Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence

By now you may have heard the buzz about Artificial Intelligence (or “AI”) even if you do not work in “IT”. It’s nothing new to use historical knowledge and data to predict the future, and even help make real-time decisions. In manufacturing and retail, historical data has helped to set inventory levels and time promotions. This is often referred to as predictive analytics. AI extends this to perceive and act based on any mix of data that is sensed or is made available through any number of channels. Beyond this comes an attempt to develop AI to learn and think much like humans (or cognitive animals). As you can imagine it’s more about when than if, and with accelerated advances in technology when may come sooner than we humans think. Read recent article on AI by TIMIT Solutions published in SiliconIndia.

TIMIT’s “NeOn” IT Delivery Model (Part II of II)

In Part I of II, we revisited “offshore”. We reminisced about the evolution that solved many of the initial challenges, and helped mold the delivery models used to outsource IT. Here we will explain what TIMIT has termed “NeOn”, why it has come about, and what it offers.

Let’s start by dispelling any claim by us to turning offshoring GREEN. NeOn is not a color but simply one alternative to traditional “offshore”. Some elements of traditional offshore delivery models present challenges to an ever-changing world. Differing attitudes — liberal versus conservative, Gen X versus Millennials, global expansion versus nationalism, and the speed of change in business to business (B2B) and business to consumer (B2C) all need to be factored in to today’s IT delivery models.

NeOn first reflects the changing global economy; labor rates in particular. Offshore IT labor rates dipped into the single digits two decades ago (lowest for BPO). As demand picked up, salaries increased. As more people came to the US to work onsite they came to expect higher incomes, and many stayed getting Green Cards and citizenship. All this has acted to reduce the variance in labor rates between India and the US. At the same time India developed IT Services at an alarming rate, where many IT people got Masters Degrees, MBAs and even PhDs. Great strides in delivery process maturity increased the value of offshore in terms of throughput quality. These factors provided a balance between increasing labor costs and increased value.

While India and other parts of Asia showed great vitality in IT Services an interest to do work closer to home (in the US) arose for various reasons. At first some offshore providers promised a mix of nearshore services which in my experience took the form of a sales office or minimal delivery capabilities. The real capability of nearshore came to fruition over time. Today it’s not difficult to find nearshore success stories, and availability of a growing talent pool.

Before getting into what we mean by “NeOn”, let’s first dispel with the term “offshore”. Let’s call work being done far from where you sit “farshore”. Then it makes sense to call work being done nearer where you sit what has been termed “nearshore”. Farshore and nearshore can be debated in terms of pros and cons until the cows come home. Let’s leave the cows out of this discussion. We like to think of a model that simply takes advantage of all the pros, and avoids the cons. To us that means the “mix” that best suits your specific needs of cost, quality, speed, scale and “fit”.

We believe following the 80/20 rule, “NeOn” is a great option for many businesses. “NeOn” quite simply means – you guessed it – the appropriate mix of nearshore and onshore. Not rocket science, but let us explain some elements of this that may not be fully explained by the term itself.

Touted advantages for US companies using nearshore versus farshore include:

  • Cultural fit
  • Time zone alignment
  • US work styles affinity
  • Agile friendly
  • Lower attrition
  • Creativity and Innovation
  • English/Spanish language skills
  • Lower overhead
  • IP Protection/Legal jurisdiction
  • Quicker startup cycles …

Nearshore is a relative term. It can be Mexico or Latin America for the US, but for Europe it is Eastern European countries. To accommodate preferences and sensitivities, onsite plays as important a role. If you’re located in Europe this combination may be a mix of Belarus, Ukraine or Poland with talent from your home country. So, what about the farshore component? We’ll address that a bit later. Not only does NeOn address preferences and sensitivity, it satisfies the need for speed. Agile development is a methodology that persistently produces short-term deliverables (days or weeks, versus months). Agile depends on an elevated level of team interaction. Working in the same/near time zone makes Agile easier. It also increases the odds of having a similar work culture and language(s). Travel time is shorter and the cost is lower for team integration activities. NeOn benefits can also be measured in reduced overhead costs, improved communications, better cultural fit, and better aligned management styles.

