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Parthasarathy Raghava

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  1. With the advent of digital age, there has been a marked shift in the business models adopted by the companies. This digital ecosystem has created both “digital communities” and “digital marketplaces” and has completely re-shaped the way they interact and transact. A platform is defined as a system or framework that can create value by enabling transaction between two or more groups, usually called the consumers and producers. This transaction/ exchange can be a product, service, payment or as simple as a communication. This has led to the emergence of “platform economy” which simply means commerce activities facilitated by these platforms. There are three different types of platforms in the platform economy: 1) Transaction platforms: also called as “digital matchmakers" which serve as intermediaries for exchanges. This is the most common type of platform and includes companies like Amazon and Facebook 2) Innovation platforms: which provides technology frameworks to its end customers that can be customised for individual consumption. Example includes companies like Microsoft and Salesforce 3) Integration platform: is a mixture of both transaction and innovation platform. Example includes Apple App Store or Google Play. A right platform can provide a strong competitive advantage to any company. Companies like Uber, Facebook, and Airbnb are leading the transformation by connecting producers with customers in innovative ways. A successful platform companies provides tremendous value to both business and society. The significance of this “value” is determined by factors like · Network Size – the number of users (both direct & indirect) it can reach within the market · Cost – which includes the development, establishment, and maintenance of assets and framework required to run the platform · Capacity – be it the physical storage or the virtual network capacity · Differentiation – both in terms of its offerings or in user base. Heterogenous user base will to be more advantages for the business. Lean Six Sigma methodologies and tools can be effectively used by the companies in optimising the platform performance. For Investment based platform companies, it can be used to eliminate errors, therefore saving time and money. For Service based platform companies, LSS tools can help in achieving customer requirements faster and accurately. For a Product based platform companies, it can aid in timely delivery of products, and in accurate inventory count. Additionally, LSS can be used for eliminating non-value adding tasks thus aiding in increased sales and profits.
  2. Technical debt also known as code debt refers to the practice in software development where an inherent additional re-work cost is created by choosing an easy solution for now, instead of using a better or correct method that would take longer to finish the work. Technical debt usually occurs when one ignores the best practices and code requirements to meet the stringent project deadlines. Technical debt can also be mathematically represented as ratio called Technical Debt Ratio [TDR], which is given by. Technical Debt Ratio = (Remediation Cost / Development Cost) x 100% where Remediation Cost is the cost to fix a software code or solution and Development Cost is the cost of developing the complete solution. As a best practice, software projects should have a TDR value that is equal to or less than 5%. Higher TDR scores means the software is in a poor state of quality. In an Agile project cycle, introspection can significantly reduce the occurrence of technical debt. It can also be reduced during sprint reviews by incorporating the feedback from stakeholders or customers. Other methods to tackle technical debt includes: · Being transparent to the team about technical debt. The more aware team members are, the less likely it will be that they will pursue low-quality solutions. · Create a dashboard/ system to view the existing technical debt so that everyone is constantly reminded about it. Use metrics such as complexity, code coverage, and rule violations to track technical debt. · Have proper operational definition of “Done” to meet the understanding of product quality to keep the technical debt at a manageable level. Test and review all deliverables to identify gaps and as early as possible. · Continuously reduce the technical debt on every single sprint. Allocate fixed percent of the Development Team’s capacity each Sprint to handle refactoring and bug fixing. · Make sure that all tasks related to dealing with technical debt are part of the Product Backlog
  3. The 3 main components of a time-series data are: Trend – Where the data values exhibit either increased or decreased pattern in a reasonably predictable manner. Seasonal – Where the data values follow a repeated pattern over a specific period such as the time of the year or the day of the week. Seasonality is always of a fixed and known frequency. Cyclical – Where the data values exhibit rise and fall but not of a fixed frequency. The pattern is usually influenced by the economic condition. · The analysis of trend is not difficult if the trend just follows a continuously increasing or decreasing pattern. We just need to find a right model to describes the trend and subtract it trend from the analysis. · Seasonality is also like a trend i.e. if we examine carefully, seasonality is nothing but a variable trend. Instead of increasing or decreasing at a predictable manner, it increases or decreases with pattern that vary with time. Analyzing a seasonality is also similar to trend, where we must find a right model and subtract it. However, it is little difficult to find the right model when compared to trend. · Analysis of cyclical data is the most difficult as there is no fixed time frequency in the data pattern. Both the average length & magnitude of cycles is longer than that of seasonality. Hence, finding the right model to describe become the most difficult. Time Series Analysis can be applicable in Finance sector particularly for Stock Prediction, country’s GDP prediction, etc. In the Retail sector it can be used for Sales Forecasting. From healthcare sector perspective, Time Series Analysis can be used in inventory or material demand prediction. One of the best examples is predicting the vaccine stock for immunization which will help in determining the vaccine stock requirements for clinics to avoid shortage or excess vaccines in stock especially during the peak disease season.
