TechCentral’s ‘Meet the CEO’ is a weekly initiative to profile the people who are shaping the local tech scene and find out a little more about what they’re reading, watching and how they got started on their career path.
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Open-source technology such as Kubernetes is emerging as the standard for many companies building applications on public clouds – with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Oracle and IBM among the leaders supporting this technology.
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Functional reactive programming (FRP) is not a new idea, but with more frameworks coming into the mainstay and reactive programming more widely adopted, developers need to stay on top of trends.
Congratulations to the BBD TurfSport team comprising Dylan, Gavin, Rudolf, Sandile and Werner — whose new system received regulatory certification and sign off on the 5 Mar from Gaming Laboratories International (GLI) and went live on the 6 Mar. Thank you to Dieter for kicking off the project and ensuring it ran smoothly and Ricardo for his assistance and expertise in Kubernetes and CI/CD.
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Congratulations to Amen, David, Kenneth, Lindani, Lodewyk, Thendo and Tobias: the BBD team who have been nominated for a Nedbank Ongoing Award for their highly successful Centre of Excellence (CoE) framework development project.
The South African Reserve Bank (SARB) recently announced their FinTech Programme. One of the programme’s objectives is deciding on the applicability of regulatory sandboxes.
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A key benefit of blockchain is that the technology offers participants the ability to transfer value across the internet, without the need for a central third party. The seller and buyer interact directly without needing verification by a trusted third-party or intermediary.
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Imagine if you owned your bank data and could decide who you want to share this data with, thereby gaining access to a broad range of products to suit your needs.
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BBD partnered with Vodacom to develop their My Vodacom App – which won the Best Mobile App in Africa at the latest Digital Impact Awards Africa.
In today’s fast-paced world the push for smarter, more intuitive and immersive technology - that eases the burden of complex systems - is continuous.
Caspar Schutte, a BBD software developer with a keen interest in virtual reality (VR), explains how the world is steadily moving towards a handsfree digital reality.
VR and augmented reality (AR) are not just for entertainment or media, the technology is being used in innovative ways. The International Data Corporation estimates the total revenue for both AR and VR will be over $162 billion by 2020.
Not sure of the difference between the two technologies?
• VR is an escape from the real world via an immersion into a fantasy “reality”, effectively cutting you off from the physical world. This is achieved with headsets (head-mounted displays), earphones (3D surround sound), optional motion controllers and position tracking. VR environments can be as detailed and engaging as the creator wants, able to run off both a mobile or desktop computer.
• AR combines the real world with a virtual world, by creating virtual layers on top of your physical environment. This is best achieved with non-isolating smart glasses, enabling interaction with the virtual ‘world’ while still staying in touch with the real world.
The healthcare, training, education, military, gaming, mining, marketing, real estate and entertainment industries are all finding unique uses for the technology. As immersive technology becomes more easily available to the public, the extent to which it can be useful will constantly be redefined. Gartner predicts that 20 percent of large-enterprise businesses would have evaluated and adopted AR and VR solutions by 2019, while consumers and businesses will have easy access to quality devices, systems, tools and services by 2020.
AR and VR are not as new as some may think. Large organisations were already using the technology in the 1990s for mining and flight simulations. Schutte says that “Current growth behind AR and VR is due to the technology becoming more cost-effective for smaller businesses and private customers”. Coupled with this is the growing need for this technology in sectors such as workforce training, education and the medical sciences.
Schutte has always been interested in creating 3D worlds and sees a lot of potential for the growth of AR and VR, despite the current drawbacks. “When using mobile VR - challenges such as phone batteries, processing power, overheating and low resolutions are somewhat balanced out by the complete freedom of the fully mobile setup. Desktop VR with its greater processing power negates some of the mobile issues, but one has to remain connected to the PC.”
A workaround to try and achieve the best of the mobile and desktop options is through a gamer’s laptop. These contain graphics cards, better processing power and with the use of a backpack, are portable. Schutte advises that VR and AR each have their own specific markets, dependent on the user’s needs for interacting with the physical environment.
Now that we have the potential to immerse ourselves in knowledge through virtual experiences, we can truly change how we teach, learn and understand.
Trying to wade through the continuum of application technologies sometimes feels like you’re strolling through a swamp in an astronaut suit and requires a step back to see the logic of which app works best for different situations.
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Technology can now provide South African insurers with a more accurate representation of their clients.
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Having a mobile app doesn’t distinguish you anymore – that period is long gone. But not having a mobile app, and not having some basic functions that competitors in your industry have, makes it impossible for you to successfully operate.
Innovations and emerging technologies are truly transforming the insurance industry – the biggest challenge being separating the limited fads from the everlasting game changers.
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WeThinkCode, a revolutionary tech-based learning institution that offers free education to the software industry, is excited to announce the official opening of its new Cape Town campus in January 2018.
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The developer’s view.
As co-organiser of the Jozi Amazon Web Services (AWS) user group and avid cloud advocate, Rory Preddy has a keen interest in AWS and surrounding technologies. Couple this with his status as a technology specialist in the BBD research and development team, and you have someone uniquely positioned to talk about the Amazon Echo Dot.
“I want her.” Needless to say, he is a fan.
The second-generation Amazon Echo Dot is a petite and powerful voice-controlled consumer device, with an intelligent personal assistant service known as Alexa. You can use Alexa to play music, entertain the kids with interactive games, read your books aloud and even control your smart home appliances.