If NeOn provides an effective and efficient IT delivery model does farshore still have a role? Absolutely. NeOn is not a silver bullet, and likely will not provide the total solution for large corporations requiring large volumes of talent, or who have long-established farshore partnerships or operations (their own Global Insource Centers, or GICs). Wherever cost is the most significant factor, farshore still offers the greatest comparative advantage; if we use farshore to mean India and other countries with more competitive labor.

The predominant advantages of farshore today continue to include:

  • By far largest talent pool
  • Best choice for large scale IT Service Operations
  • Most mature IT Delivery Processes (omitting new, smaller companies)
  • Leverage of IT and BPO/KPO Services
  • Experience working with large NGOs (omitting new, smaller companies)
  • Labor arbitrage (declining but still significant on large deals)

NeOn does have some advantages not always available with farshore. NeOn provides a model that works very well with Agile, and where elevated team integration is required. NeOn also provides an answer where there is a desire to do more work at home, or close to home.  Close to home may be at your partner’s US office, which is especially helpful for SMBs who may not have office space available. NeOn is a great starting point, especially for SMB companies that have not outsourced IT, but would like to. SMBs may find it easier to work out the minor kinks of NeOn delivery. Additional benefits can be gleaned by adding a farshore component later, if needed. In this case it is best to segment types of work best suited for nearshore, onshore and farshore to form an effective, and efficient delivery model. Yet SMB companies may find NeOn alone provides everything they need, at a price point that provides both lower costs and barriers to entry.

In summary, NeOn takes advantage of the pros of working closer to home. It’s a great starting point for SMB companies who have little/no experience outsourcing IT. For larger engagements, NeOn can be complimented with farshore to take advantage of even lower labor, greater pools of talent, and more mature delivery processes. Larger companies have, or will find, NeOn adds another option to their existing farshore partnerships and operations.

This blog is based on my many years working with great people pioneering “offshore”/outsourcing (customer side), providing it (partner side), and now co-managing TIMIT Software Development, Consulting and Staffing.

TIMIT’s “NeOn” IT Delivery Model (Part I of II)

Before we get into what TIMIT has termed “NeOn”, let’s first revisit the precursor to “NeOn”. (“NeOn” will be explained in Part II).

I’ll bet some of you have been around around long enough to remember when IT “offshoring” was nascent. In any case you have certainly heard about IT “outsourcing” in some context. My first exposure was in the mid 90’s. Offshoring, as it quickly became known, was new and unproven from a process stand-point. Any major change brings challenges that need to be solved. It’s important to note there was no fault on either side, but simply differences that needed to be respected and worked through. Today these have largely been resolved, or can be effectively managed. The most talked about ones related to:

Each year efforts to solve to these challenges molded new elements of the “Delivery Model”. Each model included key elements of:

