The power of in-sprint automation

Automation

The power of in-sprint automation

A large securities firm sped up time-to-market with end-to-end test automation on the cloud.

Client

A leading securities trading firm

Goal

Build a cloud-based automation framework to test client’s trading platform

Tools and technologies

C#, Ranorex, TestRail, Simulators and Selenium.

BUSINESS CHALLENGE

The client had a legacy trading platform that had grown and evolved over time. The platform consisted of a stack of 33 applications, built on a variety of technologies and architectures.

Testing new features and additions was proving to be a big challenge. A simple change in one feature would warrant a verification of the complete application. To ensure that any change does not affect other functionality, the client needed to do extensive regression testing and verification.

This was a cumbersome process with over 20,000 or 30,000 test cases being checked and executed manually. The trading firm had to deploy over 20 people to carry out this exercise. The client had tried to automate the testing process with a variety of tools but was not able to get the efficiencies it wanted.

In addition, the client had multiple squads working on different apps, functionality and features. Each squad used its own automation suite. It was becoming a challenge to co-ordinate the work of the different squads and ensure that changes made by a squad did not impact the overall functionality of the platform. Iris’s brief was to design and deploy a common cloud-based test automation framework for the client’s trading platform to ensure that it could launch new features faster.

SOLUTION

Using its cloud-based ready-to-deploy test automation framework, Iris sped up the deployment of new features for the client’s trading platform. The cloud solution, based on Amazon Web Services (AWS), featured continuous testing of multiple products on a common framework layer. It allowed for complete capacity planning of spinned cloud instances and need-based shutdowns.

Iris executed the project using acceptance test driven development (ATDD), a methodology that involves collaboration between customers, business teams and development teams. The teams jointly created the user stories and put down the acceptance criteria for any feature or functionality. Then tests were designed within the common framework to check if the feature met the acceptance criteria.

What was unique about the approach? Typically, automation is introduced towards the end of a development cycle. You would find that, in most projects, developers bring in automation in Sprint 4 for features developed in Sprint 1, 2 and 3. As a result, return on investment isn’t maximized. Our team introduced ‘in-sprint’ automation, enabling 90% test automation with every sprint. This resulted in more efficient and faster testing, and cost savings for the client.

OUTCOMES

Client’s deployment speed improved significantly with 90% faster execution to each sprint cycle and 80% faster script development.

The cloud-based solution is 100% configurable for on-demand execution on AWS, which reduced the client’s cloud infrastructure costs by 70%.

The new ability for complete capacity planning through the use of infrastructure-as-code (IaC) for spinning up cloud instances helped the client achieve end-to-end (E2E) automation of regression/ functional test cases.

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An agile sprint for financial data

An agile sprint for financial data

How Iris helped a mega sportswear brand’s global operations and financial reports go flexible, agile, and analytical.

Client

Among the world’s largest manufacturers of sportswear, the client sells its products in more than 120 countries and employs more than 13,000 people.

Goal

To significantly reduce turnaround time and ease associated with report creation.

Tools and technologies

Microsoft SQL Server’s Analysis Services (SSAS), Microsoft SQL Server Integration Services (SSIS), Microsoft SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS), Boomi AtomSphere, and Power BI.

BUSINESS CHALLENGE

The client’s finance department was using standard SAP reports which limited the flexibility to slice and dice data or add fields to reports. Modifying or creating new reports was either difficult or expensive. Top management, including the CFO and financial controllers, were finding it difficult to create a high-level, integrated view of the company’s finances.

The existing process required data transposition between various systems, including the SAP and Oracle systems. Much of this data was extracted and consolidated manually, which was time-consuming, and took around a week.

SOLUTION

Iris executed a distributed Agile framework for the client’s global delivery model. Our solution pulled data out of the client’s SAP ERP system using Dell Boomi adapters, and leveraged SSIS (SQL server integration services) to transform it into enriched data. This data was mapped and made actionable through interactive PowerBI Tableau dashboards. With the help of a custom-made finance data model, a data warehouse was created. The easily shareable data cubes not only replaced all legacy reports, but also reduced the number of SAP user licenses.

OUTCOMES

With the availability of Power BI dashboards and the capability to slice-and-dice financial data, client managers now have a better view of operations and accounting flows. The data consolidation allows users to create need-based reports without additional licenses.

