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The perfect project team

Software Solution

Team Building

Marketing

The perfect project team
“Nobody is perfect but a team can be.” (Meredith Belbin) Having the right team is essential for the success of a project.But what is a project team and who are the members of a project team? The project team usually consists of people from different functions working together for a common goal, the project’s objective. The defined time horizon of the project makes the teamwork together for a limited period of time. If it is a large project with a big team, the project team can be divided into sub-teams.A project team in a modern organization might be given more flexibility to work outside the traditional processes to make the project a success. The project team is a cross-functional team. A cross-functional team will bring the expertise of all areas together. These experts can flag potential issues, they know what the requirements in their field are. Give them room to speak, contribute their knowledge and raise concerns as this will make your project more efficient.Thereby, project members are not exclusively from one organization. Consider suppliers and partners as part of the project team, they add valuable knowledge as well. Naturally, OpenProject allows you to invite external team members.Please note that due to the need to have experts on the team, members are often working across different locations. This requires good project management facilitation. OpenProject as web-based project management software is accessible from anywhere at any time and serves as one source for all project-related information. The project team needs to be clearly defined, members and the leader appointed so that everyone assumes their responsibilities. This being said, try to avoid appointing a “pool” instead of a specific person to increase responsibility. Also, everyone in the organization should know about the project team to understand that they have additional responsibilities apart from the usual job.In OpenProject, you can give an overview of all roles and responsibilities by team members e.g. in the form of a RACI matrix, in the Wiki, and/or on the project overview page. That way, all project team members are up to date. Give the power of selecting project team members to the project leader. When the functional manager of a department selects the team member for the project, it might happen according to availability. Instead, you would want to make sure to select the best matching team members with high motivation and commitment.Make sure senior management supports the project leader’s role. At the same time, the project member needs to fulfill the role to earn the team’s respect. When selecting the project team members, consider that they need to be able to adapt to change easily as project work is very fluid and complex. A good project member is a team player. A successful project will have a diverse team that contributes expertise and experience from different areas. By defining roles and responsibilities for each team member, accountability will be enforced.Thereby, a role can be of information purpose. Or the role can expect involvement from the team member, e.g. to contribute or lead to a task or phase of a project. Don’t involve too many members in too many things but rather selectively choose who is adding value in which project phase or task to make them work efficiently. OpenProject supports you in defining roles and getting the right structure for your team. A role is a set of permissions that can be assigned to any project member. Multiple roles can be assigned to the same project member. You can choose between “normal” project roles and global roles. Global roles are project-overarching roles that can be assigned to a user and allow certain actions (for example, creating new projects).When creating a role, you can specify the permissions per OpenProject module and select the permissions which should apply for this role. The following gives you a quick overview of the permissions that can be customized. In some use cases, you might want to set up sub-teams because your team is quite big. You want to have the option to keep a sub-group in the loop about activities in a certain project or certain tasks or assign a task to a group and let the group figure out how to work on it.OpenProject allows creating tailored project member groups, which grants additional rights to individual users within specific projects. This way, you do not need to add individual users to a project but you can add a user group, e.g. marketing. That means a group is a list of users who can be assigned to a project with a certain role.To narrow it down, even more, you could also create sub-projects for sub-teams. Once your team is set up and working in OpenProject, the first thing they will have learned is that work packages (e.g. tasks, phases, milestones, etc.) are assigned to a person or a group to create responsibility. If you want to work in a more agile way or prefer visualization, OpenProject offers assignee boards. They allow you to see who is working on what. Use either single members and you have an overview of each member’s tasks or use groups to see the groups’ responsibilities.If a cross-functional team is e.g. developing a product together, you would like to know who is working on what and if everything is on track. The assignee board gives you the opportunity to get an overview of responsibilities, how busy the teams are, and if all tasks are distributed. It gives the sub-teams clear responsibilities. The marketing team knows that the finance team is doing the product calculation but they have to check the overall product profitability themselves. Of course, you don’t need to use groups as assignees, you can also use individual team members in the list. Projects can run over a long period and team members can change according to the phases the project is in. New members join and after some tasks are finished, team members also leave the project.If you are using project management software, you are usually charged per member using the software. In OpenProject, you can optimize your costs by replacing members’ licenses. Delete or block a user that is not actively involved in the project anymore and instead invite a new member. The amount of licenses is not bound to e-mail addresses. And the information that was input into OpenProject by the member that was deleted does not get lost. A work package opened by that user gets assigned to “deleted user”. Hence, no information will get lost.
Screwing up a machine learning project isn’t difficult

machine learning

project development

machine learning project

Screwing up a machine learning project isn’t difficult
It’s really simple and easy. I will tell you about one of the ways to do it. First signs related to this appear with judging initial results by people getting involved in a project. Usually, they have a tendency to argue and justify their subjective opinion on the result. It happens because it’s comfortable and easy for them. And it doesn’t require a big effort. But what’s beneficial for them, it’s bad for the project. Project development based on subjective opinions is a road to nowhere. In this case, you look like running on a hamster wheel without any chance to step further. How to cope with it? 1️⃣ If you want to interpret data and results properly, do it based on reliable, objective sources, e.g. experiments or falsifiable hypotheses instead of believing in your assumptions or hand-waving arguments that don’t highlight issues in the big picture. One can easily find hand-waving arguments supporting or contradicting the observations. 2️⃣ If you don't have enough experimental data or it is not possible to design a suitable experiment just take a decision without it, but know that there is a risk associated with the decision. Get back and analyze these decisions later during the project. 3️⃣ Be suspicious. 4️⃣ Think not just one but several steps ahead about the consequences of your decisions and assumptions. 5️⃣ Data or results interpretation isn’t recommended to do alone. Why? Because it's a big chance that you omit something (we’re imperfect human beings with many limitations). For years, we at QuantUp devised our own methodology called QuantUp Thinking helping to deal with these challenges of Machine Learning projects. As we don’t believe in existing perfect models, as we're suspicious of every result because it helps us to overthrow questionable points and predict falsifiable hypotheses. And we don’t take things for granted. We think more than twice before considering taking something for granted/ verified. Words by Artur Suchwałko
MVP Development | Launch Plan, Skills, Investments

MVP

Technology

MVP Development | Launch Plan, Skills, Investments
Minimum viable product (MVP) development is a way to verify business assumptions for custom software or test the demand for a new product with minimum investments.The delivery of an MVP generally takes from 2 weeks to 7 months, whereas the development stage specifically lasts from 2-5 days (for no-code/low-code development) to 6 months (for code-based development).The investments for a launch of a software-based MVP may take from 1/10 to 1/2 - 1/3 of the final software cost. The number of MVP development steps and their duration will vary depending on the complexity and novelty of a solution, as well as a minimum viable product type. Below are described the typical steps we at ScienceSoft take to complete MVP development projects. Business analysis FOR PRODUCTS Business analysis FOR CUSTOM ENTERPRISE SOFTWARE Project stakeholder interviewing and analysis. MVP architecture design Planning MVP integrations Choosing a technology stack To demonstrate the software concept in a sales context, give an understanding of how the software will work to stakeholders, or check technical feasibility of software based on a highly innovative idea. The main focus areas are: The demand for a new product or an application’s ability to meet business needs can be first tested without actual coding and with minimum possible investments. Your MVP can be: A ‘landing page’ MVP (for products) – text or video presentation that introduces your idea to a target audience to evaluate the demand via requests or sign-up forms, and also analyze the interest in the features and prioritize the development accordingly. A ‘flintstone’ MVP – advertising new software and faking the automation of processes you want it to perform, handling them manually behind-the-scenes. Best practice: If a no-code MVP turns successful, we at Valens immediately plan a code-based MVP not to get overwhelmed with the processes executed manually (a ‘flintstone’ MVP case) and ensure that our customers are ahead of competitors. The types we recommend considering are: Single-feature MVP – implementing one key feature of future software that creates the core value. 'Piecemeal' MVP – creating a product/a custom application version comprising its basic features out of ready-made elements (created by you in the previous projects or available open source). Later, you are likely to update or replace the reused parts. The development of a software-based MVP has the following stages: 1. MVP UX design Key deliverables of this stage are user personas and user journeys helping future customers fulfil their tasks quickly and easily, and drive conversions (for products). 2. MVP UI design At this stage, custom design of user-facing parts (buttons, menus, tabs) is created. Best practice: At Valens, we include this stage only if the design is a competitive MVP advantage. Otherwise, we use default themes and focus on the MVP functionality. 3. MVP coding The result of this phase is a working MVP and supporting documentation. Best practice: At ScienceSoft, we actively use many ready-to-use cloud components and services, mostly from AWS and Azure, to minimize MVP development effort and cost and streamline the delivery. Software gets deployed to the production environment ready for use. Complex MVPs can be first moved through testing and staging environments so that the team could safely introduce changes or catch remaining mistakes before releasing software. Monitoring how users communicate with the MVP, the project team: The result of this phase is a working MVP and supporting documentation. Best practice: At ScienceSoft, we actively use many ready-to-use cloud components and services, mostly from AWS and Azure, to minimize MVP development effort and cost and streamline the delivery. If the MVP gets market validation or shows positive changes in business processes, it can be completely rebuilt or further improved to cater for the needs and expectations of a growing number of users.
Virtual Tour Real Estate Solutions: All You Need to Know