For Preddy, the most immediate stand out with Alexa was the microphone. “I would use her because of the seven-microphone array, it’s incredibly sensitive and smart. Alexa triangulates the room and works out where your voice is coming from. With that information, she can then ignore any interference.”
As South Africans, we’re used to voice technologies not recognising our accents, but the Amazon Echo Dot had no problem understanding any of the curveballs I threw at it. This accuracy of the technology is what helps create a better overall user experience. Preddy reasons that “Amazon clearly spent lots of money getting this right and it was worth every cent”.
Unlike Cortana, Siri and Google’s Home Assistant, Alexa allows you to develop any skill you’d like and this makes it “really awesome” from a developer’s point of view. Skills are essentially voice-activated apps that you enable on your Alexa account. There are currently over 20 000 available skills and more being developed and released every week. This enables developers to customise their Alexa and bring life to coding in the cloud.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Preddy though. The Amazon Echo Dot is currently only sold in the USA, UK and Germany - with a beta version being tested in India and Japan. Due to this, the app that runs your Amazon Echo Dot is only available in those countries. Not being able to change the location from the United States made this a bit more challenging. Furthermore, to develop skills you need to use three accounts: an AWS account, an Amazon account and an Amazon developer’s account. Some of these issues will be negated when the Amazon Echo Dot and app are sold in South Africa.
The Amazon Echo Dot is technically an IoT Edge device and has a small central processor. This means it can do basic operations itself and only has to connect home when necessary. This decentralised computing infrastructure means that data, computing and skills are distributed in the most logical place between the data source and the cloud.
Slowly but surely, Preddy believes that services which integrate into Edge devices are part of the future where, for example, you will be able to easily transact and communicate with your banking app using only your voice.
Preddy summarises the Echo Dot as “an intuitive and insightful edge gadget, with a boatload of power and capabilities that supports an attractive and adaptable tool”.
Transparent fee structures are the way forward, and little by little South African financial service providers (FSPs) are moving in that direction.
BBD business analyst Ian Maas explains, “Simply put, transparency amounts to clarity around investors knowing how much they’re paying, what they’re paying for and what the impact will be on their returns. It’s clean, understandable pricing.”
Although South Africa still lags the rest of the world, transparency is being supported by the industry, who are promoting trust between the financial services industry and retail investors. A key factor in the 2008 financial crisis was people not understanding the risks of their investments. Transparency tackles this as it enables investors to understand the products\instruments and assets they’re investing in, the risks involved and the effect fees have on their investment returns.
According to Maas, despite the overall consolidation in fee structures, a big reason FSPs are avoiding being too transparent is because it costs money to implement and often full disclosure is not required by regulation. BBD believes that not only do FSPs need to disclose costs transparently and correctly, they must accurately calculate these costs. That’s the development effort and it’s not easy to do.
“The biggest problem is the lack of understanding on the investors’ behalf. Even with long-term insurance and investment products often being sold together, there are discrepancies in the investors’ knowledge. Investment products are generally quite well understood, but there is a lack of knowledge around the underlying instruments and the actual cost of the total investment. While investors are comfortable with long-term insurance products, the terminology used to present the fees is not that well understood. It’s a conundrum that transparent fee structures can solve.”
BBD’s financial services industry experience incorporates insurance, investment and banking. Due to this combined knowledge of the industry, BBD has in-depth experience in understanding domains and either integrating solutions into the client’s systems or creating new systems.
In this highly-regulated sector, Maas says the requirements for financial stability are crucial and need to be implemented. BBD’s best value offering lies in knowing how to unpack what is required, with the right skills to develop and maintain a solution that facilitates the necessary regulations.
One has to wonder if Satoshi Nakamoto ever thought this would happen back in 2008 when he invented the cryptocurrency as a “peer-to-peer electronic cash system”.
A Bitcoin clone, Bitcoin Cash, recently came into being when the coders and miners behind the decentralised cryptocurrency couldn’t agree and split into Bitcoin Cash. Within 24 hours of trading opening, Bitcoin Cash was valued at more than $24 billion.
BBD executive Peter Scheffel explains, “In case you’re confused about what exactly a cryptocurrency is, think of it as digital cash. No government, company or single entity administers cryptocurrencies. Transactions are kept secure through cryptography, allowing for individuals to send anonymous peer-to-peer transactions. Blockchain technology enables shared record-keeping and processing, to ensure no digital money can be copied or spent more than once. Essentially a person can purchase products directly from a merchant without an intermediary such as a bank or financial institution.”
Bitcoin makes use of a form of mathematics that involves cracking codes. These codes are designed in such a way that they become significantly harder to crack over time and therefore require more computing time to crack. This is called mining. The total number of Bitcoins that can ever be mined is limited to 21 million and already two thirds have been mined.
As Bitcoin has become more popular, so the transaction processing speeds have slowed. This inability to scale or cope with high volume transactions (the Bitcoin network processes at seven transactions per second) was another reason for the establishment of Bitcoin Cash. Despite priding themselves on being decentralised, recent developments have shown that the cryptocurrency does in fact have central controllers - the coders and miners. The coders behind Bitcoin Cash believe that an 8Meg block size will allow for faster transactions and divert trade back to a point-to-point transaction, independent of intermediaries.
“Many people who have purchased their Bitcoins through exchanges, have also chosen to keep their Bitcoins with a third party such as an e-wallet or exchange, much like a traditional bank. Keeping your Bitcoins in one of these means that they have none of the protection of the underlying cryptocurrency. It also means that these users are at the mercy of their exchange or wallet provider. Only some wallet and exchange providers are catering for Bitcoin Cash.”
