Ashu's Blog – left, right, and all in between

Agile Development and Testing
February 8, 2013

I was working with some digital marketing folks and they have agencies doing the websites and mobile apps for them. The discussion with business on trying to get to short time-to-market always leads to how IT and agencies are building the websites. “Agile” comes up without fail. I have written a bit before about Agile Methodology and received feedback from so many readers.   Before analyzing the points of the Agile Manifesto in detail, it is important to consider the last sentence. The Manifesto does not state (as an example) that “responding to change” is important and that “following a plan” is not important.  This is a common misinterpretation.  Looking more closely, it states that both items provide value, although “responding to change” provides more value than “following a plan.”  In other words, it is important to follow a plan, but it is even more important to respond to change.   There are several different flavors of Agile Development that I wrote in details about - Extreme Programming (XP), Crystal by Alistair Cockburn, Scrum by Ken Schwaber, Feature Driven Development by Jeff DeLuca, Dynamic Systems Development Method. But the Agile themes and principles are somewhat uniform:  
  • Welcoming change:  Embrace change in order to promote faster delivery of value to the customer and, ultimately, a superior and more creative solution.
  • Deliver working software early and often:  Deliver working software to the customer as early and as often as possible.
  • Simple design (YAGNI):  Add only what you need to the system. YAGNI = You Aren’t Going to Need It.
  • Pair programming:  Developed code by having two developers working on a single computer with one being a developer who thinks tactically about the method being created, while the other thinks strategically about how the method fits into the class.
  • Continuous integration:  Integrate software changes into the evolving solution as quickly and continuously as possible.
  • Close customer collaboration:  Work closely with the customer to ensure that their concerns are incorporated into the systems development process.
  • Measure progress through working software:  Measure progress by measuring the number of required features, or user stories, that are actually working in the application. Maintain constant pace.  Work a reasonable schedule with no “heroic” peaks.
  • Continuous improvement. Consider what is working well and what is not working well—and then adjusting the process accordingly.
  • Test-driven development:  Test early and often. The test is used to drive design and programming.
    • Continuous Integration: This can occur as recommended by Agile, but instead of going directly to Production, new functionality goes to a “Staging” environment, enabling thorough functional testing and providing a platform for users to observe the impact of the sprint.
    • Addresses concern for quality: The V-Model Test Stages exist for a reason.  Agile Methods theoretically drive exceptional Component (and possibly Assembly) Testing but do not take a holistic view of validating functional requirements or integration with upstream and downstream applications.  The “Staging” and “Integration” environments enable the execution of Application Product Test and Integration Product Test.  Also, normal Product Test documentation would be required and entry/exit criteria would be adhered to entering IPT (but not APT).
    • Folks generally advocate limiting the number of mid-pass releases into a test environment to avoid disrupting that test (and injecting quality issues). However, it is assumed that lower-level Testing (i.e., Component and Assembly Testing), through the concept of Test-Driven Design, will enable higher quality code to be delivered to APT which offsets the need for tightly controlled code drops in the test environment.

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The Buzz about Socialize Enterprise Networks - by Ashley Furness
July 16, 2012

As more and more industry experts are reaching out, I invited Ashley to post her CRM post on our site. She is CRM Market Analyst at Software Advice. Research for this article was provided by Software Advice.  

The Buzz about Socialize Enterprise Networks by Ashley Furness

When Microsoft announced plans to buy social enterprise app maker Yammer recently I was a little stunned. The reported $1.2 Billion acquisition price tag seemed like a lot for replicating social networking functions in the business environment. So I decided to find out what all the buzz was about. “Social is more than a trend, it is a revolution that is changing the way we work and collaborate. Powerful social tools, such as Chatter, help employees work faster and more efficiently—making it a strategic piece of the workforce.” — Dave King, Chatter Product Marketing Director As it turns out, users have uncovered all sorts of efficiencies unique to these platforms. Not convinced? Here’s seven ways companies have derived real value from Yammer, Chatter and Jive.