The automation of the entire process from data extraction and transformation to publishing of analytical cubes has enabled the client teams to significantly reduce time required to produce reports – from days to a few minutes. They have been able to achieve a 95% reduction in time and effort.

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Deliver personalization via report automation

Asset Management

Deliver personalization via report automation

A leading asset management firm personalized offerings by automating processes to glean customer insights.

Client

A leading asset management firm based in the U.S.

Goal

Help asset managers deliver personalized solutions to establish differentiation.

Tools and technologies

AquaData Studio, Java, Perl, Python, Spring, Hibernate, VRS, PostgreSQL, Composite and MS SQL.

BUSINESS CHALLENGE

Asset management firms face challenges similar to those faced by most buy side firms – such as a generational shift in the demographic, new patterns of investment behavior, a changing regulatory landscape, and the rise of aggregators with low-cost products who are thinning the pool of investible funds.

Our client wanted to differentiate itself by offering customer-centric solutions that are flexible and adaptable. But its existing systems presented several challenges:

  • Its front, mid and back office functions needed a lot of manual effort
  • Business rules were inconsistent and data duplication was rampant
  • User experience on the platform needed significant improvement
  • Clients were unable to get a holistic view of their accounts
  • Data validation was consuming a lot of man-hours

SOLUTION

We partnered with the asset manager to deliver better digital experiences to all its stakeholders. We created a robust data ecosystem and used advanced technologies such as artificial intelligence/machine learning or AI/ML, intelligent automation, cloud computing and test automation.

  • Our team streamlined and integrated the client’s front, middle and back office functions. We helped the client integrate their back-office solutions with their custodians, reducing complexity in information exchange, eliminating reconciliation and increasing operations efficiency by more than 75 per cent.
  • We automated the creation of more than 7,000 reports.
  • Improved experience for retail and institutional clients by automating the generation of complex compliance and strategic reports.
  • Developed a strategic reporting module that gave customers a holistic view of their accounts and holdings
  • Set up a business data validation team offshore
  • Enabled self-service option for bespoke reports

OUTCOMES

Our solution helped the client significantly improve front-end experience for customers; reduce manual effort and costs in the back-office; and improve overall operations efficiency. Highlights of the outcomes:

  • Automated the exhibits process with 75% increase in throughput
  • Our report automation solution reduced manual effort by 70% and improved monthly artefact generation throughput by 40%.
  • Reduced manual effort for customization in client profile management by 60%
  • Achieved $50,000 savings for client per month in the data validation activity for client profile management

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Keeping pace with digital megatrends

Cloud, Automation, Data & Analytics

How to keep pace with digital megatrends

Cost pressures are driving firms to invest in automation, cloud migration and advanced data analytics.

Acceleration in digital transformation is occurring across the board. Most of it was underway earlier pre-COVID, but now it has accelerated, driven by the necessity of the new normal. Defining this megatrend are three chief sub-trends: Migrating to the cloud, Advancing adoption of automation, and Scaling operations with advanced analytics.

Cloud Migration: We see a surge in businesses adopting cloud infrastructure for flexibility and scalability, and to meet the surge in demands from remote users. This includes building cloud-native applications, placing data on the cloud, and harnessing compute competencies.

Hybrid cloud and multi-cloud environments are clearly winning over in-house data centers. According to a recent IDC report, the worldwide market for cloud systems and service management software will total $21.9 billion in 2024. That represents a five-year compounded annual growth rate of more than 24%.

Many businesses are also finding in cloud applications more effective ways to engage with their customers. For instance, at a leading global business services company, we at Iris are helping building cloud-native applications to support faster onboarding and service customers  in more than 180 countries.

That theme is playing out also at a leading company that provides employee well-being solutions, serving more than a 100 million end-consumers. Here, we are working on modernizing and launching customer engagement omni-channel solutions across desktop, mobile and tablets using cloud-native technology solutions.

Cognitive and intelligent automation: Businesses are accelerating their adoption of AI-based intelligent automation tools such as chatbots, advanced RPA, virtual assistants and cognitive bots. Gartner predicts that 90% of large organizations globally will have adopted RPA in some form by 2022, as they look to digitally empower critical business processes through resilience and scalability, while recalibrating human labor and manual effort.