B2B Bitcoin payments are on the rise and since BBD is already involved in developing integrated payment solutions, we believe in a future where cryptocurrencies and cryptopayments are commonplace. We also see blockchains having many interesting applications for our clients in both the government and finance sectors for the likes of property management and verification purposes.
It’s early days yet, but remember that cryptocurrencies are a bet, not an investment.
Initial coin offerings (ICOs), also referred to as token sales, have become the latest fintech trend gaining popularity in the cryptocurrency environment. But what are they? Simply put, ICOs are used to raise investments for a particular project. But instead of traditional equity, investors receive electronic tokens for their investments, confirming their stake in the project.
Unlocking possibilities to build a functional society was the theme at this year’s GovTech event and with the spotlight on public service delivery growing ever brighter, new sustainable models need to be explored to enhance current service delivery.
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We recently joined the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Partner Network (APN), achieving APN Standard Consulting Partner status.
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With data breaches and hacks becoming more prevalent, protecting your client’s through stringent cybersecurity should be a top priority for your organisation.
South African educators are using data analysis to translate learners’ data into clear and actionable insights.
Working in ICT is very exciting and BBD is the top software development company in South Africa to kick start your career.
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Find out why several real concerns need to be dealt with before the blockchain technology can be ready for generic financial use.
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DevOps has the potential to save money, improve efficiencies and help the business recognise revenue sooner.
BBD’s success in the automated testing space at Vodacom is a point of pride, as a system was implemented to bring reporting time down from five days to a few hours.
BBD has been moving Vodacom’s testing from manual to automated, with BBD test lead Prasad Bhogi leading the team. Using his automation experience, Prasad saw the opportunity to make a truly effective change for Vodacom, by radically cutting down on reporting time.
This was a new service that BBD was providing, with the team involved starting off a zero-base and having to understand the necessary requirements as they emerged, and the business behind what they were implementing. It was a complicated cycle of acquiring the knowledge and then implementing it.
In terms of developing a working automation system, Prasad explains that the first step was to not only understand the product and the product language, but also what level of testing was required by the client. As BBD had to build a framework from scratch, the team had to understand how the solution could be tested based on the tool they wanted to use. Once this initial hybrid framework was in place, the Vodacom team could then add in their requirements and the test team could accommodate these through a new Page Object Model (POM) framework. This process - of having to develop, receive requirements and implement - was one of Prasad’s main hurdles throughout the process, but one they more than overcame. Prasad also pointed out that despite the learning process being undertaken by both BBD and Vodacom, they maintained an excellent working relationships, so much so that Vodacom has requested the team work on other new projects now that the testing is stable.
Carla Vermeulen, a BBD tester who worked on Vodacom in the early phase, explains that “the reason automation was especially successful for Vodacom was because of the site stability”. Automation allows for increased work speed, faster defect finding, regression prevention and the ability to free up team resources. BBD is excited at the possibility to roll automation out to other clients, and are proud of the Vodacom team’s triumph with automation.
As to why he chose automation, Prasad explained that he is a person who likes deep dive into solutions and find the loopholes, solutions and gaps. “Automation is the right carrier for me because it allows me the opportunity to improve myself and what I’ve done. It keeps me interested”. Prasad is continuing his career in testing as he has the opportunity to continually grow and improve, with BBD providing the support by giving him the time and space to build his carrier and showcase his abilities.
The updated codes for the B-BBEE IT Charter were released in November 2016 and South African IT companies have had their work cut out for them to maintain their level of broad-based black economic empowerment (B-BBEE) compliance.
Cloud computing is transforming the way companies interact with their customers, with 93% of South African companies currently either implementing or planning the initialphase of their cloud strategy
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Recently BBD ranked number one in My Broadband’s 2017 Salary Survey for the IT sector, indicating a high employee happiness rating. Over 3 000 South African IT professionals were surveyed.
BBD Group today announced it has acquired a 26% stake in Fusion Software, a South African company providing integrated software solutions and business management tools.
A war is being fought in the hearts and minds of web developers over the next-generation single page application (SPA) frameworks. This conflict is less one of feature set and more of style and aesthetic. There are numerous minor players in this conflict, but two real contenders have stepped to the fore and they are two of the biggest on the web – Google and Facebook.
Google was ostensibly first in this space, with their wildly popular AngularJS framework. Thinking that they would consolidate their influence, they’ve spent the last three years crafting a true next-generation framework in Angular 2. It would leverage off modern component based design to improve their architecture, use TypeScript for tooling and future-proofing, provide the ability to run outside of a browser process and ahead-of-time compilation foremost among many features. While it was a significant departure from the style of Angular 1, they took their time to craft a truly impressive framework.
Three years is a lifetime on the web and Facebook prescribes to a different school of thought. React had already been released by the time Google announced the rewrite, but it was a really good component-based UI framework – in no way as feature rich as angular. Then came flux as a pattern, redux as a framework, babel for transpiling, react-native, relay and flow for type checking. The procession of complementary technologies continues at an implacable pace. React is still just a UI framework, but is surrounded by such a wealth of supporting libraries that make it more than just another contender.
This war is far from over and knowing the way-of-the-web, there will likely be more contenders rising to the top soon. In our context, the recommended choice is between these two best-of-breed frameworks. They’re both similar in their breadth of functionality and learning curve, but very different in their aesthetics and style. The key takeaway is likely that Angular 2 supports a more object-oriented style whereas react encourages a more functional approach.