  4. Code refactoring is a process that involves modifying and cleaning up previously written code without changing the function of the code. In other words, it is improving the internal structure of an existing source code, while preserving its external behavior. Code refactoring can be a great asset for project especially for projects driven in agile methodology. In an agile project, depending on the business requirements of the customer, the product/service keeps changing. Hence, the design structure should be robust to accommodate the changes. Refactoring of the design/code can help to achieve the objectives. · Refactoring makes the code easier to modify · Refactoring makes the code easier to understand · Refactoring helps in sharing knowledge Code refactoring can be considered for two reasons: 1. Before adding any updates or new features to existing code – Helps in improving the overall quality of the product 2. Post product delivery – To make sure the code is standardized and as a part of housekeeping. Code refactoring should be primarily be used for clean-up effort. However, if code refactoring is not sufficient to support the business needs or when an application needs to be completely revamped, then rework effort should be taken up.
  5. Visual control methods are widely used for process standardization. Symbols, colors, graphics, or signal lights provides a level of clarity that cannot be achieved with just written text. The main purpose of visual methods can be one or more of the following: · Share Information – examples include notice board displaying monthly performance summaries, the results of customer surveys etc. · Streamline Project Management – examples include Kanban board or job cards · Communicate Standard operating Instructions – examples include wearing seat belts in flight manuals · Enforce the Standards – examples include templates that can be used for creating Microsoft Word or PowerPoint documents, Floor Line Marking & Signage etc. · Bring Attention to Irregularities – examples include check engine light in the car and the low battery icon on the phone · React to Irregularities When They Happen – examples include red lights in metal detectors to indicate the presence of metals, fire alarm lights in case of fire, detour signs for road work etc. · Prevent Irregularities from Occurring – examples include machines that won’t start unless the arrow on the top and bottom of the machine is properly aligned, size gauges for making sure only certain size is allowed, etc., Visual management is designed for self-explaining, self-controlling and self-improving. It is important to understand that Visual control mechanisms DO NOT make the process completely mistake free, rather it just provides visual inputs which reduces the chance of mistakes to occur. Hence, the effectiveness of the Visual management depends on the simplicity, instinctive level of visual cues and also on the adoption by the operator.
  6. User stories are the building blocks of an agile framework. The purpose of a user story is to clearly articulate how a developed work will deliver value to the customer. Hence, it is important that the team (Product Manager) creates meaningful user stories for the successful project delivery. INVEST is an acronym that is followed when creating meaningful User stories. It stands for: Independent – User stories should be self-contained units and independent of each other so that each of them can be developed and delivered separately. Negotiable – User Stories should not be close ended i.e. there should be room for negotiations (for improvement) between the customers and the development team. Valuable – Each User Stories should result in adding value to the customer and hence should be properly aligned to customer’s business goals. Estimable – User Stories should be created in such a way that the development team can easily understand complexities of work and be able to estimate the efforts required. Small – User Stories should be appropriately sized to be completed in 1 Sprint (2 weeks). Testable – User Stories should be testable to help determine completeness i.e. fulfil customer’s requirements. One of the challenging steps in developing the User Story is to make it negotiable. Even with a technical heavy Agile team (which is most often the case), converting all the customer expectations and requirements into technical solution/ features is not entirely possible. There is always be a gap between the customer expectations & technical feasibility. Another challenge area is in user story testability. Most of the test scenarios created are based on the product development team and not based on the customer requirement. the test scenarios just considers whether the User story has been successfully developed but not whether the value has been created from it.
  7. Evolving customer behavior and expectations requires innovative solution development approaches, to be successful. Human Centered Design is an approach for problem-solving that involves the customer from the inception of idea and places them at the center of solution design. The process starts with understanding the end-users need accurately and leverages innovative solutions/ technologies to address their needs. Human Centered design thinking is basically a combination of mindset, strategy, and tactical approach, that when adopted and applied can deliver transformative business results. Human Centered Design stages usually involves immersion, observation, and contextual framing around the customers to understand & frame the exact problem. This is followed by brainstorming, persona mapping, customer journey maps, prototyping and iterating on designs to develop the solution. Human Centered Design leads to better products that solve real-world problems for the customer. Apart from increased sales and profit margins, the technique when used properly can deliver increased brand loyalty & better customer retention. One of the product which leveraged this technique include the “Instant microwavable popcorn packet” which successfully resolved the problem of mixing the different contents and does not require any cooking/ storage vessel.
