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Creativity and Design Meets Real-World Mobile App Development

We strive to offer the next generational wave of services that are generationally symbiotic with our populace

My colleague Peter Rogers shares how his team is developing strategies for merging creative forces with real-world projects and delivering rapid beta products. This is a big challenge as many of you know! Enjoy!

In this article I will introduce the following:

  1. The concept of ‘Creativity meets Technology'
  2. A new form of resourcing which combines education with recruitment
  3. The next generation of web application development
  4. The relevance to iOS 8 development
  5. An example of service design being used to help companies harness their workforce

I begin with the following question: What happens when Creativity meets Technology? Studio 13 is Cognizant's Beta Studio. Our strategy is to start with Service Design and build-up from there to offer actualisations of creative visions. We apply the following:

  1. Technology
  2. Creativity
  3. Deep understanding of people

We strive to offer the next generational wave of services that are generationally symbiotic with our populace. What does that mean? It means rather than just designing creative visions, we want to back them up with a technological blueprint which is achievable today, and then offer some level of future proofing.

The technology component is of critical importance. By considering technology as a parallel to creativity it takes us beyond a Service Design Studio and gives us the power to bring Beta products to market quickly and efficiently with a carefully defined handover point to the massive scalability of a traditional consultancy. It makes us a Beta Studio with the scalability of a consultancy and that is our ultimate goal.

The more time I spend in technology though, the more I realise I should be spending time thinking about people. A digital transformation can only be successful if the people come along on that journey. Too many times we suggest a new technology without asking the developers. The impact of technology on people is as important as the technology itself.

With Google Glass finally launching in the UK we will see the challenges with the law in regards to driving a vehicle while potentially distracted, potentially recording a film in a cinema and spying on people in public places. The way people react to this technology is probably the most important aspect of wearable technology and certainly Steve Mann devoted a large portion of his time to the sociological aspects.

Let me share my recent experience. We opened a Nearshore Centre in Europe.  We started by hiring, training and on-boarding students. It took three months for them to be ready to work for a world class financial institution. I have long complained about the merits of resourcing methodologies, so why not hire the people fresh from an area of large unemployment, personally train them and then arrange for commercial experience to follow. Of course we needed to filter the students for aptitude to learn and English skills, and most importantly to get customer buy-in upfront. We chose a location where students were hungry for work and looking to prove their skills in the real-world.  The added bonus here is that we were able to also solve unemployment challenges and provide these young adults a chance to kickstart their career.

This sounds difficult and it is. First, we needed a University, of which we found a suitable location and acquired a floor to build lecture theatres and secure network connectivity to the customer. Second we needed eager students which took a lot of filtering and a dedicated customer buy-in session from one of the University halls. Third we needed a teacher, and this is where I came in. I did not want to teach the team in the local language, as the end customer was in a different country and spoke a different language. Luckily my wife is Czech and I speak none of the language, so I constantly find myself communicating in near telepathic and body linguistics to get my point across. This three-point plan was enough to open a Nearshore Centre where we successfully trained and employed our first batch of students.

What was I teaching the students? The next generation of web frameworks - Web 3.0. Web 3.0 brings us governance. Gone are the days of fly-by-night JQuery Web Apps consisting of 10,000 lines of code inside a single function. The decade of 'Write an App in 30 seconds' long expired its sell by date and in its place a generation burnt by the promises of yesteryear and eager to consider what happens in the next 6 months of a project. Life cycle management is the new 30 second app. Of course you cannot trust people to actually do governance these days as most people will just self-govern and who governs the governor? The answer is simple, choose a framework which has governance built into it.

We selected Angular because it was supported by Google, open source and most importantly built to support Test Driven Development. It clearly learnt from the past. originally didn't want to support Angular but now it has the largest activity because they listened to the community and are working on delivering what they wanted. Angular offers governance through its very DNA. It does not stop there though, we wanted to use CoffeeScript which is a far more intelligent scripting language than JavaScript and that easily compiles into it. Most importantly it produces one output which is the very best JavaScript that can be produced. It Lints as it goes along and throw in Strict Mode and the resultant JavaScript is even stronger.