virtual tour

vr tour

real estate

Virtual Tour Real Estate Solutions: All You Need to Know
They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but what value would you give to a virtual tour? According to a survey from the National Association of Realtors, over half of prospective property buyers consider virtual tours very useful in making their choice. But the benefits don’t stop there: virtual tours in all their forms make the jobs of real estate agents and agencies easier, as well as improving various business processes in the trade. Clearly, there is a lot of interest in creating tours through virtual reality development and other popular platforms, including the web. If your business is still using photo listings of properties with no additional immersive features, adding virtual tours might just be the spark that starts a tempest in your earnings and business activities. Hopefully, this article will tell you all you need to know about virtual real estate solutions and how you can get one of your own. Any virtual tour is an imitation of a real one, and thus, an experience that allows consumers and realtors alike to view a house/property from the outside and inside, with realistic representation of the spatial proportions of the setting. It is a fully remote solution that can be accessed anywhere and aims to give the user all the same impressions as they would get when visiting the place in real life, without the option to physically touch and move the objects. Some people associate virtual tours with a particular form of media (like an app, video, VR simulation), but the truth is that they are quite diverse in format, while sharing the same goals. 1. Captured footage This is the easiest kind of tour to produce, made by compositing photos or filming videos. In the former case, a series of photos throughout the house are made and arranged together to cover all sections of the house, so when a user opens this tour, they can alternate between photos taken in different positions. With a filmed video, more natural movement is added to the experience, and the user can pause it at any time. Sometimes, a 360-degree camera is used for photos and video to give the user a full field of view. 2. 3D application With even a few 3D artists, any home can be turned into a virtual 3D environment. Using real references of the house, artists and developers work together to create a unique experience that is much more engaging and immersive than looking at footage. The software can include various interactive options not available in the captured footage that add substantial value to the experience. Traditionally, these apps are made available through web, mobile, or desktop apps. 3. VR experience While this is a form of 3D application, it is distinguished by its intense level of immersion. After a user dons a VR headset, they are transported to the home in question and feel like they are really there. Every movement of their head results in a relative change of their view, and they can move through the building in a manner that imitates walking. They can even use the controllers in their hands to interact with and modify their surroundings. 4. Floor plan Not exactly a tour, but more of an overview for the space-conscious buyer. Floor plans are used by real estate agents and prospective buyers to learn how much space is in the building, how everything is currently arranged, where windows and sources of light are, and many other details that often get overlooked or are hard to gauge with other types of tours. Floor plans are typically presented as static images featuring a room with numerous measurements, no clutter, and sometimes the option to see more details with a click. This type of solution allows you to address both your own business needs and those of your clients. Below are some examples: Virtual window shopping Customers can view a property in the comfort of their home, on the road, basically anywhere. There are no time limits or pressure, allowing them to make the most of the experience. Creating a “Wow” effect You can make your tour as fancy as you wish, and this functionality can be a great way to impress customers, even if the building itself is nothing special. Presentation matters. Free customization With the help of interactive options, you bring your tour even closer to reality and help customers better imagine what it would be like living there and what kind of changes they can make. Easy porting Visual content like photos and 3D models can easily be carried over into new mediums, so you can certainly make your tour available across different platforms (e.g. starting with web and expanding to mobile and VR). As we have mentioned, you can choose a variety of formats for your tour. In addition to that, there are multiple other considerations to make before you get started. 1. Free movement People are curious creatures and they love to explore. Thus, freedom in movement is a feature that will allow customers to satisfy their curiosity and inspect the details that most interest them. For example, our VR Hotel app allows hotel guests, workers, and stakeholders to explore every room and floor of the facility. It feels like a real adventure! 2. Interior customizations Part of the shopping process for prospective real estate customers is imagining how the place will look when they are living/working there. You can make this aspect of the process even easier by giving users the option to customize interior and exterior elements, such as changing the wall colors, adding accessories, and modifying the levels of light. Similar customization features were implemented in Program-Ace’s Room Configurator application featuring an apartment and multiple menus with modification options. 3. Space measurements Continuing the theme of customization, users also like to plan how their main furniture, plants, and other accessories will be arranged – will there be enough space. Thankfully, features like those in our immersive FurnitARe app let users upload 3D models of their accessories and simulate how much room they will take up through visualization. This is a lot more convenient than looking at a floor plan and making measurements by hand. 4. Descriptions and characteristics While visuals have a crucial role in tours, they are not the only thing customers expect to receive – they also need information. Thus, you can incorporate point-and-click mechanics into software that will give users relevant information about the property – things like area, materials in construction, cost, number of bedrooms, utilities, etc. This way, they do not need to wait for a conversation with a realtor to find out something that may be very important to them. 5. Guides A guided tour usually takes place at a measured pace, with relevant information and top features of the house pointed out during the walkthrough. For example, you may use this walkthrough animation (created by our team) of a home as a reference for a simple guided tour. If you want to go the extra mile, you can even add a virtual assistant that will give information about the property in voiceover. 6. Saves and sharing Some sales take a while, and users often review many options over time before returning to the one they like most. This is especially common in real estate. Thus, to make your offerings stand out and stay in the minds of customers, you can add save/share functionality to your tour. It may be in the form of an app, a video file, or even just a link to a page where they experienced the walkthrough. Creating a tour is a demanding process that is usually too much for one person to handle, so you will optimally have multiple specialists and tools involved, all working towards the same outcome. First and foremost, real estate agents often take active part in the creation of these tours. Sure, they don’t write code or create 3D models, but they do help capture the footage or references for the experience. They understand the best features of a building and things that might be better off hidden. Thus, it is mostly an advisory role. Next, if your company is going for a simple approach like presentation through video or connected photo, you will probably need a digital artist to prepare the media.Things get more interesting and complicated if you are presenting the tour through an app. In this case, you will need developers, and if the walkthrough will be fully digital (3D), you will also need one or more artists to create the models and any related effects/animation. Most real estate agencies don’t keep such specialists on the payroll or have any constant need of them, so hiring an outsourcing partner for this project can be the most budget-friendly option. There is no denying that virtual tours are an investment, especially if you are building them for many properties at once. The most affordable option (relying on modified camera footage) will usually set you back by one or several days (and whatever this translates to in the cost of labor), as long as you are working with just a handful of properties. You’ll just need a good camera and effective editing software. As you might expect, with more properties and more complex solutions, the cost will increase. Developers and 3D artists are some of the highest-paid professions in the world, so the real estate virtual tour pricing for most projects will exceed $10,000. Fortunately, you can mitigate some of these costs by hiring an entire company instead of several specialists. Outsourcing companies are normally based in countries with low cost of labor and offer flexible business models. If you choose this approach, you will also not need to worry about hardware or software licensing, since capable development partners wield these tools in-house. On your road towards improving your real estate business, you will need plenty of tools. Some of the applications below you may already know or use, while others may be new. We hope they will be helpful in your project. Photo/video editing software 3D modeling software App development software Rather than hiring freelancers or the first specialists you can find in your local market, you can consider partnering with an outsourcing provider that will take care of all your development needs. While one or two people might do the trick for small projects, a team from one of the reputable virtual real estate companies is recommended when you are working with large buildings or a sizable collection of homes that should be toured. Of all the outsourcing companies out there providing virtual real estate services, Program-Ace brings the most to the table. We have a long history of developing digital real estate solutions (including the aforementioned Room Configurator, FurnitARe, VR Hotel, and others), as well as a large team ready to handle ambitious and complex projects. This includes developers, project managers, 2D and 3D artists, QA engineers, and even business development experts that can assist with defining and achieving business goals for the project. When you are ready to start discussing the virtual tour you want to create, be sure to send us a message. We would love to contribute!
Manufacturing Product Configurator

product configurator

manufacturing

Manufacturing Product Configurator
It’s no secret that modern-day manufacturers are willing to go to any lengths to improve production efficiency and boost profit. This desire has caused many businesses to embrace cutting-edge solutions like PLM, robotics, and AI/ML. Each of these solutions is great in its own right, but there is one more that we should pay attention to – configurators. A manufacturing product configurator is a digital solution that lets manufacturers customize various aspects of an item’s production and further lifespan. Typically, it includes 3D visualizations of the product, production line, etc., as well as realistic visual changes when custom options are applied. Toyota, Peugeot, Nike, and Ikea are just a few of the hundreds of firms that have embraced this solution, and when you see what manufacturing configurators can do for your business, your company might join this list. In this article, we will give you all the details about choosing the right product configurator for your business. Contrary to what some people think, configurator solutions are not a monolith and do not all function the same. Thus, you can see many different versions used in manufacturing and choose the kind that best works for you. Let’s examine some of the most common types: Enterprise resource planning (ERP) and material resource planning (MRP) are two common approaches for digital transformation in manufacturing. They aim to unite all core business processes (including management of materials) under a single software platform, where global changes can be easily applied with real-life repercussions. Accordingly, configurators of this type can be used to test or apply changes to company processes. To illustrate, a typical interface of such a configurator might contain options to increase/lower the volume of raw materials shipped in, with the application then calculating further changes that should be made to effectively process the materials. Example: C&C Power, Inc The experts over at C&C Power, Inc are prominent energy equipment manufacturers based in the U.S. The company faced serious delays in order fulfillment that stretched up to 60 days until they integrated a new configurator. This new solution has helped them modify orders on the go and better regulate the flow of materials. The software also identifies problems and bottlenecks in production, making relevant suggestions to improve them. Benefits: This solution is used predominantly during product development, and makes use of CAD (computer-aided design) software, which is usually built into the configurator application. Because of the vital design features that make rapid prototyping possible, this tends to be a 3D product configurator with a high-detail visualization of the product and dozens of options to modify its parts. It may carry additional functionality to update the product’s performance specs in sync with design changes. Example: CAMotion This company produces palletizing machinery and robot systems, and they chose to implement a configurator after determining that a lot of time was being wasted on creating CAD parts for custom product designs. Their configurator (which consisted of many tools used together) greatly simplified CAD and shortened the time-to-production from 4 weeks to 10 days. Benefits: As the name implies, a training configurator is intended for learning about the product. Usually, it is provided to sales associates, engineers, and other technical staff that must have good knowledge of the product. The solution can visualize the product and let the user examine/tinker with its parts. This helps them learn where everything is located and how the product works. Example: Aircraft Engine VR Training This solution was built by Program-Ace and features an interactive 3D model of a popular aircraft engine model. We designed it to be used in virtual reality, so users put on a headset and controllers, launch the software, and are transported to a virtual training room. There, they can assemble and disassemble all of the parts of the engine at a leisurely pace, placing the individual parts on the ground or hanging in the air. Benefits: A BOM configurator is a very narrow-use solution intended for the quick creation of a Bill of Materials (BOM). The bill of materials is a document containing all the details about the materials, parts, components, and other dynamic resources needed to manufacture a product. Accordingly, the configurator that generates this document allows the user to modify certain values and see instant changes in other values included in the document. The changes can be applied in a limited scope (for example, for a single-day shipment of materials) or apply to the whole business model. Example: CEVT CEVT is the company responsible for building the massive design platform used by Volvo in the production of its vehicles. The tool they helped build and integrated into their business processes turned out to be a game-changer. It replaced all the other instruments they were using in the pre-production stages and even saw lowered costs due to effective material planning. Benefits: CPQ configurators are often associated with eCommerce and retail, so what do they have to do with manufacturing? Well, we should never forget that many manufacturing companies rely on other businesses to sell their product. Thus, product configurators for make-to-order manufacturing help their clients choose the most suitable version of the product that they are ready to sell. CPQ stands for “configure – price - quote” – the uninterrupted process of choosing and buying a product online. Example: Motorola Besides making mobile phones, Motorola is also a major manufacturer of security hardware. Through a state-of-the-art CPQ configurator, they let businesses choose a security system tailored to their needs. The software features over 1000 possible product builds and has sped up the sales/consultation in a big way. Benefits: If you go the custom route and build a configurator from scratch, you will have a lot of freedom in adding the features and functionality you want/need. Below are some of the most popular choices: If you build an AR product configurator or one based on virtual reality, you can make any interactions with the product much more engaging and informative. In addition to showing off your product’s look, you can also demonstrate how it functions through high-detail and realistic animations. A “save” option built into your software can allow users to print and reuse designs/builds, as well as return to configuration when they reopen the file. Making a web-based product configurator is one of the best choices you can make to increase its accessibility, since most devices with a web browser will be able to open it. Whether your configurator is meant for internal or commercial purposes, adding an option to contact support can be helpful in fixing issues with the software or helping users make informed choices with the app. If you look online, you can find a few ready-built enterprise configurators that are typically offered on a subscription basis. However, you should keep in mind that those solutions won’t be adapted to your business processes as well as a custom-built configurator. Ready-built configurators tend to have very limited options for personalization and 3D visualization, whereas custom software is made according to your precise requirements. One of the providers that you can rely on for a custom product configurator is Program-Ace. Our company has been building solutions for the manufacturing industry for over a decade, and we can confidently say that product configurators are one of our biggest strengths. Seems like a match made in heaven, right? If you have a configurator project in mind, feel free to read more about us, and send us a message to learn more about our services and cooperation.
Development Outsourcing, Offshore Partnership

Java

Outsourcing

Development Outsourcing, Offshore Partnership
Creatim features long-term outsourcing partnerships with development teams, agencies, and clients to work on their most pressing development or marketing challenges. We usually work remotely with occasional onsite visits on demand. Do you need a team to build your product? Creatim offers an end-to-end solution delivery, from requirements gathering to development and quality control. Although managed by Creatim’s project manager, you will retain a hands-on overview of the project progress. Do you seek extra resources or domain-specific expertise? Creatim’s experts can fill the gap in your development team. They will adjust to your processes and methodology taking on responsibilities assigned by a project manager on your side. 1. Discover In a discovery meeting, typically over video conference, we will dive into project requirements and explore your preferred collaboration model. 2. Choose Once we know your needs and preferences we will send you a list of team members for your project or available candidates to complement your team. 3. Meet You may want to conduct a technical interview with the team candidates. You can test them out in the first week of the assignment, free of charge. 4. Start After the test week was successfully concluded and the agreement was signed off, you have new members on board ready to meet the challenges ahead.
Guide to Machine Learning