  8. David McClelland’s motivation theory or Expectancy Value Theory of Motivation states that every person is motivated by one of the three below needs: a) Achievement - need to get things done, b) Power - need to have influence over others & c) Affiliation - need to have good relationships. Person with the need of Achievement will always try to drive to excel, try to perform above set standards, and will always strive to succeed. Such individuals with a high need for achievement usually will take moderate risks in order to be always successful. Person with the need of Power is concerned with making an impact on other, the desire to influence other. Such individuals tend to take highest risks in order to achieve their goals. Person with the need of Affiliation will desire to maintain friendly relations with other individuals. They have a strong desire for acceptance and approval from others. Individuals with a high need for affiliation tend to be low risk takers. Though everyone has a blend of all the three, usually only one is dominant. This dominant need of that individual shapes their behaviors and motivations. The three different needs bring different strengths, weaknesses, preferred ways of working and behavioral risks into their respective workplace. Management & project leader leverage the respective team members dominant needs to in order to get the most out of them and to succeed as a team.
  9. Earned value analysis (EVA) is one of a project management technique that is used to measure how the project is progressing. It is a method that compares the actual work completed to the original budget and schedule at any point of time. Calculating Earned Value involves calculating three key values namely. The Planned Value (PV) which is the approved cost estimate to be spent till that point of work. It is also called as Budgeted Cost of Work Scheduled (BCWS). Actual Cost (AC) which is the actual or total cost incurred in accomplishing the work till that specific period. It is also called as Actual Cost of Work Performed (ACWP). Earned Value (EV) which is the actual value of the work completed till that specific point. It is also called as Budgeted Cost of Work Performance at a specified point (BCWP). These three parameters are used in performing variance analysis which determines whether work is being accomplished as planned. There are two types variance associated with EV which are Schedule Variance (SV) & Cost Variance (CV). Schedule Variance (SV) is the dollar value difference between work that is ahead or behind the plan and represents the schedule status of the project. It is calculated by the below formula SV = EV – PV If the schedule variance (SV) is negative, then you are behind schedule. Cost Variance (CV) is the dollar value difference between budgeted cost of work performed and actual cost work performed. It represents the cost status of the project and is calculated by the below formula CV = EV – AC If the cost variance (CV) is negative, then you are over budget. EVM is based on the fact that the project has all the detailed plans upfront. Hence, it works perfectly for projects where the planning process can identify all major project deliverables and does not entertain any change during the project development cycle. Due to this, EVM does not work well for projects with agile initiatives as agile processes harness the power of change during the project development to provide customer’s competitive advantage.
  10. Time & cost estimations are critical to any project. The commonly used estimation techniques are the Three-Point Estimate and Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT). Both these methods are used when there is a level of uncertainty with the individual activity; however, there are some differences too. Three-Point Estimation Technique: is a technique used for cost/ time estimate by applying a simple average of 3 parameters namely optimistic, pessimistic, and most likely estimates. Optimistic (O) estimate is defined as the cost/time needed to perform an activity when there are NO challenges in the process, i.e. everything will work smoothly. It is also called the Best-case Scenario. The Pessimistic (P) estimate is the opposite to Optimistic estimate. It is defined as the cost/time needed to perform an activity when we have the maximum challenges in the process. It is also called the Worst-case scenario. The third is the Most (M) likely estimate. It is defined as the most realistic cost/time needed to perform an activity. The result of three-point estimate technique is the triangular distribution. The formula for triangular distribution is: E = (O + M + P) / 3 where: E = Expected Estimate, O = Optimistic estimate, M = Most likely estimate, P = Pessimistic estimate. Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) is used for cost/ time estimate by applying a weighted average of the optimistic, pessimistic, and most likely estimates. It has become the most used method due to its reliability and accuracy. The result of PERT is the Beta Distribution. The formula for Beta distribution is: E = (O + 4M + P) / 6 From the equation, it is visible that the PERT method gives more importance to the ‘most likely’ estimate. It also transforms the three-point estimate into a bell-shaped curve from which probabilities of ranges of expected values can be calculated. Let us take an example of estimating the time it takes to drive from home to the office using the 2 methods Pessimistic estimate: 120 Minutes (Maximum traffic, multiple accidents, Processions, etc.) Optimistic estimate: 30 Minutes (Least Traffic due to lock down) Most likely estimate: 60 Minutes (Normal traffic) Estimate (Three-Point Estimation Technique) = (120 + 60 + 30)/ 3 = 70 Minutes Estimate (PERT) = (120 + 30 + 4 X 60) / 6 = 65 Minutes (More towards the Most likely estimate).
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