Chatbots are increasingly popular in the suite of automation solutions. For example, at a leading Fortune 500 audit and advisory firm, we have implemented a multi-lingual chatbot-driven service desk automation solution, integrated with enterprise collaboration platforms for employees distributed globally.

Similarly, at a Fortune 100 global transportation and logistics company, we are implementing a consumer-focused chatbot to address the most frequent queries related to aspects like tracking shipment status and container location. This helps improve productivity of customer help desks and improve customer experience.

 

Advanced data analytics at scale: With enterprise data already on the cloud or moving rapidly towards it, data integration and crunching is now possible at scale and  AI is playing a big role in next wave of advanced data analytics.

AI-based insights, advanced reporting and dynamic visualization are among the chief benefits to be had with real-time analytics. For example, at a leading medical devices company, we have used our proprietary AI-based report rationalization solution to analyze thousands of enterprise reports and recommend an optimized reporting solution on the cloud. This has reduced the volume of redundant reports and maintenance costs for the company. Most importantly, our solution helped develop a reporting stack with which our client gets far better insights into their business.

Triggers for the shifts

Why are those shifts described above occurring? The pandemic has brought on new “cost pressures,” and the implications of work-from-home for automating processes, as companies grow anxious to retain their market shares.

 

With the sudden shift to work-from-home for employees and customers, businesses face the need to connect and collaborate on a real-time basis and in a virtual mode. 

 

One of our clients in the education services industry has for decades conducted standardized testing for K-12 and college-level courses in ‘in-person’ environments at its test centers, schools and accredited third party locations. With the COVID-19 situation, in-person testing is not feasible or is severely restricted. The company now has to provide the same tests in an online environment and make sure the that its test results have the same trust and integrity. This has forced it to rapidly accelerate its digital transformation efforts and roll out virtual tests at scale for millions of students.

Another big driver for the shifts underway is the commoditization and availability of at-scale technologies. That includes high internet speed, cloud infrastructure at scale and on demand, billions of connected devices, low-cost compute power and cheap data storage, to name a few.

Key takeaways

  • Digital transformation is now more urgent than ever before. Organizations now don’t have a choice of either/or.
  • Technology is driving differentiation in marketplace across industries. Organizations that are far ahead in digital transformation are winning. Technology is now a center-stage agenda item in board rooms.

Customers are increasingly doing transactions in an ultra-connected world. Rolling out connected solutions for them is the only way for businesses to survive and grow.

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Striking the right balance of care

Interactive

Striking the right balance of care

A work-life services provider transformed the care experience for its customers with a user-friendly, intuitive and responsive web platform.

Client

A leading provider of work-life services to caregivers.

Goal

Enable caregivers to easily set up and manage care schedules.

Tools and technologies

HTML, CSS, JavaScript, Bootstrap, JQuery, Atlassian User Interface (AUI), AngularJS and Liferay DXP7.2

BUSINESS CHALLENGE

Many young and middle-aged workers combine both work and caregiving responsibilities that cover not only children but also extend to parents and pets. Research shows that employees who achieve greater work-family balance are more satisfied in their jobs and happier with their families.

For our client, a leading provider of work-life services, the key to enabling that balance is the setting up of care schedules for dependent or vulnerable family members. The client’s existing solution for managing such schedules, however, was not user-friendly, flexible, or mobile-responsive.

The sites offered no provision to schedule premium services for care.
The client’s multiple websites were served by a Liferay V6.2 content management system (CMS) as the common backend for which support ended in December 2020.

SOLUTION

We designed and developed a web platform for scheduling care for family members including parents, children, self and pets, with e-mail notifications and quick access to customer care. We migrated the websites to Liferay DXP7.2 CMS backend. In order to improve the performance of the web application, we developed the website forms as AngularJS-based single-page applications. We developed a responsive web site that worked flawlessly across different-sized screens on desktops, tablets and mobile phones.

We used Agile methodologies right from the requirements-gathering phase until the final deployment of the web platform to shorten development time.

In order to save cost and time, we used an almost identical codebase for both iOS and Android platforms (except for a few configuration settings and device specific features).

Furthermore, our team performed continuous integration using automated build tools, and script and code repositories, to save time during the development, testing and deployment phases.

