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Meet the 4 guardians of software development

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As a development project progresses, there is a dynamic where customer, technical teams, and quality assurance manager demands have to be balanced. It is a process of navigating these dynamics that determines the product’s success, writes GARETH HAWKEY, CEO of redPanda Software.

Speed, efficiency and constant disruption are what characterise and define today’s business environment. For those that cannot innovate, adapt and respond quickly to the market, survival is dubious (at best). Within the realm of enterprise software development, it is critical to have a structure in place that can respond to two major challenges within this environment: the need to mitigate risk, and the mandate of meeting the client’s brief and specific business needs (specifically within a timeframe that allows the business to have the competitive edge without compromising the quality of the software being created). Both of these challenges require a software development approach that is founded upon agility and adaptability.

As any development project unfolds and progresses, there is a continually shifting dynamic – whereby the demands of the customer, the technical teams, and the development and quality assurance managers have to be constantly balanced. While a perfect balance may never be achieved, it is the process of navigating these shifting dynamics that ultimately determines the success or failure of the finished product [bespoke enterprise software].

To ensure that this process unfolds in a way that both mitigates risk and supports innovation, we have Four Roles or Guardians that together guide each development project: the Product Owner, Senior Development Manager, Head Architect and Quality Assurance Specialist.

Balancing Technical Perfection and Enterprise Efficiency  

The Product Owner is primarily there to ‘fight’ for the customer. This person has a deep understanding of the customer’s business and domain, and is also able to promote innovation and idea generation within that business. The Product Owner not only ensures that the customer’s needs and expectations are met, but he/she also plays a major role in developing the initial specs of the project. Their role is far removed from the technical aspects, and entirely focused on the business and its objectives/desired outcomes.

Moving from the customer to the software development team, the Senior Development Manager ensures that the internal team delivers on the outcomes/specs that it committed to. This role requires a close relationship with the development team and a clear understanding of what makes it tick, i.e. which positions/roles are required, managing the workload, managing personal growth and development, checking that the team has the right tools and support, and ensuring that there is visibility and transparency across processes. The experienced Senior Development Manager allows for autonomy within the teams, while ensuring that deliverables and expectations are met (internally and externally).

The Head Architect is entirely focused on the technical elements of the process. This leader is the chief guardian of the software, and he/she works on creating best practices and blueprints to achieve the most impactful technical outcomes. The main focus, within this realm, is to develop software that has flexibility, extensibility and maintainability. Here, technical excellence is everything.

Finally, we come to the chief gatekeeper – the Quality Assurance Specialist. This person wields the final stamp of approval for any software that goes out, and he/she scrutinises every aspect (technical elements, usability, business impact, etc). The QA assesses the deliverables from a macro viewpoint, and ensures that it meets the brief and expectations of the customer as closely as possible. In addition, the QA makes sure that there is a standardized way of automating tests – which confirm that the quality of the finished product is world-class and ready for the enterprise.

Sustainable, Impactful

These four chief guardians of the process, so to speak, work very closely and engage daily to guide the software development process. Each of these role players sits at an executive level within the company, and work together to manage the inevitable ebbs and flows of each design sprint.

With this structure in place, we can effectively mitigate risks – while delivering on customer expectations within the enterprise software environment. Such a structure is designed to enable agility and adaptability, so that we can meet customer expectations in a way that is efficient, structured and sustainable.

For any business today, it is critical to have a technology partner that can balance the enterprise need for speed and efficiency, with the technical need for agility and adaptability. Only when all these needs are met or balanced, do you get a finished product that can truly fuel growth and development within the enterprise.

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VoD cuts the cord in SA

Some 20% of South Africans who sign up for a subscription video on demand (SVOD) service such as Netflix or Showmax do so with the intention of cancelling their pay television subscription.

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That’s according to GfK’s international ViewScape survey*, which this year covers Africa (South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria) for the first time.

The study—which surveyed 1,250 people representative of urban South African adults with Internet access—shows that 90% of the country’s online adults today use at least one online video service and that just over half are paying to view digital online content. The average user spends around 7 hours and two minutes a day consuming video content, with broadcast television accounting for just 42% of the time South Africans spend in front of a screen.

Consumers in South Africa spend nearly as much of their daily viewing time – 39% of the total – watching free digital video sources such as YouTube and Facebook as they do on linear television. People aged 18 to 24 years spend more than eight hours a day watching video content as they tend to spend more time with free digital video than people above their age.

Says Benjamin Ballensiefen, managing director for Sub Sahara Africa at GfK: “The media industry is experiencing a revolution as digital platforms transform viewers’ video consumption behaviour. The GfK ViewScape study is one of the first to not only examine broadcast television consumption in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa, but also to quantify how linear and online forms of content distribution fit together in the dynamic world of video consumption.”

