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Moving Mission Critical Applications to Cloud

Moving Mission Critical Applications to Cloud

Enterprises have now understood the potential in the cloud. The cloud that serves the business with more self service ability and elasticity is now on high demand. As enterprises successfully make the transition and move their applications and services to the cloud, they are still left with a bigger issue which they cannot neglect – these enterprises haven’t been shifted their mission critical applications to the cloud. These applications for most of the enterprises are still pocketed in their own data center hosted by their servers. Hence as a reality check it hasn’t been possible for harnessing the cloud advantage to its full extent.

Where do Enterprises Go Wrong?

Is is important for enterprises to fix this issue and complete the transition. It has to be understood also that it is not a simple job to move these mission critical applications. Security is the highest concern. It also involves the availability of the technology to support these apps. Since the cloud is still going through its maturing phase, there’s scepticism as well as complexity involved in making the shift. This has created a gap in strategy between the critical apps and the non critical apps.

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However, this too shall pass. New innovations in cloud technology to meet the demands of the mission critical apps are already around. With time, a more mature and stable phase of cloud shall emerge which will make it more convenient for enterprises to move their critical apps to the cloud. Then the benefits of cost, efficiency and agility will come a full circle and not be limited to non critical apps.

Let’s try to understand as to how enterprises can make the complete transition before their competitors start making benefits out of the same. The approach to cloud services definitely needs to shift from infrastructure to application-centric(SAAS Application Development). Lets outline the 3 steps involved in reaching out to our goal:

  1. Identify a new route to availability

High availability is the first key and is absolutely non-negotiable. But then if we look at the recent Microsoft’s Azure cloud service outage, we can see for ourselves the downside of high availability. If you think that spotty availability is the only obstacle, then you are wrong.

  • It’s therefore important to chart new route to availability rather than looking at it as a one way street.
  • The orthodox hardware based infrastructure centric approach doesn’t match with the fluid dynamics of the cloud environment.
  • The application centric approach comes into use now when we approach availability with the concept of software defined availability. Recovery becomes much more simplified via this approach.

This minimizes the risk involved in moving the critical apps to the cloud and doesn’t require any re-engineering. Also it is a time and cost effective approach. This simplifies most of the complexity involved in the transition.

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  1. Strengthen the orchestration abilities

Orchestrating the cloud resources is the next step for a successful transition. Exact pocketing of data where it needs to be(the right time, the right place aphorism) is taken care by strong orchestration capabilities. Its noteworthy to point out that critical applications do not have a static requirement. They are also fluid in nature and do not remain mission critical at every point of the timeline.

For example in a Christmas season, a payment processing application becomes critical and during the start of every month, financial services in the form of salary transactions become critical. Hence scalability needs to be incorporated according to the need and time.

  • A dynamic application configuration approach will also reduce the need for rewriting applications.
  • Dynamic orchestration in the cloud enables deployment of an application only when that degree of maximum availability is required.
  • Without any interruption of any services, this saves money and effectively manages the computing resources.
  1. Tapping open source technologies

Open source definitely cuts down on costs. Proprietary technology always bring along with it expensive licenses, fees and miscellaneous expenses.

  • Tapping open source technologies like Linux, Kernel-based Virtual Machine, OpenStack can drastically change the ball game and make cloud services more profitable than they otherwise were.
  • These technologies also provide the enterprise with software defined availability and allow strong orchestration.

Open source technology is here to stay and is only bound to grow. Hence harnessing the power at the earliest would be a wise business policy.

Conclusion

 To be a step ahead in the race for cloud applications, the critical apps need to be immediately moved to the cloud. It is indeed a complex and a risky affair but then with the right kind of approach the risks can be minimized. Before the competitors fasten their belts, enterprises need to make the move and look forward to having a successful transition to the cloud. With cloud getting into its mature stage, the prospects only look brighter. The traditional methods of hosting applications need to be given up for good and cloud needs to be embraced in the most effective way possible. The leap to the cloud is easy if done the right way.