With the imminent release of Angular 2 and the recent announcements from ng-conf 2016, the World Wide Web is abuzz with news regarding the next big thing. While scepticism was reserved for their initial communication about Angular 2, the team at Google has managed to dispel even the hardest cynic’s concerns. Most of the initial dialog about Angular 2 has revolved around its relationship with TypeScript, and its drastic departure from the Model-View-Controller metaphor, but there is so much more to the reinvented framework than that.
However, only a part of the tooling question is addressed by TypeScript and the Angular 2 team has not been remiss in trying to address the full developer experience. Much effort is being invested in scaffolding and build tooling in the form of the new Angular 2 command line interface. While still in active development, it aims to simplify the access to features currently offered by a variety of disparate tools – such as Grunt, Gulp, and Yeoman. The real value, however, comes in the form of the debugger tool; Augury. Developed by the team that built Batarangle and Angular 1.x visualizer, Augury is a Chrome plugin that provides deep visualisation of component tree, dependency graph, router configuration, scope variables and much more.
One of the biggest criticisms that the team has had to confront is the performance. Angular 1.x is slow, very slow. An acute awareness of performance is at the heart of Angular 2 and it has necessitated a fundamental redesign of their change detection model. The Angular team embraced a flux-like unidirectional propagation of data by separating the event and property binding into 2 separate flows. This means that the propagation of changes through the component hierarchy is much more controlled, isolated and any changes in any component scope won’t result in a full digesting of the page – an unintended side effect of some prevalent patterns in Angular 1.x. All told, the Angular team is reporting a fivefold improvement in rendering performance over Angular 1.x, as well as a reduction in framework payload size from 56kb down to 45kb. Many more features, executing faster with a smaller footprint.
While the performance is greatly improved, it still has the fundamental problem of any single page application (SPA), the time of the initial page impression is awful. Research from Google AdSense indicates that on the open web, a difference of 200ms on a page load can fundamentally alter the user’s perception of and interaction with an entire site. To address this the Angular team has created an isomorphic renderer for Angular 2, allowing it to render Angular templates independently of the browser – on the server. This allows for static html files to be generated at build time and deployed in conjunction with your application, quickly served as a first impression to the browser, while downloading the full application in the background. Angular 2 then has a preboot function that records user interactions, and ‘replays’ the sequence of events internally once the application has fully loaded. While this whole process should ideally all be sub second, leaving the user with the perception of amazing performance.
What does Angular 2 mean for BBD?
• Component based design means that the solutions will scale better with complexity• Great performance means that the framework can scale up to any of our solutions, with fewer performance pitfalls.• TypeScript means that it will be easier for developers with C# and Java skill to bridge the gap to the front end.• TypeScript will allow our applications to be future-proofed to a far greater degree than they are at the moment.• Better tooling means it’s easier and faster to find and fix bugs• Cross platform development with a high degree of code reuse, and without needing a new skill set, all while still running natively• It’s in release candidate at the moment, we should be able to start using it in production later this year.
There is a new language on the block. It’s from one of the most prolific language gurus of our time, Anders Hejlsberg. Yes, the list of languages that many of us have used were created by him, it’s really impressive. Anders is a Danish Computer Software Engineer who started his career by creating a Pascal compiler that eventually became Turbo Pascal. He later joined Borland and was the Chief Architect of the team that developed Delphi. When Borland started to falter he joined Microsoft.
This was at a critical juncture in the history of computer languages. Java was created by James Gosling in 1994. In the late 1990’s, Microsoft wanted to evolve the Java language and after being blocked to influence the language, chose to go their own separate way with C#. This lead to years of comparisons and competition between two fundamentally similar languages C# and Java.
It’s great to see what good solutions are built when giants collaborate rather than compete. What are you waiting for? Go try out the tutorial on Angular 2.0 and learn some TypeScript for yourself.
BBD and Sphere Holdings (Sphere) are today delighted to announce Sphere’s acquisition of an additional 14.2% of BBD, a 32yr old R500 million a year custom software developer. The cash deal sees Sphere’s ownership stake rise to 49.9% which, together with 1.1% held by Student Sponsorship Programme (SSP), a respected education charity, makes BBD 51% black-owned.
Employing over 550 software developers, BBD is South Africa’s oldest and largest independent custom software development company, servicing the financial services, telecommunications and allied industries, and the public sector. BBD’s founders and management retain 49% ownership and will continue in their current management roles providing continuity of leadership, technical skills, client relationships and strategic execution.
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This idea matured, grew some animated characters and ended up in my lap about one year ago. It was at this point that my team and I feverishly started this chaotic journey to deliver the Kids Banking application in record time. Needless to say the timelines never worked out, but what we have after a year is something to be very proud of. “A career highlight” as some people in my team have put it and it’s extremely satisfying for me to have lead one of the most strategic projects in the bank.
The app, which is available for Android, smartphones and tablets as well as Apple’s iPhone and iPad, is meant to help parents educate their children about earning, saving and spending money. An example of this is the Leopard character which encourages kids to complete “missions” or chores assigned by parents, such as tidying their rooms or watering the plants in order to earn money. Parents can teach children to earn money by paying money into the app when allocated tasks are completed.
From a marketing perspective, it’s all about brand affinity from a young age, which will be a massive win for them if Standard Bank is known as an organization that is able to provide value to this banking segment.