  • Mix, or Leverage saw the pendulum swing ratios of offshore/onshore as high as 90%/10%, and in some cases 100% for “Extreme Offshore”. Over time initiatives to swing the pendulum back took on the forms of “Rightsourcing”, “Rural Sourcing”, and in a more extreme sense “In-sourcing” (what had been offshored).
  • Project Delivery key decision to be made was where to place PM authority, responsibility, and accountability. Part of the issue came early on when it was assumed all authority stayed with the customer (onsite). Most of the work was to be done offshore, and process maturity (as measured by CMMI) was usually higher offshore than in the US. Placing authority onsite was like trying to watch the hen house through a concrete wall. Project Management transitioned to a shared approach often termed “Two in a Box” where onsite had a counterpart offshore. Then came Agile; and the evolution continues.
  • Subject Matter Expertise (SME) & Skill Retention was a decision about what is “core” to your business. What percent of SME must be maintained? What skills are critical to “keep in house”? Decisions on these helped to answer leverage percentage, and whether IT correlated strongly to the “secret sauce” of your business; or not.
  • Single or Multiple Source vendor/partner relationships were important in terms of managing delivery and to the value your offshore partner(s) placed on you as a customer. Typically, it was best to start with a single partner to iron out the kinks in the delivery process, and to command the most account value by your partner. Over time and with growth, as measured in people and spend, the advantages of sole source inverted to become problems in some cases. An example of this is that your partner would claim to have everything to keep the competition out. This naturally increased the variance of delivery quality across various domains and/or skills outside your partner’s sweet spot. How many partner’s was best came down to how many you needed, based on a partner’s sweet spot, and how many you could keep interested based on your total spend.
  • Pricing Models first came in variants of Time & Materials (T&M), Fixed-Price and Turn-Key. Even though Managed Services existing for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) this came later for IT Project Outsourcing (ITO).
  • People Management was a decision on who “controlled” the people working offshore. Early on the norm was that the partner paid and managed the people doing the work, within the guidelines of whatever delivery process was agreed to. This evolved to include models of: Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT), Joint Ventures (in more rare cases), Virtual Captives, Global In-House Centers (GIC) and some other offshoots of these. The evolution of people management is now more generally termed Global Sourcing.

Other elements factored into these models such as partner co-investment, training, and domain and skill Centers of Excellence.

In summary, IT offshoring promised exuberant savings, and came with some real challenges. Misconceptions and challenges have largely been resolved. Key elements of offshore delivery models have evolved to form and effective set of variants. The whole idea of “offshore” has become a practice of global sourcing. In Part II (of II) we will explain what TIMIT has termed “NeOn”.

This blog is based on my many years working with great people pioneering “offshore” (customer side), providing it (partner side), and now co-managing TIMIT Software Development, Consulting and Staffing.

Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment III of III)

(Previous segments Segment I of III,  Segment II of III)

To recap from earlier segments I and II, we talked about the critical project success elements of Project Schedule Rigor and Proactive Resource Management. Now let’s finish off with the critical element of Proactive Risk Abatement.

Proactive Risk Abatement is something that is often completely missing, or disguised as a filler page in a budget request as things that may go wrong. Webster’s definition of proactive is “acting in anticipation of future problems, needs, or changes”. The definition of abatement is “the act or process of reducing or otherwise abating something”. Abating risks simply means you want to avoid a risk becoming an issue. It’s not about managing issues – that’s what contingencies are for; it’s about avoiding them.

At GE I learned a process that boiled down to a few simple steps:

  1. Define all the risks you could think of
  2. Decide on scale of one (low) to five (high) both the likelihood that risk might occur (probability of occurrence) and the effect (effect of occurrence).
  3. Decide what actions you could take to abate those risks
  4. Put a “trigger date” on when those actions would have to be executed (to be effective)
  5. Decide how much the actions (if executed on the trigger dates) would reduce either/or the probability and the effect.
  6. Decide what contingency actions would need to be taken for any risks that were not effectively abated (it means those risks turned into real issues).
  7. Document all this as a Risk Abatement Plan and tie the trigger dates to your main Project Plan/Schedule.
  8. At EVERY Project Review confirm that every risk abatement action with trigger dates on or before the review date have been, or get executed.

In summary, going from a simple list of “risks” on a page to a proactive, actionable plan, tied to your project plan, will result in far fewer failed projects. I suggest it makes your project plan more than twice as likely to succeed.

To summarize all segments, IT Projects have had, and continue to have, a high failure rate. Many agree on a 60% rate of failure. Beyond fundamentals of knowledge and experience (and certification if you like) of project management methodologies, we believe paying attention to three key elements improve your chances of success. Applying Project Schedule Rigor, Proactive Resource Management, and Proactive Risk Abatement will make you less likely to fall into the abyss failed IT Projects.



Project Management Institute –

ENTRY Software –

Webster’s: /

And my on the job training and experience learned during my 20 years working in IT at GE.


Critical elements of IT Project success (Segment I of III)

(Prior article – Segment 1 of 3)

To recap, in our first segment we talked about the critical project success element of Project Schedule Rigor. Now let’s talk about the second of the three — Proactive Resource Management. 