Remember to tickmark the following before making that move:

1.     Application centric approach
2.     Software defined availability
3.     Develop strong orchestration abilities
4.     Open Source
Captive Centre or Vendor Partner Model: Which One Suits Your Business?

Captive Centre or Vendor Partner Model: Which One Suits Your Business?

In today’s competitive world, businesses want to be careful when deciding whether a large software development project should be done in-house or done by outsourcing the work.

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Some companies have an in-house software development setup (captive centre subsidiary), but they are so flexible that they outsource work to reliable vendor partners.

Other organisations no longer outsource major software development work, because of their captive centre setup which has long-term goals.

You can select the best one that suits your business’s purpose in the short-term and in the long-term, by comparing the two setups.

So let’s take a look at a comparison of the key drivers and challenges for a captive centre set up with those for a vendor partner set up.

Key Drivers for the Captive Centre Setup

  • Does your business have a captive centre in a low-cost area? Do you want to benefit from the cost-savings of offshore resources? Then this model is the one for you.

You can choose to set up your own captive centre to make the most out of its large-scale offshore plans.

  • Does your business deal with sensitive information? Do you want to prevent the potential risk of data leaks to third parties? Then you may prefer this model.

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For example, if your business is based on banking, insurance or the stock market, you deal with a lot of monetary transactions and sensitive customer data.

  • Do you want complete control over your sensitive operational activities, like product costing and new product launches? Then this setup is suitable for you.
  • Does your business handle a complex software development project? Then the knowledge gained by the resources working on such projects will be invaluable. It will stay in the organisation with this model.

Challenges for the Captive Centre Setup

  • It is usually rapidly set up to scale up your business and you may start with lenient service level agreements (SLAs). But, when you need to make the SLAs stricter and better, you might have to spend more than you thought.
  • Some internal employees might be resistant of this setup. They may fear new projects being assigned to the captive centre which will lead to a lack of work for them with potential job cuts in the future.
  • Your company’s top management may start to focus less on the captive centre, due to it being viewed as a cost centre (instead of a profit centre). This is because it takes a long time to show decent returns on investment and results, despite it being costly to set up.

Key Drivers for the Vendor Partner Model

Most drivers for this outsourcing model stem from the shortcomings of the captive centre model.

  • Unlike the captive centre model, this model does not require a lot of time to start and the operations can be ramped up quickly. This is because the vendor generally has an established setup. For example, if you are a big retail company and wish to build an enterprise app, it makes more sense to start off using this model.
  • You do not need to invest a lot of money or time to enter a vendor partner relationship.

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  • Your company can opt for a pilot project execution, before getting into large scale operations. This allows you to first gain valuable experience in setting up a low-cost centre. You can then decide to continue to scale with the vendor partner or you can start your own captive centre.
  • You can smoothly close out offshore operations without hassles or high costs. This is possible with a clear contract with the vendor partner with a transparent exit clause. However, you may find it too tedious and expensive to close down offshore operations with the captive centre model, since labour laws in several low-cost countries are quite strict.

Challenges for Vendor Partner Model

  • You may find it challenging to maintain the security of confidential data for banks, insurance companies, etc.
  • Your business may have to spend a lot to ramp up your vendor partner setup with those who have expertise in the niche skills. This may also be difficult, because you may be unsure how long the resources and knowledge will be kept.

Verdict

Many companies may want to balance the two models based on the nature of their business.

However, Fortune 500 companies, such as Citigroup, Dell, Unilever and Deutsche Bank, have recently shut down their captive centres and opted for the cost effective and efficient vendor partner setup. This is due to the increased competition and the need to save costs and deliver instant results within strict deadlines.

So, which model will you opt for? Do you have any points to share?

 

How Business Intelligence Can Revolutionise the Healthcare Industry

How Business Intelligence Can Revolutionise the Healthcare Industry

Business leaders are often highly reliant on every single piece of their business information to make profitable business decisions and further refine corporate strategy. This is where business intelligence comes into the picture.

