Archive for the ‘Consulting’ Category

Salt, Soldiers and Salary

July 29, 2014

What is the common thing in salt, salary and soldiers? All these words have the same root ‘sal’ in Latin. A probable link to Sanskrit word salila (सलिल – which flows, water) is the common root for this word.

Probably, the most ancient job that paid salary could be soilder. Ancient romans used to pay soldiers with bars of salt. (sal dire means to give salt = soldier) Also the salt bars could be exchanged with other commodities so it worked just like money (coins) due to its unavailability in the past.

Later we have a very established career option of salaried employees with a monthly pay period. I have took up such an employment with the first pay period falling on October 1993 and a payroll processed towards me for 250 months (July 2014 is 250th) in one company’s system or the other. A majority of those monthly salaries are from TCS.

TCS 164
Oracle 50
Total 250

Ideally, by savouring on the TATA salt provided by salary from TCS, one should always be worth the salt.

More than half a million employees are working under the industrial empire formed under the TATA group under the great leadership of visionaries like JRD Tata the founder of TCS which alone employes 3 lakhs globally.

A quote from JRD Tata – “Strive for perfection and you will reach excellence”

Remembering a great visionary on his 110th birth anniversary.

Data streams, lakes, oceans and “Finding Nemo” in them….

April 4, 2014

This weekend, I complete 3 years of TCS second innings. Most of the three years I have been working with large insurance providers trying to figure out the ways to add value with the technology to their operations and strategy.

The concurrent period has been a period of re-imagination. Companies and individuals (consumers / employees) slowly moving towards reimagining themselves in the wake of converging digital forces like cloud computing, analytics & big data, social networking and mobile computing.

Focus of my career in Information Technology has always been “Information” and not technology. I am a firm believer in “Information” led transformation rather than “technology” led transformation. The basis for information is data and the ability to process and interpret the data, making it applicable and relevant for the operational or strategic issues being addressed by the corporate business leaders.

Technologists are busy making claims that their own technology is best suited for the current data processing needs. Storage vendors are finding business in providing the storage in cloud. Mobility providers are betting big on wearable devices making computing more and more pervasive. The big industrial manufacturers are busy fusing sensors everywhere and connecting them on the internet following the trend set by the human social networking sites. A new breed of scientists calling themselves data scientists are inventing algorithms to quickly derive insights from the data that is being collected. Each one of them is pushing themselves to the front taking support of the others to market themselves.

In the rush, there is a distinctive trend in the business houses. The CTO projecting technology as a business growth driver and taking a dominant role is common. The data flows should be plumbed across the IT landscape across various technologies causing a lot of hurried and fast changing plumbing issues.

In my view the data flow should be natural just like streams of water. Information should be flowing naturally in the landscape and technology should be used to make the flow gentle avoiding the floods and tsunamis. Creating data pools in the cloud storage and connecting the pools to form a knowledge ecosystem grow the right insights relevant to the business context remains the big challenge today.

The information architecture in the big data and analytics arena is just like dealing with big rivers and having right reservoirs and connecting them to get best benefit in the landscape. And a CIO is still needed and responsible for this in the corporate.

If data becomes an ocean and insights become an effort like “Finding Nemo” the overall objective may be lost. Cautiously avoiding the data ocean let us keep the (big) data in its pools and lakes as usable information while reimagining data in the current world of re-imagination. This applies to both corporate business houses as well as individuals.

Hoping Innovative reimagination in the digital world helps improve the life in the ecosystems of the real world….

Where Art Thou Information? – Lost in Technology!

December 27, 2012

As another year of technology hype draws to a close, I wonder where the focus on the Information is. Information is the subject matter of “IT”, where the technology enables a proper capture, processing and presentation of the Information. Most of the focus is shifted to technology led transformation of businesses…..

Appification – a word coined to make an “App” (short for application!) that can be downloaded to perform a generic task on a mobile device.

Gamification – Again a word coined to create a simulated / augmented reality that “Engages” the user with the subject under consideration in a generic manner.

