Application Services provides a platform for IT Development and Maintenance professionals to discuss and gain insights into best practices, process innovations and emerging technologies that will shape the future of this profession.

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January 30, 2013

Sharing the innovation spirit with AstraZeneca

Posted by Suryaprakash K, Vice President, Head Retail, CPG. Logistics and Life Sciences (Infosys)


Being a global service provider with a domain appreciation, we service clients across continents and verticals. We are accustomed to working with enterprises from across verticals that subscribe to various ideologies. Every once in a while we come across a company that sees the world in much the same way that we do. And the ideologies, that our two organizations share, make working together uniquely fruitful. One such company is the pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca - where synergies are established along the 3Cs - Courage, Collaboration and Creativity - driving the value system on which execution was founded.  In a manner of speaking, we're both in the innovation business.....

To read more, click here

January 17, 2013

Real time insights - How much are you willing to pay for it?

Posted by Samik Bhattacharya, Group Project Manager, CORPADM


Real Time Insights - How much are you willing to pay for it.jpgBusinesses around the world increasingly depend on external IT partners to deliver Application Management and Infrastructure support services. Over the years this service has evolved into a robust, predictable and scalable model.

However, one challenge that client organizations continue to face is getting real-time and meaningful insight into the health of IT operations and services. Recent analysis by a leading analyst firm shows that IT performance measurement and metrics continue to top the CIOs to-do lists as they continue to struggle to measure and communicate the value that IT delivers to the organization and their stakeholders...

While generating huge volumes of data is never the issue, the most important part, and often challenging, is the ability to collate, cleanse and integrate this data received from disparate sources, correlate that data in a timely manner, and make it available real-time to key decision makers. While there are multiple products available for getting this done, the real questions is how many companies want to spend the huge amounts that come associated with these products. My guess is, Not too many!!!

Now, imagine signing up for an Application Maintenance, Support deal and getting this value add free? Wouldn't that be the icing on the cake?

Imagine a well-designed executive dashboard including key features like:

• Clear visibility into operational metrics and KPIs, real-time with actionable insight for better governance and control
• Value demonstration of IT using standardized metrics and KPIs aligned with business
• Customization capability to suit different stakeholder needs (different decision making roles and perspectives)
• Automation of data-collation from multiple disparate sources (to enable real-time or near real-time reporting) and
• Available on-the-go, with clear intuitive visualizations

So, as I sign off, I would like to leave you with a thought.....In today's world where CIOs spend up a majority of their IT budget to keep the "lights on", will they be willing to spend additional dollars on a product for data insights OR would they prefer an IT partner who understands the importance of real-time analysis and proactively bundles the same as a part of the application maintenance deal?

The choice is yours to make!

Process Geeks with Agile Mindsets - It was bound to happen

Process Geeks with an Agile Mindset.jpgRigid processes and systems end up being roadblocks to innovation. Here lies a message to consider - All of us grow up with CMMI processes all around us, and by the time we start managing projects, we have KPAs running through our veins, and we end up being hardened process geeks.

Nothing wrong with that. These time tested processes that we religiously follow:  from requirement gathering, through 'build' to implementation methods produce amazing results. They increase predictability, and maturity, while reducing risk.  But sometimes, just sometimes, we get boxed in and find it difficult to think outside of the processes. That's when injecting a dose of "agile" into our system can make a difference. Especially when we are dealing with a world where paradigm shifts are common place.  Let me explain this using a personal experience...

We walked into a program that was perennially troubled for over 2 years, with no deliverables to show. We started with incomplete requirements, a business team with no confidence in the program and stiff time-to-market and budget constraints. The client wanted the project to be delivered in 4 months. The process geeks in us took us straight to the scheduling system that told us that the client was kidding. We did pass on the advice to the client, but if we had stopped there we would have lost multi-million dollar revenues over the next 2 years. Instead, we created a tailor-made end-to-end development process for this client, taking our regular methodology and accelerating this by applying some agile principles. 

The Tailor-made Suit
After analyzing the client's process, we started creating a development methodology that would work. A typical waterfall would not work, as we had to show some deliverable to the client early on to bring back confidence in the program. At the same time, given the size of the program, the diverse teams, and stake holders we couldn't do a pure agile. We, therefore, needed a strong and mature methodology, but with a dose of agile to accelerate the process and support stiff time-to-market needs.

We decided to go with an iterative development methodology, splitting the first project into iterations. We incorporated the agile principles such as iteration and feedback, efficient, optimized, strong customer involvement and continuous integration. We also spent time educating the client about problems with their process, the need for a strong management framework, and how their current timelines and plans are infeasible. After some initial resistance, the client started to realize that their timelines wouldn't work and started to have faith in our solution.

The Triumph
We successfully delivered the first 2 iterations, and that brought immense confidence into our solution, process and capabilities. We also went on to win all subsequent projects and soon became the trusted partner of the CIO.

Moral of the Story
Lets all continue to be the hardened process geeks we are. After all, that's what is expected out of us and that's what really put us on the map in the first place. Having said that, let's also input into this mixture an agile mindset that brings in flexibility and nimbleness to achieve what seems impossible at the onset. After all, even Rome wasn't built in a day!

January 16, 2013

Stuck with Bad User Experience?


 Stuck with bad user experience revised.jpgWe all have experienced the rough drop in experience when switching from our personal hand held phone/tablet apps to some of the old enterprise systems at work. Most of the time we shrug it away and silently rationalize it around the home/work experience difference. But sometimes we get a new system to work on at work that offers a refreshing breath of fresh air when it comes to its user friendliness and speed of getting work done.That's when the older systems stick out like a sore thumb.....

The increasing consumerization of society and the influx of millennials into the workforce, this position becomes difficult to sustain in the medium to long term.That leaves enterprises a difficult choice to make - should we just retire the old application and get a new one with better UX or should we just continue to push along. 
For many legacy systems (Green Screen, Client-Server) there are few real options to get a better UX.  Screen-scraping technologies very rarely go beyond stop-gap arrangements and the business case would be a difficult pitch.Unless there are other reasons to move (user mobility, h/w s/w rationalization etc), such systems are best left to die their natural death.  

However for a large number of web applications enterprises can look at re-doing their UX without going in for a rip-and-replace solution. A heuristic evaluation can provide deep insights into what's ailing the existing system which can then be baked into a solid business case to revamp the system UX. The key lies in carrying out a systematic evaluation and building a business case that shows the returns that can be gained by investing in re-doing the UX of critical systems.

All this discussion is of course limited to inward (employee) facing systems. For customer facing systems, bad UX will become a matter of life and death for the system so the choices there will be simpler (though not easier or cheaper to implement).