Thank you to all the BBD staff that were in my team to help me on this incredible journey to deliver a first of its kind app in SA
BBD represented by Anneke, Refilwe, Dobson and Tiaan participated in the hard preparatory work as well as delivery of the 2016 Local Government Elections (LGE). We are proud of the role we played working with the IEC (Independent Electoral Commission) and our key strategic partner PwC (PriceWaterhouse Coopers).
Anneke and Tiaan were part of the team that was responsible for delivering the Online Candidate Nomination System. This was the first time an online system was used by political parties to nominate and submit their candidates to the IEC. Their roles also included delivering system training to IEC provincial officers in the Free State, Western Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Limpopo and Gauteng. Anneke was assigned to the National Elections Results Operations Centre to provide assistance to the IEC staff and political parties, whilst Tiaan provided technical support to the Gauteng Provincial Elections Results Centre during voting and counting of votes.
Refilwe was part of the team that was responsible for enhancing the Results System and later assigned to provide technical support to the Limpopo Provincial Elections Results Centre during voting and counting of votes. The Results System is used for results capturing, results auditing, seat calculation and allocation, reporting and publishing of results as they are counted until completion.
Dobson, part of the mobile application team, was responsible for revamping the IEC Mobile App. The mobile application provides interactive functionality and information relating to where a voter is registered, names of councillors contesting elections in a particular ward as well as results per ward, municipality and province. He was given the responsibility to work on the Dashboard Results System used to show results and seat allocation at Elections Results Centres across 9 provinces. Dobson was also assigned to provide technical support to the North West Provincial Elections Results Centre.
Both Sphere and BBD representatives visited the National Elections Results Centre during vote counting to show their support to the IEC.
On the 23rd of September 2016 BBD Celebrates a Colouful Heritage Day.
BBD has embarked on a programme to more formally introduce Scrum into BBD. Scrum is one of the cornerstones of Agile Software Development. This year ATC have formally run the Scrum Master and Product Owner Certification Training Courses and attendance has been good. Numerous BBD staff members have their Scrum qualifications now and well done to those. The feedback we have received is positive, but there are some questions about the adoption of Scrum within BBD such as:
Is BBD now saying that we should do Scrum; how will Scrum work for my project?Is BBD Agile when we don’t use Scrum?
This article aims to answer some of these questions, but let’s start with a couple of statements:
BBD as a business, and its teams, are generally very agile and we have been using various agile principles to a greater or lesser extent since BBD started, even before the term was coined. Your team does not automatically become Agile just because you use Scrum.
In order to explain we need to first understand what Agile actually is. In contrast to popular belief, Agile is not a methodology, framework or even toolset. In fact, Agility is defined as the ability to change direction whilst moving at speed. Agile is a mind-set entrenched in a set of values motivated by people, communication, quality and change. There is value in periodically revisiting the Agile Manifesto (http://www.agilemanifesto.org/) to re-affirm these values. Understanding that the values and associated principles are not rules, but really good guidelines based on practical experiences that are proven to work, and should be treated as such.
There have been many frameworks invented that define a set of processes that teams can follow, that fall under the agile umbrella. These include frameworks such as eXtreme Programming (XP), Kanban, the Dynamic Systems Development Method (DSDM), Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD), and the list goes on… but it’s the essence of Agile that’s more important than the frameworks or processes being followed.
At BBD we pride ourselves on getting complex software development projects done, and have a great track record of doing this. However, we don’t enforce a single software development method. There are a few frameworks we use, but these are not enforced, we don’t use specific processes, and each unit runs autonomously with very little central control or standardisation.
Given that there is no template for success how do we continue to deliver complex software projects? Popular belief is that the magic ingredient is the people that work at BBD, and this is very true, but what do we look for in our people and what do they value in software development projects? If we dig a little deeper into the Agile Principles, we start to see an alignment with the BBD principles and behaviours. Agile Manifesto has 12 Principles (www.agilemanifesto.org/principles.html) and we have commented on them from a BBD perspective:
Principle 1: Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software. At BBD, we are not just coders, we are software engineers that understand the business value of the software we develop, and strive to get it into the client’s production environment as quickly as possible.
Principle 2: We welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.At BBD, we are not slaves to the requirements, but we also understand that requirements should not be ignored. As we understand the solution and the business, we can often change direction quickly and suggest improvements.
Principle 3: We deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.At BBD, working software is what drives us, we aim to demo working software as early as possible to our clients and get feedback.
Principle 4: Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.At BBD, we would like the business person on the project, or even better the actual client. Often we are based on our clients’ site or them on ours. If you are not in touch with the business you’re in trouble!
Principle 5: Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.At BBD we start with the people as being the best, then add in the hardware and software needed, and a great environment. We give our teams the autonomy to get the job done, how they see fit, there is no one BBD way.
Principle 6: The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.At BBD, we encourage whiteboard sessions and design meetings, we have an open plan office, and encourage teams to talk shop over great coffee!
Principle 7: Working software is the primary measure of progress.At BBD, this is what we do best, we deliver… but this does not mean you can skip documentation, status reports and even timesheets…:)
Principle 8: Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.At BBD, we work hard, and play harder and look after our staff. Maintaining a sustainable pace is difficult, especially when you near the deadline!
Principle 9: Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.At BBD, you need to keep yourself updated on technology changes, and keep your skills honed, but this doesn’t mean you need to change languages/IDEs every two weeks to be a good developer, or to prove that you are on the cutting edge of technology.
Principle 10: Simplicity - the art of maximizing the amount of work not done, is essential.At BBD, this means write less code, write less specifications and focus on producing what is needed (the essence). It doesn’t mean import every framework you have ever heard of into your project.
