufficient authentication and authorization restrictions

As we have already seen that registries store container images with sensitive information. Insufficient authentication and authorization will result in exposure of technical details of an app and loss of intellectual property. It also can lead to compromise of containers.

Access to registries should authenticated and only trusted entities should be able to add images and all write access should be periodically audited and read access should be logged. Proper authorization controls should be enabled to avoid the authentication and authorization related risks.

Orchestrator Risks

  1. Unbounded administrative access

There are many orchestrators designed with an assumption that all the users are administrators but, a single orchestrator may run different apps with different access levels. If you treat all users as administrators, it will affect the operation of containers managed by the orchestrator.

Orchestrators should be given the required access with proper role-based authorization to avoid the risk of unbounded administrative access.

  1. Poorly separated inter-container network traffic

In containers, traffic between the host is routed through virtual overlay networks. This is managed by the orchestrator. This traffic will not be visible to existing network security and management tools since network filters only see the encrypted packets traveling between the hosts and will lead to security blindness. It will be ineffective in monitoring the traffic.

To overcome this risk, orchestrators need to configure separate network traffic as per the sensitivity levels in the virtual networks.

  1. Orchestrator node trust

You need to give special attention while maintaining the trust between the hosts, especially the orchestrator node. Weakness in orchestrator configuration will lead to increased risk. For example, communication can be unencrypted and unauthenticated between the orchestrator, DevOps personnel, and administrators.

To mitigate this, orchestration should be configured securely for nodes and apps. If any node is compromised, it should be isolated and removed without disturbing other nodes.

Container Risks

  1. App vulnerabilities

It is always good to have a defense. Even after going through the recommendations, we have seen above; containers may still be compromised if the apps are vulnerable.

As we have already seen that traditional security tools may not be effective when you use it for containers. So, you need a container aware tool which will detect behavior and anomalies in the app at run time to find and mitigate it.

  1. Rogue containers

It is possible to have rogue containers. Developers may have launched them to test their code and left it there. It may lead to exploits as those containers might not have been thoroughly checked for security loopholes.

You can overcome this by a separate environment for development, test, production, and with a role-based access control.

Host OS Risks

  1. Large attack surface

Every operating system has its attack surface and the larger the attack surface, the easier it will be for the attacker to find it and exploit the vulnerability and compromise the host operating system and the container which run on it.

You can follow the NIST SP 800-123 guide to server security if you cannot use container specific operating system to minimize the attack surface.

  1. Shared kernel

If you only run containers on a host OS you will have a smaller attack surface than the normal host machine where you will need libraries and packages when you run a web server or a database and other software.

You should not mix containers and non-containers workload on the same host machine.

If you wish to further explore this topic, I suggest you read NIST.SP.800-190.


References

About the Author –

Anandharaj is a lead DevSecOps at GAVS and has over 13 years of experience in Cybersecurity across different verticals which include Network Security, application Security, computer forensics and cloud security.

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. 

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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.

Reduce Test Times and Increase Coverage with AI & ML

Kevin Surace

Chairman & CTO, Appvance.ai

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

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

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

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

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

Something had to change; that something is AI.

AI-testing in two steps

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

It’s really a two-stage process.

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

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

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

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

About the Author –

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

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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.

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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

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  • 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.

Is the Future of White-Collared Workforce only Digital?

Hariharan Madhavan

COVID-19 taught all white-collared workers and their employers one thing for sure – “It is possible to work from home”. With the current advancements in technology – using a mobile app-based contact center solutions, using collaboration platforms to edit content together, hosting tech troubleshooting bridges where multiple engineers solve an issue, video conferencing meetings allowing people to see each other, from where work is delivered does not matter anymore.

Rpa in Infrastructure Management

Wearing what feels comfortable, sitting comfortably, eating homemade food, personalizing your room, life was never better balanced between work and personal life better than now. With nobody to micromanage, the only way to measure a worker is through outcomes. Attendance swipes are a thing of the past. People managers who have no idea of the work done by their team members will become redundant starting2020.
New digital companies will take over like a storm to embrace this opportunity, just like AGILE took over like a religion to manage software development projects.

Existing digital workforce companies are already providing opportunities for companies to hire talent who can work remotely on a need basis from around the world and save potential hiring costs and free from commitments. Just like Uber and Lyft transformed the taxi business, we could see a wave of disruption transforming and killing the traditional brick and mortar IT behemoths to more agile and digital workforce capabilities hiring top talent on the click of a mobile app, and being able to get talent requirements fulfilled in minutes instead of having to wait for weeks or months to get somebody to join. This will be like the DevOps of Hiring for managers who have new projects and budgets looking for people to get things done.

Every other aspect of the business has changed, reducing time to market, and hiring talent is the only area still very traditional and inefficient. It’s not too late for somebody to realize and use this uncertain economic environment as a cradle of opportunity to offer enterprises as a solution.

The next question that comes up is if the borders are removed, how do you secure and still be compliant with your compliance norms. This is completely dependent on the level of sensitivity of data to which an employee/contractor has access. From using privacy screens in the laptops to using technology like VDI, SaaS-based EDR, NGAV, unified agents, CASB’s, you have literally every control that you can think of on-premise that you can enforce in a laptop used by an employee.

When companies hire you in the future, they will ship you an asset to your home location and expect you to use that asset for work. When you have moved out, you will be sent return shipping on which you can put the asset and send it back.

Another main setback that prevented a revolution is that IT companies had to pay for bench talent to provide for the demand. This will also be disrupted by new entrants. New disruptors will be willing to share up to 70% of the revenue earned by somebody back to them, but if there is a loss of billable revenue, the same will be immediately passed on to the concerned employee. These measures will weed out people who are just not meant for the IT workforce that demands constant skill up-gradation, essentially leaving IT to only the high potential workers who are dynamic.

About the Author –

Hariharan is the global head of Cybersecurity at GAVS. He is responsible for strategic and tactical leadership around emerging technologies such as cloud transformation, cloud-native microservices development, software-defined networking, cloud security, DevOps Security, Security and Automation, Security & AI.

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.