AI Powered

Machine Learning

Gaming

Article of the week

Guide to Machine Learning
Despite the fact that Terminator's futuristic vision may conjure up images of a dystopian future, machine learning is present in many aspects of our daily life. We probably all use search engines to get answers to our inquiries, GPS to find the best routes, or AutoCorrect to catch mistakes in our spelling. Machine learning is to thank for all of these conveniences. If you've used a recommendation system today, this might indicate that the algorithm has learnt your tastes and made a correct recommendation. In 1952, IBM's Arthur Samuel began working on a chess training software that would eventually become the first self-learning system. It was developed over a decade, and went on to be used for training chess players. This very machine was eventually used in a historic chess battle between man and machine, which became the catalyst for ML's popularity. Gary Kasparov, the world chess champion at the time, was beaten by Deep Blue in 1997. However, despite the numerous debates, this was the first time AI had demonstrated its dominance in such a public combat. Google jumped ahead of this breakthrough even more in March 2016. In one of the oldest and most difficult board games ever devised, AlphaGo, a computer program, defeated the world's top Go player. For this reason, a victory over a human opponent in Go has been heralded as a major moment in the development of artificial intelligence. There are several aspects to artificial intelligence (AI), including constructing models of human behavior and emulating specific processes in the human brain. While robotics and statistics are part of this area, machine learning is an interdisciplinary study that focuses on algorithms that can self-improve the system's performance. As a result, they don't need the help of a developer in order to learn. Instead of looking for deeper meaning, robots hunt for patterns. Their ability to forecast the outcome improves with increased data. The self-learning algorithms are always monitoring our actions. The system knows if it has previously recommended a film or product that didn't fit your preferences (such as a lack of activity, such as purchasing or clicking). Even if an algorithm could verify the likelihood of the result based on acquired knowledge, or in other words, experiences, it would not be able to investigate the causes behind this. The Internet of Things concept of a network of devices sharing data has resulted in massive, diversified, and fluctuating data collecting (so-called Big data). This data may require up to petabytes of information. Machine Learning has grown in popularity due to these two factors. Parallel processing allows computers to learn from an endless number of online instances. Coders struggle with accelerating learning, minimising instances, and regularisation, when algorithms ignore minor changes. The answer to this question is a resounding yes. According to a Gartner report, just 15% of firms have successfully applied machine learning. However, several companies have already invested in these technologies. Machine Learning can surely help small enterprises. To guarantee that the system can generate the appropriate behavioural patterns, it is necessary to first identify the issue and choose relevant data. Unsupervised learning may be used to find anomalies in data, such as a customer profile, in a business when data from many branches is combined. Supervised learning can help a financial organization reduce risk while speeding up decision-making. Reward learning, which learns from both correct and incorrect judgements, may be utilized in production. The first allows the machine to run without human assistance. Of course, automating machine learning isn't easy. Using the right data and strategies to train the system can provide amazing results. Artificial neural networks (ANNs) are computer simulations of the brain's synapses and neurological systems. These techniques are used in perceptual tasks like detecting speech in images. Examples include facial recognition in Facebook photographs and content categorization in Google Images. However, with the advent of AI accelerators, similar solutions may now be given outside the network. With a module like this, a smartphone's core CPU may work more effectively and save battery. Most modern cellphones use neural coprocessors. Mobile AI is projected to grow more proactive in predicting human needs. If we were going on a business trip, our smartphone would download all of the programs and data we needed before boarding the plane. Phone manufacturers are attempting to extend this functionality. Once there, we'd have access to a lot of information on how to get around, including cheap public transit and taxis. The device would use speech recognition and pre-load a language package for machine translation, eliminating communication difficulties (this is already possible in Google Translate). We will one day have a personal helper that can learn from its environment. A set of machine learning and deep learning-focused cells were presented by Electronic Arts at the E3 expo last year. In Search for Extraordinary Experiences Division (SEED), after 30 minutes of studying typical players, an AI system spent six hours learning how to play on a custom map. The goal isn't to develop a player-friendly agency, but to increase immersion by giving the player a sense of personal contact. Turn 10's Forza Motorsport series of car simulations was inspired by the same idea. The computer analyses gamers' actions and develops virtual avatars for them to battle other players. The designers highlight the issues they may face while using neural networks and unanticipated artificial intelligence in game development. While machine learning may seem apparent in competitive gaming, such solutions may one day lead to the creation of new video game genres. Most people are familiar with self-driving cars. Tesla, Google, Uber, and most automakers are among the world's most powerful companies competing. Manufacturers of mass-produced automobiles provide three levels of "conditional automation." True, the car can drive itself in certain situations and routes, but the driver must respond to the system's alerts. Automation is impeded by both technological and legal constraints. While some countries like Poland struggle due to a lack of effective regulations, the world has already witnessed the first attempts to commercialize a car autopilot. Autonomous taxis are already on the road in several places. Waymo, an Alphabet Inc. company, is training self-driving vehicles in Phoenix, Arizona. With a multitude of precise sensors, Waymo's taxis produce an extremely realistic 3D depiction of their environment. Google's mailbox client in the US now has automatic responses. Based on accumulated correspondence, Gmail can offer a one-sentence answer to your supervisor's request regarding an overdue task. Drones have high-tech cameras and algorithms that allow them to follow an object while avoiding obstacles. Netflix is known for providing highly personalized movie and TV show recommendations. As a result, this is the company's basis. The system records the user's interest in a picture, as well as his pause, cancellation, and menu return. In the first chatbot, Cleverbot, 59.3% of people rated it as compassionate. Robotics has made several advances in the last few decades, including voice-activated graphical user interfaces, automatic sickness detection (NASA Remote Agent and NASA Sky Survey), and more. This is simply the tip of the iceberg, and existing machine learning methods may be reproduced. Using open-source software, deep learning offers quick picture editing in video clips. The open-source TensorFlow programming framework and Face2Face, a live facial expression algorithm, are examples. Making disgusting pornographic videos with celebrities is one example. Machine learning isn't perfect yet. They are used to attack neural networks. Internet images include undetectable noise that causes computers to misidentify items. A dog's image can be seen as a dolphin or other aquatic creature. Automated hacking attacks may be conceivable in the future, providing a new threat. Machine learning is rapidly evolving and has a long way to go. Investing in this branch of informatics is estimated to exceed $100 billion by 2025. These include speech recognition, image recognition, and neural machine translation, which translates whole phrases rather than individual words. Other businesses are starting to see this solution's untapped potential. Companies like Netflix and Allegro are investing in machine learning research. Machine learning may revolutionize future thinking through anti-spam filters, automatic responses, and personalized service.
5 benefits of conversational AI for credit unions

al

benefits

credit unions

5 benefits of conversational AI for credit unions
How conversational AI can strengthen ties between a credit union and its membership while helping to keep costs down Credit unions are all about community. Owned and operated by their membership, they have long prescribed to the notion of treating customer service with a personal touch. But as members’ banking habits continue to move online, it can be difficult to hold onto personalization in an increasingly digital age. In a survey conducted by Citi, 68% of millennials expect that their smartphone will replace their wallet in the near future, while 91% of online banking customers admit to preferring using an app over visiting a physical branch. These trends clearly illustrate a desire amongst consumers to go digital, and while many of their traditional banking counterparts adopted chatbot solutions early to meet this demand, credit unions have taken a more cautious approach - waiting for the right technology that will allow them to maintain the strong, personal relationships they have built with their members. Thanks to advances in natural language technologies, conversational AI can help credit unions to find the right balance between a personalized digital customer experience and the streamlining of internal and external processes, delighting and driving value back to its membership. When a member interacts with their credit union - whether it’s by phone, email or in person at a branch - they expect a level of familiarity and personalization that goes and beyond a more traditional banking experience. There should be no reason why this ‘personal touch’ can’t also be extended to the chat channel. A virtual agent powered by conversational AI is able to carry out interactions with members in a way that is both personalized, highly scaleable and available 24/7. Using advanced Natural Language Understanding (NLU), a virtual agent is able to parse the nuances of human language and get to the underlying intent of a member’s request. It can then interface with existing backend systems, and a member’s own account via user authentication, to perform advanced process such as transferring funds or blocking a card without the need to involve a human service rep. This gives members agency over their interactions, driving up self-service rates and is all carried out via a conversational interface that mimics human-to-human conversation. Should a member require assistance that is outside of the virtual agent’s scope, advanced deep learning algorithms (like boost.ai’s Automatic Semantic Understanding) assist in seamlessly transferring them to the correct human assistance so that the flow of the experience remains unbroken. As the size of a credit union’s membership grows, its contact center needs to scale up accordingly. This can be costly and often unrealistic if there are unexpected spikes in traffic brought about by unforeseen incidents (i.e. a global pandemic). Accenture reports that 80% of the requests that service reps deal with daily tend to be repetitive, simple queries that can be easily automated. Conversational AI offers a scalable solution to this challenge. A virtual agent is not limited by the number of inquiries it can answer simultaneously. In fact, in extreme cases of increased traffic volume during the height of COVID-19, virtual agents built on boost.ai’s conversational AI platform were able to do the equivalent work of 220 full-time employees. This helped eliminate the need to ramp up contact center staff during a period where this proved to be difficult due to a nationwide shutdown, whilst alleviating pressure on existing service reps, allowing them to concentrate on handling more complex inquiries. While the member-facing benefits of conversational AI are often the most obvious, the flexibility of the technology also allows a credit union to streamline its own internal processes. A virtual agent can just as easily be deployed internally to be used by credit union employees as a hub for IT and HR related questions. This can include deep integrations with backend systems for reporting, security, bonus programs and more, often in the form of a friendly digital colleague that’s always available to help if IT and HR are busy. Similarly, conversational AI can be deployed to assist member service representatives in a support role. Using boost.ai’s Human Chat functionality, a virtual agent can offer human reps suggested responses to member queries and interface with backend knowledge bases to retrieve important policy information instantly without needing to put members on hold - increasing the capacity of human support with an over 95% successful automation rate. In order for a credit union to flourish it is important to not only increase membership, but also encourage existing members to adopt new products and services. Member acquisition can be costly, however, so streamlining onboarding and application processes are key. By leveraging data to anticipate the needs of members, a virtual agent can be utilized as an effective marketing tool. It can proactively announce new marketing campaigns or, by linking with a member’s existing account, personalize suggestions making it easier to discover new services in a way that’s engaging and, ultimately, cost-effective. Gartner reports a 160% increase in interest from companies around implementing conversational AI solutions. This indicates that it’s only a matter of when, and not if, credit unions at large will begin adopting virtual agents into their wider digital support strategy. To capitalize on the demographic shift of credit union membership in this tech-savvy era, it’s important to invest in a conversational AI solution that’s designed with your specific needs in mind. Does it only offer robust language understanding and a simple-to-use no-code conversation builder? And, crucially, can it guarantee a quick time-to-market, with zero risk involved? At boost.ai, we use proprietary self-learning AI to interpret data from multiple sources like websites, chat logs and even existing chatbots as the basis to build our advanced virtual agents. With then combine this data with our expertise from launching hundreds of successful projects in Europe and North America to deliver a fully-operational, artificially intelligent virtual agent able to answer questions on 1,000+ industry-specific topics - in under 10 days. We then give you 30 days to trial and compare it with your existing customer service channels, no questions asked. So, you can experience first-hand how a virtual agent can make a positive impact on the relationship between your credit union and its member, as well as your bottom line. ‍
The Pandemic-Lead Tech Transformation

