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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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Kenya tool to help companies prepare for emergencies

After its team members survived last week’s Nairobi terror attack, Ushahidi decided to release a new preparedness tool for free, writes its CEO, NAT MANNING

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On Tuesday I woke up a bit before 7am in Berkeley, California where I live. I made some coffee and went over to my computer to start my work day. I checked my Slack and the news and quickly found out that there was an ongoing terrorist attack at 14 Riverside Complex in Nairobi, Kenya. The Ushahidi office is in Nairobi and about a third of our team is based there (the rest of us are spread across 10 other countries).

As I read the news, my heart plummeted, and I immediately asked the question, “is everyone on my team okay?”

Five years ago Al-Shabaab committed a similar attack at the Westgate Mall. We spent several tense hours figuring out if any of our team had been in the mall, and verifying that everyone was safe. We found out that one of our team member’s family was caught up in the attack. Luckily they made it out.

At Ushahidi we make software for crisis response, including tools to map disasters and election violence, and yet we felt helpless in the face of this attack. In the days following the Westgate attack, our team huddled and thought about what we could build that would help our team — and other teams — if we found ourselves in a similar situation to this attack again. We identified that when we first learned of the attack, nearly everyone at Ushahidi had spent that first precious few hours trying to answer the basic questions, “Is everyone okay?”, and if not, “Who needs help?” 

People had ad-hoc used multiple channels such as WhatsApp, called, emailed, or texted. We had done this for each person at Ushahidi (their job), in our families, and important people in our community. Our process was unorganised, inefficient, repetitive, and frustrating.

And from this problem we created TenFour, a check in tool that makes it easier for teams to reach one another during times of crisis. It is a simple application that lets people send a message to their team via SMS, Slack, Voice, email, and in-app, and get a response. It also works for educational institutions, companies with distributed staff, as well as part of neighbourhood networks like neighbourhood watches.

This week when I woke up to the news of the attack at Riverside, I immediately opened up the TenFour app.

Click here to read how Nat quickly confirmed the safety of his team.

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Kia multi-collision airbags

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The world’s first multi-collision airbag system has been unveiled by Hyundai Motor Group subsidiary KIA Motors, with the aim of improving airbag performance in multi-collision accidents.

Multi-collision accidents are those in which the primary impact is followed by collisions with secondary objects, such as other vehicles, trees, or electrical posts, which occur in three out of every 10 accidents. Current airbag systems do not offer secondary protection when the initial impact is insufficient to cause them to deploy. 

However, the multi-collision airbag system allows airbags to deploy effectively upon a secondary impact, by calibrating the status of the vehicle and the occupants.

The new technology detects occupants’ positions in the cabin following an initial collision. When occupants are forced into unusual positions, the effectiveness of existing safety technology may be compromised. Multi-collision airbag systems are designed to deploy even faster when initial safety systems may not be effective, providing additional safety when drivers and passengers are most vulnerable. By recalibrating the collision intensity required for deployment, the airbag system responds more promptly during the secondary impact, thereby improving the safety of multi-collision vehicle occupants.

“By improving airbag performance in multi-collision scenarios, we expect to significantly improve the safety of our drivers and passengers,” said Taesoo Chi, head of the Hyundai Motor Group’s Chassis Technology Centre. “We will continue our research on more diverse crash situations as part of our commitment to producing even safer vehicles that protect occupants and prevent injuries.”

According to statistics by the National Automotive Sampling System Crashworthiness Data System (NASS-CDS), an office of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in USA, about 30% of 56,000 vehicle accidents from 2000 to 2012 in the North American region involved multi-collisions. The leading type of multi-collision accidents involved cars crossing over the centre line (30.8%), followed by collisions caused by a sudden stop at highway tollgates (13.5%), highway median strip collisions (8.0%), and sideswiping and collision with trees and electric poles (4.0%). 

These multi-collision scenarios were analysed in multilateral ways to improve airbag performance and precision in secondary collisions. Once commercialised, the system will be implemented in future new KIA vehicles. 

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