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Future-proof with software

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Software development is a project that needs constant attention, and so development teams need to be seen as an extension of their client’s business. This partnership also needs to allow for constant feedback, writes MEGON THOMSON, Software Development Manager at redPanda Software.

Within every business and across every sector worldwide, innovation and disruption are now the primary challenges that leaders face. New technology trends and digital platforms emerge every year, and only the agile and responsive are able to truly thrive in such an environment.

This has massive repercussions for those involved in the realm of software development and digital innovation. Instead of merely implementing once-off development projects, businesses now need long-term engagements with development teams in order to stay abreast of technology development and to ensure that the best solution is in place. As with technology itself, software development is not static – and the process needs to reflect the fluid, iterative and innovative nature of today’s technology environment.

With this in mind, South African businesses and software development teams need to take a closer look at their approach. In order for the best and most agile software solution to emerge from the process, there undoubtedly needs to be a far greater level of transparency built into the relationship. In many cases, this means rethinking the entire process – and making very practical changes from the start.

Built-in Visibility

To begin with, the early engagements between clients and software development partners should be very carefully and thoughtfully approached. Often, the stakeholders or people present in these early engagements are simply not close enough to the business problem. Or, the business problem itself has not yet been properly identified and thought through. The result of either – or a combination of – these two scenarios is that the client receives a solution that they perceive as different to what they had asked for. The entire process then becomes frustrating and far more complex than both parties had envisioned.

To avoid this, it is critical that businesses have a clear idea of the problem they need to solve, and the desired business outcomes. From there, both the client and the development team must ensure that the right stakeholders are present in the early engagements, and that the details of the project are discussed at length. Each party needs to be clear on the desired outcomes; the steps involved; and the roles that they need to assume in the process. This will ensure that there is a strong element of both transparency and visibility present in the relationship throughout.

A True Partnership

Given the iterative and fast changing nature of technology itself, the entire relationship between clients and development partners also needs redefining. It is no longer enough to invest in a once-off solution or ‘intervention’ – today, businesses need to view development teams as an extension of the modern enterprise environment. The goal should be to develop a long-term relationship in which the needs of the business are very clearly understood and factored into each step of the development process.

For such a partnership to emerge, there needs to be a very structured approach put in place that allows for constant and honest feedback. In development lingo, it is called a continuous feedback loop – which places the client at the very heart of the process – and the solution itself.

This can mean that the client provides feedback even sooner than the traditional two-week sprint period. In some cases, this requires internal process changes for the client. However, once the initial groundwork has been done, the process yields a natural trust and transparency that benefits both parties in the short and long term.

For development teams, a transparent process leads to far higher productivity, as well as more consistency with regards to the quality of the software produced. For clients, they benefit from software that is not only more tailored and suited to their specific business and context, but they also achieve a solution that is future-proof and able to pivot in response to a disruptive business landscape.

Ultimately, such a solution is the smartest investment that any business can make…

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3D printing set for $20bn boom

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3D printing is starting to be realized in a wide variety of industries, but its potential in the aerospace and defense industry is significant. The 3D printing industry was worth $3bn in 2013 and grew to $7bn in 2017. By 2025, the market is forecast to account for more than $20bn in spend, according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company.

The company’s report, ‘3D Printing in Aerospace & Defence – Thematic Research’, reveals that most major militaries and companies are exploring options with the technology. Some are still in the testing phase, while others are deploying the technology in final production. This is particularly true in the aerospace industry, where engines, aircraft and satellites are currently using 3D-printed components.

Listed below are the militaries that have taken an early lead in implementing 3D printing technology, as identified by GlobalData.

US Marine Corps

The US Marine Corps currently has the highest uptake of 3D printing of any military service worldwide. In particular, the additive manufacturing team at Marine Corps Systems Command has created the world’s largest 3D concrete printer with the ability to print a 500-square-foot barracks hut in 40 hours.

US Air Force

The US Air Force is integrating 3D printing into its supply chain. Overseen by ‘America Makes’, the US national additive manufacturing/3D printing innovation institute, it is investigating how current systems can be used to reproduce aircraft components for decades-old planes that may no longer have reliable sources of replacement parts, without minimum order quantities.

