Wednesday, February 11, 2015

New Generation Databases

2015 will be a milestone year for RTS when we will scale new heights in product development and in delivering quality solutions. It gets me really excited to share information about an upcoming technology that I am passionate about- “new generation databases”.

We all know about databases – a very interesting piece of technology, to store large amounts of information – textual, numeric, pictures, even videos – that can support on demand retrieval and usage at a later time. Traditional databases like Oracle, MSSQL Server etc. provide long-term data storage to computer software – everything from mobile phone apps to a large enterprise application involving many interconnected computers. They can handle many operations (such as filtering and sorting data, logging, roll back, secure processing of data in a multi user environment,etc.) at the database end.
However there is a big constraint. In order to set up these traditional databases, we need to have professional expertise in SQL (Structured Query Language). SQL as a language is different from the language in which applications are developed, so an extra effort is required to achieve that seamless integration between the application code and the database itself.

A solution to this has come in the form of new generation (no/new sql) databases which explore a new way of storing data. Objects and information are stored more directly – using library functions and objects from the language used to develop applications. An age old notion has been challenged that only “relational databases should be used”, making them immensely popular among the developer community.

New generation (no/new sql) databases are designed in a way such that maximum processing is handled by the application. Like traditional database solutions they do not apply many restrictions on how to store data. They just save what is provided by the application making them highly optimized for data storage and retrieval thus providing excellent performance. The best part, because most of it is open source, is no hefty licence fees or yearly renewals are required , resulting in significant cost savings.

Key Strengths of No/New SQL Databases:

·         Can be used to store highly variable data structures, and even unstructured data.
·         Accessible from the language as used in the application
·         Fast storage and retrieval

But do our new generation databases suit every application? No, not as of now.
They are good in scenarios where  less number of users make very large changes to data at different times, where success of “transactions” may not be guaranteed
or when a high level of isolation between the data storage and the running applications is not desired.

If there is problem, there is a solution also.
Using an entirely new level of innovation and engagement, a mix of relational and new generation (No/New SQL) databases is already being implemented across the technology world with great success.
Combining the best from relational databases (Stability, Security and Suitability) with the best from new generation databases (Speed, Savings and Schema less) many organizations have transformed the way they experience technology.
In coming times, in order to develop data rich applications, as No/New SQL solutions become more mature and popular, they would certainly provide an increasingly logical choice for application development and business growth.

Please share your views on how you feel No/New SQL databases will impact our choice for databases in future.              

Puneet Malhotra

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Expand your Network – Enhance your Net worth

When my marketing department reminded me that the time for me to contribute to the RTS blog had arrived, I was dwelling on what topic to focus on this time around. Given that I tend to attend industry conferences at every opportunity I get and having been given two such opportunities within the span of a month to meet some pretty interesting individuals, the decision to choose networking as the topic of this blog was pretty straightforward.

When I first began my career more than 20 years ago as a business analyst in American Airlines, in my mind, the term ‘network’ implied either a collection of linked computers or all the destinations that an airline flew to with not even the slightest allusion to a human connection.  In those days, I had a pretty narrow definition of success – design an algorithm to solve a business problem or troubleshoot a buggy piece of code.  Any other activity that my marketing and sales colleagues used to undertake religiously, like making trips to exotic locales to attend industry conferences were considered boondoggles that were merely a waste of time.  As I progressed in my career, I started gaining a holistic appreciation of the business model and a striking realization of the power of human interaction in either making or breaking a deal.  As the saying goes, businesses don’t do business with other businesses, people do business with people. The human element is perhaps the most important aspect of any business relationship and this can simply not happen if there are no face to face interactions with peers in the industry and beyond. 

‘Grow your network‘ is a popular refrain preached by mentors and career coaches and with very good reason. It goes without saying that for a job seeker, the bigger the network, the greater are the chances of landing a job commensurate with skills and expectations. For business professionals, especially in the sales domains, attending conferences to expand their network and potentially business opportunities is not a luxury but a necessity and the skyrocketing prices of attending, speaking and exhibiting at conferences bears ample testimony to the demand organizers face from vendors. Networking is frequently listed by delegates as the main motivation for attending conferences. In the analog world, informal introductions and discussions over lunch have been the tried and tested method of starting many productive relationships. More extreme and targeted networking at conferences is an accepted practice and is frequently listed as the main motivation of delegates to attend industry events. In the digital domain, sites like LinkedIn, Skillpages, etc. have made it quite convenient to seek out and make professional connections.  However, I would contend that though digital forums are very useful in fostering and building relationships, initiation of a relationship is best done through face to face encounters. Irrespective of how much synergy may exist between two professionals, a business relationship typically has a solid foundation only after a personal rapport is initially built between the interested parties. 

