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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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Samsung S10 in lock-step with its rivals?

Tonight Samsung will kick off the next round in the smartphone wars with the S10 range, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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When Samsung unveils the new S10 smartphone at an event in San Francisco today, it will mark the beginning of the 2019 round of World War S. That stands for smartphone wars, although Samsung would like it to be all about the S.

Ever since the launch of the Samsung Galaxy S4 in 2013, Samsung has held both technology and thought leadership in the handset world. Back then, Apple’s iPhone 5 was the last device from the American manufacturer that could lay claim to being the best smartphone in the world. With the 2013 launch of the iPhone 5s, Apple entered an era of incremental improvement, playing catch-up, and succumbing to market trends driven by its competitors.

Six years later, Samsung is fighting off the same threat. Its Chinese rival, Huawei, suddenly wrested away leadership in the past year, with the P20 Pro and Mate 20 Pro regarded as at last equal to the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus and Galaxy Note 9 – if not superior. Certainly, from a cost perspective, Huawei took the lead with its more competitive prices, and therefore more value for money.

Huawei also succeeded where Apple failed: introducing more economical versions of its flagship phones. The iPhone 5c, SE and XR have all been disappointments in the sales department, mainly because the price difference was not massive enough to attract lower-income users. In contrast, the Lite editions of the Huawei P9, P10 and P20 have been huge successes, especially in South Africa.

Today, for the first time in half a decade, Samsung goes into battle on a field laid out by its competitors. It is expected to launch the Galaxy S10 Plus, S10 and S10 e, with the latter being the Samsung answer to the strategy of the iPhone XR and Huawei P20 Lite.

Does this mean Samsung is now in lock-step with its rivals, focused on matching their strategies rather than running ahead of them?

It may seem that way, but Samsung has a few tricks up its electronic sleeve. For example, it is possible it will use the S10 launch to announce its coming range of foldable phones, expected to be called the Galaxy X, Galaxy F, Galaxy Fold or Galaxy Flex. It previewed the technology at a developer conference in San Francisco last November, and this will be the ideal moment to reclaim technology leadership by going into production with foldables – even if the S10 range itself does not shoot out the lights.

However, the S10 handsets will look very different to their predecessors. First, before switching on the phone, they will be notable by the introduction of what is being called the punch-hole display, which breaks away from the current trend of having a notch at the top of the phone to house front-facing cameras and speakers. Instead, the punch-hole is a single round cut-out that will contain the front camera. It is the key element of Samsung’s “Infinity O” display – the O represents the punchhole – which will be the first truly edge-to-edge display, on the sides and top.

The S10 range will use the new Samsung user interface, One UI, also unveiled at the developer conference. It replaces the previous “skin”, unimaginatively called the Samsung Experience, to introduce a strong new interface brand.

One UI went live on the Note 8 last month, giving us a foretaste, and giving Samsung a chance to iron out the bugs in the field. It is a less cluttered interface, addressing one of the biggest complaints about most manufacturer skins. Only Nokia and Google Pixel handsets offer pure Android in the local market, but One UI is Samsung’s best compromise yet.

It introduces a new interaction area, in the bottom half, reachable with the thumb, with a viewing area at the top, allowing the user to work one-handed on the bottom area while still having apps or related content visible above. One UI also improves gesture navigation – the phone picks up hand movements without being touched – and notification management.

The S10 range will be the first phones to feature the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chip, at least for the South African and American markets. That makes it 5G compatible, for when this next generation of mobile broadband becomes available in these markets.

They will also be the first phones to feature Wi-Fi 6, the next generation of the Wi-Fi mobile wireless standard. It will perform better in congested areas, and data transfer will be up to 40% faster than the previous generation.

The phones will be the first to use ultrasound for fingerprint detection. If Samsung gets it right, this will make it the fastest in-screen fingerprint sensor on the market, and allows for a little leeway if one pushes the finger down slightly outside the fingerprint reader surface. It does mean, however, that screen protectors will have to be redesigned to avoid blocking the detection.

Not enough firsts? There are a few more.

Most notably, it will be the first phone range to feature 1 Terabyte (TB) storage – that’s a thousand Gigabytes (GB) – at least for the top-of-the-range devices. Samsung last month announced that it would be the first manufacturer to make 1TB built-in onboard flash storage. Today, it will deploy this massive advantage as it once again weaponises its technology in the fight for smartphone domination.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee

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IoT set to improve authentication

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By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President, Internet of Things Solutions for CISMEA region at Gemalto

As it rapidly approaches maturity, the Internet of Things (IoT) is set to continue a transformational trajectory, introducing new efficiencies in multiple fields by allowing measurement and analysis on a scale that has never been possible before. From agriculture to logistics, from retail to hospitality, from traffic to health, from the home to the office, the applications for monitoring ”things” are limited only by the imagination.

And South African (and African) businesses are showing abundant imagination in their practical deployments of IoT solutions in multiple settings, creating a better tomorrow through almost universal measurement and the introduction of new levels of convenience – including how to access locations, devices and services securely.

Any company, whether South African or international, should bear in mind that understanding consumer expectations can be the key to unlocking the full potential of IoT devices and related smart services.

According to Gemalto’s latest Connected Living study, improving the way consumers authenticate themselves to services is one of the most anticipated benefits of IoT, highlighting a desire for a more seamless and secure IoT experience.

Consumers are interested in advanced ways of authenticating themselves through automatic (based on behavioral patterns) or biometric techniques, lessening the need to have to intervene manually, all in the name of a much more streamlined authentication process. Smartphone manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have already placed fingerprint and facial recognition high on the agenda. There is also a widespread positive sentiment towards IoT’s potential for improving the quality of home life through connected, smart appliances.

Personalised services is something else that wins consumers over. In fact, a fluid, personalised and unified experience with continuity of services, together with security and privacy, is critical for the successful implementation of any technology.

And those types of services are today quite possible. With everything being connected – from small gadgets to digital solutions for large enterprises – IoT is no longer just a buzzword. That much is clear in a piece from Vodacom IoT managing executive Deon Liebenberg. Writing for IOL Online, Liebenberg provides insight into the sheer range of applications for IoT: the 20 use cases he cites range from the obvious, like transport and logistics, to the connected home and wearables; he even suggests tagging pets with IoT transmitters, for those who always need to know the whereabouts of the family cat.

Low-cost tags fitted to cats, dogs, lamp posts, shipping containers or other items are just one part of the puzzle, however. There are other two pieces; arguably the most complex part is the availability of communication networks in areas where there aren’t any WiFi networks, or indeed, anything else.

And that’s where the bigger takeaway from Liebenberg’s piece and other IoT trends articles becomes apparent. The communication networks are there, as are those tags: dedicated IoT networks (like LoraWAN, SigFox and narrowband IoT) are all available in South Africa.

So, too, is the third and final essential component. Software which is able to process the data generated by the tag and transmitted over the IoT network and into the internet. In this regard, there’s no shortage of solutions available from cloud providers like AWS and Azure; electronics giant Siemens, too, is in on the action, having recently launched a new cloud-based IoT operating system to develop applications and services for process industries, including oil and gas and water management.

This combination means it is quite possible right now to enable just about any use case. Business owners, who will know best how IoT can add value in their organisation, can now see their ideas becoming reality. Most crucial of all, IoT solutions delivering new levels of efficiency and convenience are not only possible, they are able to be offered with the simple and effective security that will drive consumer acceptance.

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