US Navy

The Navy has created new logistical units such as Navy frontline attachments, which can rapidly create spare parts for incredibly complex military equipment such as the F-35B – and are currently operational for this purpose. The navy has also worked with Oak Ridge National laboratory to produce the first 3D-printed submarine hull.

US Army

The US Army is working on 3D-printed, modular drone systems. The army wants 3D printers that can be deployed to a forward base camp and used to produce aviation backup when necessary for troops on the ground. This plan aims to create bespoke unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems and is said to be at an advanced stage of development.

Chinese Air Force

A 3D Systems ProJet 4500 printer has been acquired by the Chinese army and has been working on replacement military truck parts for the army’s fuel tanker fleet. A number of Chinese fighter jets are believed to be carrying 3D-printed parts and are currently in operation.

Russian Army

Russia has been testing multiple applications for 3D-printed parts in its newest main battle tank, the T-14 Armata. During the development process, 3D printing was used for prototyping, but it is expected that parts will be used in the final product, of which 2,300 have been ordered.

South Korean Air Force

Collaboration between South Korea’s InssTEK and France’s Z3DLAB is producing parts for South Korean warplanes that see heavy use along the border with North Korea. The aim is to upgrade existing components, rather than replace worn parts, with a new titanium composite material.

Information based on GlobalData’s report: ‘3D Printing in Aerospace & Defence – Thematic Research’.

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SA productivity could nosedive on Black Friday

Employee productivity on Black Friday could nose dive, says local online retailer, OneDayOnly.co.za

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Finance Minister Tito Mboweni hasn’t had it easy lately. Amidst a more-than-tricky economy and having to walk the tight rope in his recent mid-term budget speech, Tito is squeezed between a rock and a very hard place that’s about to get tighter with Black Friday inspired employee procrastination.

“While the minister probably has bigger fish to fry than South Africans avoiding spreadsheets in favour of scooping a deal on Samsung’s latest flat screen – Black Friday undoubtedly affects employees’ focus at work,” says Matthew Leighton, spokesperson at leading South African e-tailer OneDayOnly.co.za .

While it started as a post-Thanksgiving blowout sale by US retailers, Black Friday has become one of the most significant calendar days for consumers and the retail industry globally. “The proof is in the OneDayOnly.co.za stats. Last year, we recorded over 150 000 website users on Black Friday alone – the average on a regular day is around 60 000 and on a high traffic day such as pay day its approximately 80 000,” says Leighton.

So the demand is clearly there but are people actually doing the bulk of their Black Friday buying while they should be working? Leighton says they are. “Although the sale starts at midnight people are online throughout the day and data from last year shows traffic on OneDayOnly.co.za spiking primarily during core working hours – 06:00, 8:00, 11:00 and 15:00.

He adds that the average user session – or time people spend on the site at any one point – is three times longer on Black Friday than any other day. “In addition to spending longer on the site on Black Friday, customers also return many times during the day so these longer sessions happen numerous times during the work day.”

To add to Tito’s woes, Leighton explains that people are also multi-screening their buying efforts by watching social platforms for tips and prompts. “Most online retailers worth their salt share prompts on social feeds to drive traffic to their websites. Last year, each time we announced via social that a 100% off deal was available shoppers flocked to OneDayOnly.co.za. Almost instantly, the web traffic would spike. The pattern shows how closely people keep an eye on the 100% off deal drops via social media, as well as how effectively the platforms cater to a very wide audience in real time.”

But while Black Friday may result in the odd deadline being missed, Leighton believes the overall impact on the economy is an extremely positive one. “Last year we saw people spending in the region of R1300 on Black Friday, compared to an average of R970 on other days. According to BankServ, South Africans’ card transactions came up to R3bn on the day last year, up 16% from 2017. That’s a nice injection into an otherwise depressed retail sector.”

Leighton says people love Black Friday because there is something in it for everyone, but there’s also nothing to lose – except for maybe a bit of work time. “With so many more products available at low prices, it makes sense to peruse. If you find nothing you like, you are no worse off. And your boss doesn’t have to be either if you’re proactive and shop before work when our doors open at midnight.”

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