Cloudification – Deploying an elastic, self-provisioned, pay-per-use model of computing performing generic functions.

“Appliance”ification – pre-configured hardware + software bundles pushed in by the vendors to provide “optimized” & “efficient” solutions to problems following a generic pattern.

“Package”fication – deploying vendor provided generic package to provide predefined information flows by the vendor.

With all these “ifications” we have ended up with several suites of “products” that are branded as ERP, EIM, ECM, BPM etc., also we have “anything” as a service (saas, paas, iaas, dbaas, what not aaS!) providing everything on the move i.e, mobile.

So, what is the point I am trying to bring up? With all the possibilities of customization and promises of near zero time to market, and all the solutions around, we lost the focus on the “problem” that we are trying to solve!

If all these are solutions then what is the problem?

All the past year I have been working with the information management of the Insurance companies across the globe and interacting with the different levels employees representing the IT and business functions of those enterprises, the problems seems to lie in fundamental definitions of information flows. Legacy policy administration systems, multiple systems holding the data about quotations, pricing, products, policies & claims causing the “entropy” of not having the correct information to the different operational units within the business in the right time to make decisions seems to me the key problem.

As long as the real problem is not rightly understood with respect to the information flows between the organization units and within the operating environment, implementing newer technology solutions will not solve the problem.

I hope the new year 2013 gets the focus right on the problem of information and transforms the business based on facts i.e., what I call “Information led transformation” rather than the current trend of “technology led transformation”

Happy New Year 2013!!

Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense – A review

December 18, 2012

Being a technologist, I rarely read management books. Even when I start reading a management book, I hardly complete reading it as it makes little sense to me. Recently, I came across this book “Uncommon Sense, Common Nonsense: Why Some Organisations Consistently Outperform Others” ( ISBN:9781846686009) and read till the end. 
This is a book which I could make some sense of business strategy and providing a leadership vision to an organization.
The book has four key parts dealing with:
1.        Winners and losers
2.        Strategy and tactics
3.        Organisation and management
4.        Biases and remedies
The fifth part gives Application and Examples from the author’s work.

In essence, there is a lot of “Common Nonsense” (in the form of big-data in today’s world) which is visible to us as well as the competitors (Same with “Common Sense!”).  There is an amount of “uncommon nonsense” about our own organisation known to us alone and that of the competition which is only known to them. But the key thing differentiates is the “Uncommon Sense” that makes organizations constantly outperform. The strategy is about deliberating means of constantly deriving and applying the “uncommon sense”

So, “Without changing our patterns of thought, we will not be able to solve the problems we created with our current patterns of thought.” Albert Einstein’s wisdom comes to rescue.

Overall, this is a good read for all the strategists and leaders in my honest opinion.

Aphorisms on Information Technology & Systems

December 8, 2012

Today, coincidentally it is 8888 days from 8/8/88 (The day I started studying Information Technology) and 1000 weeks from 11-Oct-1993 (The day I started working!)

Aphorisms on Information Technology &  Systems from Prasad Chitta

Some theoritical fundamentals on Information Systems & Technology as I see….

100 th post on this blog……

Quality vs. Efficieny i.e, the efficiency trap

September 20, 2012

Efficiency improvements everywhere! people want to do more in less amount of time. to achieve that, people want technology. technologists are looking for more efficiency in the technology. In the pursuit of efficiency are we loosing quality of the products / services?

Recently there is a news about ISRO making plans to achieve 58 missions in next 5 years. The statistics state that ISRO completed first 50 missions in 20 years, next 50 in 10 years; Now the plan is to achieve next 58 in next 5 years. That means one space mission every month ( 58 is approximated to 60!) So, there is a need to execute projects more efficiently…

Generally all the businesses are in the race of Quarter on Quarter results… Each quarter the business houses wants to show better results; driving the efficiency up is one of the ways to achieve it.