1. Find Experts Faster One of the most mentioned advantages to products such as Yammer, Chatter and Jive is the ability to quickly find internal experts. In fact, Jive Software surveys show sales win rates increasing an average of 23 percent, and time to find experts falls 34 percent. Centerstance Inc. Managing Partner Greg Lueck says Chatter helps sales staff answer deal-specific questions in the sales moment. He recalled one situation where a partner needed someone certified in Cast Iron software integration who spoke Mandarin. The resource manager working with the partner posted the query in Centerstance’s news feed. “They had an answer within 30 seconds… in Mandarin,” Lueck remembers. In this and similar scenarios, the employee would have otherwise “relied on a central repository of all company’s experience that is located in one person’s head, or nowhere at all.”

2. Augment Transparency, Accountability and Communications Efficiency Also, mentioned repeatedly, users touted the unparalleled level of transparency. Since PerkStreet hosts all conversations on Yammer rather than trapped in someone’s inbox, management has continuous insight into the team’s progress.This also prevents work duplication and redundancies because everyone is literally on the same page. “If you look at someone’s scrum over time, you can see whether they actually accomplished what they said they were going to,” PerkStreet COO Jason Henrichs notes. Companies experienced fewer emails, meetings and calls; yet they are more connected then ever.

3. Streamline Project Management Social enterprise networks utilize all kinds of shortcuts to streamline workflow. Software developers at PerkStreet Financial use Yammer shortcuts to facilitate scrum meetings, a key component of the agile software development methodology. Rather than hold their daily morning standup meetings in person, each member of the 37-person team posts “what I did yesterday,” “what I will do today” and “barriers to moving forward” using the hashtag #scrum. The tag allows users to quickly see what everyone is working on and chime in when appropriate. The poster can also delegate tasks to others with the “@” symbol. With Jive, users can also employ shortcuts such as an “!” to pull information into the thread from CRM and other enterprise systems.

4. Better Leverage Information and Insights Social enterprise vendors have invested heavily in social and adaptive intelligence. These sophisticated algorithms suggest articles, files and experts based on the user’s position, connections, group memberships and resources they’ve previously accessed. “Imagine you have 10,000 people in an enterprise. Sales materials, RFPs are constantly flowing through system… Jive makes the most of this information by channeling it to the right people,” according to Jive Product Marketing Director Tim Zonca.

5. Generate More, Better Ideas Yammer provides several means for employees to contribute ideas–from responding to queries and surveys, to posting ideas in a group discussion threads. Users receive gratification when co-workers and leadership “like” their contribution. Then, they are continually rewarded as they watch project teams bring the idea to fruition. With one advertising campaign, for example, Deloitte CEO Peter Williams asked employees for their ideas for a tagline. More than 38 groups formed that submitted 1,184 original concepts.

6. Boost Employee Recognition and Engagement In the four years since Deloitte AU implemented Yammer, the turnover rate for active users has fallen to two percent annually–about 10 times less than for employees who don’t use it. Leadership attribute change to employees feeling more engaged and recognized for their work. “In a company with 180,000 people, most employees rarely interact with leadership,” says Frank Farrall, national leader for Deloitte Australia’s Online Consulting Practice. “Yammer breaks down those barriers.” Deloitte leadership uses Yammer to pull reports that identify employees with high engagement and positive feedback. The more a user interacts with groups, downloads articles and responds to queries with the same keywords, the more they are distinguished as thought leaders on a subject. “This is one key way to rise up in the firm–get recognized as someone who drives connectivity,” Farrall added. These apps aren’t perfect–as I mentioned several companies responded to this story saying the platform was more “of a distraction” than a value driver. They cited issues with file sharing, inefficient search, lack of customization, and bugs with mobile functionality. Even so, interest continues to grow as technology improves. From what I’ve learned, the question is no longer if socialized business will become the norm, but when.

This article was written by Ashley Furness, CRM Market Analyst at Software Advice. Research for this article was provided by Software Advice.  

