Reflections from the Third Edition of Ness Tech Days Virtual Conference

I wanted to follow up the blog I earlier wrote about the selection process for our third global Ness Tech Days conference (our virtual technology conference), an insightful event packed with three days of presentations by in-house experts around industry-shaping trends across the full spectrum of Ness’s core focus areas – Customer Experience Design, Digital Platform Engineering, Big Data Analytics, and Innovation.

We just announced the winners and I wanted to go through some of the insights and learnings I picked up from another wide ranging, thought provoking series of presentations from engineers bound by their passion and expertise in their chosen subjects.

The people’s choice award for the most popular session went to Nanda Annadanam for his assertion that Progressive Web Apps (PWAs) have now reached the maturity level that means we should consider them now the ideal hybrid between Native Mobile and Mobile Web. They offer a rewarding compromise between the cost and pain involved in maintaining a fleet of native mobile apps across devices, OS versions, security criteria and app stores (one of which takes 30% of revenues) and the enhanced user experience that mobile users have comes to expect on their phones. Mobile web always offered the utility of being able to call up a site and not have to download an app – but they have always suffered from lack of “anything” when you are offline and an absence of native mobile standards like push notifications and seamless intuitive use of the full screen mobile real estate.

Nanda took us through a demo he has built to bring to life many of the benefits of the PWA movement. At its heart is a winning concept that a PWA will enhance the experience for any user on any device, regardless of how low the bar of its OS and capabilities – and will simultaneously look even better on phones that can handle its extra cool features. That to me is the real “wow” of the term progressive.

Three things I took from Nanda’s Point of View that I will retain for future research and conversation:

  • PWAs have benefitted big name brands like Twitter, Forbes, Flipkart and Alibaba. If it’s good enough for them….
  • “The Service Worker” takes care of auto-refresh for the latest content and helps a site offer something useful offline or in low connectivity environments by managing network connectivity.
  • PWAs only work on HTPPS environments so take care of many security challenges.

You can hear the breadth of Nanda’s presentation by clicking here.

Second place, as voted by a panel of Ness technology leaders, went to Raffaella Garavini for her extra-ordinary perspective in promoting the criticality of UX QA in the development process. As a break from convention, Raffaella sketched out a human body as an analogy for software development. Her main contention was to make engineers think slightly differently about their work and how to maximize its usefulness in the hands of users. If the heart is the engine of development where everything gets made and distributed to a regular cadence, then the skin is the user interface which is the superficial appearance, movement and first impression which conveys likeability and trustworthiness. Yet it is the brain which controls it all and there she placed the thinking that goes in the user experience of everything. So, when a digital product nears completion it is second nature to neatly everyone to do testing on the functionality of the heart and of the appearance of the skin – but does enough testing go into working out if the brain being created will mean the human is fully compos mentis?

She did a great job of showing where the heart is often pushed to solve problems for which the brain is best suited. She pulled out password creations which are way too complex given how easy it is to sign up to Uber or Spotify or the BBC iPlayer (why should that be?). She picked on drop down menus for countries when you must pick from a list of 200 when a lookup of your IP address or previous behaviour would make it far less annoying.  And, finally she called out how a mobile phone lock screen can still override a call you are making – a scenario where the rigid application of a rule has come to be independent of a situation and defies common sense.

She concluded that, as cross-functional experts, where we have a body on the operation table sometimes, we need to be comfortable getting an expert second opinion (a brain consult) before diving in to fix a problem from only one perspective.

Watch Raffaella’s story by clicking here.

The overall winner this time around was Karol Grulling and his personal account of how his trusted team working for an existing customer was challenged to learn three new things in concert to enable them to build a backend solution from scratch. They had to research and implement the relevant benefits of microservices in the monolithic environment they were used to working in, they had to go deep in to Kafka as the chosen messaging platform and they had to work though using Amazon AWS as the cloud based hosting solution. The team split up the R&D effort and came back with insights, lessons learned elsewhere and architectural nuances that would help them get their first deliverable in good shape.

Karol recommended educational resources which had a tangible benefit to the team. They included the basics (at www.microservices.io), the place where they learned to created AWS compatible Machine Images from a single source configuration (at www.packer.io) and where they were able to build out an infrastructure as code to run those machine images (at www.terraform.io). I also enjoyed hearing that there were experts scattered liberally around Ness who rallied behind “shout-for-help” when Karol asked the CTO Associates what they knew about Kafka.

Kafka was chosen in this case as the messaging platform (over competitors like Rabbit, Storm and Active) because of its sheer speed in being able to handle two million writes to the database per second. But the team had to write a couple of additional solutions not present in Kafka to both confirm the arrival of each message and retrieve and update each event.