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Designed to help people make better business decisions and turn the business into a profitable establishment, business intelligence (BI) is a technology-driven process that involves the collection, integration, analysis, and presentation of business information through historical, current, and predictive views of business operations.

While, there are many industries have started embracing BI, let’s see where does it stand in the healthcare industry.

Business Intelligence and Healthcare

As the amount of information being generated is increasing exponentially, big data revolution has left many industries with repositories of information that they earlier had limited or no access to.

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Industries are now looking into the prospects of moving to a data-driven establishment. The healthcare industry is also on the brink of transformation and according to a report by KLAS, over half of all health organisations are planning to buy a new and more advanced business intelligence system over the next three years.

Gartner reported that one of nine deadly mistakes in business operations improvement (BOI) in healthcare is the lack of BI strategy.

“Most vendors working in healthcare and other industries observe that healthcare has the most complex data of any industry (possibly excluding government intelligence efforts),” the report states.

The report also cited that organisations are not yet fully handling their data the way it should be tackled. The total absence of a well-documented BI strategy, Gartner added, is the biggest folly of the healthcare industry.

Forward thinking organisations like Harvard Medical School, St. Joseph Medical Centre, and Lincolnshire Partnership Foundation Trust realised the importance of business intelligence in analysing healthcare data and swiftly plunged into the world of BI solutions to better analyse the efficiency of their services.

In the light of such findings, it’s fair to say that bridging the distance between data created and data analysed is where the success of the healthcare industry lies.

The rapid proliferation of new technologies at lower costs with greater availability of patient data has given birth to an immense opportunity for healthcare organisations to improve their efficiency.

Every healthcare business solution comes packed with a myriad of business benefits for organisations to better handle their data and further refine their health strategy.

So, let’s take a quick look at the main benefits of business intelligence in the healthcare industry.

How BI Can Help the Healthcare Industry

There are categories of data that any healthcare organisation should ideally be interested in, such as  financial, operational, and clinical.

In order to make better decisions, healthcare BI could be applied to organise this data into a form that can easily be accessed, readable, comprehensive, and analysable.

Single Point Access to Patient Data

A single point access to patient data makes their confidential information easier to protect, and improves privacy.

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It also becomes easier for healthcare professionals to retrieve a patient’s data and create an assortment of reports and analysis based on the historical data stored in their system.

Improved Operational Efficiency and Better Visibility

Such consolidation of data and easy access to information not only results in improved operational efficiency, but it also increases revenue and reduces the overall cost of healthcare.

It does so by improving the visibility of their operations, helping distinguish the highly profitable ones from the underutilised services.

By establishing a concrete ground for evidence-based decision making, one that is essential for the healthcare industry, BI can help improve patients’ outcomes by giving medical personnel access to more accurate histories and reports during diagnoses.

Big Data Means Big Savings

According to a report by McKinsey and Company, if technological innovations in the realm of big data  taken into consideration, overall healthcare savings could be enormous.

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A broader data analysis can provide healthcare professionals enough knowledge to determine what risks the population is prone to. These valuable insights can help providers proactively prevent risks before they even affect anyone.

More importantly, big data can pinpoint what is needed where more accurately and precisely, to produce healthier populations, thereby decreasing the overall cost of healthcare in the region.

Opportunities presented by business intelligence here may potentially change the dynamics of the healthcare industry. If you are a healthcare provider and are considering using your data more effectively, you should consult a functionally and technically well-versed BI specialist that can help you create an efficient and effective BI strategy for your business.

So is your medical institution working on implementing a BI strategy yet? What is the most challenging aspect of this implementation so far? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

Why India continues to be the preferred destination to outsource

Outsourcing was considered a taboo in its early days, but slowly it is proven as one of the most significant business models.

The rosy days of the global economy are gone and so, while, lowering financial liabilities, organisations have to sustain the quality of service and employ a workforce that is economically affordable and efficiently skilled.