We ensured that the sites we built followed the WCAG 2.0 and OWASP accessibility and security standards.

OUTCOMES

  • The Iris-developed web platform ensured the client’s care scheduling interface was user-friendly, flexible and mobile-responsive.
  • Customers could easily create, change and cancel schedules. They also had easy access to records and historical data.
  • The common codebase across iOS and Android ensured significant cost savings in the development and maintenance of the application.
  • Agile methodologies and a high degree of automation reduced costs and shortened the development time.

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Gain speed to market with DevOps solutions

Wealth Management

Gain speed to market with DevOps solutions

A wealth management firm moved from a legacy application environment to a microservices ecosystem. The switch cut production time and expedited the roll-out of releases.

Client

The client is a leading wealth management firm in the U.S.

Goal

DevOps strategy to shorten production timelines and speed time-to-market.

Tools and technologies

JIRA, Jenkins, GitHub, AWS, ECR, Docker, EKS and Helm.

BUSINESS CHALLENGE

The client used multiple legacy applications with a highly complex codebase to run its operations. As a result, it had long production lifecycles and spent several person-hours in integration and deployment.

On the technology front, the client faced challenges in the way server-side applications were defined, stored and managed. Its IT team also had to manage the deployment of multiple Kubernetes manifest files.

SOLUTION

Iris recommended that the client move to a microservices ecosystem. Here’s how we deployed the solution:

  • We defined an enterprise-level DevOps strategy using Helm
  • Identified the scope of apps that needed to be on-boarded across the enterprise
  • Implemented a DevOps pipeline for microservices on the Kubernetes cluster
  • Deployed the infrastructure, dependencies and applications with Kubernetes using Helm
  • Delivered continuous improvement through Helm release updates and rollbacks

OUTCOMES

The DevOps pipeline significantly improved time-to-market new releases.

  • 20x faster release cycle
  • 40% improvement in quality with end-to-end traceability
  • 15x improvement in the mean time to deployment (MTTD)

The Iris team also put in place robust security control and validation processes; and provided for auditable release requests.

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India’s No 2 HR Influencer, Sharad Verma, reflects upon technology, behavior and the Future of Work

17-Jun-2019

India’s No.2 HR Influencer, reflects upon technology, behavior & the Future of Work

Interesting perspectives from the CHRO at Iris

Recently named India’s no. 2 HR Influencer by SHRM (Society for Human Resource Management), Sharad Verma is Iris India’s VP and CHRO, leading Human Resources for the company. A graduate of XLRI Jamshedpur, Sharad spent his entire career in HR. He joins Iris after being the HR Head at Polaris Consulting and Sears Holding.

Even though he has 30,000 followers on LinkedIn and close to 15,000 followers on Twitter, Sharad does not see himself as an ‘influencer.' “I started a blog to share my thoughts on HR but I also wrote pieces around mindfulness and special interviews such as the Facebook workplace. Another piece called ‘talent hacker’ also got a lot of traction. The blog morphed and now reflects a cross section between technology and behavior.”

HR is getting complicated with many specializations such as recruitment, rewards, training, etc. What do they mean and how do they fit together?

There is a lot that HR has to achieve between leadership, capabilities, strategy, retaining, competencies, rewards and culture. Some of it is quantifiable and measurable but much of it is not. Some, like culture, is palatable and you can see it. As I have had opportunities to do many ‘hands-on’ HR tasks either individually or as part of the whole, it gave me a wholesome ‘HR function’ perspective for an organization. My approach, which has been deliberate, has helped me understand the complete picture by working alongside business leaders to achieve both, people and business goals.

You were acknowledged as India’s 2nd biggest influencer by the recent SHRM report. That is a pretty big deal, considering India has close to 1 million HR professionals. What does the acknowledgement mean?

I have always been passionate about Twitter, seeing it less as a social media platform and more as a medium of expression. Traditional HR is more about process and policy. Influence, on the other hand is about how to influence another’s opinion, discovering your key message, what you stand for and building an audience around it to create a brand for yourself and for your company. I write about data, analytics and HR, with a focus on how technology is affecting HR today. The confluence of both is a really interesting space. A recent study by Stanford Labs, for example, talked about how to change behavior in small bites; I now apply it at Iris as well as share it in my writings.