Even with innovative stuff like iPhone5, it is 16% thinner and 20% lighter than its predicessor. And Apple says they have 2 million pre-orders for this phone!

Is there anything wrong with this approach? Do we need more and more efficiency and more and more projects completed in less amount of time? Of what if a phone has a slightly larger display and slightly thinner and lighter than what it was?

Seriously, the focus on the QUALITY research of what really needed to the people is clearly reducing due to the efficiency trap.

Out of 58 ISROs missions half of them would be adding more transponders and more DTH channels! With all the DTH services and channels, my children are still bored!

So, focus on quality of the products and services first. Pause, think and generate some ideas which will add value to the people then get back on to efficency that is what I think is needed at the moment.

Conclusion: Achieving a healthy balance between the Quality and Efficiency is the key for successful value generation to the client businesses.

Anyone listening?

Pensions Regulation in UK

December 30, 2011

As the year 2011 draws to a close, we are entering into a new year that is very important for UK workplace pensions. The new regulation around workplace pensions is coming into force in 2012.

Being purely technical for few years, I just want to test my skills around understanding regulatory documents and extract “Functional Information Needs” for a business.

A good review published in October 2010 can be accessed here:

Basically, all the employers in UK have to automatically enroll all the eligible workers falling in a AGE range and EARNINGS range to a suitable pension scheme. They also need to “certify” the selected pension scheme meets the required quality criteria. (Refer to section 6.5 of the review document above) The requirement is to have at least 8% of earnings are paid towards a pension fund.

Regulation defines “Qualifying Earnings” as gross earnings that include commissions, bonuses, overtime etc., but most of the employers have the pension contribution basis as the “Basic Pay” i.e a pensionable pay. So, employer has primarily following options to “Certify” the pension scheme and comply with it.

Pseudo logic in plain English
1. IF pension contribution basis IS qualifying earnings (within the band) THEN pay the contributions of 8% and no certification is required.
2. IF pension contribution basis IS pensionable pay THEN
2a. CASE pensionable pay is 100% of gross pay THEN pay contributions of 7%
2b. CASE pensionable pay is at least 85% of gross pay THEN pay contributions of 8%
2c. CASE pensionable pay is less than 85% of gross pay THEN pay contributions of 9%
AND self certify pension scheme for all the employees participating in the pension scheme.

So, core information needs to implement this regulation is employee payroll data that covers age, all components of qualifying earnings of all employees. A bit of intelligence is needed to “model” the best possible grouping of employees and assign them to a suitable pension scheme(s) with one (or more) of the pension providers in the market.

The overall goal for a techno-functional consultant like me is to optimize the value of new pension regulations for employees, employers, pension providers and IT consulting companies by optimizing the information flows across various stakeholders!!

Wishing everyone a great new year 2012. Let there be peace, security and prosperity be with one and all.

>SQL performance tuning

April 30, 2011

>Having seen several performance problems within IT systems, I have a methodology for performance tuning. When it comes to a SQL query tuning, it should be slightly different.

9 out of 10 cases of performance problems on relational database systems relate to a bad SQL programming. Even with the latest “optimizers” within the commercial database management core execution engines, it is the skill of the developer to make use of the facilities effectively to get the best out of the RDBMS.

I have recently came across a typical problem with a “junction table” design.
A set of tables represent USER and all are connected by a USERID
Another set of tables represent ACCOUNT and all are connected by ACCOUNTID

The software product implements the one to many relationship using a junction table called USER_ACCOUNTS which contains (USERID, ACCOUNTID) with the composite primary key USERID, ACCOUNTID.

Now there are 30K users 120K accounts and 120K USER_ACCOUNTS and a query that need to get data from USER tables involving some outer joins on itself and ACCOUNT tables which joins multiple tables to get various attributes; all these tables linked in a join using the junction table. That query runs for 18 hours.

When the query is split into two inline views with all the required filtering in each side of data access on USER and ACCOUNT individually and then joined using the junction table it completes in 43 seconds.