Proactive Resource Management means you have access to resource capacity, with the necessary skills, to deliver what you promised.  Then it’s all about managing the team of resources to complete all tasks. Of course managing also means successfully resolving challenges that could arise from poor estimation, resource churn, and even Murphy’s Law. Rather than assuming you’ll get the resources as planned, I suggest you use a three-step plan to get resources engaged. At an earlier employer I developed what was call a 30-60-90 day resource plan. Depending on the size and duration of your project you may break the steps into different durations. In this example resources we not all coming from local sources where onboarding was predictable. And the projects tended to be six months to 18 months in duration.

The “90” day was a long view of what resources would be needed, sometimes before every last detail was defined in terms of technology and technical skill needs. In a sense this represented a “soft allocation” of resources to the project. The number and general type of resources were defined, and all long lead time activities were started. These could include Visa filings, travel plans, local recruitment, and any specific training that was required.

The “60” day was a threshold by which the long view had been taken care of, and the details of technology and number of resources was firmly committed to. By 60 days you were making a “hard allocation”, or named resources, to the project. All long lead time activities had to have been completed, and any adjustments to resources types or numbers had to be resolved quickly. At this stage you needed to prepare to be ready to deploy these resources on the project within 30 days.

The “30” day was the threshold whereby within a 24-hour notice you must have the resource ready to deploy. This meant all remote resources coming onsite had to have visa, passport and flight ticket in hand. Resources that would be working remotely would have to have all onboarding completed (including training), and equipment and access provisioned and tested. All local resources (external and internal) has to be onboarded, trained and committed.

In tandem with proactively lining up resources, there are well-known challenges that you need to address. The list is long, so I’ll take advantage of a study completed by Entry Software, who is a recognized as an innovator in project manage software. Their study found the three most critical success factors that needed to be addressed includes:

  • Lack of information = lack of process and systems
  • Recalcitrant team members = cultural resistance
  • Unskilled project managers = skills development”

Entry found that by “… addressing these three success factors is critical” (to success).

In summary, managing resources on a project doesn’t start on project day zero. It starts in advance of the project launch date. In addition to managing proactively, it requires you address the critical areas of process and systems, cultural resistance, and skills development.

In the next segment well address the third and final critical element of IT project success — Proactive Risk Abatement. Check back for that.



Project Management Institute –

ENTRY Software –

Webster’s: /

And my on the job training and experience learned during my 20 years working in IT at GE.


If You’re Not Using Mobile to Track Customer Sentiment, You’re Doing It Wrong

Customer sentiment: it’s how we keep our finger on the pulse of our customer base and understand how decisions impact the way customers feel about our brand. We can all agree that it’s an important metric and that historically it’s been very difficult to capture a significant volume of responses in a short time period. Because of this, it has been challenging to take action based on this low volume of sentiment feedback.

Mobile has completely changed this reality.

With mobile, you can collect data from upwards of 10% of your customer base. .That’s a massive improvement compared to the less than 1% of customers companies typically hear from with NPS and other customer sentiment tracking methods.

Not only are you able to significantly increase the number of responses on mobile, you’re able to do so quickly. It would take several months to gather that many responses on other channels (like web, in-store, email, phone, etc). This results in an inability to make business decisions based on customer sentiment.

If you’re not using mobile to track customer sentiment, you’re doing it wrong.

NPS mobile survey example

Example of a Mobile survey

Why mobile is the best place to track customer sentiment.

We’ve already covered the basics: tracking customer sentiment on mobile lets you gather more responses faster, which in turn lets you make informed business decisions.

Mobile is the most powerful channel for NPS.

If I told you that you can hear from 50% of your customers, would you believe me? You might ask how long it would take to collect that many responses. Outside of mobile, that would take years. But when using mobile for NPS, it can happen within a few months.

One of our customers, who has an app in the Books & Reference category, received a 51% response rate and over 500 unique responses to their in-app NPS survey in less than two months.

