Labs blog
VINT updates

Building the Autonomous Machine

Navy robotics engineers are working to develop autonomous tools that can integrate with other technologies. But in field tests, the autonomous future still seems far away.

Electric Dreams

grappling with rising expectations - resizedThe notion of technology stirring human emotion is not new. However, recent focus on experience design and robotics are prompting an examination of our complex relationship with technology – to which anyone, who witnessed the gasps of the crowd at the recent Darpa Robotics Challenge or the Queen of England being charmed by a waving robot, can attest.

The speed at which technology is accelerating is putting immense pressure on enterprises, forcing them to grapple with the challenge of balancing the demands of rising customer and employee expectations against the constraints of legacy technology investments. Surprisingly, customer expectations are proving easier to manage, as a lovely facade and a few sweeps under the rug can oftentimes give enough of a perception of a high-performing system to get by (although this is certainly not a recommended approach).  Many organizations’ operational technology users, however, are not so lucky. Behind the curtain, they are faced with the striking contrast between the endless keystrokes of  dated systems and spreadsheets, compared to personal pocket technology that does the heavy lifting “below the waterline” and then anticipates what they want to do next. Which systems would you rather use? [Read more…]

Blockchain as the next platform

Brian Forde is the senior adviser on mobile and data innovation to The White House. In his PDF 15 talk, he explains how blockchain can be used to support civic tech innovation.

Read our report on Bitcoin / Blockchain (in Dutch). You can download it here.

Is your application usable?

usability-testing

Image credit: www.testingbrain.com

This question may sound simple, but it isn’t. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed that more and more User eXperience Experts (UX) are getting involved in IT projects. This is definitely a growing trend: Expectations regarding usability are increasing, especially due to the soaring popularity of mobile applications. In fact, users now want to understand how a tool is working without reading any user guide.

Usability is part of the non-functional requirements. This means, it has to be tested and validated as any other requirement. However, UX best practices are usually not part of a tester’s technical skill set. So, how can we ensure high quality, even on the usability side?

Basically there are three options:

  1. Asking the UX expert to do the testing and to validate the usability requirements
  2. Asking the testers to take care of these tests based on UX recommendations, the style guide or any other documentation
  3. Combining points 1. and 2.

[Read more…]

Robot-staffed hotel opens in Japan

Japan has created the world’s first hotel staffed by robots, and it opens to guests this month. The machines can check you in, carry your luggage or offer travel suggestions

Where content meets behavior for architects

Soft skillsIn my last post, I talked about the shift made by CESCE, a globally operating credit risk insurance company based in Spain. I also mentioned CESCE’s six considerations for enterprise architects: Be proactive, Cooperate, Go beyond frameworks, Be Agile, Sell, and Show Audacity.

Earlier this month, I received an invitation to present at the Enterprise Architecture Management User Group in Leipzig, on the topic ‘Softskills and careermodels for Enterprise Architects.’ Since then, I’ve had conversations with architects responsible in various organizations, both commercial and government. And in all these conversations, the topic of skills and competences of the organizations architects came up. Every one of my ‘conversation partners’ appeared to be searching for ways to get their architectural team up to speed and get them to become more effective. And all of them focused on the lack of soft skills of their architects.

The interest in soft skills for architects is not new. The importance for architects of having the skills to connect with their stakeholders and to communicate effectively has been stressed by many for a long time. Though the architects that possess the right social skills are the most successful, those who did not excel in these skills could mostly get away with it until recently. However, times have changed. [Read more…]

Self Aware Robot

The value of a PMO – (2/2)

PMO picIn our previous article, The Value of a PMO – (Part 1/2), we discussed the definition of value and ways to capture / deliver the values from a PMO. Today, we will discuss ways you can measure the value of a PMO and how to communicate this.

 Measuring Value

You can say that you are adding value through improved performance in project delivery, but unless you really have a way to demonstrate it in practice, it becomes nothing more than mere words. So, how can you show it? Quick answer: By measuring it. Defining, selecting, tracking and controlling a set of key metrics, showing the variance across your – original state, baseline, current state, your progress, aspirational state, and target – is surely a way to do it. These key metrics are commonly referred to as key performance indicators (KPIs) and, as the name suggests, provide an indication of how successfully an individual / team / department / organization is operating. There are a number of KPIs that the PMO may want to measure, but the crucial message when selecting those is that it is better to have a few couple of meaningful ones than a lot of KPIs that are simply irrelevant. Again, just like with the perception of value, the definition and selection of the KPIs to be measured should not be an isolated decision of the PMO, but should be discussed and selected in partnership with their customer, the PMO’s sponsor. Most of the time, gathering of data for KPI-tracking can be time-consuming for PMO staff, so you should at least ensure that they are significant to your sponsor and aligned to your services, functions and PMO type. [Read more…]

Can bitcoin and other virtual currencies ever replace “real” money?

Read our report on Bitcoin / Blockchain (in Dutch). You can download it here.

The value of a PMO – (Part 1/2)

In this article, we will discuss the definition of value, the value creation process and ways to deliver these values as a PMO.

From buzzword to valuable word: What is value after all?

Value,’ add ‘value,’ added ‘value‘ solution – You have certainly heard this word in different contexts, read in various articles and presentations and also discussed about it. It’s everywhere and in the project management world the situation is no different. Everything is about value nowadays, but what does this mean to your organization and to your PMO?

Is it value for money? Is it achieving your strategic objectives? Is it the benefits delivered? Is it about better performance and happy stakeholders? Or, is it all of these combined?