We used a next generational workflow using technologies like Jade, Compass, Jasmine and the philosophies of Test Driven Development and Continual Integration.

We also introduced the MEAN stack (MongoDB, Express, Angular and Node) which allowed us to use MongoDB as a Service offerings (like MongoLab) in combination with JSFiddle. This in turn allowed us to prototype, teach from code examples and share code snippets. In means that the students can start programming from day one without having to set up dedicated environments.

I believe this is the most reliable and future proof web development stack. This is what I am currently teaching at the micro-University. The most important aspect here is the people. Training is not easy. Training in a locale with a different language and a populace of mostly graduates possessing a general lack of cutting edge commercial experience, is even harder. If it works then we have a new form of combined resourcing, recruitment and education which is ready for the next decade of staffing requirements. I give this the handle of 'Edu-cruitment' which is the combination of education and recruitment which focuses largely on the people aspect.

On the last day of the course Apple announced Swift for iOS 8.  Whilst a million Objective-C programmers shed a silent (and not so silent) tear, a whole new batch of hungry students were born overnight. Of course on flicking through a few Swift guides it became abundantly clear that Apple's plan was to lower the point of enter for App developers. This appears to involve taking a strong steer from ECMAScript 6 and CoffeeScript. After teaching both the languages for many weeks then I felt far more confident that I could pick up Swift and even teach the language, than I could pick up C# as a professional Java developer.

How does service design relate to enterprise mobility? Well this is where Studio 13 is offering their first product, an Assessment App called Kuwiz. This enables you to assess the capabilities of your staff at varying levels of engagement. We want companies to be able to find the right skills from their workforce. Everyone is tired of the "we have 5000 C# developers" only to find there is one guy who once read a book on C# but got eaten by a bear last year. If you can accurately assess the skills that your company already has at its disposal then this gives you the power to tackle any problem without always resorting to hiring contractors.

Often that Chinese translator you were looking for is one desk behind you in London and really you don't have 5000 C# developers at all and so it is really time to start hiring. It also gives staff the capability of assessing themselves and seeing in which direction they want to take their careers.

Identifying potential at an early stage makes career planning far easier for companies and this is traditionally a big challenge in the IT space. The mobility aspect gives you the chance to push assessments out to your workforce and to socially collaborate with them in real-time. It becomes far more than just a limited desktop based exam that nobody really wants to take. Mobility allows you to bring the assessment to the people, rather than the people to the assessment. People will generally only do things if they are enjoyable and that is where the limitations of traditional assessment falls flat.

Studio 13 wants to help the world solve problems and this comes from a deep desire to listen to what customers are saying. It wants to offer not just an unattainable creative vision, but one that is deliverable through the carefully considered application of next generation technology - and that also takes into account the wider impact on the people involved.

Maybe the combination of creative, technology and people will cause the Universe to explode, but if it does then I feel the Universe was somehow broken in the first place.

"Once there was only dark. If you ask me, the light's winning."  [Matthew McConaughey , True Detective]



Kevin Benedict
Writer, Speaker, Editor
Senior Analyst, Digital Transformation, EBA, Center for the Future of Work Cognizant
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***Full Disclosure: These are my personal opinions. No company is silly enough to claim them. I am a mobility and digital transformation analyst, consultant and writer. I work with and have worked with many of the companies mentioned in my articles.

More Stories By Kevin Benedict

Kevin Benedict is the Senior Analyst for Digital Transformation at Cognizant, a writer, speaker and SAP Mentor Alumnus. Follow him on Twitter @krbenedict. He is a popular speaker around the world on the topic of digital transformation and enterprise mobility. He maintains a busy schedule researching, writing and speaking at events in North America, Asia and Europe. He has over 25 years of experience working in the enterprise IT solutions industry.

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