To conclude Karol showed off the messaging formats and what they were used to do. Each message has a header, a key/body/API and a body which was tagged to reveal where it came from, what should it do, what should the response message be and where should it go.

Worthy of further note the testing ecosystem around Kakfa offers the Confluent Kafka REST proxy which made life easier for everyone.

Lessons learned from the battle included:

  • Leave your comfort zone to learn something new
  • Build a team from talent wherever it resides (inside and outside the company)
  • Containerize using Docker and Amazon ECS to manage microservices efficiently
  • Put lots of thought into your deployment strategy so that it can cope with fifty microservices – even when you are only working with one

Karol’s tale can be viewed by clicking here.

So, there you have it. Another Tech Days event where Ness engineers stepped up to share knowledge, insight and delight with a receptive audience looking to learn and take some of those learnings on-board to benefit their own clients and their own careers. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

How to Ensure Your Organization Can Win With Agile

In an article for CMSWire, Jithesh Radhakrishnan, senior program director at Ness Digital Engineering, discusses the necessary traits organizations should consider in terms of understanding and implementing successful Agile transformation. These include diving deeper into the complexities of Agile implementation to outline the following key considerations and best practices: embracing change, realizing Agile embodies cultural change, having support from management and senior leaders, and self-organized teams. Jithesh describes that while Agile reflects a different way of working, it can’t succeed unless all parts of an organization are in sync with one another.

read more »

How Do You Master Digital Customer Experience Leadership?

In a CMSWire article on mastering digital customer experience, Tim Burke, executive vice president of Ness Digital Engineering, explains the important role digital customer experience plays in business strategy, and why alignment between business and technology is crucial to evolve and enhance effective customer journeys. Tim describes how to assess your “digital readiness” from both a customer perspective and a technology perspective.

read more »

Servitization and Intelligent Platforms: Insights from an Engaging Discussion in Munich

Ness put on an elegant evening for our clients and other progressive organizations at the beautiful (and sun dappled) Mace restaurant (http://mace-restaurant.de/) in Munich on Wednesday 18 October. I was lucky enough to moderate an incredibly insightful panel discussion on the opportunities and challenges arising out of the rapid, ubiquitous advance of the intelligent platforms and cyber-physical systems which underpin the so called ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’.

The Ness Point of View which triggered the discussion was that the winners will be those companies who move fast to experiment, innovate and mobilize a global talent pool and challenge accepted norms in terms of business models, training for staff and customers and deployment of technology solutions. The shift towards Industry 4.0 is happening in a world of increasing complexity where the uses and dimensions of available data are mind-bending.

Two expressions we have adopted and shared with enthusiasm are the concept of “learning to live with VUCA” (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity), which is a US military concept of yore, and the word Servitization, championed by Andy Neely, which speaks to the increasing number of layers of service provided by those previously known as “product” companies. Nowadays customers are happy to outsource what they see as time consuming “work” back to the maker in the form of a service – and pay for it. Instrumenting equipment to deliver that service and solve ever more complex customer problems speaks clearly to the trends we are seeing in the market.

With their gracious agreement, I wanted to summarize some of the views that came across from our panel. These are the views that have got me thinking:

Stinson McElhinney is the Global Technology Manager for Connected Product and Solar Digital for Solar Turbines – part of Caterpillar Inc. He talked about the cultural shift required in a manufacturing company whose DNA is not software. To be able to grow their company, which manufactures power turbines, by adding digital services to their core product is actually more of a mindset challenge than a talent one. They have come to realise that a lot of the software they have built themselves to digitally turbocharge customer success with Solar equipment may well have much greater value when used with (or even by) companies in the emerging end-to-end energy and asset optimisation ecosystem. Using some of their bespoke applications to analyse and then optimise energy consumption has become a new business line for Solar Turbines, and they now offer personalised, detailed recommendations (including when to power the turbines up, or down) to plants and factories around the world.

Manfred Schulze is Head of Corporate Innovation Management for Diehl Metering who are experts in water and energy metering. Manfred offered insight into the challenges emerging in relation to ownership of the data being aggregated from smart homes and office blocks.  – and whether these discussions were keeping pace with the demand from consumers for new services and the ability of technology to deliver them. It was fascinating to hear him talk about the fusing of meter data with social event data, which could allow Diehl to make recommendations on resource allocation ahead of demand spikes for water or electricity (during a big festival or sports tournament for example) which should benefit consumers, utilities and the environment.