AR/VR

Digital Transformation

Technology

The Pandemic-Lead Tech Transformation
Digital transformation is no longer just fancy words on websites. The pandemic has accelerated the trend and made it very tangible. Getting businesses promptly through a digital transformation has become essential to their survival. The tech world has already changed. How? Rising need for channels replacing in-person communication and collaboration. Crafting business solutions that provide continuity with internal and external partners. Some industries took a hard hit reducing production or ceasing services. Others, operating with emerging technological innovations, flourished. All of a sudden, already supply-limited software development companies had to tackle the pressure of a rise in demand and remote work way faster than expected. Many companies, including big tech players like Google, Twitter, Amazon, and Facebook, have asked their employees to work from home. Some even made it mandatory. Remote work, however, is demanding when it comes to technology. It needs: • Virtual private networks (VPNs) – a secure channel for communication and access. • Voice over internet protocols (VoIPs) – managing office calls, messages, and conferences with partners and colleagues from anywhere. • Data backup and recovery. Always a challenge, but especially for companies who hadn't had the proper infrastructure and had to build it in a rush. • Network security is a number one priority. Security breaches can cost a lot – financially, reputationally, and affecting productivity and KPIs. Threats are everywhere and multiplying. Protection from malware is essential. Managing digital security is costly, especially if handled internally and without prior experience. Cloud-based video conferencing and e-learning have reached new heights. Cloud technology is becoming integral for all types of application development projects. It continues to grow as it is cost-efficient and fits perfectly in the new remote work environment. Building a remote workspace for employees is challenging but has the potential to add a competitive edge to businesses. For years now, Melon has been adept in creating digital working environments confidently offering it as a separate business line. We can stay on top of all IT needs so our partners can solely focus on their business. We can choose and maintain the cloud services that best answer any business needs. We can deploy, secure, scale, and support remote working solutions to enable employees to work, connect and collaborate anytime, anywhere on any device with no interruptions. We have accumulated security best practices built from 20 years of IT experience and we are proficient in introducing the DevOps’ principles that can accelerate software product delivery. We set up and used a robust information infrastructure ourselves for years with our offices in Bulgaria and North Macedonia. Consumer behavior has changed for good. Online shopping will establish itself as the preferred method. Retail and supply chain industries must be ready to handle the new changes. Looking to Artificial Intelligence (AI) comes in handy. AI was expected to add $15 trillion to the world economy by 2030. The prediction was made before the pandemic. The number will turn out to be even bigger. With the help of machine learning and advanced data science, businesses can recognize and predict purchasing patterns. It will also improve the online customer journey. Software services and tools with integrated AI learn and adapt on the go. Chatbots, for example, is becoming a standard. They offer 24/7 support and an answer to the challenges of attracting new talent. Moreover, data analytics helps optimize internal processes and leapfrog your organization to unexpected levels of efficiency. Melon’s software development team has broad experience delivering Big Data and Machine Learning to enterprises, SMEs, and start-ups. The process includes four types of services: Consulting, Data Engineering, Data Science & AI, and Data Visualization. For example, based on the successful software development projects we previously completed for a long-term enterprise client - a leading fast-moving consumer goods company, we were proven reference to support their new Big Data and machine-learning endeavor. Melon Learning, our learning management system, in search of how to even better enhance remote learning, while minimizing cost and time spent, partnered with Zoom to introduce instructor-led training in addition to its asynchronous learning features. Also, we introduced a chatbot to some of the e-courses like the Agile and Scrum ones. The World Health Organization (WHO) encourages the use of digital and contactless payments. Some banks in China, the USA, and South Korea turned to quarantine physical banknotes, and some even burned bills. Contactless payments are also more efficient. Whether it is with a card or e-wallet, digital payments area single method used for online purchases, paying for goods at the local supermarket, services and utility payments, and receiving or sending funds. Yet, the technology is still developing. According to the World Bank, there are more than 1.5 billion people, who do not have bank accounts. Not everyone has easy access to contactless payments. Also, the fact that online payments require an internet connection, makes the adoption of the digital journey of money harder in some communities. The buzz around the era of virtual and augmented reality has been around for quite some time. However, the pandemic might usher in the implementation of VR and AR at home not only for entertainment but for work, too. The use of VR technology has been booming since confinement began. We used to associate VR with playing video games or exploring travel destinations. It’s different now. Businesses have started using VR and AR platforms to give their employees access to training, facilitate collaborations on different projects, host conferences, and connect employees in a way similar to that of being in the office. According to ARtillery Intelligence, enterprise VR revenue is estimated to reach $4.26 billion by 2023. The pandemic reminded people of the value of human interaction. Labor-intensive industries like manufacturing, retail, logistics, and food took one of the hardest economical hits. We are seeing accelerated technological advancements in robotics, e.g. robots being used to disinfect hospitals and other facilities. Robots and drones have been used to deliver food or medical supplies. Drones can, apparently, be used to take your dog for a walk. Trends suggest that the stock of robots will reach 20 million by 2030. We now know that digital readiness and the ability to adapt are critical for businesses. Remaining competitive amidst the virus outbreak is more important than ever. Technology is a pillar in this new normal world, but we should keep in mind that a human-centered approach remains key in all our decisions and actions. After all, technology needs governance and, for the time being, people are still indispensable.
 6 Steps to Start a Successful IT Project

Software House

SRS

Project Management

6 Steps to Start a Successful IT Project
In the highly competitive world, planning every step towards building a new product to start your journey in the market has become essential. It will help you in saving money and time leading to successful product development. It will also serve as the best way to mitigate the risk of failure and increase your chances of success. In this article, we’ll list the key steps that you need to take to start a successful IT project but firstly, let's understand the Technical and Business Aspects of an IT Project. While planning for your next big project, it’s important to consider both the technical and business aspects of IT projects. The business aspect includes the overall analysis along with keeping up with the requirements of your target audience which can prove to be a great insight for building your product. Secondly, by analyzing and identifying your competitors, you can gather their strengths and weaknesses to make sure whether you’re moving in the right direction or not. The technical aspects of an IT Project are choosing the suitable technology and gathering the relevant information regarding it. It’s necessary to make appropriate decisions right from keeping track of the cost issues to choosing the right team. One doesn’t need to be an experienced IT professional to be able to pair well with the technical aspects. Thus, one can look forward to professional software houses that will guide you towards the best solutions. The initial stage includes the competitor analysis. By analyzing your competitor’s products, marketing strategies, communication methods, etc., one can easily boost their knowledge towards product development which will help you in staying top of the trend. It will help you to figure out your mistakes and mitigate the risk of failure. Creating a plan serves as a significant way of being the initial stage of preparing for an IT project. The plan should consist of product functionalities along with the budget and project deadline. Following a plan makes you qualify for building a successful project. The next thing you can consider as to whether you want to build the solution around one focus or go for the MVP. Implementing the MVP approach will help you to test your idea in the real world along with gathering feedback from first users. While creating a plan, it's important to look from a broad perspective that will make its way for app scalability and future development. Moreover, planning will help you in forming a successful partnership with the software house. Documenting your project goals results in collecting the information in one place to get better clarity on product development. The software requirement specification (SRS) will be an important guide for your technological partner along with helping your team in learning about the App functionalities, the entire business idea, and your expectations. Choosing the right partner is of huge concern. Initially, either of the two best options one can consider is: hiring your team or outsourcing software development. The key things to consider while choosing a software development partner are a portfolio, eagerness towards meeting the business goals, project deadlines, and transparency. A professional software house you hire should prepare the overall estimate of the IT project covering both aspects of product development. While developing a web application or other IT product, it’s essential to go for the right tech stack for your project. In this regard, software houses help you in choosing the right technology and provide you with the best possible options with regard to the successful delivery of your project. The final step involves continuous communication and commitment from the team involved. Co-operation with the partner based on communication and transparency proves to be the first step towards getting your product tailored based on your needs. From gathering feedback to keeping a check on the development direction, it promotes trust and increases the partner’s effectiveness towards building your final product. To conclude, Implementing the above steps will help you in sowing the seeds right towards the path to project success. The most important aspect is to rely on your technological partner to help you at every stage. Thus, ensuring the business requirements of the project are successfully met.
Digital Innovation: Today’s Radical is Tomorrow’s Normal

Digital Transformation

Technology

Digital Innovation: Today’s Radical is Tomorrow’s Normal
Last week I arranged to meet a friend at Bristol’s Harbourside. Alexa told me that it’s going to be sunny all day so I used my Voi app to locate a nearby scooter, scan the QR code and make my way into town. It was heaving when I arrived, so I used the Find My app to locate my friend – who was looking significantly less hot and bothered than me when I finally spotted them. We browsed my friend’s dating app Happn to see who they had crossed paths with as we waited for our food, which we ordered via the cafe’s own branded app to beat the queues. Alexa clearly didn’t get the memo about the late afternoon showers so we ordered an Uber home. The above scenario is totally familiar today. However, just 10 years ago this would not have been possible because none of the digital products that I used had been launched. They would have been part of innovation programmes in R&D departments or in the tech start-up ecosystem. Now, they are an everyday part of our social practice and how we operate in our neighbourhoods, which highlights just how quickly the ‘digital revolution’ has impacted our lives. This has accelerated amid Covid-19, with digital technologies underpinning our social, economic, and cultural lives and causing a massive shift in motivation and behavior. With this trend set to continue, companies know that they need to be innovating now for their future success. In this article I will look at cutting edge, radical research and early stage projects that are being investigated today – rooted in arts and science – to paint a picture of how we might be experiencing and interacting in the world by 2031. Steve Jobs announced the launch of the first iPhone in June 2007, kickstarting a smartphone evolution that shapes the way we see and interact with the world today. While it wasn’t the first smartphone, the iPhone marked a critical moment in the development of personal technologies, bringing with it visual voicemail, multi-touch gestures, HTML email, an iPod music and video player app and a Maps app powered by Google Maps – all very standard now but revolutionary 15 years ago. I was the founding Creative Director of an organisation called Nesta Futurelab around this time and we were exploring how new and emerging technologies could support education within formal and informal contexts. The iPhone was an exciting development in technological advancement as the mobile market had largely been dominated by feature phones and Blackberrys up until that point. As part of our mission, we wanted young people to have agency in the world and empowerment in what we now call digital placemaking. Through our research programmes, Futurelab asked questions like ‘How might co-designing and co-constructing enhance their experience of a place through locative media?’ Two particular projects that I worked on at the time which addresses this question were pioneering and groundbreaking for their time (2006-7). The first of these was a social gaming prototype for public space called MobiMissions, where 16- to 18-year-olds explored citizenship by creating place-based missions using their camera phones. This was early-stage location-based gaming – almost a decade before the launch of Pokemon Go! MobiMissions – University of Nottingham and Futurelab The second project, Create-A-Scape, enabled school pupils to create and situate digital media in their physical neighbourhoods, for others to experience in location. We weren’t using smartphones, instead, personal digital assistants (PDAs) helped us to imagine future worlds. Create-A-Scape was Education winner of the New Statesman New Media Awards 2007 Both examples from my past serve to demonstrate that what was once radical and cutting-edge is now mundane and far more sophisticated than we were envisioning at the time. And so the cycle continues… What are some of the early stage research and innovation projects that could shape the way we live our lives in the not-too-distant future? Are office telecommunications soon to be a thing of the past? Microsoft is currently exploring XR Telepresence technology to see how it can be used to enhance our sense of belonging in the workplace – wherever we are working. Image: Microsoft, from Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction. April 2021, Vol 5(CSCW1, Article No. 59): pp. 1-31 VROOM, which stands for Virtual Robot Overlay for Online Meetings, augments a virtual avatar overlay of a remote worker to the work environment. This is viewable through a ‘HoloLens’ worn by the person in the work space, through which the remote user can gesture and express themselves. A 360 degree camera on a robot, meanwhile, gives the remote user an immersive 360 degree view of the work space through a VR headset. An early study Microsoft ran to understand how pairs of participants collaborate using VROOM shows there is potential for a system like this to support dynamic collaborative activities in which embodiment, gesturing, mobility, spatial awareness and non-verbal expressions are important. As organisations adapt to new ways of hybrid working, VROOM and products like it are poised to play instrumental roles in the future of work. Scientists from Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, meanwhile, have developed a prototype battery-powered by human perspiration. How? The 2cm by 2cm stretchable battery contains printed silver flake electrodes that generate electricity in the presence of sweat. What’s more, the battery doesn’t contain any heavy metals or toxic chemicals like regular batteries do, which makes it an environmentally-friendly alternative that could help to reduce electronic waste. (L-R) Nanyang Technological University’s School of Materials Science & Engineering (MSE) Senior Research Fellow Dr Gurunathan Thangavel, Materials scientist and Dean of NTU Graduate College Professor Lee Pooi See, and NTU MSE Research Fellow Dr Lyu Jian. The battery has performed promisingly in early trials and is expected to be able to power all sorts of wearable devices in future. The team is now looking at how factors such as body heat might enhance the battery’s performance. Are we moving towards a world where human-powered devices become the norm? Is the future of fashion a sustainable one? These early stage research projects certainly give us hope that the fashion industry is on track to finding alternative solutions to some of its biggest ethical and moral problems. One such project, undertaken by a Masters's student at Central St Martins, explores how programmable algorithmic electro-magnets could be used to generate and mimic biological patterns in lab-grown furs. The designer aims to create an algorithm so sophisticated that it makes it impossible to distinguish between real and lab-grown fur. Programmable Lab-Grown Fur: Federico Oliva, UAL Another project from students at Imperial College London has been looking at how to make the footwear industry sustainable through augmented reality digital skins and 3D-printed biodegradable self-healing technology. They are creating a shoe that is able to regenerate up to 50% of its total surface area through a user-specific microvascular healing structure, therefore extending a shoe’s lifetime. Incredible and inspiring ideas to reshape our lives! Image: E&T Innovation Awards 2021 There are exciting things going on in healthcare sciences too. A team of students at University College Dublin has determined it is possible to accurately measure the fat content in foods using a handheld near-infrared spectroscopy sensor. They have created machine learning classification models that are able to distinguish between vegetable fat spreads with an accuracy of over 99%, which could play a significant role in helping to reduce the risk of people developing cardiovascular disease. The team is now looking to explore other compounds such as carbohydrates, as well as expanding the concepts developed in the project to work on the diminution of other health conditions such as obesity and diabetes. Phyto printing is the process in which light projection is used to control the growth of phytoplankton to create high-resolution prints and living materials that breathe and metabolize. This particular project is looking to design a printer that would make this process accessible to designers, artists, and makers, allowing them to explore innovative fabrication processes in their work. Phyto printing- Luis Undritz, UAL This not only has huge implications for how we design art and materials, but also how we design public spaces. Phytoplankton can produce large amounts of oxygen and bind carbon dioxide, which could play a vital role in our efforts to reduce CO2 emissions and bring cleaner air to our towns and cities. Now, it’s 2031. I wake up, put on my 3D-printed biodegradable trainers and sweat-powered smartwatch, and go for a run. I head to work in my biomaterial clothes, which change shape and color throughout the day, ready for a day of back-to-back VROOM meetings. Later, I meet my friend for dinner (thankfully, my ever-changing wearable wardrobe keeps me looking and smelling fresh) and laugh when she scans her lab-grown burger and is surprised by its high-fat content. I’d rather not know, personally. We finish our drinks, book a flying taxi on our 7G-powered smartphones (however did we cope with 5G and 6G?), and head home. I ask my retro voice assistant for tomorrow’s weather forecast, just for fun.
7 Steps For Better User Experience