The truth is there is so much more you can do with customer sentiment data.

Here are three ways you can get more out of customer sentiment tracking with mobile:

1. Segment customers to move them up in the NPS scale.
After you gather NPS on mobile, you can start segmenting customers by promoters, passives, and detractors—this opens up a world of possibilities. Create campaigns that are designed for each group’s specific needs. Tailoring communication for these three groups will help move them up the NPS scale. For the customers who are already at the top of the scale, personalized communication with help keep them there.

If Starbucks were to send a free drink to all of their mobile app customers, they could use NPS segmenting to make sure the message about the reward is ultra-relevant. Let’s examine how an in-app Note can be tailored differently to promoters, passives, and detractors:

NPS Notes image

Disclaimer: This is an example of what you can do, not actual screenshots.

2. Target customers based on sentiment.
Segmenting customers based on how they feel about your company makes campaigns more relevant and makes it more likely customers will be receptive to the message you’re trying to send them.

In addition to using Notes (like the Starbucks example above) to send personalized messages, you can also use customer sentiment segmenting to hone your ad targeting.

Promoters, passives, and detractors will respond to the same ad differently, so why waste the money? For example, if you’re running a campaign to drive referrals, detractors aren’t the right audience. Using your sentiment segmentation to target only to your promoters will be more impactful. Create ad copy and promotions that will pull iffy customers back in, and keep happy customers happy.

Over time, you can measure how well your targeting strategy worked by tracking customer engagement. Did passives and detractors start using your app more often? If the answer is yes, then targeting customers based on sentiment worked.

3. Run beta tests with specific sentiment groups.
Consider your mobile customers a built-in focus group. Not only are they actually your customers, you have a lot more background information on their behavior and preferences than you do in traditional focus groups. There’s a lot you can do with that information to optimize your beta tests.

Just like you can segment customers to target them with different messages, you can segment customers to identify who is best suited to participate in beta tests.

Beta testers should be engaged, so promoters are an ideal group to tap into for beta testing. Depending on your app’s privacy settings, you’re able to get even more granular with segmenting based on how often customers use your app, what features they use, etc.

The feature you’re testing will determine who should participate in the beta test. For example: if you’re testing a mobile payment feature, it makes more sense to test it with customers who use your app to place orders (and purchase) instead of testing with customers who primarily use your app just to browse.

Segmenting customers on many levels will help ensure the feedback you receive during your beta test is as valuable as possible.

In conclusion

Using mobile to track customer sentiment allows you to extend beyond knowing how your customers feel about your brand. With mobile, you can effectively move people up the NPS scale, optimize communication, and identify the best groups of customers to participate in beta tests.

Whether you’re in product, engineering, marketing or on the leadership team, tracking customer sentiment on mobile will help you do your job better. In addition to the possibilities above, you’re able to hear from a larger percentage of your customer base than any other channel—and do so light-years faster than other channels.

So, yes, it’s worth saying a third time: If you’re not using mobile to track customer sentiment, you’re doing it wrong.

Do you collect customer sentiment via mobile? If so, what do you do with the sentiment data?? I’d love to hear your strategies in the comments section below!


Article Written by: Emily Carrion

6 Ways to Measure Customer Experience for Your Mobile App

Mobile customers are more impatient than ever before in today’s landscape, and an app download does not necessarily mean business for your brand. Staying vigilant on the customer experience and how it can influence your chances of business conversion is key to success.

But how can you measure the effectiveness of your app’s customer experience? Consider the following tips.

1) App analytics tools

Understanding analytics is the primary area to get a clear idea about how your app is getting traction from the users. You have the officially integrated analytics provided by app stores and developer consoles. But you can also opt for an array of third party analytics tools that can provide few more layers of insights on the app usage.

Some metrics can deliver in-depth analysis about your users, and others include time spent in the app, simultaneous use of other apps, user location, user demographics, etc. Moreover, when your app store analytics are not trending in the right direction, these third party tools can work as a backup tool.