Frederik Brantner is founder and CEO of Magazino which now has the largest team in Europe for perception-driven robotics which improve the flow of information and material goods in distribution centers. His passion for his subject and knowledge of the complexity of automated picking of items in a warehouse or factory was infectious (warehouses have never been associated with such a sense of wonder before!)  In fact, increasing complexity was his main challenge as co-ordinating the advancement of hardware, capability and perception in this fast-evolving field seems to be a never-ending cycle. Frederik was also a proud advocate of digital openness in his approach to both recruitment and training talent and to the open-source software (http://www.ros.org/) community on which his company is founded.

Dr Oliver Gaussman is Senior Director at S&P Global and Managing Director of Minerals Value Service, a Munich-based data analytics company acquired by S&P in 2015. S&P markets its ambitions in providing Essential Intelligence and is a real heavyweight in the field, managing the complexity of “billions of data points” every day. He talked about the need for a radical shift in traditional thinking to embrace the latent opportunity of integrating adjacent datasets with those that S&P has historically worked with. Remote sensing data and satellite image capabilities are now being used by S&P to improve geo-spatial intelligence, speed of data ingestion and feeding a push to increase the immediacy of insight that S&P can deliver.

His comments on a new appetite for an end-to-end approach to the curation and monetization of raw material data for better decision making resonated with our belief that user demand for extremely personalized, relevant insights in near real-time is the dominant driver of change in the industry at the moment – and where commercial gain awaits those who do it best.

With such a stellar line-up of talent, it was inevitable that everyone involved learned something new through the discussions that followed over dinner. I look forward to continuing the dialogue and developing this network of data strategists as we plan our next sessions on this theme.

Herzlichen Dank, Munchen. Ich werde bald wiederkommen.

Nessian on the Job – Sylvia Walker

Through our On the Job series, we introduce some of the men and women who play a pivotal role in the success story charted by Ness. In this edition, Sylvia Walker describes her roles and responsibilities as an HR manager, changing trends in HR and what she likes about working at Ness.

Name & Title: Sylvia Walker, Manager, HR

My Role at Ness:

I am a Human Resource (HR) business partner for the Bangalore & APAC centers. As a Business HR (BHR) at Ness, I work closely with the leadership and delivery teams to run the charter of talent management. HR’s role is increasingly strategic and there is a renewed thrust on talent management, employee engagement, and new HR initiatives to drive greater business results. My role is focused on adding value in all of these areas, and the routine and strategic work that I do is aligned towards these larger objectives.

Specific Responsibilities of My Role:

My role entails aligning business objectives with employees and management in designated business units. Regular interactions with employees as well as management keep me in sync with expectations at both ends, and help me drive HR initiatives to larger business goals, address gaps, and facilitate better collaboration. At Ness, people are our strongest asset, and the HR team is strongly focused on designing, implementing and supporting various employee-related programs and activities to drive better work engagement and results for the people and the organization.

Key Trends in HR:

In a continuously evolving business environment, we are expected to constantly align goals of different functions and units to match with changing business needs. We strive to find effective ways to optimize HR resources, improve processes, and plan initiatives for delivering maximum value to employees and the organization. One of the key trends is the growing focus on determining how metrics can be used in further analysis on streamlining HR processes, measuring effectiveness through results and business impact through ROIs, and becoming more predictive in responding to changing business scenarios.

Learnings from My Current Role:

I have been with Ness for close to five years. During this time, I have had the opportunity to gather multi-dimensional experiences that have greatly enhanced my skills and expertise –transitioning from the HR operations team to learning and development to Global HR, and now working with the business HR team. The broad range of positions has enabled me to understand the needs of different functions and collaborate more effectively with stakeholders.

What I Like About Working at Ness:

 Ness is committed to promoting a healthy and congenial working environment. Each day is a different learning experience for me and I feel that my opinions are valued, which is a constant encouraging factor. We also need to adopt and implement strategic initiatives, while seeing that regular HR activities go on smoothly. I am glad that I can manage both with the confidence and support I get from my mentors and team.

Some Interesting Facts about me:

When I am not working, I like to unwind by spending time on gardening and cooking.

How Amazon’s Athena Fills a Hole in the AWS Big Data Ecosystem

It’s been less than a year since Amazon Web Services announced the launch of Athena, a big data database that can ingest data directly from Amazon S3 storage and uses Amazon’s Lambda serverless programming framework to allocate resources on demand with a very attractive pricing model.

In this article for Datanami, Moshe Kranc, chief technology officer, Ness Digital Engineering, discusses the data query tool in more detail, and lists down the features that make it an ideal solution for ad hoc queries, as well as the instances when the tool may not be the best fit for big data cases. “Athena reads data directly from a single S3 bucket, in a variety of data formats. The catch (and it is a big one) is the limitation to one bucket. All the data to be processed must be gathered into a single bucket in the current version of Athena,” notes Moshe.