Tell us more about this intersection of data, analytics and HR. How does HR interact with data today and why is it important?

My starting point has always been the insights that come from the intersection of capabilities, technology and data. When I joined, I conducted values workshops to discover what values were important to Iris. What is strong in our DNA? What do we live on, on a daily basis? What would we like to change? The results? Client delight came out as a consistent factor with a natural desire amongst team members to understand and be curious about clients to see them happy. Empathy and people-touch were also strong. The empathy part being intentional and upfront was a pleasant surprise, as many companies hope that it comes up but is usually difficult to preserve as a value. As the future of work continues to morph, empathy will continue to be key.

Iris is a good company; it takes care of clients and employees. The challenge is to continue growing while preserving our strong culture. We are, therefore, focusing on the three pillars of process, technology and policy. We will be investing in an HR management system because without the proper tools one cannot achieve what we have set out to do, no matter how good the intention.

At the end of the day, business is about people, especially at Iris. It is therefore important to understand how to unleash the creative function of the employees, so that they, in turn, can expand the client portfolios that they manage. It is important for HR to understand the whole picture along with the business value; otherwise it only adds value from a functional perspective. My belief has always been business value first and function next.

The Future of Work is changing. In that context, where is HR heading?

HR as a function has become more agile. The data from simple metrics such as ‘Where are we hiring from?’ ‘What is our success rate?’ ‘Did they join or not join?’ ‘What are the drivers to stay?’ and so forth, can help us do some predictive analytics. For example, data showed us that engaged teams + collaborative colleagues + exciting work = higher retention. We found out that we need to do some more work around coaching and mentoring and that a 3-month feedback cycle may be more effective than a 1-year feedback cycle. We also found out that appreciation may mean different things to different people. In this and many other ways, data generated from HR can be used to drive strategy.

Do you have any advice for young HR professionals graduating now?

Human Resources, at the end of the day, should be about people. Ask yourself if you are genuinely interested in people and be naturally curious in them, rather than in excel sheets. As AI takes over several functions in an organization, the ‘human’ side of business will become even more important. Secondly, HR is more interesting when you are interested in more than its traditional boundaries. I urge students to see it as the key to understanding companies and businesses by not constraining yourself to the traditional HR boundaries.

Any advice for Iris team members?

The great thing about Iris is the close partnership between the 3 founders. I have had in-depth individual interactions with all 3 and each meeting has been really inspiring. Business is about people, especially at Iris, which, as I mentioned earlier, is very customer and people focused. It is therefore important to keep that Iris DNA of small teams and committed team members while we continue to grow at the exponential rate that we have for the past few years. I am excited to be part of that journey and taking it to the next level.

“As AI takes over several functions in an organization, the ‘human’ side of business will become even more important” – Sharad Verma, VP and CHRO, Iris

What gets Sharad out of bed every day?

The prospect of being a life-long student with the advantage of indulging my creative side is an exciting proposition. “I see myself as a little bit of an artist and a writer, with an effort to bring that side into the corporate world. It is important to keep that side of me alive in what would normally have been a rather straight jacketed job.”

Follow Sharad Verma on Twitter @isharad

SMHR’s recent Influencer report for 2019 can be accessed at: https://www.shrm.org/shrm-india/Documents/HR%20Report2019.pdf

About Iris

Iris Software is a professional software services organization serving customers in the USA, Canada and India for over 25 years. Iris focusses on developing ready-to-deploy Custom-Off-The-Shelf solutions, Application Software development services, as well as services towards the maintenance, testing, integration and support of software.

Iris services the information technology requirements of companies ranging from the Fortune 100 to medium-sized firms by utilizing specialized domain knowledge, best-of-breed technologies, rapidly deployable proprietary frameworks/solutions and flexible engagement models. Iris provides thought leadership to solve business problems creatively by conceptualizing and delivering uncommon solutions, leveraging existing technologies and new computing paradigms such as Digital Transformation, ML, Analytics and Insights, Cloud Computing and Process Automation. Iris continually innovates to accelerate outcomes such as time-to-market, lower costs, ease of maintenance and reduced Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Iris’s core strengths of software engineering best practices enables it to deliver high-quality solutions consistently.

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