Many countries like China, Malaysia, Philippines, Mexico, Indonesia, and Thailand are rapidly growing as preferred destinations for global outsourcing, but India leads the race by a wide margin since the inception of outsourcing.

So, let’s see why and how India managed to remain in the spotlight.

Cost Effectiveness

Every business strives to be as cost effective as possible, and one of the best ways to cut down on operational costs is to reduce manpower expenses. India qualifies well on this metric and hence attracts foreign companies to invest here, as resource wages are comparatively lower as compared to other countries.

With low labour costs, immense human resources and excellent infrastructure, offshore companies can invest and expect their projects to be completed with high quality and minimum expenses within strict deadlines.

Skilled, Professional Manpower

Currently, India has about 2.75 million software developers in the national workforce. By 2018, this count will reach 5.2 million, a whopping 90% increase.

India’s software development growth-rate is attributed to half the population being under 25 years of age and current economic policies. India is a budding hub of developers and coders, promising to provide world-class services to outsourcing companies.

Apple Inc., the leading technology giant, is looking into setting up a company-owned, technology development centre in India. If this happens, Indian software development prowess will get a huge endorsement. It will be an inspiration for more companies to enter Indian shores for business.

Lack of Language Barriers

In India, English is a compulsory language at school and college levels. A large number of Indians can understand and communicate in English easily.

IT firms have recognised that communication skills of individuals and organisations should comply with international standards. The BPO industry is training its employees to improve interaction skills with offshore customers for business success with special, communications and language training.

Innovating the Business Model Itself

Traditional strategies to maintain profit margins in businesses are losing effectiveness due to soaring competition. A well-designed business model can circumvent the shortcomings of those strategies.

Development based on any traditional business model can fail to protect your margins because of globalisation and price transparency. Indian companies have realised that time spent putting together a solid business model is time well spent.

According to a report by KPMG, the Indian IT services industry is expected to rise from £5 billion in 2000, to  £56 billion in 2010. After contributing significantly to India’s economy over a decade, it has been speculated that new business models will emerge to deal with a rapidly changing marketplace and customer needs.

Innovative Tools for Managing Innovative Teams

Companies are hiring highly qualified and competent people across the globe. Members of geographically diverse offshore teams are working in tandem by using online project management tools, video conferencing, and other media for real-time communication and collaboration.

 A Stable Government and Attractive IT Policy

The Indian IT market currently focuses on providing low-cost solutions to the global IT sector. India’s reputation, as both a source and a destination for IT and ITES workforce, has helped it improve its relations with a number of global economies.

The stable Indian government is offering safe harbour (SH) provisions for various software development services, ITES and knowledge process outsourcing services . The government is initiating several programmes to fulfil India’s vision of good e-governance and digitalisation.

The Indian government’s call “Make in India” is already attracting lots of interest among foreign companies to invest here. It’s been predicted by aircraft manufacturer Airbus  that the Indian outsourcing industry will reach £1 billion with the recent positive impetus.

Conclusion

Mr. R. Chandrashekhar, President, NASSCOM says, “The future looks positive as the Indian IT-BPM industry is evolving dramatically in terms of scale, complexity, and innovation. Going forward, enabling a radical transformation of key sectors in India using ICT to increase access, enhance efficiency, and enable innovation in the sector are going to be some of our priority focus areas. The rapidly accelerating trend of innovation and entrepreneurship in the ICT sector impacts several domains and provides clear indicators that the journey has begun.” [image]

Some places in India where talent is being reared, are a striking contrast to the mediocrity of their surroundings. With the astounding growth of Indian IT and ITES industry, rapidly changing economic scenario, development of SEZs, and availability of the skilled human resource, the global offshore business will grow significantly in the years to come.

Have you outsourced to India yet or plan to do so? Let us know in the comments below, and thanks for reading!

Can Startups Benefit from Agile Development?

Can Startups Benefit from Agile Development?