eCommerce

UI/UX

Web Design

7 Steps For Better User Experience
If the navigation is in no place, even a perfect-looking online store will collapse. The structure is very important if you have a large store, it should not cause trouble to the buyers. Good navigation helps in getting visitors, improving SEO, and getting more sales. Let us discuss the methods to improve the navigation of an eCommerce site which in turn provides more value to the customers and ultimately, increases sales. The navigation bar does not need too many categories. Here is when the dropdown feature becomes important. It allows the users to indicate that there is more to see instead of cluttering the homepage. Too many options will create frustration in the users and they will leave the site. Hence it is good to keep two or three items within one category. The product catalogs structure and design should be balanced. To avoid congestion due to information, it is better to have 5 to 6 categories. Remember that there are subcategories such as: Visualization can be added to make it easier for the customers. Eye-catching images will attract customers and make their experience better. Category Gallery makes it all possible. The buyer cannot reach the product they wish if there are many categories and subcategories. This problem can be tackled by a multilevel menu. This will present a detailed view of the store with a few clicks. This feature is provided by the Smart Mega Menu. It offers: The most common places for the menu are on top or the left. Smart Mega Menu offers 5 templates that help in different positioning of categories. These templates allow your menu to show more content. Dropdown helps in many ways. The Smart Mega Menu provides icons, labels, and banners. Sorting the products will help a lot. There are certain methods for that, according to your aim: For finding products according to the right parameters, filters will help. Filters are: Filters should be simple and with few points. Different colors can be applied to controls. The Enhanced Filters provides these features for you. It helps in hiding inactive filters, converting regular into switches, 'In Stock' 'Free Shipping' and 'Rating 4+' options, toggle switches providing better UX/UI experience, sliding menu for filters, multilevel structure, Tag Style Filter Display facility, coloring the components, description for filters, and filter priority for buyers. A search bar will help the visitors who are looking for something specific. Search is an important element in making the site navigation better. The search bar should be on the homepage. Autocomplete function, which allows the customers to get their search queries done, also saving their time and ensuring an apt search result. The search bar can be put on the top of the site, on the left or right. Our facility, Searchanise, enables the user to find products, offering them similar products, etc. E-commerce sites have two types of navigation designs, site navigation; on the top of the page and the side of the page. The hamburger menu is suitable for responsive design in eCommerce platforms. Navigation is what helps the user in your site. These solutions help in a better user experience: You can contact our developers for more information.
8 Great Marketing Approaches in a Cookie-Less World

Marketing

Content Strategy

Social Media

8 Great Marketing Approaches in a Cookie-Less World
Marketers have capitalised on the ability to track website visitors using cookies. The information gathered can be used to improve the user experience and target ads to the right demographics. This is a conventional approach to analyzing customers, building a profile of a target audience which can be used to heighten the user experience. However, this is a method which could soon be reaching its end. Google recently announced they’d cease the use of third-party cookies on browsers by 2022. This has shifted the focus of today’s marketers, who must rethink their marketing strategies to remain competitive in their respective fields. The web ecosystem is evolving to meet user demands regarding privacy and control over how their data is used. This might destroy online advertising as we know it, but fortunately, there are various alternative models which companies can adapt to changing circumstances. The likelihood is for new data-driven strategies to emerge in the wake of the news. Though we’re yet to see how techniques will evolve, we can envision how future marketing mechanics will unfold. Here are eight alternative approaches which are worth embracing as they’re likely to rise to prominence in a cookie-less marketing world: With third-party cookies becoming a thing of the past, marketers are likely to return to the core fundamentals. Marketers will dive into deep analysis into their core audience, refining their target demographic and identifying where consumers spend most of their time. It will be important to look at where people consume information online and off, and to revisit the channels which are responsible for a holistic buyer journey. A return to grassroots campaigns will reinvigorate the marketing function and help solidify relationships between marketers and consumers. Cookies were a powerful method for targeting relevant consumers, but this method is nowhere near as effective as drawing people in with engaging content. The power of naturally intriguing content has superseded the power of the cookie, where you can feed off of people’s natural interests in an authentic way. Marketers will tap into their creative prowess, delivering compelling content which motivates consumers and encourages them to take action. This can be achieved while consumers maintain control of their data, a progressive step in the war on privacy. Users care more about relevant content than cookies, so as technologies like third-party cookies come and go, building content will remain far more important, with a view to long-term progression. Marketers will always find a way to monetize the traffic that comes from establishing an audience, so it’s important to focus on the content while being flexible to external changes. With a strong social media presence, companies can target consumers where they spend significant periods of time. We are witnessing a market shift to creating custom experiences for users via social channels, which are personalized based on interests, friends, likes, and more. Social media browsing is becoming a new normal, where social data is replacing cookies. Rather than focusing purely on Google, companies are likely to seek alternative advertising networks to generate cost-effective conversions. Utilizing publishers which focus on intent more than they do buying third-party data, marketers will experience more authentic results. By focusing on marketplaces close to the bottom of the sales funnel, marketers can capably pull in higher conversions at a lower CPA. Marketers will start to create content that’s universal in nature, ensuring the messages created can be understood by a wide audience. This will be important in an age without cookies, where personally targeting visitors with specific ads will become more challenging. Agencies will thus focus on conveying messages which don’t isolate viewers, instead hoping to resonate with a widespread appeal. This will give demographics the opportunity to act on the messages relevant to them. Today’s generation doesn’t really click on banners in the way they once did. Since cookie-based advertisements will slowly become a thing of the past, marketers will begin to focus on narrative and influencers. Focus will shift to native storytelling rather than cold display ads, as marketing turns in a more authentic direction. Despite third-party cookies being phased out, marketers will still be able to track user behavior with device ID tracking and IP addresses. Device IDs have played a prominent role in geofencing and geotracking for some time. The cookie concept will be rendered irrelevant by the application of various data variables, which can be tracked and appended to identifiers. The identifiers in question will be anonymized to protect user privacy. With a forward-thinking approach, we’re likely to see the industry evolve beyond cookies in a privacy-friendly fashion. We’re likely to witness marketers seeking partnerships, particularly building identifiers using first-party cookies. These will remain unaffected, so new identification capabilities will be targeted, alongside the emerging use of AI to decipher user behavior, preferences, and purchases. levels.digital is a full-service design and technology agency that specializes in creating innovative solutions for hotels. These can transcend your company’s business model while adding significant value to the customer experience.If you think we can help your business, please contact our founder Daniil Tarakanov at daniil@levels.digital.
BESIDE THE PARK DURING THE COVID PANDEMIC

Technology

Remote Teams

Remote Work

BESIDE THE PARK DURING THE COVID PANDEMIC
The coronavirus pandemic truly is a situation that has shaken most of our lives and brought about the uncertainty that was without precedence in our generation. At the time of writing this article, there are 4,196,784 confirmed cases across the world with 284,034​ deceased. Although the consequences are tragic and will be even worse considering the social and economic repercussions, some are marginalizing the situation while others call this pandemic the biggest challenge society has faced since World War II. Is it really so? It seems like at this point everyone has their own theory but, I’ll try to answer this question and give you a little insight into how we - at Beside the Park - reacted to the danger at the beginning and what actions we have taken once new information about the virus emerges daily from all regions of the globe. It is hard to believe, but over 4 months have passed since the very beginning of the novel coronavirus outbreak. It is still uncertain what exactly caused it, but the first official reports date back to the end of December 2019. On December 31st the government in China confirmed that they were treating a number of cases of an unidentified pulmonary disease, followed by the confirmation of the identification of a new virus only a few days later. The situation grew worse at an alarming pace from there. On January 11th China confirmed the first death and on January 20th South Korea, Japan, and Thailand confirmed their first cases. It soon became apparent that this virus is not only spreading very rapidly but that it also causes a significant part of the population to require hospitalization and specialized treatment. In Poland we had our first confirmed case on March 4th, leading the government to declare a partial lockdown of the country on March 12th (closing down schools, restaurants, shops, border traffic, etc.), with stricter restrictions being introduced over the next few weeks. In the beginning, the lockdown seemed like a good idea. If the goal was to limit the spread of the virus and the consequences of the pandemic we had to self-isolate in our homes and wait it out. This was the common consensus, and it seemed to have worked in China. By the time Europe or the US was significantly affected by known cases, China already had their reported numbers rapidly decreasing with news of the Chinese industry being restarted. However, it was after the restrictions were already in place that we realized that this may not have been the perfect solution. Firstly, from the economical standpoint, it wasn’t hard to predict that freezing very prolific industries such as travel, gastronomy, entertainment, culture, sport, etc. would have a great impact on the economy. Secondly, there are unforeseeable consequences in terms of social problems. The scale of the psychological side-effects will only become apparent months after the tide of Covid-19 has receded. Not all the countries however followed the same course regarding their crisis management. For example, the South Korean model focused on identifying infected individuals with the help of drive-thru testing locations combined with the use of mobile technology to backtrack where infected individuals were and who they may have come into contact with coupled with an application that informed the citizens if they had been near an infected individual. Technology was effectively employed to map individuals who had a greater risk of exposure and to quickly isolate any individuals who were possibly infected as a precaution. The Swedish model, on the other hand, had almost no restrictions enforced by the government. The Swedish legal system gave the decisive power to the state epidemiologist instead of the politicians, so the only changes that have been made in Sweden consisted of a national ban on visiting retirement homes and the prohibition of public gatherings with more than 50 people. The Swedish Public Health Agency believes the best way to combat the spread of the virus is to isolate the elderly - who are at risk the most - and let the rest of the population function normally so that herd immunity is developed much quicker. Due to the rapid spread of the outbreak, there was little time to take into consideration all the possible outcomes and consequences - the world has already started the global beauty contest by the name: “Who will do the most against the coronavirus?” Now, that some time has passed, new information is coming in about the virus and it seems it was not as dangerous as we thought all along. The studies done in the United States and Sweden on limited communities with serosurveys (type of tests looking for particular antibodies in the blood - suggesting the patient was already infected with the virus) implied that the actual number of infected people is 50-80 times higher than the recorded number; therefore the mortality rate of the disease is significantly lower - between 0,1% and 0,8% based on different sources - which is comparable to seasonal influenza. The observations here in Poland also suggest that the disease should not be considered such a high-risk threat to society at large. With 803 deceased after over two months from the outbreak, the coronavirus seems to be much less deadly than many other, “common” causes of death. Based on the data from 2018, in the same period of time in Poland over 2,000 people died from acute heart attacks and more than 17,000 from various types of cancer. Only with the passage of time will we be able to note if there was a statistical rise in the death rate during the Covid-19 outbreak. Predicting the future is a big challenge in these ever-changing times. The current predictions and economic models seem to indicate a grim economic outlook for the near future. A global recession is nearly certain at this point with experts debating whether it will reach the level of the 2008 crisis or be much worse. The price of a barrel of oil has decreased by over 50% and for the first time in history, the production of oil worldwide was intentionally reduced due to lack of demand. Central banks are back to the practices from 2008 of pumping capital into the private sector to preserve financial liquidity. The demand for the workforce has already decreased almost 40% in comparison to the same period last year, and the unemployment rate is likely to rise. Normally with a situation as dire as this, we would expect the government to help the people as much as possible, but when observing the current situation only new questions arise. This is where our experience in working remotely from outside the office came in handy; however, the first couple of days were chaotic everywhere. Some people were still coming into the office, while others preferred to stay at home to minimize the risk of infecting their loved ones. As the restrictions were enforced all over Europe, our clients also decided to put their work on hold as they waited to see what the future will bring. It seems natural that in times of crisis and uncertainty everyone approaches their spending with greater caution. Fortunately, after the initial state of shock, we quickly reorganized to meet the new challenges. We decided to start working only remotely, relocated resources to serve all the active clients and save the costs on projects put on hold, scheduled very frequent calls so that everyone was on the same page, and concentrated on closer collaboration within project teams. Taking into account the recent data and socio-economic situation, after a few weeks of the lockdown we started to discuss the possibility of coming back to work in our office. While there is a degree of risk to all age groups of the population, our office does not have anyone who would be considered part of the “high-risk group.” Keeping in mind the available knowledge of the seriousness of Covid-19 along with the social and economic impacts of working from home, we decided to survey our developers and let them give their opinion. The results showed a near-even split in opinions, with some preferring to stay at home while others wanted to return to the office. We felt confident that we could create functional project teams from within the office, as well as have other developers who are worried for the safety of their families working from home. This way we were able to provide everyone with the conditions that would suit them best. As much as possible we are trying to return to a state of normalcy. Now we can start the process of reshaping Beside the Park to adapt to the new reality that surrounds us. Having spent some time on the defensive side of the coronavirus battle (limiting spending, terminating agreements, managing the crisis situation), we feel it’s time to take in the new market reality and adjust our business. One of the first big changes we decided on is digitizing our documentation. We’d like all of our administration to be paperless which should reduce our maintenance costs, allow us to sign contracts remotely, simplify the potential relocation of our office(which may be needed considering the impact of Covid on the real estate market), and is generally much more environmentally friendly. There is a long way to go in order to make Beside the Park even more agile and effective than before, but we believe that we (and any entrepreneur out there) should take a step back and look for opportunities that may arise from this worldwide crisis.
Interview with one of UPDIVISION’s senior developers, Alin