For those of us who are given the opportunity to attend conferences, the networking sessions specifically set up by the organizers are  god-sends and makes getting to know some interesting people both from a professional a personal level that much easier (copious amounts of alcohols at these events don’t hurt either).  The thought of walking up to abject strangers at a conference with an unsolicited introduction is quite an awkward proposition for most, but the more you engage in that, you realize that the imagined rejections that you were dreading never actually materialize and that everybody is in the same boat as you.  In fact, in my case, even though I don’t consider myself a social animal, not only did this become pain-free, it actually became  enjoyable as you never know what kind of interesting relationship might develop as a result of your initiative.  In fact, I have made quite a few professional contacts who as an added bonus have also become good friends and this further incentivizes me to network at every opportunity I get.

Networking, besides the obvious effect of helping you get access to better career opportunities or growing your business, is quite rewarding on a personal level. It  gives you insight into different perspectives and motivations of other human beings whose end objective is typically not that much different from yours.  Though obviously prospects and partners tend be on top of the food chain when it comes to strategic networking, if time permits, I have found indiscriminate networking to be quite fulfilling as well. Meeting people from unfamiliar domains has enhanced my perspective and though there may not be much in common on a professional level there could be significant similarities on a personal level leading to lasting friendships.  This relationship may have never had a chance if I had ruled them out as not being of business value merely by glancing at their title and company on their lanyards. Just as you should never judge a book by it’s cover, I've realized that you should never judge the value of a contact by his or her lanyard.

Networking can be a potentially uncomfortable experience when it comes to competitors that you may run into at conferences. Though some people can feel awkward and tend to avoid their competitors like the plague, I have found that even though there obviously will not be much (if any) professional knowledge being exchanged between them (for good reason), an informal discussion focusing on personal small talk at least increases familiarity and this should hold in you in good stead in this dynamic marketplace where a competitor today can be a client, partner or colleague tomorrow.

Would be very interested in knowing where you stand on networking.  Please feel free to share any thoughts you have on this.

Pradeep Bandla

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

TMI (Too Much Information )

We live in a time when we can consume news and gather information as it is happening in real-time.  We get the details of a disaster from the news media (internet, television, and newspapers) almost immediately. In the case of some of the coverage of recent disasters, the information can sometimes be misleading or not accurate as the reporters sometimes run with any information that they receive without first vetting the source or the information.  On top of this there are several media outlets, journalists, and bloggers who share or publish their own opinions instead of providing only the facts and allowing the public to form their own opinion.
Information is also only a click away today - whether from our computer or smart phones. We get hundreds of results back that in itself can be overwhelming.  How do we choose which article, blog, or source to read? That is what I find to be the hardest part.
For me trying to decipher where to start and determining the difference between fact and fiction can lead to a state of feeling either very overwhelmed or to a state of confusion.  As you dig deeper into gathering more information one can get a sense of being overwhelmed.
Wikipedia states that "information overload" refers to the difficulty a person can have in understanding an issue and making decisions that can be caused by the presence of too much information [1]". 
In reviewing my searching habits, I have found that I tend to always go to the same sources, internet pages, blogs, that I believe provides me with the information that I need  to make a valid opinion or judgment about a particular subject - whether it be personal, business, political, etc. Sometimes this helps eliminate the feeling of being overwhelmed but sometimes it adds to it especially for those issues that are social, political, or religious in nature.  It can lead you to feeling that you are losing control.
Living in an age of technology is great but I find that it leads me to a sense of losing  control - being pushed and pulled by it - rather than a sense of being in control of my thoughts and ideas. I have come to realize that I need to consciously consume information.  That is to figure out what I want to know or gain more knowledge of and be hardnosed about sticking to certain ideas or thoughts.[2]
What are your strategies in dealing with information overload?  How do you decide what to absorb or just skim through? And how do we make our blog one of those that is on your "go to" list?
As always we value your thoughts and opinions and would like to hear your ideas on this topic.
Robert L. Harris, Jr.
Senior Solutions Consultant

[1]  Yang, C.C.; Chen, Hsinchun; Honga, Kay (2003). "Visualization of large category map for Internet browsing". Decision Support Systems 35 (1): 89–102. doi:10.1016/S0167-9236(02)00101-X.


Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Context matters…..