Change - Agile Development
Agile development is a common methodology used to approach development projects. It takes a flexible, teamwork-based approach to development that has proven to be very successful.

But what about startups?

Can a startup firm in the technology sector benefit from the application of Agile methodology?

To answer this question, we will first need to explore the unique challenges facing startups.

The Nature of Startup Life

A startup firm is often loosely defined as a new business that is not profitable, and the business owners are okay with that – it is a time to innovate, grow, and develop.

It is worth noting that being part of a startup can be very exciting. For instance:

  • Things are constantly changing each day.
  • Everything moves along quickly.
  • You are working on ‘the next big thing.’
  • You are surrounded by creativity and passion.

Unfortunately, because of the excitement, rapid growth, and abundance of creative ideas, challenges are likely to arise as well.

  • The business does not have a defined roadmap.
  • Approaches to development are disorganized and chaotic.
  • Early market reactions do not provide sufficient data to adjust long-term strategies.

And these are just to name a few. An infographic published by Clarity offers a very comprehensive list of struggles faced by many new startups:

The missing key to successful growth for most startups is to have an action plan for development – one that is flexible and dynamic.

At first glance, it appears that Agile development methodology may be an effective solution.

What Makes Agile Development Methodology Effective

Agile development allows for flexibility, especially if immediate change is required. The core concepts of this development model include the use of sprints, backlogs, daily standup meetings, and user stories.

Let’s review each.

  • User stories – Feedback from users serves as a leading indicator in terms of what needs to happen next
  • Sprints – These are short phases of development that are planned with input from the entire team. A single sprint can be as short as a week
  • Backlogs – These are complete lists of priorities and next steps that need to be addressed. The items appearing on a backlog often originate from user stories
  • Daily standup meetings – Sometimes referred to as scrum meetings, daily standups identify what needs to be done, and any issues that need to be collaborated on that day for fast resolution

In short, the Agile method is an effective approach because it breaks down development into small pieces. From documentation to testing, newly developed features can be ready for deployment in as little as a week.

This contributes to increased transparency, team synergy, and effective problem solving.

The Process of Agile Development

To get a better understanding of how Agile methodology is applied to development projects, let’s review the steps necessary to successfully complete a single print:

  • The development team meets and creates a backlog
  • The team defines their next burst of development – a sprint
  • User stories help to identify who will be responsible for different components in the sprint
  • The sprint begins
  • Daily standup meetings are held, allowing each team member to state his or her progress, projected progress, and any outstanding challenges
  • At the end of the sprint, what went did and did not go well is reviewed

From there, the process repeats itself.

The beauty of Agile development is that it permits everyone on the team to provide input, ask questions, and gain a greater understanding of the intended outcome.

It is a fun, engaging, and teamwork-based approach to development.

Does Agile Methodology Work for Startups?

To answer this question, let’s compare several factors.

  • Startups require development to happen quickly.
  • Agile methodology breaks development into short sprints.
  • Startup teams work very closely together.
  • Agile methodology takes a teamwork-based approach to problem solving.
  • Startups depend upon every individual to contribute ideas.
  • Agile methodology requires input from every team member.
  • Startups depend upon user feedback to define priorities.
  • Agile methodology has teams develop backlogs based on user stories.

In conclusion, Agile development methodology is a perfect fit for most startups. It helps to alleviate the chaos and disorganization that startup teams often face.

Final Thought

As with any project, a clear roadmap for success and a structured approach to development goes a long way.

Choosing to implement the Agile method in your startup provides a way to keep things moving quickly, maintain a teamwork based atmosphere, and ensure that every team member has a say.

The key to Agile methodology, whether your development team is on-site or offshore, is segmenting large projects into smaller pieces, and maintaining clear communication between all team members.

Do you believe the Agile method is a good fit for your startup?

Why, or not why?

Leave a comment below – we would love to hear from you.

Outsourcing Agile Development – Make it work!

The web has changed over the past few years – the amount of things we can now do online, as well as the way we construct our day-to-day lives around the web and communication, has meant that different software development techniques in the digital sphere have risen to prominence in recent years.