Software Development

Developer Experience

Interview with one of UPDIVISION’s senior developers, Alin
Our senior developer and team lead, Alin, has been with UPDIVISION since 2014. We sat down via Meet and interviewed him about his career, his growth as a developer, and his future plans. 1. Who is Alin? Tell us about your career, educational background and your current role and responsibilities at UPDIVISION. Well, it all began in high school. I studied computer science, which is where my passion for everything IT started. That’s also where I first learned SQL. From then onwards, I continued my studies in Computer Science at Craiova University, where I learned lots of things: hardware, software, you name it. I don’t know if it was hugely relevant for web development - back then web development wasn’t really established yet. But of course, learning algorithms and lots of programming concepts was very helpful. When it comes to web development, I learned a lot by myself. The first website I ever made was an e-commerce platform, and that was the first time I ever built a website by myself, from scratch, with no ties to university. I thought it was quite easy so I told myself “Ok that’s it, this is what I want to do - build apps”. During that time, still in university, I worked for a company that had no ties to IT. I was mostly in charge of maintenance, everything computer related, printers, xerox machines, those sort of things. If they needed someone to use Word and they didn’t know how, they would ask me to step in. I was technical support, if you may. But I learned lots of other things: HR stuff, contracts etc. This was quite useful - they’re things I wouldn’t have learned by only doing programming. Plus, it was during university and the schedule allowed me to attend classes as well, so it was nice, but it wasn’t an IT job, as I would’ve wanted. After I graduated, I decided to move to Bucharest, hoping to find a job in IT. I got my first IT job at an outsourcing software development company. That’s where I learned and solidified knowledge in HTML, CSS, making websites, everything web development. After a few years, my company became more product-oriented, and was taking less development projects. Their internal projects were very complex and they didn’t have a proper planning system in place. And that’s when I told myself that it’s time to move on. After I started working at UPDIVISION, I learned lots of programming languages and frameworks such as Laravel, Vue.js, CodeIgniter, and so on. And after all these years, I’m still here. At UPDIVISION, I’m a senior developer and a team lead. I’m fullstack, which means I do both frontend and backend. Lately I’ve been doing more frontend, in Vue3. I also work with Component Library, which is quite complicated. But I do a bit of everything. I also coordinate projects, mostly internal, or from our partners. So I’m also a team leader on some projects. I take part in recruitments and technical interviews as well, which is something all senior devs here at UPDIVISION do. Overall, my role is quite complex. 2. Tell us about some of your favorite projects you’ve worked on. What was challenging and what was fun about them? One of the most memorable projects I worked on was a social network. It was quite challenging, and I learned Vue.js for it, which made the frontend easier to manage. I also used Amazon Web Services for the first time, to host and scale the app. Another challenging project that I liked was a platform for stock exchange companies and institutional investors. Over there I worked on the API and frontend. I did it, redid it, it was a huge project. I learned a lot of things there too. Another impactful project was an online publishing platform from Austria, where I got to see a different type of management, how others work. These were the most interesting ones. Overall, by being challenging, they allowed us to grow - both me personally and us as a company. Thanks to them, we’ve implemented better project management practices. 3. What is your proudest contribution to UPDIVISION? I introduced some technologies, such as Vue.js. I also pushed hard for adopting Laravel, because what we were using before, CodeIgniter, wasn’t as good. In terms of development, I also pushed our team to standardize our process, to improve everything that could be improved. Such as implementing code standards. We also tried to make repetitive processes automatic, or just anything that could be automatized, such as deployment or reviews. I also took part in introducing our monthly programmers’ meetings, as I had the idea to share knowledge among the team. 4. Tell us about the most important lessons you learned while working at UPDIVISION. First of all, you have to keep up with everything new, so you can make your work easier. If we’d limited ourselves to JQuery or using CodeIgniter, we wouldn’t have evolved the way we did. You always have to push, push, push, and learn. When I was little I thought, “I don’t ever want to become a teacher, they have to keep learning their whole lives”. But I became a programmer and discovered I have to learn more than a teacher would. So I didn’t escape what I tried to run away from:) But when you do what you like, it’s different. I’ve been programming since high school. Back then I told myself “I like this, this is what I want to do.” Everything I did from that point onwards was towards software development. At first, I was focused on actual software - things you install on your computer - and not web development. But I think web software has a bigger impact. It depends on the project, but usually web apps have a bigger impact than a program you install. Plus, mobile has been integrated much better lately. Technologies are heading that way - eventually phones will run websites the way a mobile app would. I also learned that you shouldn`t limit yourself, just because something is familiar. And that’s what’s cool at UPDIVISION. Here, I’ve always been able to suggest things and they were often welcomed with open arms. Moreover, my colleagues would say, “Go, Alin! What have you learned lately? Let’s do more!”. They’d never refuse to do something just because it was unfamiliar territory. I was able to do new things without being held back. Plus, it felt like working with a group of friends. The fact that I was able to do what I like and be in a relaxed, friendly place, was more than I could’ve ever asked for. 5. What do you think would be the best way to improve yourself after gaining so much experience? How can one keep improving all the time? You have to read a lot, especially if you love what you do. You can’t know everything all the time. Technology, everything software, hardware which always develops and pushes software with it, they’re all in a constant state of evolution. Something new comes out - you gotta read about it. Find out what it brings, if it helps you or not, how you can use it to make your work easier and more pleasant. So you can enjoy it. There are probably a lot of juniors entering this field because of the high pay. So it’s hard to find qualified people. If you go into programming for the money but it’s not your favorite thing to do, and you learn, let’s say, PHP, then you stick to that, you’ll never improve. You need to learn more by yourself, to see what new versions of programming languages bring. While we’ve been talking, 5-6 new JavaScript packages have probably come out. That’s how quickly things change, especially for JavaScript. If you’re not up to date, if you don’t read every day and stay informed, you won’t ever get better. You’ll only get to a certain level and never go higher. You shouldn’t be watched and pushed by someone else. Plus, your company also benefits from you learning new technologies - the new is always sought out. No one wants to build a site on an old framework or with a very old version of PHP. If you don’t like what you do, if you don’t care about learning more, you won’t exceed in this field. 6. If you weren’t a developer, what kind of job would you have? I’ve never thought about this. I gave myself a goal and that was it. I think I could do a lot of other jobs, even more “low level” ones. I don’t mind work. Even physical work. But I would probably work in an office as well. Definitely something involving computers, because I love it so much. Maybe something in hardware, maintenance, network administration, people who install cable. Something that involves wires. 7. What does a senior developer do in his free time? He reads a lot about software development. I started a blog, but not because I liked writing. There have been times where I was faced with a problem and couldn’t find a solution. And I would tell myself, since I managed to solve it myself, I should write about it. What I do manage to do is learn new things, such as AI. I keep thinking about building a mini robot I could talk to, give orders to. I’m considering doing this as a little project with my son, when he’s a little older. I’ll look into it - I want it to be funny but educational. I’m also considering making a website with and about games and toys, since we have so many. I want to help my son broaden his creativity. To film videos and edit them himself. I think it would be useful down the line. 8. As a senior dev, what advice would you give a beginner web developer? What are the most important steps they should take in their career? First of all, they should start with the basics. And by “basics” I don’t mean knowing HTML and CSS, but knowing how the web really works, because the communication between a browser and a server is done through a protocol. They need to understand what that protocol is, how data is transmitted, what that server is, what works on it. Basically, how everything works. If you, let’s say, start learning Laravel, and you simply follow its installation guide, at some point you’ll only understand the surface of things. After a while you’ll be hit with some things that are so basic yet weird, you won’t know how to proceed. And you won’t find it in the documentation either, because it was made assuming you already knew those things. Secondly, they need to read and practice as much as possible. If you’re a beginner, do a side project. A website that will get your mind going. Something complicated, even if you won’t use it - like an e-commerce platform, where you have to go through multiple stages of development. Then think about how to improve everything you made. Think about the way you can help yourself and your team through what you learned. Even if you’re not part of a team yet, you should prepare for this. You need to show that you can learn quickly, to help your team. Watching videos isn’t enough. Until you get your hands dirty and code, solve errors, find solutions, you won’t learn anything. Be your own project manager, tester, organize it all yourself, from tasks to PRs. Don’t expect to go into work and be taught like you would at school. Here, we encourage you to bring your ideas. As much of a senior I am, I don’t know everything. Don’t expect me to fill up 3 blackboards with info. You need to ask, search, read, all by yourself. Otherwise you won’t learn. You need to work hard and smart.
Ebook: Making Hybrid Work Successful