 This is a blog I have wanted to write for a very long time… it is a collection of my learning and observations in a few areas from working for several different companies and with different people of varying levels of knowledge, experience, and maturity. I would like to focus on just a couple of these observations in this blog. There is a common underlying thread among all these observations which I will come to at the end.

It is quite interesting to listen to people who sound very excited about best practices and jump on them to try and implement them in their group or company. Be it marketing strategy, leadership style, or recruiting process.  Oftentimes, enthusiastic managers and leaders completely miss out on the context and fail to understand the differences between companies in terms of size, composition, maturity, and complexity of the organization as well as the type of products and services rendered.  In addition, there are several other factors and constraints such as budgetary, governing board, and competition that differentiate companies.  Ron Ashkenas in his Harvard Business Review Blog Network (2010) post entitled “Why best practices are hard to practice” 
(  identifies ‘lack of adaptation’ as one of the two common pitfalls of applying best practices. I can very well relate to this from my first major professional experience in applying best practices to managing perishable inventory.  Applying revenue management concepts from airline passenger side to the air cargo world is what I am referring to (back in the early ‘90s) and how a few of the airlines failed in adopting it instead of adapting it.

I also find it puzzling when certain leaders believe that there is only one way to move forward or make a decision regardless of the situation. This closely ties into the previous observation; however, it is more related to making decisions on business development, sales strategy, etc.  People call it as ‘inconsistent’ when different decisions are made for a problem under exactly the same situation.  I call it ‘irrational’ when the same decision is made for a problem but under different circumstances or situations.  It is a bit strange when someone says this is how he or she will make a decision no matter what.  Let us take a simple example from our personal lives. When a friend asks for a ride to the airport you will say yes when you have nothing going on at that time. You will most likely say yes when you have a ‘not so important’ commitment at that time. The decision is a ‘may be’ when you have a meeting with your boss at that time. It is probably a ‘no’ when you have an important customer meeting at that time.  We can stretch this example to scenarios where it is your anniversary or your daughter is sick, and so on. The decisions may be different if it is about taking your friend to the hospital for an emergency. The point here is that our decision to solve a problem depends on the circumstances around it as well.

I can go on and on with several examples where context matters.  What is important from the above two observations is not to lose sight of the context, situation, or circumstances. Let passion and best practices drive strategies for your company but it should be aptly adapted based on the unique nature of your organization. I personally believe being cognizant of ‘context’ and adapting to it on everything we do is a key to success. A leader is not a true leader if his/her leadership style is exactly the same regardless of the company he/she leads. A decision maker is not rational if he makes the same decision for a problem regardless of the context. What is important is to keep the fundamentals in perspective and follow basic tenets of business ethics. It may sound like I am stressing the obvious, but as mentioned at the beginning, many passionate leaders completely miss the boat on this and get carried away by the practices and strategies deployed by other leaders at other companies that yielded success.  

At Revenue Technology Services, we ensure that our leaders are sentient of this important factor. I welcome your thoughts and feedback on this.

Raja Kasilingam

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

“Oh, what a tangled web we weave”

Is it a viable option to intentionally make mistakes to promote discussion or feedback? Or even more severely, to sell something.

There are a million lists out there these days, usually prefaced with some form of “that you can’t live without”. Some are pretty interesting, but often they are linked to some form of social media publicity harvesting. It seems one of the easiest ways is to make you respond, for example by publishing a list of “25 guaranteed weight loss tips” but then only publishing a list of 10. You then make a comment to point out the error of their ways, and voila, they have you.

So I got to thinking, where and when is it acceptable to warp the truth? In his last blog ( Raja mentioned that “the key factor that pushes customers over the edge to say ‘YES’ is trust (a combination of integrity, knowledge, and expertise).” As a parent of 3 boys, two of whom are 6 years old, and still enjoy being read to, I find that I purposely change words in their better known stories to elicit a response and see if they are paying attention.

During training courses I will, usually tongue in cheek, throw in a complete misstatement about the topic to test attendees, or at least test if they are awake. Some areas should not have this done, for example if I was doing Health and Safety training, or a pre flight briefing, just in case someone takes it seriously!

Yet if I was doing the same thing in marketing materials, would people see it as a hook or as a lie? Obviously each situation has its own interpretation and merits, and yes, advertisers have been stretching the truth for years, but at the end of the day it loops back to Raja’s trust issue. I will always exaggerate for effect, that is part of my genetic makeup, sometimes a million times in one session, but I have to do it in such a way that it makes the rest of what I am saying credible. It is me, or my colleagues, that people are buying into, not necessarily the specific wording, but the end point still has to be accurate.