Principle 11: The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.At BBD, we give units the space to self-organise, it’s the way the company is designed (look up holonic organisational structure).
Principle 12: At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly.At BBD, your team should continuously strive to improve the way they work. Everyone is expected to understand and question the status quo within units.
Teams at BBD relate to these principles, thus the answer to the question “Is BBD Agile?” is YES – right to the core. Does BBD follow specific agile methodologies like Scrum? Sometimes, but it depends on the particular team and client requirements, and when the team thinks and agrees that it will make sense. So, after checking how we align with the Agile Manifesto, it is clear that we don’t have to be a slave to process and practices like Scrum to be Agile, but learning these practices is likely to be helpful, and is another tool in our ever expanding toolbox of ways to build great software.
AS MOBILE computing continues its rapid growth in both the consumer and enterprise environments, software developers are faced with a new challenge. Not only do they need to cater for new platforms for their applications, but also a new concept in design. In the past, engineers would develop software based on the technicalities involved in the back end; the users had little choice in the interface used. Now the interface is fundamental to the mobile software development process.
Users demand an engaging consumer interface for mobile devices that meets their needs and expectations, not what the engineers decide to provide. This is forcing the development industry to tackle an element of design it has never had to deal with before.
Software is no longer simply an engineering project. The look and feel as well as the functionality of the interface is as important as the back end. To capture users’ interest in the final product, the interface must be designed to provide a "sticky" experience. Today’s interface has to "dazzle" from the moment the application starts.
An example of this can be seen in the difference between the interface design of the two most popular mobile interfaces: Apple’s iPad and Google’s Android operating systems. In articles published by Business Insider and Mashable, the authors show Apple’s design is more popular because its focus is on the user’s experience, not technology. The user experience is critical to Apple, while technology and what the data says is important to Google. That is not to say that the technology underpinning either of the systems is better or worse, but users have given usability the thumbs up and this is why Apple seems to command their hearts and minds. While BBD has a long history of developing applications for the enterprise market, to cater for the mobile space, we have retained the services of a dedicated design company tasked with crafting the interface into something users will identify with. Of course, while the interface is paramount, the development standards focusing on security and integrity of the system and data can’t be forgotten.
Two examples of modern design come from Apple and Microsoft. Apple’s mobile design is based on an immersive concept, in which the interface is easy to use because it reflects what users are already used to doing. Microsoft uses a modernist tile system in its new Metro interface. The idea is to keep the process of using the system clear and concise. The ideal interface will allow the user to navigate through the application almost without thinking because it looks and feels like any other application. The challenge is that it is not possible to develop one interface for all mobile devices as one does for a PC, but to optimise the application to bring out the important aspects of each platform. There is no one operating-system winner in the mobile platform space, so we expect this to be a challenge for quite some time.
The simple fact of mobile applications is that "good enough" doesn’t cut it. Applications need to be designed for the platform they are running on as well as to meet the users’ expectations.
Scheffel is chief technology officer at BBD, a software development company.
Over the past year and a half we have held a Recipe Race Competition, and from that with a whole lot of creative thinking, hard work and fun, I am pleased to announce BBD’s most recent book, our very own Chef de Cuisine.
The book is not only full of your favourite home-spun starter, main & dessert family recipes but also tells a story. 30 years ago BBD was founded by Ralf, Tom and Sandra and our new book starts with a recipe from the last serving BBD founder, our Chairman Ralf Dominick and finishes with recipes from the current Executive Directors. As in BBD’s 30 year history, our book is filled with BBD people and their recipes and photo’s. It was fun to see cooking from an intricate recipe as an analogy for software development. I’m pretty sure our developers will say they never receive such clear specifications when they are asked to cook up some code, and our BA’s will disagree with the PM’s, understanding that both have a role to play in that best recipe of all…all of the people in BBD.
Thank you to all of you who work so hard every day to keep BBD cooking and to all of you who contributed to the book and of course the team who put it together.
Please enjoy your recipe book with the same passion you show for BBD every day!
In 2012 we started a Recipe Race competition, which encouraged all our staff to submit their favourite home-spun starter, main & dessert family recipes. The competition was a lot of fun and many great prizes were given away to the winners of each course category.
The idea to produce the Chef de Cuisine recipe book came about through the similarities found in the principles applied to software development & cooking intricate recipes. Together we will discover the art of good cooking…good coding!
Thank you to everyone for all your hard work, we really hope you love your recipe book & use it with the passion you show BBD every day!!
Software development company BBD recently hosted an International Institute of Business Analysis (IIBA) event in Cape Town. The event was fully subscribed and attended by analysts from various companies and vertical markets.
The IIBA is an independent, non-profit organisation serving professional business analysts worldwide. It promotes the profession of business analysis and supports its analyst members in their daily work.
The topic for the evening was What Should be in a Business Analysis Toolkit. Says William September, executive and business systems analyst at BBD, “A topic of this nature always elicits healthy debates and the participants shared their views and experiences in a group setting. The fact that analysts and project managers from various industries and sectors attended added richness and variety to the opinions expressed.”
The attendees agreed there was no right or wrong toolbox for business analysts. The tools required depend on the business as well as the vertical market you’re serving. In general, however, all attendees said an analyst will always need a flowchart or diagramming tool, a note-taking app like OneNote, as well as mind mapping and wire framing software.
“The most significant outcome of the evening was that everyone agreed that soft skills were far more important that the particular software or hardware you had in your toolbox,” adds September. “We all agreed that the most important attributes of an analyst are communication and diplomacy, as well as the ability to be a facilitator and negotiator. And of course, we all need the ability to think analytically.”