So, FILTER and then JOIN is better than JOIN and then FILTER in terms of resource consumption. Hence the performance tuning is all about doing the sequence of actions in the right order to minimize the consumption of resources to perform the job!

>Data Serialization, Process Parallization!

April 26, 2011

>There is a lot of buzz around: going away from traditional data processing i.e., a relational database and persistent data in relational form being processed by a set of processes that capture, process (validate, summarize, re-format etc.,) and present (display on multiple format displays over multiple channels in verbal and multimedia formats) that data.

But where are we going? Object orientation of encapsulating data with its own operations to make loosely coupled application services those can be orchestrated to form business services with in an enterprise…. Those enterprise business services further choreographed to form a business to business flows across common interfacing models…

The traditional computer architecture that has a Processor that can process the data which is stored in a distinct Memory of the computer. The processor and memory are two distinct components of the basic architecture of the modern computer. When an “object” needs to be stored or shared between two different applications one should “serialize” we have Hibernate and JSON etc., formats developed for this data serialization…

At the same time, there is a trend that takes over to process the data more and more in parallel streams in the shared nothing style clusters to break the typical task into smaller pieces and summarize the results in a hierarchical fashion to arrive at final result. This can happen when the data becomes more and more unstructured with the help of objects!

Overall the trend means we are slowly going away from structured data stores in traditional relational databases and going nearer to natural language, fault tolerant and predictive data capture and processing (e.g., you can type any spelling on Google and it will return results for the right word!) and more visual and multimedia presentation of the information (in mashups, maps) with bi-directional interaction (like social, I can “like”, “comment” etc on the presented data as feedback!)

That is just my view…. Businesses have to gear-up quickly to adapt to these trends!

Review of "Quality Reviews"

October 8, 2010

Review means a “critical inspection” of a product or a process by someone who was not involved in the creation or regular operation of it.

Review is considered to be one of the important methods of Quality Assurance (QA) of software systems.

Review in software product / development:
Now, let us take a “review” of the review process in software product.

1. A software deliverable is architected as per the business requirement. The software architecture is reviewed by a reviewer to assure that architecture meets the functional and non-functional (scalability/performance/interoperability etc.,) requirements of the business.

2. Software deliverable-s are designed as per the architecture. The design is reviewed by a reviewer again to assure the design meets the architecture.

3. The design is implemented into software program-s (code) and the code is reviewed with reference to the design.

4. Each unit of code is also tested by the developer or an independent tester to make sure code has met the design specifications!

5. All the different units of software are integrated to realize the overall architecture of the software product. The integrated product is tested for functional and non-functional requirements.

6. The product is released to the customer.

So, review is preventive measure of quality assurance that helps in avoiding injection of bugs where as testing is a reactive method of finding and fixing the bugs after the bugs are injected into the product.

Why software still have bugs?

In my opinion, the primary cause is lack of “self-review” of the work products delivered by the individuals. Each individual should be encouraged to develop a culture of reviewing the work-product (let it be the architecture, a design, a unit of code, a test spec, or anything else) before it goes out into the software development process chain. Once the organization is successful in this mechanism, the quality will automatically improve and the cost of QA will considerably reduce.

Note: QA managers need not worry… They still have their jobs safe!! Guess WHY?

Review in process outsourcing:
Looking from a different perspective of BPO or ITO scenarios, the quality of a process where development of a “deliverable unit” costs nearly same as the review of that unit, the review adds a 100% overhead and not a solution for the quality assurance. The philosophy should be driving the workforce to “Do it right first time”
within the execution of the process.

But, a Business Process Review and transformation to:
a. Identify possible scope of improvement
b. Evaluate the impact of change
c. implementing the proposed transformation in a smooth manner

will help the process to be more efficient with an improved productivity and customer satisfaction.

a better process –> a better quality product.

Hence one should “review” the process first to improve the process efficiency and then focus on “review” of individual products produced by the process for a better quality.

Software development is also a process! Increased focus on a review of a wrong thing will not result in the improved quality.