So when we sit down and discuss “what we can do for you”, it will likely cover a range of areas. In illustrating points, there may be a slight misrepresentation for effect, for example if we talk about your 5 thousand seat aircraft, or your ship flying from point A to point C. But when we are talking about specifics, actual details and what can and cannot happen, it is off the cards. This approach, a refusal to bend the truth, has made me unpopular in past jobs, as it is very at odds with the “used car salesman” type approach, i.e. say anything to win the deal.

But unlike the used car salesman who likely will not see you again, my team has to deliver what we told you up front we could. We have to deal with you daily, and if something is not as we said, we have to face the music. On occasion things may not happen at the originally envisaged times, but overall, keeping an honest dialogue going serves to keep everyone happy.

And misrepresenting things upfront puts the credibility of me, my team, and my organisation at risk. And that is not acceptable.

As Mark Twain said,
“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything”

So whilst no one is likely to come out and admit to lying, when is it acceptable to bend the truth? Your thoughts in the comments below please?

Jason Codd
VP, Services

Friday, September 5, 2014

Shaping your career one step at a time

I always thought of a career path as a linear format in which one makes their career growth according to a set path taking guidance from a book, mentor or a class.

In reality very few of us strive to follow this path. It may be a good guideline to follow but typically there is an abstract line that runs in other directions that doesn’t necessarily have to be vertical, but usually runs  multidimensionally to shape one’s career.

Climbing the corporate or business ladders aren’t the only ways to think about career growth, even though it does involve most of the career path decisions.

For some, a professional career is a destination. From the very start, the goal is to achieve some level of proficiency or stature in our chosen field of work.  The destination can be a role, a company, a level of achievement, or other specific and measurable goal.

For others, a professional career is a journey.  From the very start, the goal is to experience work from a variety of perspectives in your field and adjacent fields.  The journey can be different companies or organizations within a big company, job types, geographies, or other varied aspects of your profession. Destination and journey are different ways to look at career progression. 

As I mentioned earlier, we can start to map our path in horizontals and verticals. What is your next step toward that position? What category does that new step fall into? An educational achievement, experiential skill/knowledge, new visibility/recognition, new position or new path? When you're moving up to the next level in your career – for example moving from a manager to a director – that is a vertical move. When you're moving from one company to another or making a lateral move within your company, that is a horizontal path.

Work your way, both horizontally and vertically.

Your thoughts on this topic would be appreciated. 

Deeshi Gandhi
Business Analyst

Thursday, August 21, 2014

IT Process Automation

Automate => An Efficient Process => Analyze & Monitor                                             

"Automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency.                          Automation applied to an in-efficient operation will magnify the in-efficiency - Bill Gates"

Daily, as we go through a process grind at our workplaces, the efficiency of the laid down process can largely affect our efficiency and productivity in turn of the organization as a whole. So it is very important to build efficient processes, automating them in a way to further enhance their efficiency.

Few questions come to mind though:
  • Why we need not fear automation?
  • What is the need to analyze and monitor an efficient process?
  • How can automation be a business opportunity to improve efficiency and productivity?

Automation isn’t something that we should fear, but rather something that we should embrace. It will not replace us, but rather make our jobs easier and more efficient. For example, IT process automation can reduce the need for manual script writing. A self-correcting mechanism can reduce the need for IT support staff to step in and perform routine tasks, such as run scripts, monitor logs, reset passwords and restart servers.

Does it mean we would have a nameless, faceless workplace that is filled with computers rather than people? No. This is because in most cases the tasks that are automated are meant to be automated. The process can generate meaningful data, day in and day out. With automation, there is an option to focus our energies on analyzing that meaningful data for which human input is necessary and take prudent business decisions.

In fact, automation can sometimes be a game changing opportunity in a business for many reasons. Primarily, it can drastically reduce the risk of costly errors. Repetitive manual tasks can at some point have errors – especially when one is under a lot of stress. One simple error can cause huge ripple effects across the entire organization and even result in lost revenue. Shifting to automation for these tasks can eliminate this danger.  It does present a huge opportunity for organizations to not only save money, improve efficiency and output, reduce errors but much more.

While automation will most certainly fuel business growth, the fact is, businesses will always need the human touch - analyzing, communicating and taking corrective actions. These can never be replaced by any high-end technology . Information Technology will complement and support our efforts to grow further and build products which meet both client expectations and high standards of quality.

How has automation helped your business? Leave us your comments. We look forward to hearing from our readers.

Puneet Malhotra