One question that created some debate was whether domain knowledge was a necessity, or whether analysts with the prerequisite attributes could learn “on the job”. September says there were good opinions offered on both sides of the argument with no final consensus.
“Supporting associations like the IIBA is part of BBD’s effort to get South Africa’s business analyst community talking and sharing ideas, with the goal of improving the industry as a whole,” says September. “It’s by sharing knowledge and best practices that we all improve, and by implication, are able to deliver a better service our companies and customers.”
With all the talk about Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), I decided to experiment with the realities of using your own mobile device for work. I’m not talking about my own smartphone or iPad, these devices are capable of doing some work in the corporate environment, but lack the true abilities a full operating system has to execute productive work.
For my BYOD I purchased a Samsung ATIV Windows 8 tablet. My intention was to use this device purely for personal use. However, I quickly realised that by being able to load a full version of Microsoft Outlook onto the tablet made it a totally different experience to an iPad or Android tablet from a corporate work perspective.
No more having to wonder if the spreadsheet you looking at has changed the currencies of a quote you are trying to approve. Word documents can be easily opened and updated. Dropbox files are all on the device without needing any connectivity. The obvious next step was to start using this device for my day-to-day work.
This is where the first issue appeared. I tried connecting to the wireless network at the office and was unable to. It took a full day of a facilities staff member trying to configure my device to finally resolve this issue. BYOD therefore impacted the facilities costs of the company unfavourably.
From there on in all was good. Microsoft continued to improve the Touch Mail client so that it became a real contender as my primary mail interface. All was good until two months ago when the touch function stopped working. There was no support available from the company. It was, after all, not a company machine. I had to find time to return it to the store so that it could be repaired.
This was where the next problem occurred. Since this is a consumer device, the warranty says that it will be repaired in 21 days. This is really where the BYOD approach falls flat. And it gets worse.
After spending a month without the device, I received a phone call that the parts still needed to be ordered and it would take even longer. I realised this was in contravention of the warranty, so the device was replaced. Happy days were ahead. After installing plenty of software and spending days getting the preview release of Windows 8.1 installed on the machine, it was finally going to be ready to start “work” again.
Once again, the device could not connect to the wireless network. This time it didn’t take long for facilities to resolve the issue. That evening I spent more time getting the device ready to be productive at work, and the touch stopped working, again. After a couple of hours on the Internet I found this to be an issue with these devices. The following weekend I returned the device and received a full financial refund, but I will never get the hours invested in it back.
So if you want to BYOD, make sure your device has a same-day or next-day warranty in place. Apple and other tablet devices are also consumer devices and hence their warranties will also only repair the device (slowly) should it break.
If you want to depend on consumer devices for corporate work, best you own a backup device in case of failure. I think that for now I’ll continue using my company machine that is supported by our facilities department and gets priority service from the vendor.
Mobile applications have become quite the fashion statement, with companies and individuals the world over spending time and money developing solutions for every conceivable problem. Even larger corporates and governments have been getting in on the act in the hopes of increased productivity, revenue, efficiency, improved customer service and other presumed benefits of mobile apps.
A problem is that very few businesses do the necessary research to determine whether the apps they think will deliver the goods will actually produce any real business value. Richard Kantor, executive at software development company bbd, says the tide is turning and more CIOs and CFOs are asking what the business return is when considering the development of new apps. “There are two aspects to determining whether an app delivers value,” Kantor says.
“The first is the true return on investment (ROI), as measured in increased revenue or reduced costs. The second is the non-financial returns a company can gain. These can be measured in terms of brand value, maintaining a strong market position in relation to its competitors and so forth.
“Gartner recommends ignoring the hype about apps and focusing on gaining value from your mobile development investment in terms of a combination of these two points, which it terms value of investment (VOI).”
While there will still be tremendous activity in the mobile development space, not all of it will result in measurable returns. However, Kantor believes there is another reason CIOs and decision makers invest in apps. Many view their initial app development as a learning and RandD process to understand the intricacies of mobile development, user interfaces and customer adoption. “However, the point is fast approaching where senior executives will ask what value these apps really provide the company before allocating more budget to development,” Kantor adds. That is not to say all mobile development has been experimental or a failure. Kantor points out that there have been many successes both locally and internationally.
FNB’s mobile app was a significant local milestone in the financial market and has seen tremendous success since its launch. The combination of a well-written app with the support of a well-designed advertising campaign proved to be a winner for the company.
Of course there are older apps that have been used for ages on almost all GSM feature-phones, although they are not apps in the present sense of the word. These are the USSD or SMS apps used successfully in areas such as selling cellular services, data and air time and even mobile banking. Kantor says the key for any app success is to deliver an integrated service.
Users need a combination of a well-written app and a marketing campaign aimed at the customer segment they want to attract. Nevertheless, the rise in app development and the hype surrounding mobile and its importance to business is clear, Gartner expects to see a 4:1 ratio of applications written by the business market for mobile devices versus traditional personal computers for the next three years. Kantor adds that devising ways to measure an apps’ success is also crucial. This is important both from external value perspective, as well as through in-app metrics which are used to ascertain how the users use it as well as which parts of the application are most popular.
“Mobile services and apps are here to stay, but these applications will not add to the bottom line if companies do not do the prerequisite work to ensure their apps deliver value and are launched with a well thought-out marketing plan,” says Kantor.