Hybrid Teams

Business Model

Leadership

Ebook: Making Hybrid Work Successful
There has been a lot of talk about the future of work after the pandemic. To understand the situation in the organizations better, Howspace did a global survey on hybrid work that focused on the expectations and challenges people connect with hybrid work. Now the results are in and here are a few of the most important takeaways! The results indicate that despite 94% of surveyed respondents feeling well-equipped to transition to a hybrid work model, leadership teams still do not have clarity for how to lead teams and work together with people as the results show very different preferences for sharing their thoughts and opinions within an organization. A third of the respondents said that post-COVID working model decisions are being made within the leadership team – meaning that employees have not been asked about their preferences. A further 20% of respondents who work as employees do not feel that leadership is taking action based on their feedback for how, where, and when they’d like to work. When talking about the challenges of hybrid work, the respondents highlighted these three as the biggest challenges: 1) Not feeling connected to colleagues 2) Maintaining a strong and consistent organizational culture 3) Feeling overwhelmed with more meetings and messages What these results tell us is that leaders should start considering what kind of hybrid culture and workplace they are going to build. Hybrid work is here to stay and those organizations who can best respond to the challenges are the ones most likely to keep and find talent. In case you are interested in learning more about the hybrid work model and want to learn more from the survey, download your free copy of the Hybrid work model playbook here.
Why, When and How to Do Ruby on Rails Code Review

audit

ruby on rails

app development

Why, When and How to Do Ruby on Rails Code Review
A company got hacked. The hackers stole its customers’ sensitive data and demanded ransom, threatening to sell that data on the black market and let the story out. The company’s website, built using Ruby on Rails, had a critical vulnerability: third-party libraries had been pasted into it alongside their source code. When one of those libraries was compromised, hackers used it as a loophole and got hold of the data. Had the company audited its website code on a regular basis, this story wouldn’t have happened. Ruby on Rails code review (or code audit) helps solve security and other problems. Read on to learn more. Ruby on Rails code review can help identify security issues of an application, but that is not its main purpose. The main goal is to discover issues that slow an application down, making it expensive to maintain or difficult to keep developing. We’ve been conducting code review and consulting for the past seven years. Our findings have ranged from grave vulnerabilities to inefficiencies that could be fixed in 2–3 hours, resulting in a 30% performance increase. It’s as essential as regular health checks. Sometimes you might not be aware that you have a vitamin deficiency or hormone imbalance. But once you’ve found and fixed it, your mood surprisingly improves. There are at least nine situations in which you might need to audit your code: The most frequent cause of poor performance that Ruby on Rails code audit can uncover are DATABASE ISSUES such as incorrect structuring of data and N+1 queries. BUGS IN A RUBY ON RAILS APPLICATION ALSO AFFECT PERFORMANCE, and bugs will always pop up. If you don’t take care of them, they will bog down your application. First of all, keep an eye on the gems that you are using. Once the Ruby community begins to gradually abandon a gem, it will accumulate ever more bugs with no one to fix them. INEFFICIENT TEMPLATING LANGUAGES are a common cause of slow Ruby on Rails applications. If you use one of those languages, replace it with a better rendering tool. Here is an example: if you are using HAML, replacing it with a HAMLit gem will improve your application’s performance. Secondly, test as much of your code as you can. Fail to do that, and bugs will go unnoticed until their effect becomes apparent to your users, team and everyone else. OVERPAYING FOR RESOURCES Many businesses, including companies using Ruby on Rails, often plan too far ahead when putting together the infrastructure of their applications. They use AWS servers that provide a higher capacity than necessary or third-party services that could be effectively replaced by cheaper alternatives. As time flies, server load remains moderate, and expenses accrue, companies will waste thousands of dollars every year. Ruby on Rails code review can prevent or stop such inefficiencies. If you find yourself in a similar situation, replace inadequate services, revisit your cloud server infrastructure and reconfigure your Ruby settings. You can continue operating under heavier traffic loads without making your Ruby on Rails application expensive. Ditch static infrastructure for a dynamic one that will automatically scale up and down with the load. You can do that using services like AWS Elastic Container and Kubernetes. As your business grows, you will need to scale your application, build new features and add developers. That’s when the effect of Ruby on Rails code review, or lack thereof, becomes evident. The first issue code review brings to light is when the original code IGNORES RUBY COMMUNITY STANDARDS. When code is written without taking these standards into account, new Ruby on Rails developers spend days trying to understand it instead of pitching right in. Fix this issue by running the rubocop auto_correct feature. It will automatically adjust most code styles, and the rest is for you to change manually. AN OUTDATED README FILE can cause you the same headache as non-standard code style. Just keep it fresh. Another common cause of messy code is BURYING PARTS OF YOUR RUBY ON RAILS APPLICATION’S LOGIC IN MODEL CALLBACKS. This makes developers skip callbacks and duplicate those parts of the logic. Clean model observers from those elements and adjust the application logic accordingly. INCONSISTENCIES IN BUSINESS LOGIC can lead developers astray. Their actions may cause conflict between terms and conditions and how things actually roll, resulting in legal dispute and financial losses. Finally, POORLY ORGANIZED FRONT-END CODE at the startup stage can cause headaches with further development. We have seen applications where the entire code containing over 10,000 lines was presented in one file. With code like this, updating the application, adding features and removing bugs is virtually impossible. That horrific story from the start of this article wouldn’t have occurred had the developers of that application installed third-party libraries using a package manager and monitored their updates. Libraries aren’t the only source of Ruby on Rails security threats, though. Surprisingly many developers LEAVE SECRET KEYS HARD-CODED IN THE MAIN PROJECT REPOSITORY. Once perpetrators get hold of the source code containing that data, they can access the company’s most sensitive information. This happens all the time. Hence the advice: delete anything that doesn’t belong in your source code and its history of changes. If your access keys were placed in the source code at some point, change them immediately. And don’t forget to cover as much of your code as possible with tests. We begin RoR code audit by studying the project documentation and product idea. After that, we run the code through automated quality and security tests based on our own compliance checklist. This allows us to find out how the product stands against the best engineering practices and whether it has deprecated and outdated libraries. At the next steps we look for issues in the database schema, back-end and front-end architecture, source code files and the project’s test suite. Finally, we set the project up locally. This helps us understand what problems it may face at further development stages. Sometimes we do additional checks such as compliance with the client requirement checklist, performance audit, advanced security audit, and review of the infrastructure and the integrated third-party software. At the end, our client receives an RoR code review report — a comprehensive document featuring our findings and suggestions. Code review of your Ruby on Rails application, done on a regular basis, can save you an unnecessary headache or two. And it can save you money, too. You may be asking yourself: when exactly do I need to audit my code? If you have any concerns about your product and think that a code audit might help you resolve them, the answer is ‘now’. And we can do it for you — just drop us a line.
Interoperability problems and how to fix them