Some of the key metrics to track when evaluating app analytics tools include:

  • Number of downloads
  • App usage
  • Lifetime value of the user
  • Retention rate
  • Average active users (MAU and DAU)
  • Session length
  • Average revenue per user
  • User experience and traction

2) In-app feedback

Gathering in-app feedback requires interacting with your app’s customers on a personal level. Instead of exposing their publicly expressed opinions and feedback’s on the app, leverage your app to interact with them one-on-one, and consequently, gather information that inspires action throughout your team. Gathering and acting upon in-app feedback will not only help you maintain a positive public image, but it will also pave the way for a more trustworthy and credible relationship with your customers.

3) Reviews and ratings

App store reviews and ratings are obviously one of the most influential metrics you can use to measure customer experience. When your customers react through rating your app and leaving reviews, it quickly allows developers to understand the customer experience at a deeper level.

Ratings and reviews

If your ratings drop or you are getting unfavorable reviews, do your best to respond to the issue and solve them immediately. The earlier you fix the problem and communicate the solution to customers, the better your relationship can become.

4) Session tracking

Does your app receive only short user sessions? In this case, it might make sense to focus on increasing engagement and time spent in-app. In general, short sessions result from difficulties users experience. Perhaps it’s your app’s UI or functionality, or perhaps there is a bug. Whatever the issue, session tracking can help you uncover it.

To get to a deeper level, you can track your user sessions with across different pages and sections of your app. No matter what you’re tracking, a few key metrics to track user sessions include:

  • Average session length
  • Frequency of sessions
  • Bounce rate of various pages
  • Activity per sessions

5) Customer demographics

User demographics refer to demographic data of the individual customers including location, age, gender, etc. Through demographic user data, you can track different groups and their in-app behaviors to understand usage patterns.


By segmenting customers by in-app behavior, it’s easier to see which target group of customers is most engaged. Such data also helps with your retargeting based on the difference of engagement and experience. You can make your marketing more personal by studying demographic data. When it comes to driving loyal customers and providing personal experiences, demographic data can offer you the right insights.

6) Customer sentiment

Tracking customer sentiment is the best way to understand your user experience. Customer sentiment is the kind of metric that allows you to keep watch on the perception of your app, and helps you respond to the emotional reactions customers have while using your app. This actually helps you bridge the (potentially misleading) gap between user data and the actual sentiment your customers have.

Customer sentiment

As consumers, sometimes we share and talk about an app just because we just need to blow off steam. However, it’s not always the 100% way we feel about the app and the experience it offers, so the data on its face value is often misleading. This is why it is equally, if not more, important to measure and evaluate the emotional reactions and responses of the customers.

A final note

To keep your app’s audience growing, you must go deeper into the data and keep a close tab on what is happening with your customers behind the scenes. The above metrics and tools can play an invaluable role to make your app growing as a business. I hope they will work for you.

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Article Written By: Juned Ghanchi

The Battle between Native vs. Hybrid: Mobile Apps

Consider these few pros and cons when choosing between a Native or Hybrid app for your business.  To put it simply native apps can be described as insanely customizable yet pricey while Hybrid apps can be launched quickly but may not deliver the same level of user experience.

So which is best for you?

If you are looking to create an out-of-this-world user experience the native app approach is your best bet.  A hybrid app will leave you short due to the constraints of the web browser; or its interface.

Although, if you’re happy with the capabilities of your browser(s) and need your app launched quickly a hybrid app can do this with just one build across multiple platforms.  Hybrid apps are also great in regard to making frequent content updates directly from the web without having to submit new version to the App Store every time you make a change. Native apps require a separate build for iOS and Android, and thus a separate budget.

Now Native apps have the adaptability and support for integration over periods of time and bring the quality of uniqueness to your business! Native features can leverage Contacts, Map, Push Notifications, and other specific features/functions pertinent to your business goals. Not only can you have a one of a kind app you also have the freedom to build and update whenever the time and money is right!  A native app is the way to go if you continue to grow!

So in the end the choice if yours, depending on what your business needs, now and going forward.