“BBD advises that for strategic mobile projects, clients evaluate and find proven cases where mobile apps will deliver measurable value and develop their systems accordingly, instead of responding to the hype and creating mobile apps for the sake of developing mobile apps.
“For new entrants into the mobile application space, tactical projects which help organisations to gain a good understanding of the technical intricacies of mobile development and customer demand are a worthwhile investment on an ad hoc basis.”
A generation, that varies by region and social and economic conditions, is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies. Millennial’s are all about taking themselves to the next level, with new learning opportunities and the ability to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Finally we have produced the ideal generation – they are open to change and connected with the planet, their parents, their peers and their feelings.
There are about 80 million of them, born between 1980 and 1995, and they're rapidly taking over from the baby boomers that are now pushing 60. BBD continuously attempts to capture the imagination of these Millennials as they bring a world of new possibilities and could change the world or at least the way things are done in their workplace - using technology. This generation are online natives, their world has always had the internet, cell phones, and now social media allows them to communicate instantaneously. The impact these young people have on technology is constantly improving and changing the ways businesses function today.
The significance of the Millennial generation was underlined by the results of the fifth annual ICT Skills Survey compiled by the Johannesburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE) in partnership with ITWeb, and they recognised that when a company is lucky enough to attract any of the qualified bright young minds, it makes sense to hang on to them, by understanding how to manage them.
To stay in the game, businesses can embrace the change and manage Millennials in the following ways:
Listen to Millennials and respect their ideas. They are dependent on their parents for personal and career advice and used to having loving parents who schedule their lives around the activities of their children. These young adults have ideas and opinions, and don't take kindly to having their thoughts ignored.
Millennial employees are up for a challenge and change. Boring is bad. They seek ever-changing tasks within their work. Don’t bore them, ignore them, or trivialize their contribution.
Millennial employees are multi-taskers on a scale you’ve never seen before. Multiple tasks don’t phase them. Talking on the phone, while email and answering multiple instant messages – yes! So take advantage of their computer, cell phone, and electronic literacy. The electronic capabilities of these employees are amazing.
Millennials want to endorse and be endorsed, they need constant feedback and in particular, praise. They actively seek guidance and structure from their mentors, therefore be a firm and fair leader, creating boundaries that help them map out their career paths.
The IT Industry is traditionally poor at providing a life-work balanced workplace. Millennials work hard, but they are not always happy with sixty hour work weeks. Home, family, spending time with the children, are priorities, don’t lose sight of this.
Internet research counts 75,000,000 Millennials are preparing to join or joining the workforce. Millennials are ready to take on the world and companies must direct their enthusiasm and energy into projects that allow them to make a valuable contribution.
Although managing Millennials may be a challenge and risk adverse, they are still extremely desirable employees. Make your Millennial employees happy in a fun, yet structured setting, and you are building the foundation for the superior workforce you desire. You are developing the future of your workforce.
By Tarin Searle
Vodacom changed its colour to red recently. It was literally painted across South Africa and is regarded as South Africa’s biggest ever brand make-over.
The new branding saw Vodacom replacing its familiar blue and green colours with Vodafone’s red colouring, to essentially clone Vodafone’s global branding but keeping the Vodacom name.
The rebrand was more than marketing hype. The ability to implement the rebrand became mission critical to the company when Vodacom became the only Vodafone owned operator to be allowed to keep its name when rebranding to Vodafone. The problem in doing that was how to pull it off in two months!
Enter BBD and the competent and capable members of the VSP team. Under NDA and “top secret” authority the team set about a complete content change for Vodacom Business Self Help Portal, website, VodaManage and DealerWeb systems.
Successful delivery meant personal sacrifices in terms of huge overtime spent, to the point where team members had to forfeit attending the BBD VSP Team building as well as weekend time with both family and friends.
But doing what it takes is what is done at BBD. The team not only turned the rebrand around in just two months but did so in budget. The switch from blue to red was seamless with systems up and running within 15 minutes of go live, switched over and bug free! The team very much deserved the personal thank you they received from the client for BBD’s contribution to a successful project.
By Robert MacLean
The Visual Studio Gallery provides quick access to tools, controls, and templates to help you get the most out of Visual Studio. Visual Studio 2010 Extension Manager is integrated with the Visual Studio Gallery. It brings the Visual Studio Gallery into Visual Studio IDE. There is no need to use the web browser for searching or to run the setup program. Within Visual Studio 2010, the Extension Manager is opened through Tools | Extension Manager menu.
When Extension Manager opens, it lists the extensions already installed. If updates for extensions are available, it lists those too. In the left pane, by clicking on the Online Gallery tab, you can browse and search for extensions in Visual Studio Gallery. When you select an extension, the related description is displayed in the right pane. Clicking on the download button, Extension Manager immediately starts downloading the selected extension.
There are quite a few extensions that are must-have for developers. On the Internet, people tell you their favorite extensions. Here is a list of my picks. You are encouraged to try them out. It is easy and you always can disable and uninstall them if you don’t like them.
Visual Studio Productivity Power Tool, a set of tools to improve productivity, such as solution navigator, Tab well UI, Searchable Add Reference Dialog, and etc
Snippet Designer, an extension that lets you create code snippet in Visual Studio
Spell Check, an extension that provides spell check in plain text files, comments, strings and HTML/ASP
Tangible T4 Editor, an extension that provides IntelliSense and syntax highlight for T4 templates
GhostDoc, an extension that generates XML document comments for C#
Feature Builder Power Tool, an extension that helps creating extensions