Read more https://ness.com/amazon-fills-big-data-hole-athena/

Ness Digital Engineering Celebrates Milestone Anniversary of Its Technology Innovation Center in lasi, Romania

IASI, ROMANIA – October 19, 2017 Ness Digital Engineering, a provider of digital transformation and custom software engineering services, is celebrating the five-year anniversary of its Technology Innovation Center in Iasi, Romania. The Iasi Center currently employs 300 skilled professionals to support customers in the financial services, automotive, healthcare, media & entertainment, education, and technology industries. The Iasi Center is expected to continue to experience strong growth.

“Our Centers in Romania are thriving,” said Paul Lombardo, Ness Digital Engineering CEO. “We’re benefiting from the country’s top engineering talent, which is producing cutting-edge solutions for Ness customers based in the U.S., Europe, and Israel. We’re excited to continue expanding our capabilities in the coming years to develop the digital products and platforms our clients need to drive differentiation and revenue growth.”

The Iasi Center has deep competencies in customer experience design (CX / UX), digital platform engineering, big data & analytics, Internet of Things (IoT), cloud, Mobile Competency Center, and QA automation. The Iasi Center has been instrumental in developing leading, next-generation solutions related to over-the-top content (OTT); active driving systems in automotive; complex, high-volume data exchange platforms; and content-rich portals that serve as seamlessly-integrated ecosystems for end consumers in the entertainment, healthcare, and education sectors.

“Five years ago, Ness established the Iasi Center to expand our base of experienced, forward-thinking engineers, leveraging Romania’s excellent reputation in math, science, and technology,” said Ketan Karia, Ness Senior Vice President and Head of Delivery for Europe. “Today, our Iasi Center brings this talent to our customers around the globe, while we also host and participate in programs designed to further cultivate engineering talent locally.”

“Over the past several years, we’ve become part of the Iasi community,” said Stefan Rusu, Ness Vice President of Delivery in Iasi. “People aligned with our vision and said ‘yes’ to opportunities, building lasting relationships with friends and colleagues in the process. Our team has had many opportunities to do innovative work that further builds upon our engineering expertise and our successes, and we’re excited to celebrate this milestone with the team and the entire community.”

In addition to the Iasi Center, Ness has another fast-growing campus located in Timisoara, Romania, which opened in January 2016. Future growth plans for both Centers include expanding their engineering teams; supporting the Romanian IT community by hosting BarbeCode, a series of technical conferences; and continued collaboration with local Universities AI. I Cuza and Asachi. This includes the implementation of a Ness Lab in both universities focused on developing specific innovations for clients in the automotive, education, and media & entertainment sectors.

About Ness Digital Engineering
Ness Digital Engineering designs and builds digital platforms and software that help organizations engage customers, differentiate their brands, and drive revenue growth. Our customer experience designers, software engineers and data experts partner with clients to develop roadmaps that identify ongoing opportunities to increase the value of their digital products and services. Through agile development of minimum viable products (MVPs), our clients can test new ideas in the market and continually adapt to changing business conditions—giving our clients the leverage to lead market disruption in their industries and compete more effectively to drive revenue growth. For more information, visit ness.com.

Media Contacts

Vivek Kangath
Global Manager – Corporate Communications
Ness Digital Engineering
Mobile: +91 9742565583 | Tel: +91 80 41961000 | DID: +91 80 41961027

Amy Legere
Greenough
[email protected]
617.275.6517

Amazon Fills a Big Data Hole with Athena

In an article for Datanami, Moshe Kranc, CTO at Ness Digital Engineering, discusses Amazon’s data query tool Athena, as well as instances when the tool may or may not be the best fit for big data cases. “At its core, Athena is a fusion of Hadoop Hive for the Data Description Language (DDL) and Facebook’s Presto for SQL. Athena can ingest data directly from Amazon S3 storage and uses Amazon’s Lambda serverless programming framework to allocate resources on demand with a very attractive pricing model,” notes Moshe.

read more »

How AI and Machine Learning Are Transforming Business Travels

Disruptive technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning are transforming business travels around the world, combining passenger experiences and travel data to derive valuable insights to enhance the entire travel experience. Although technological advancements have also led to reduced need for business travels with more remote meetings getting conducted, face-to-face interactions still hold a lot of value for businesses.

In a Q&A with Virtual Strategy Magazine, Mark Lister, chief digital officer for Ness Digital Engineering discusses the potential of AI and Machine learning to personalize business travel, the role of chatbots, and which companies are getting ahead in the space.

Read more http://virtual-strategy.com/2017/10/09/transforming-the-business-travel-experience-through-ai-and-machine-learning-interview-with-mark-lister-chief-digital-officer-at-ness-digital-engineering/

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