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Social Media
March 8, 2012

In today’s world, there is enough talk of Social Media and its importance is specially felt in B2C businesses. For such companies ignoring Social Media is not an option. However, embracing it requires overcoming potential challenges in order to unlock the full potential of effective Social CRM. Social media – supported by technology – brings interactions and inter-connectedness between users to a new level.
  • High accessibility - “One-to-many” and “many-to-many”
  • High scalability - Enabled by Mobile technologies
  • High frequency - Real-time, easy to use, create & disseminate
  • User-generated contents - Can go anydirection in an uncontrolled way
  These trends complete the seismic “shift of power” to consumers. They are enabled to influence all things and become co-owner of the brand. So it’s not only about anonymous mass nor individual customers, but about individuals within a community; with influencers, creators & consumers. This leads to lines between Marketing, Sales and Service are blurred. Individuals spend more and more time on social media, spurred by its real-time aspect. As below a study by ConScore Global shows the obvious that we feel these days: To succeed, organizations need to move beyond the limitations of traditional marketing and customer service to a continuous mode of relationship-building with the customer. People trust the recommendations of others and blog readers are 38% more likely to buy. Brands can be damaged in hours. But Gatekeepers are essential enablers of social media execution. Without them it is extremely unwise to engage with anyone through social media as the chances of serious negative consequences are dramatically increased.
  • Cultural Alignment
    • Is your company culturally aligned with the idea of Social Media?
    • Do you have C-Level sponsorship?
    • Customer facing strategy alignment
      • Is Social Media in line with the overall Customer Facing Strategy?
      • Do the C-level sponsors understand its potential?
    • Alignment of Marketing & Communications
      • Have the Marketing team been alerted to the Social Media channel? Do they understand it?
      • Will all communications be sent to the Social Media team so as to ensure consistency of messages?
    • Legal education and alignment
      • Have the legal team been told that Social Media will be happening?
      • Have they contributed to policies and guidelines to mitigate risks of Social Media engagement?
    • Website alignment
      • Is the company website in a state whereby customers could be pointed to it for answers?
      • Is there a secure area where customer service can be picked up in a private channel?
      • Can customers log-in?
  Another challenge is the complex technology evolution that requires functional areas like marketing to become more integrated with IT. There are companies that are using Natural Language Processing (NLP) to understand syntax context. The software algorithms tag parts of speech and entities, understand clauses and relationships, and extract facts. For example if there is a comment like “The EFTPS enrollment for my tax return was easy, but it took too long to get the confirmation package” So the category sentiment = Positive for “enrollment” and  = Negative for “timeliness”  

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Global Social Media Trends
April 17, 2011

I was chatting with some of my wife’s friends today who are all becoming FaceBook-addicts (I think my wife leads the pack anyway). I was asking them the real reason for their involvement on such a social site. “I need to know what other friends, what their kids are doing, etc. etc.”.  “So some element of gossiping?”, I asked. Most of their answers were summarized to a ‘Yes’. That set me thinking – I was reading somewhere Social Networks and blogging sites have become the fourth most popular activity on the Internet. A recent survey by Nielsen mentioned that Social Networks/Blogs Now Account for One in Every Four and a Half Minutes Online. It seems that the need-to-know tool (email) is being eclipsed by the good-to-know medium (social network). But how companies can effectively tap this channel is tough. Social media channels growth is surely very irregular. For example:
  • Twitter monthly growth varied from 3.5% to 13% in 2009
  • After a period of strong presence MySpace is used as a pure music streaming with fewer user interactions . It is now the 80th site visited in South Africa.
  There is no “silver bullet” for formulating and executing a winning Social Media strategy; some of the leading players admit running a constant trial-and-error process through experimenting with Social Media. However, experience shows that successful organizations are results-oriented, and instantly learn from their experience in order to rapidly adapt to consumer behaviors, their preferred communication preferences and responses. To reach this level of agility, leading organizations have embraced a new approach spanning across organization, tools, metrics and analytics that allows them to iteratively learn, plan, engage and measure business benefits from using Social Media to enable business objectives. Monitor
  • Identify influencers, detractors, competitors
  • Identify target off-board channels
  • Detect questions and conversation opportunities
  • Filter and prioritize opportunities
  • Establish presence
  • Publish content and promote incentives
  • Execute planned actions
  • Respond and track
  • Proactively seed
  • Across business functions (marketing, sales, customer service, HR, R&D, legal, etc)
  • Across geographical units (global/local)

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FlitterIn = Facebook + Twitter + LinkedIn
February 20, 2011