startup

Interoperability problems and how to fix them
You said you just wanted it built. You had a great app idea and wanted to get from zero to online as fast as possible. And to achieve that goal, maybe you cut a few corners, intentionally or not. It’s understandable. After all, didn’t the all-conquering Facebook get built on the philosophy of ‘move fast and break things’? While that motto is widely known and even still admired in some circles, what’s less widely known is that Facebook ditched ‘move fast and break things’ way back in 2014. Their new motto? ‘Move fast with stable infra[structure].’ Why the change? Facebook’s original motto acknowledged that even if it has certain benefits, speed can also be messy. Perhaps that’s what you’re finding out right now. One such issue that can result from (dare we say too) hasty development is the discovery of interoperability problems with your new code. How could this have happened? Perhaps you didn’t realise you needed your software to connect easily with another digital product. Maybe you did but forgot to mention it in your PRD (product requirements document). Regardless, now you have a headache and you’d trade way more to go back and change what you asked your devs for than your comfortable admitting. Don’t worry - we get it. Here’s a handy article for you to understand interoperability and how you can get your project back on track. The definition of interoperability is the ability of one product or system to work with other products and systems. The concept of interoperability is used in a range of fields. It’s a popular concept in healthcare, for example, where multiple care providers may interact with the same patient. If you’ve ever gone through a health problem requiring a range of specialists at a range of clinics and felt less like a well-cared for patient and more like an overworked messenger trying to help each part of the health system communicate with the rest, you understand some of the downsides of a lack of interoperability. “Why can’t all these different parts talk to each other so I can have a single, seamless experience?” you may have wondered. If so, I’m happy to tell you that your past frustrations haven’t been entirely fruitless; you now have a headstart in understanding the concept of interoperability in all areas of industry! I hope this is a comfort to you. With that, let’s turn to the question of why interoperability is important in tech generally and software development more specifically. How many apps do you have on your phone? I want you to take a moment to actually open your device and check. How many did you have? Research has shown that the average phone has over 80 applications installed. Were you surprised by the number of apps you have? If so, that’s possibly for two main reasons: In that two item list, it’s point number two that reveals the magic gold dust of interoperability for users in our app-filled world. Notice that I said filled rather than saturated. That’s because saturation implies that there’s no room for more. And that’s not true. Whether we’re talking about traditional software, apps, or websites, the only thing a new digital product needs is market fit. And we’re still seeing new products being developed and released every day. The global business software and services market size is projected to grow from USD 389.86 billion in 2020 by a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 11.3% through 2028. A chunk of that market is made up of digital product agencies such as ourselves, Develocraft, specializing in developing apps and other digital products for other businesses and individual entrepreneurs. But with so many apps (valuable though they may be) hitting the market, the user experience could be damaged with insufficient interoperability. How? Because switching between dozens of different apps each day isn’t ideal from the user’s perspective. You may have noticed this during the Covid era with several different streaming services on hand, each with a different library of content. You may have sat down with your partner one evening and tried to decide what to watch. In doing so, you probably found yourself switching between some or all of the following: I’ve personally found myself frustrated by being unable to simply see all the content available to me in a single location. I swear to you, this isn’t sponsored content, but that’s exactly the kind of issue that some services like Movies Anywhere are now aiming to solve for their users. Their service allows users to access their digital movie collection from a single location. And how does it do that? By connecting with other digital products and services through interoperability. We’ll leave the technical specifics of that to a later section. Feel free to skip ahead if that’s what you’re looking for. Now imagine that for each of your streaming services you also needed an individual user name, contact email, and password. You’d have to create a new password each time you signed up for a new service. That takes time. You’d also need to somehow securely record each username / email and password combination along with the service it belonged to and be able to retrieve it when needed. In such a reality, you’d probably find yourself using the same password for everything, potentially putting your data, privacy, security, and financial information at risk. Fortunately, thanks to the magic of interoperability, nobody does that anymore. Right? Well, maybe only 50% of people. Password insecurity: is this actually fine? No. How has interoperability solved this problem (at least for some of us)? Consider firstly the ‘sign-in with’ options you get when accessing a digital product (such as a website or app) for the first time. Because the service is able to connect with Google, Facebook, Apple, or another preferred provider, you don’t need to go through the potentially security-threatening hassle of going through a unique sign-up process. You can thank interoperability for that. The second way interoperability has solved this problem for security-minded users (who, really, we all should be) is through connecting password management services to internet browsers. These services allow users to securely store their login credentials where no hacker can get to them. Many also let users automatically generate secure, unguessable passwords - usually a cryptographically intimidating string of special characters you’d struggle to find on any standard keyboard interspersed with numbers and letters from alphabets you’ve likely never heard of. But mostly Latin. All good password managers also connect with your browser through a plugin allowing them to instantly enter your credentials for you and log you in immediately through an autofill feature. Personally, I wish I’d been doing this years ago. Again, this is not sponsored content. I’m just grateful for all the time I’ve saved. That’s the value of excellent user experience. Examples of password managers ferociously smashing the demons of poor security and tedious logins to pieces include (but are very much not limited to): Sidenote: if you don’t have a password manager, pick one and use it. You’ll be making your life easier (and safer). Internet security is a big issue. A recent report found that in 2019 7,098 reported breaches exposed 15.1 billion records. That was the worst year on record. Some password managers including Dashlane also allow you to securely store payment information in their system, allowing you to make online payments more securely. At a time when organizations are losing an average of $4.5 million per year due to online fraudulent transactions, that seems quite useful. Through supporting online security measures, apps and services that make use of interoperability are protecting millions of people around the world from major threats. Does interoperability matter? You bet it does. Make sure your code can connect with other software. It can be very useful down the line in ways that can be hard to anticipate. Different digital products might want to connect with each other interoperably for a variety of reasons, so let’s start by breaking down the different ways components (a component is just a part of a piece of code or software with a particular function) might try to communicate: When we say systems of code like pieces of software are interoperable (meaning that they have the characteristic of interoperability) it generally means they can connect to each other through one the following types of interoperability: Let’s take a quick look at each of these types of interoperability and what they mean for software development. Fancy word, syntactic. Combine it with ‘interoperability’ and you have a phrase that can make you sound like a Harvard data scientist. But what does syntactic interoperability mean? Syntactic just means ‘having to do with syntax.’ What’s syntax? I’ll save you the trouble of Googling it. Syntax is the name linguists gave to the rules in language about structure, like word order. Why is this right but wrong is this? Syntax. Sorry, Yoda. Oops. Bad syntax. 🤷 In English (or any other human language) if you structure your sentences correctly you have ‘correct syntax.’ Another way of putting that is that you’ve formatted them right. Order a coffee from your barista and receive the right beverage? Syntactic interoperability helped get you your favorite beverage because you said, “I’d like a caramel oat milk latte” rather than “Latte like milk latte a caramel oat I’d.” You and your barista are syntactically interoperable. Congratulations. Of course, we’re more interested in how this affects programming languages, of which, just as with the regular human variety, there are many. Two such languages are XML and SQL. Remember what we were saying about formatting what we say in our coffee example? Well it’s just the same here. The fact that these languages are formalized - meaning they have officially fixed rules for how to format information - is what makes them relevant to interoperability. XML-based code is formatted one way. SQL has its own rules. Separate bits of code, if properly programmed, should be able to work with each other because of their shared format (or syntax - the syntactic in syntactic interoperability). If you want your software to connect with outside digital information, one reason it may be able to do so is because both parties - your app and theirs - are literally speaking the same language. That’s syntactic interoperability in a nutshell. Don’t like the name? Some call it structural interoperability. We’re not taking an official position on this, but we think that’s more boring and less descriptive. ‘Let’s not get hung up on semantics!’ If English is your first language, you’ve probably heard that phrase a lot. Usually in an argument. Other languages have their own versions that refer to the same idea. What idea? That the symbols (or labels, such as letters and words) we use to talk about a subject aren’t as important as the meaning they’re trying to convey - and we should focus on those instead. Not here, though. Here, we’re all about both the meaning and the semantics or ‘signs’, if you like. Why? Because for one digital system (like a piece of software or multiple connected digital products) to understand another, they need a shared understanding of both. Or, you know, as close as software can get to ‘understanding’ anything. But this isn’t a philosophy class. That’s semantic interoperability. If you have uniform code across the different bits of software you want to connect, you’ve got semantic interoperability. So far, we’ve looked at the more technical aspects of interoperability in software. But there’s more to interoperability than code. That’s where this last of the three categories comes in; it focuses on the wider context of code rather than the code itself. Think of standardization of practices and processes. If your organization has a particular way of performing a given task that’s unique, that isn’t necessarily a problem. However, if you need to interact with another organization to perform the same task, that might then become an issue. As such, cross-domain or cross-organizational interoperability refers to the practices and processes we find at different organizations (or sub-groups within individual organizations). For example, it’s not unusual for early stage startups to have (coughs) unique(?) approaches to project management that could generously be referred to as informal versions of Agile. At first, this can be tolerable or even completely appropriate. An overly formal project management structure might not be appropriate when so much of getting a very early stage startup moving is the passion and enthusiasm of a small number of individuals (perhaps even just one or two) working around the clock. But imagine the startup grows. Eventually the core group of initial founders no longer have the time to do all the coding themselves. So they bring in help, perhaps an outside digital product development agency like Develocraft, to outsource some of the workload. Developers from both inside the startup and the agency could be working alongside each other, sharing planning meetings and trying to contribute to the same goals collaboratively. At this point cross-domain (or cross-organization) interoperability comes into play. We can imagine two idealized scenarios - of which only one is ideal: It’s probable that most actual instances of inter-organizational collaboration fall somewhere in between these two hypothetical ideals. But there’s no doubt that of the two, you’d rather be part of scenario two. This is just one example of how interoperability in software development applies not just to code, but to systems of people working together. You can now understand and appreciate the value of cross-domain (or cross-organization interoperability). One easy way to remember it? Cross-organization interoperability helps prevent other organizations from becoming cross with you! We’ve already seen in general terms how interoperability enhances not only software development, but the role of software in everyday life through features such as login credential autofills and the ability to sign-up for new services with existing accounts. Still, if we’re going to truly understand interoperability it’s best to offer a broader list of examples that can reveal how intrinsic this concept is, not only to software developers, but to the modern economy as a whole: Facebook has been making a lot of noise lately about how, contrary to what you might expect, they back updating internet regulations (at least in the United States) for the first time since 1996 - the last time there was major legislation passed on this issue. One of the key changes Facebook advocates is, “Enabling safe and easy data portability between platforms.” Why? According to Facebook, “If you share data with one service, you should be able to move it to another. This gives people choice and enables developers to innovate.” That’s interoperability in the news, people. If you read part one, congratulations. That was more reading than most adults do in a week! Do we have any evidence to support that? Cards on the table, no. But it feels true. Anyway, I hope it wet your appetite for more info on interoperability. Because it’s here, ready for your perusal. What’s part two about? How you can identify and fix interoperability problems in your own digital product. The more your code represents a Frankenstein’s monster of different elements pulled together from different sources, the more likely it is that one of those parts will introduce interoperability problems. First, identify any specific digital products you want yours to be able to work with. This will help you prioritize your work when it’s time to start making fixes. Second, audit your code. Find out which bits are necessary and which add extra complexity for little return. Try to identify the components that may be causing compatibility issues. If a component needs to be there for your code to function, leave it in. However, if there’s an alternative that would offer greater interoperability while delivering the same - or better - functionality for your users, consider making the switch. The aim should be to do as much with as few moving parts from various sources (code from different libraries in different styles, etc.) as possible. Third, look back at your list of top priority software/apps etc. you’d like your code to be interoperable with. What changes can you make that you found in step two that could help? Add these into your task management system (like Jira or ClickUp), ordered from most important to least. Fourth, bring those tasks and your devs together to create magic. Does the sector, industry, or market have any standard practices relating to data / digital formatting? By consistently following these standards, you’re much more likely to achieve compatibility across distinct software / platforms. For example, in the United States the healthcare industry operates specific standards concerning EHRs (electronic health records). With so many healthcare providers around, it’s necessary for EHRs to be easily transferred between different practitioners. One patient might be referred by a primary care provider (or general practitioner) to a cardiologist. If the patient’s health records cannot be interpreted by the software used by the cardiologist, that could have serious implications for treatment. Having set standards for the formatting of EHRs also means that legacy records remain usable without having to go to the extra effort (and cost) of reformatting them. Since a patient’s records can accumulate over the course of decades - some people live for more than a century - it’s likely that this could prevent a lot of problems in the near future. It’s likely that even if your market isn’t affected by formal requirements, there are still common practices relating to interoperability that you should follow. Find out what these are and implement them. By doing so, you’re likely to find your software is compatible with other digital products in your area by default. Depending on your market area, you may find there are digital services available intended to help you achieve interoperability. Returning to our healthcare example, the CMS (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services) provides templates for EHR data collection. Keeping your software current is crucial. For example, if you’re using outside code that’s no longer being supported or maintained, there’s a real chance that you’ll be out of step with any external software that your product needs to communicate with in the near future. If your platform is built with any external components, make sure you keep them updated. If not, you can expect to face interoperability issues that will escalate over time. Do you have concerns about your software? If so, we can help. Reach out to us here. We can help you find out what’s going on with your digital product and even establish a plan to get you back on track.
Building an inclusive talent system

Team Building

Management System

IT Consultancy

Building an inclusive talent system
Diversity is a concept that has become increasingly common in recent years but has always been important; not only in society as a whole but also in companies. Besides an improved company image and workplace inclusion, there are many other positive effects of diversity in the workplace. How the benefits of an inclusive and (neuro)diverse workplace can look like and how to build an inclusive talent system, read the following. Diversity can be broken down into inherent and acquired diversity. Inherent diversity involves the traits that everybody is born with, including gender, ethnicity, and neurodiversity. Acquired diversity involves traits somebody can gain from experience. For example, enabling neurodiverse perspectives to enter the company can improve the acquired diversity of employers. We at auticon are big about providing a neurodiverse, talented, agile workforce to improve the performance of our client’s information technology projects. The term “neurodiversity” means there are differences in brain function and behavioral traits regarded as part of a normal, naturally occurring variation in the human genome. We view neurodiversity as a market advantage, because problem-solving, as an example, is enhanced by different thinking. Neurodiversity in teams (i.e. the collaborative effect of working with different cognitive styles) can also have an astonishing effect on a work culture: communication becomes clearer and more efficient, team spirit gains new momentum, and employees feel valued for their unique and individual selves. Making diversity and inclusion a top priority has been one of the key missions for companies for years. Companies that build a truly inclusive culture are those that will outperform their peers. Employees perform best when they feel valued, empowered, and respected by their employers. Feeling valued in a diverse workplace in terms of age, ethnicity, religion as well as differences in brain function and behavioral traits. For people on the autism spectrum, it’s not only important to be hired, but also to be understood. Many autistic people have above-average cognitive skills but unfortunately may choose to ‘camouflage’, any social or communication difficulties in an effort to fit in socially at work. The cognitive skills common with autistic employees include distinctive logical and analytical abilities, sustained concentration and perseverance, an exceptional eye for detail and potential errors, amongst others. Typical workplaces, however, can often produce barriers for autistic people, resulting in unduly high unemployment rates. Some of these workplace challenges include: To bring out the best in our employees and to make us feel at ease, we support our neurodiverse teams from two angles: we have our own in-house job coaches and project managers. Our job coaches support our IT Consultants from a social and communication angle, whereas our Project Managers support our IT Consultants from the technical angle and also mentor their professional development. “auticon enables me to work the way I want to work: I can fully focus on the quality of my work and don’t have to worry about those factors that may stop me from doing an excellent job. The best thing about working for auticon is that I can do what I’m good at.” Martin Neumann, IT Consultant
Improving Work-Life Balance Through Time Management Skills

work-life

balance

time management

Improving Work-Life Balance Through Time Management Skills
More than ever, the phrase “business hours” is devoid of meaning. During the pandemic, “business hours” has morphed into “any hours” or, more precisely, “all hours”. Work-life balance is an important aspect of a healthy work environment. Maintaining a work-life balance helps reduce stress and helps prevent burnout in the workplace. By creating a work environment that prioritizes work-life balance, employers can maintain a healthier, more productive workforce. Accordingly, we should see this process as a cycle, not an achievement. The team’s work-life balance is the responsibility of both leaders and individuals. It is important for both parties to collaborate and find the best solution for everyone to enjoy their time – both at work and home. We are sharing with you some interesting time management skills that we find helpful to improving the work-life balance. That is exactly what everyone thinks when hearing the phrase “ Plan your day ahead”. Well, we don’t realize how important planning is. Instead of approaching your day in a haphazard manner and feeling like you hardly managed to get anything done by the end of it, planning boosts efficiency and productivity. Make it a habit! Spare some minutes of your afternoon to make a quick plan of tomorrow’s workflow. Decide the important things you need to get done at the beginning of the day and things you want to do when you get home. Learn to say “no”. Sticking to your priorities is a key to maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It is important to stand up for things that matter to us without feeling guilty. Try to finish the tasks you were given and remember the feeling of leaving work without thinking about those deadlines. This will give you more time to enjoy with your family or friends. It sounds very traditional. That is because it is the most effective and natural way to manage the day. Being an “early bird” positively impacts our health and productivity which makes it completely worth it. The constant reminders from social media, instant messenger, and other apps take time and focus away from what you are currently doing. The instant you look at the pop-up notification, you have lost much more time than you realize, because it takes more time for your brain to focus on your current task. On the other hand, the reminders regarding meetings and action items can be a helpful tool to help you meet deadlines and be on time. Are you constantly checking your work emails on the dinner table or thinking about an upcoming work presentation when you should be sleeping? Work has clearly invaded your life and you need to learn how to switch off. After a long day at work, you should spend quality time with your family or enjoy some alone time. That does not mean being physically present but mentally absent. It means to be truly invested in your family’s life and do meaningful activities together. As cliché as it sounds, there is no greater truth than that. There is no way you can excel at work or home if you aren’t physically and mentally fit. Regardless of how busy or overworked you are, you need to take care of yourself by drinking 2-3 liters of water, getting at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep, having a balanced diet, and exercising regularly. Author: Kutia