Let’s explore a blend of two different types of development techniques – Outsourcing along with Agile Development

Where does outsourcing agile development fit in for me?

A distributed environment, one where not all work is completed in the same space, has become commonplace within today’s businesses, and for agile development as a process to work efficiently has to be able to work well in this environment.

Fortunately, with the right lines of communication in place, distributed agile development adds a huge amount of value when outsourcing work, no matter where you are. The collaboration and relationship of a distributed team adds up a great deal – and it can fit right in to your team as long as you follow some essential guidelines on how to make distributed agile development work for you.

  • Created ‘rich’ lines of communication to counteract the relatively small amount of quality face-to-face time with distributed work
  • Create frequent deliverables within a distributed agile environment
  • Get clear, well-written guidelines and objectives so everyone knows what to expect.

Faster and more flexible delivery

There are many key features of agile development that mean many major companies in the software development and IT industries are adopting this way of thinking.

The table below indicates some features and benefits of agile development – as well as some of the challenges that you may across in the process of making outsourcing work for your business.

Why agile development outsourcing is popular

Outsourcing any software development gives a business a wealth of options – it opens up the market to be able to choose from a wide range of amazing talent from all sectors of society in almost any part of the world.

Outsourcing also gives you the ability to monitor the quality of your development, plan and give certain tasks to others, and manage your costs by choosing from a wider workforce pool. With online working and the popularity of remote working, outsourcing agile development and finding creative working solutions to tasks means there is a lot more time for you and your business to concentrate on the bottom line.

Outsourcing Agile Development – Weighing up the Options

In order to be able to make the most of your outsourcing options, there will inevitably be a certain amount of advantages and disadvantages. Here are a few things you or your business may want to think about.

Your motives for outsourcing

You need to be clear at all stages of the process why you want to outsource work and what benefit is for you or your business. It may be a cost implication, it may be a time saving or it may be a specific person you’d like to work with who may be based remotely. You need to be sure agile development is for you and judge your outsourcing needs within this context.

The evaluation of your potential team

Agile Development is all about building trust, good working relationships and maintaiinng excellent communication throughout. It should be fairly evident from a relatively early stage if this relationship isn’t going to sustain, and it’s important to use thorough evaluation processes within your team when it comes to choosing the right outsourcing partner. For example, discuss delivery projections, costs, time differences, differences in working practises – the more information you can get the better.

Is this the best option for my business?

One excellent by-product of outsourcing agile development is that it gives you a fantastic amount of choice – choice in who you work with, flexibility with times and budgets and flexibility in the work that’s ultimately delivered. Bear in mind however that there is more than one way around a problem, and make sure you are ready for outsourcing before you commit. There are many other training, in-house development or self-learning options that could help your busines too.

Tips to Overcome Challenges

Agile product management company Version One has an excellent guide to making the most out of agile outsourcing, but here are some tips to point you in the right direction.

Manage proactively

It makes sense within an agile environment to keep a close eye on how your outsourcing partners are working. There are many ways of doing this – from sharing Google Spreadsheets to using pieces of task management software such as Trello or DropTask.

Keep good communication

It may be difficult, but keeping good communication really is key. Using Skype and task management software is the best way to do this, but avoid overusing and micro-managing. Keep a routine and schedule, so catch up once a week, for example.

Account for delay and time differences

We all want things to be done yesterday, but accounting for the unexpected, and the difficulties that come with time differences, is really important for a successful working relationship. Schedule proper phone conversations – as context can easily be lost through email.

Conclusion

There may be certain precautions you need to take, but despite this, if you are willing to commit to an agile process and retain excellent communication throughout you will find outsourcing as one of the best working model and reap substantial benefits out of it.

We’ve seen through the course of this post that there are a certain amount of relationship, development and communication challenges to overcome, but making sure you use trusted project managers from a respected outsourcing agile development firm is one excellent way of making sure everything runs smoothly.