  The other day I was chatting with a good friend of mine about how our lives have been changing since the mobile media. When at work so many of us will check pour personal emails. And when at home the work never stops. With emails popping on phones, everyone expects some response right away especially if the matters are important. So the line between personal and work lives are fusing so much. And with the social media and network onslaught, schedules are going from fixed to continuous, interactions from 1-to-1 to 1-to-Many and engagement is going one way to collaborative. Per my post from last week, I talked to a lot of folks about the clarity of Social media in our lives – how social media is a revolutionary set of constituent interaction channels. I realized a lot of us didn’t know the demarcation of the channels within Social Media and so I wanted to document those as below:
  • Blogs: A website displays one person or organization’s opinions on a topic and then allows comments. Similar to an online newspaper column, except unedited. You are reading 1 of the more than 50,000,000 blogs available today. E.g. WordPress
  • Open Micro-Blog: A site on which people post short comments that are then broadcast to all other users. E.g. Twitter. Private messages and direct messages are possible.
  • Closed Micro-Blog: Closed Micro-Blogs are sites that allow a micro-blogging service but protect it from being visible to everybody with firewalls and access criteria. Generally, they are used to communicate within a company, quickly and efficiently. E.g. Yammer.
  • Open Social Network: Open Social Networks are sites where users post information about themselves online and create connections between themselves and “friends”. Access to users’ information is unrestricted. Convention encourages the forging of new connections. Open Social Networks are akin to giving each user their own webpage to do with as they like. E.g. MySpace
  • Closed Social Network: Closed Social Networks are sites that allow networking via an invitation system. Only after an invitation to share information has been accepted can the parties access each other’s details and updates. E.g. Facebook
   Due to all these channels, the way to do business may not have changed completed but has been influenced immeasurably. In the earlier days, you talked, told them what to do and 95% happy customers were good for the company’s bottom-line. In these days especially for B2C, they are talking among themselves, it’s time to listen and you have to go where they hang out. And 5% unhappy customers can be bad for your business because it spreads pretty fast and competitors can rapidly fill the gap. But it also offers an opportunity since it can be increase brand engagement and increase trust and loyalty. A McKinsey global survey found that these tools/ channels can seriously help increase marketing  effectiveness and reduce some marketing costs. The other aspect of Social Media is on how we issue it for our cognitive learning. Howard Gardner described in his theory of multiple intelligences, we all have different dimensions of intelligence - Interpersonal, Intrapersonal, Spatial, Linguistic, Logical-mathematical, Existential, etc. Social Media seems to have touched all of them and taking deeper roots in each. Like someone at HubSpot made this hilarious cartoon to get the point across: FlitterIn = Facebook + Twitter + LinkedIn

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The Social Network – movie, business, and trends…
February 13, 2011

I guess almost everyone these days is kind of used to the stories of an online site that suddenly takes over the online turf in web site visits, searches, community engagement, etc. But deep inside so many folks still struggle with the business model behind so many of these and wonder if it’s a fad for Google or MicroSoft to be paying up so much premium. Or maybe the folks weaving together these skeins of community are changing the world. I recently got down to catching up on the movie The Social Network and had to follow up with some reading on the company’s business model. As Eduardo Saverin keeps saying in the movie “Great to have a kool place to attract folks to your site, but we need to make money”. One of the best summarized blogs on this topic was on StartupReview.   The main drivers of change in business are as below:
  • Customer touch point fragmentation
    • Lack of unified relationship with the customer
    • Dozens of channels; new channels emerging in months
  • Power shift introducing new risks
    • Brands can be damaged in hours
    • Lack of control over external social channels
  • New customer behaviors
    • People trust the recommendations of others
    • Blog readers are 38% more likely to buy
  The basics themes of applicability and growth are:
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Talent Management
  • Location aware networks
  • Business / Personal Collaboration
  As anyone else, I am devoting the next couple of weeks to elaborate examples of thease areas. Like on crowd sourcing, the next level is social tools harness human workers and can lead to Business Model innovation. Amateurs can do tasks that have previously only been completed by professionals, examples include:
  • Journalism
  • Creative work
  • Ads created by amateurs
  • Open Innovation
  One of the examples is Amazon Mechanical turk which is a two-sided platform for requesters and workers
  • Provision of a “scalable” workforce
  • Power of the workforce can be adjusted to changing workloads (cf. cloud computing)
  • Typically tasks that are hard to automate

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