The study finds that just over a third of South African adults are using streaming video on demand (SVOD) services, with only 16% of SVOD users subscribing to multiple services. Around 23% use per-pay-view platforms such as DSTV Box Office, while about 10% download pirated content from the Internet. Around 82% still sometimes watch content on disc-based media.

“Linear and non-linear television both play significant roles in South Africa’s video landscape, though disruption from digital players poses a growing threat to the incumbents,” says Molemo Moahloli, general manager for media research & regional business development at GfK Sub Sahara Africa. “Among most demographics, usage of paid online content is incremental to consumption of linear television, but there are signs that younger consumers are beginning to substitute SVOD for pay-television subscriptions.”

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New data rules raise business trust challenges

When the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect on May 25th, financial services firms will face a new potential threat to their on-going challenges with building strong customer relationships, writes DARREL ORSMOND, Financial Services Industry Head at SAP Africa.

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The regulation – dubbed GDPR for short – is aimed at giving European citizens control back over their personal data. Any firm that creates, stores, manages or transfers personal information of an EU citizen can be held liable under the new regulation. Non-compliance is not an option: the fines are steep, with a maximum penalty of €20-million – or nearly R300-million – for transgressors.

GDPR marks a step toward improved individual rights over large corporates and states that prevents the latter from using and abusing personal information at their discretion. Considering the prevailing trust deficit – one global EY survey found that 60% of global consumers worry about hacking of bank accounts or bank cards, and 58% worry about the amount of personal and private data organisations have about them – the new regulation comes at an opportune time. But it is almost certain to cause disruption to normal business practices when implemented, and therein lies both a threat and an opportunity.

The fundamentals of trust

GDPR is set to tamper with two fundamental factors that can have a detrimental effect on the implicit trust between financial services providers and their customers: firstly, customers will suddenly be challenged to validate that what they thought companies were already doing – storing and managing their personal data in a manner that is respectful of their privacy – is actually happening. Secondly, the outbreak of stories relating to companies mistreating customer data or exposing customers due to security breaches will increase the chances that customers now seek tangible reassurance from their providers that their data is stored correctly.

The recent news of Facebook’s indiscriminate sharing of 50 million of its members’ personal data to an outside firm has not only led to public outcry but could cost the company $2-trillion in fines should the Federal Trade Commission choose to pursue the matter to its fullest extent. The matter of trust also extends beyond personal data: in EY’s 2016 Global Consumer Banking Survey, less than a third of respondents had complete trust that their banks were being transparent about fees and charges.

This is forcing companies to reconsider their role in building and maintaining trust with its customers. In any customer relationship, much is done based on implicit trust. A personal banking customer will enjoy a measure of familiarity that often provides them with some latitude – for example when applying for access to a new service or an overdraft facility – that can save them a lot of time and energy. Under GDPR and South Africa’s POPI act, this process is drastically complicated: banks may now be obliged to obtain permission to share customer data between different business units (for example because they are part of different legal entities and have not expressly received permission). A customer may now allow banks to use their personal data in risk scoring models, but prevent them from determining whether they qualify for private banking services.

What used to happen naturally within standard banking processes may be suddenly constrained by regulation, directly affecting the bank’s relationship with its customers, as well as its ability to upsell to existing customers.

The risk of compliance

Are we moving to an overly bureaucratic world where even the simplest action is subject to a string of onerous processes? Compliance officers are already embedded within every function in a typical financial services institution, as well as at management level. Often the reporting of risk processes sits outside formal line functions and end up going straight to the board. This can have a stifling effect on innovation, with potentially negative consequences for customer service.

A typical banking environment is already creaking under the weight of close to 100 acts, which makes it difficult to take the calculated risks needed to develop and launch innovative new banking products. Entire new industries could now emerge, focusing purely on the matter of compliance and associated litigation. GDPR already requires the services of Data Protection Officers, but the growing complexity of regulatory compliance could add a swathe of new job functions and disciplines. None of this points to the type of innovation that the modern titans of business are renowned for.

A three-step plan of action

So how must banks and other financial services firms respond? I would argue there are three main elements to successfully navigating the immediate impact of the new regulations:

Firstly, ensuring that the technologies you use to secure, manage and store personal data is sufficiently robust. Modern financial services providers have a wealth of customer data at their disposal, including unstructured data from non-traditional sources such as social media. The tools they use to process and safeguard this data needs to be able to withstand the threats posed by potential data breaches and malicious attacks.

Secondly, rethinking the core organisational processes governing their interactions with customers. This includes the internal measures for setting terms and conditions, how customers are informed of their intention to use their data, and how risk is assessed. A customer applying for medical insurance will disclose deeply personal information about themselves to the insurance provider: it is imperative the insurer provides reassurance that the customer’s data will be treated respectfully and with discretion and with their express permission.

Thirdly, financial services firms need to define a core set of principles for how they treat customers and what constitutes fair treatment. This should be an extension of a broader organisational focus on treating customers fairly, and can go some way to repairing the trust deficit between the financial services industry and the customers they serve.

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