Monday, March 31, 2014

How Cloud Platforms Save time and Effort in the Software Development Process

Cloud computing platforms started playing a major role in sharing and collaboration. These platforms gained popularity in the last 2-3 years when major companies have migrated their code to servers hosted on cloud computing platforms. Previously, code usually resided on physical servers which were prone to software failures. Moreover, sharing code was not so easy or elegant. It usually involved an elaborate check-in check-out process and was usually aided with software tools such as VSS (Virtual Source Safe).

With the advent of cloud computing platforms such as Windows Azure (http://www.windowsazure.com/en-us/pricing/free-trial/) and open source hubs like Github, software code sharing has become easy. It is very easy to see your peer's code and review them as well. You can even reuse most of the functions written by other developers across the project. In Simple terms, you just use certain modules written by others and others use some modules written by you. This adds a lot of efficiency to the overall project. 

The traditional method of maintaining code on physical servers has a lot of disadvantages. They are more prone to crashes and other issues. A person should be dedicated to take backups every few days. They are also known to consume a lot of power. No employee wishes to "turn off" the server. These machines usually run 365 days a year. This also harms the hardware of the server. Today's cloud computing platforms overcome these conventional problems.  They are suited for conventional as well as agile projects. 

Companies that don't harness the power of cloud for software development process are usually doing stuff in the old fashion. This also projects a bad image of the company in front of employees and customers. Companies that adopt the cloud model are able to see the advantages almost immediately. Only the transition phase of moving the code from physical servers to cloud may be a bit tedious. But once completed, the efforts of employees compound and overall efficiency is achieved pretty fast.

Using services like Windows Azure will eliminate the need for extra physical systems. This saves power, space and the effort spent in procurement of the machines. Usually cloud platforms provide flexible pricing plans. There is also a free trial involved where employees of the company can checkout the features and maybe develop a small module or feature. They are billed if they select features outside the free plan. It is worthwhile to explore the options and setup an efficient cloud based system for the entire software development life cycle. In the long run, such initiatives are bound to save time and money. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Treasury and Financial Supply Chain Flows

Treasury and Financial Supply Chain Flows

Source: The Handbook of Global Corporate Treasury

The entire process requires capital in order to run. Until the customer pays the firm, the inventory, operations and supplies need to be funded. Proceeds from sales received across locations need to collected and deposited, so that payments can be made from those or other locations for purposes of running the business. Accounts need to be maintained in these locations, perhaps in different currencies, and these accounts need to be managed. 

Trade transactions need to be funded, and documents must be prepared and used.The entire aspect needs to be planned and executed, and this forms the basis of one of treasury’s key roles, which is to handle transactions as part of cash management, managing the cash and funds of the organisation.

It is preferable to use the firm’s own money to make these payments, and hence the monies need to be moved efficiently from one location to another, making them available where they are needed. Where it is not possible to use the firm’s own cash, alternative arrangements need to be made—for example, borrowing from a local bank. Even if access to these funds becomes difficult, the firm still has to keep running—ensuring that there is money available when required ensures liquidity for the firm.

Excess cash needs to be invested securely to generate return for the firm until such time that the cash is needed. Long-term projects require capital—this needs to be arranged at the least possible cost and putting least pressure on the firm’s cash flows. The organisation needs to be creditworthy, and the financials of the firm have to be aligned to ensure that the performance is consistent with or better than expectations in order to sustain and improve the creditworthiness of the firm and hence its ability to generate liquidity and lower its cost of funding. This calls for managing the balance sheet efficiently, and with the right structure. This entire set of activities, the second of treasury’s key roles, covers managing the balance sheet and the firm’s liquidity (which is another aspect of cash management).

As the firm moves across borders, sells or buys from another country, or exposes itself to other counterparties and undertakes financial transactions, it exposes itself to risk or uncertainty that the business and financial objectives will not be met because of a change in some factors—perhaps market movements, defaults of trade partners or banks, or internal errors. The management of these risks forms the third of treasury’s primary roles.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Nature's Friends: A brief encounter with ants

I have observed several small children play with ants. Ants are an interesting species. I recently observed a 7 year kid in my community playing with ants. These ants were the small black ant species which are harmless. They don't have a sting like red ants.

The kid was observing the ants near a well. The ants were carrying food and were following each other. The kid was of the curious kind. He was careful not to hurt the innocent creatures. He was trying to confuse a few ants and mislead them. He was basically trying to lead them to a different route. Some ants were misled, but they were back on track in a few minutes time. I had known this phenomenon. Ants secrete a substance called pheromones which guides them to follow others. Once an ant has established a path, all ants follow the scent and try to reach the destination.

If an ant accidentally discovers a shorter route, it will leave a relatively stronger scent which attracts other ants. This leads to an increased concentration of scent in the new path. Most ants will then start using the new path. I tried to explain this to the kid in a simple way. I showed him he doesn't need to touch them to mislead them. He can just rub the path when no ant is crossing it. This seemed to misguide the ants a bit. But most ants are programmed to deal with such uncertainties. Hence, I guessed that this wouldn't hurt them much. The kid had a lot of fun later and looked happy. I guess he learnt something about biology and group behavior.

Nature friendly kids enjoy products that are made from natural substances like tomatoes.  (http://www.kissan.in/). Feel free to gift them products that have nutritional value. 

Gibbon- A new type of educational start up from Europe

Everyday I am learning new ways of using internet for more productive purposes. Recently I came across a start-up called Gibbon based out of Europe. This is a new kind of start-up that aims to build playlists for learning.

The content of courses is crowdsourced. Anyone is free to start a course and curate contents from the web. There is no limit on the size of lessons. However, users will not be able to upload files or share pdf/ppt files. URLs which have files are also not allowed.

Gibbon was also featured on Techcrunch recently. There are a few good courses on lean startup and user experience/design. If you are interested, you can enroll for a couple of good lessons on Gibbon.co.

Close Encounters of the Smelly Kind

I have always wondered about smelly people. There are several reasons behind the smell. In most cases, it is because of excessive heat and sweat. In such cases, it may not be right to deal with a smelly person in a straight forward way. However, I have had encounters with certain people who were extremely reluctant to take bath on a daily basis. They just don't want to get inside a bathroom and run water on their bodies. Maybe they like the natural secretion of sweat better. This was an arguement given by a lazy friend.

One of my roommates in hostel skipped bath every few days. He wouldn't bother much and skip taking bath on atleast 7 days a month. The smell aggravated when he would skip bath two days in a row. We were in a relatively tropical climate. This added to the misery. I usually encountered the smell with the usage of room freshners, perfumes, agarbattis etc. The more I sprayed the freshner, he would understand that his smell was an issue to me. He would take bath as soon as possible. I talked to him about his habit of skipping bath. He told that he gained this habit in school when he would wake up too late and had to rush to catch his school bus. Nevertheless this was clearly a problem to me. I dealt it in a relatively smooth way without offending him (I hope so).

I hope he is taking bath every day now. If cold water is an issue to him, I would suggest Racold Instant Water Heater to him (https://www.facebook.com/racoldthermoltd).