It may seem like a trivial matter of semantics, but semantics do matter if you want to have a common shared understanding of the world you live in. Then, let’s start there. What is value after all? [Read more…]

Gondola-pop and the Uberfication of Venice

Venice - Gondola and Water TaxiJust back from a wonderful week in this beautiful city that simply needs some transportation improvements. The Gondola market in Venice (Italy) is chaotic, inefficient and definitely not transparent. For instance, how can you tell what’s the best place to start a Gondola ride? Who’s the best Gondolier, singer or harmonica player? Wouldn’t it be awesome to control all that with your smartphone?

Surprising, but predictable

Some day, this will happen (whether you like it or not). The dynamics behind this prediction is written down in an Harvard Business Review (HBR) article called “Innovating over the Horizon: How to Survive Disruption and Thrive” by Clayton Christensen and Max Wessel. In the HBR webinar supporting the article, the authors called these market changes “surprising, but perfectly predictable.” Uber’s slogan “When lifestyle meets logistics” is the excuse to enter the market of a city without any cars. They can easily scale their existing platform, using the power of what Christensen and Wessel call “the extendable core.” Uber can take away all the hassles – from finding your top-1 Gondolier to having your fares automatically paid while leaving the boat  – this is the lifestyle we’re getting used to. [Read more…]

Agile Quick Hit

Agile Quick Hit - 1An Agile process designed to support projects with short timelines. 

Agile, since it’s inception, was designed to deliver business value quickly and more often. Within Agile, business value is delivered through iterative defining of business requirements, paired testing, design and development, and continuous integration. However, the most commonly used Agile implementation, SCRUM, does not lend itself easily for shorter duration projects. When you are faced with project durations of less than 10 weeks, you will often find that you do not have time for Sprint Planning, Story Grooming, Story development, or Sprint-End Retrospectives. All of these ceremonies are important, but following all of them will take up important development time.

Introducing Agile Quick Hit

“Agile Quick Hit” is a process designed to support short duration projects, such as those that are between five and ten weeks in duration. It takes the Sprint Planning, Story Development and Story Grooming Ceremonies, then merges them together, and moves them to the front of the project in a “Kick-Off Ceremony.”  The Sprint-End Retrospective is moved to the end of the project and is called a “Project-End Retrospective.” Stories take on a new life as “Epic Milestones” and “Iteration Milestones,” while tasks remain the same.  There are a few other minor modifications to the standard SCRUM process, which is detailed below. [Read more…]

Pepper: Let the future begin

Watch my webinar on “Data Driven Decisions for Healthcare”

View the webinar on Data Driven Decisions for Healthcare:

Click here to download the presentation. [Read more…]

Bitcoin: The End of Money (as we know it)

Also read our report on Bitcoin / Blockchain (in Dutch). You can download it here.

Hacking your Doorbell

doorbell circuitShould you still care about electronics and build your own devices or is this a thing of the past?

Looking back a few years ago, there weren’t too many IoT services around. Most consisted of experimental services and “Do it yourself”© solutions. Today, it’s a totally different world with Cloud vendors such as Microsoft Azure and Amazon Cloud Services offering IoT communication solutions, specialized PaaS solutions such as IBM Bluemix, or full-on product retailers such as Samsung SmartThings. And, this is of course just a handful of all the available service providers that exist today.

Back in those days, there were also no Arduino or Raspberry Pi, but just regular microcontrollers on which you had to spend quite some time to figure out how they worked. With all that said, it might seem strange to think that someone would suggest you to spend time, disassembling a piece of hardware such as a doorbell and build a custom solution, rather than buying into the existing Eco platforms that exist today. [Read more…]

Phone Wall

new-finalFA0504

The more you connect, the less you connect. More here.

Test Automation: Is it about Recording or Engineering?

test automationTest automation is a promising way to increase the efficiency of repetitive testing tasks. However, it poses few challenges in ensuring its effectiveness and expected benefits.

When thinking about test automation, the first thing to remember is that testing includes much more than just a set of repetitive tasks. Therefore, not everything can (and should) be automated. For example, key testing tasks such as the definition of test objectives or the design of a test plan are engineering tasks that constitute the base for testing, regardless of whether the tests are manually or automatically executed. On the other hand, not all test case components or test types are needed to be repeatable, while others (loading tasks, regression tests, etc.) may really maximize the benefits of automation.

The decision on whether test cases are to be or not to be automated needs to be supported by the expected Return on Investment (ROI) analysis. It’s done by considering several aspects such as the effort for the creation of automated tests, the execution time, the feedback provided and the maintenance effort according to expected changes. In other words, we cannot limit the analysis to the conception that automation is a one-shot task, because obtained test case scripts need to be maintained. [Read more…]

The Fourth Revolution

How we think about our place in the world has been transformed through various revolutions of ideas from big thinkers such as Galileo, Darwin and Freud. Now, Philosopher Luciano Floridi believes that we are now into a new fourth revolution in the mass age of information and data. Could it be that now that we are regularly being outsmarted by computers that can reason and analyse better than we can. It’s no longer possible hold to the view that humans are better at thinking than everything else.

Scalable Database Solutions for Multi Tenant Applications – The Rise of NoSQL

From GoT to the Enterprise

The continual increase in unstructured Big Data from the Internet of Things, the changeable requirements for developing successful mobile NoSQLapps and the trend for user-generated content are paving the way for NoSQL databases to prove their value. Relational databases will still be useful for managing more structured, uniform data sets, but they don’t possess the flexibility, agility, scalability and analytics capabilities of NoSQL database management systems. For example, multi-tenant applications such as popular games like Vainglory and Game of Thrones, require developers to make frequent feature updates and specific changes to individual characters for creating interesting capabilities to keep users interested. Similarly, as an increasing number of businesses undertake more Agile projects or undergo digital transformations, updates need to be made to enterprise apps much more quickly. The fixed schema in relational databases does not lend itself to this rapid process of continuous innovation.

[Read more…]