I began my internship with TeraThink on May 20th shortly after the conclusion of my freshman year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). While it felt like a short 3 months, I learned more at TeraThink then I could have imagined.
Working on several different projects allowed me to engage with numerous people throughout the company. I learned valuable tools such as Prezi, Google Analytics, and Tableau. The exposure to agile methodology was invaluable and I was able attend meetings involving marketing, data analytics, and ServiceNow.
One of the fundamental differences between COTS and custom software is configuration versus code. There is a recent trend among COTS vendors to extend the depth of configuration to deliver user experiences that previously took customization. Oracle is one of the vendors offering software tools that allow the abstraction of certain parts of traditionally custom code (like interfaces) into more configurable platforms.
Sometimes referred to as low-code platforms, these platforms allow for reuse, standardization, and greater end-user participation and control. Distinct elements of previously custom code elements like business rules or accounting logic can now be seen as “configurable” elements in their own software modules.
Throughout my summer internship at TeraThink I was fortunate enough to work on a variety of different projects. They exposed me to many different areas within which TeraThink delivers solutions. The final assignment I was tasked with was on a data analytics project. I was lucky enough to work with the Director of TeraThink’s Data Analytics Community of Practice, Beth Bauer.
We focused on creating modernized, interactive visuals to complement the pre-existing ones on the Veterans Affairs (VA) website. The efforts were inspired by the Veterans Affairs Open Data Portal. This portal allows anyone to figure out ways to improve and modernize the VA’s current data visualizations. Tableau was the perfect tool for us to accomplish this.
TeraThink was recently recognized as one of the Top Workplaces in Washington, D.C. by the Washington Post. One of the reasons why we are regularly recognized as a top workplace is our community efforts. As the lead for TeraThink’s Community Service Team, I wanted to once again share some of the great and impactful things our employees have recently been involved with in the community.
Anyone who works in agile software development knows how important it is to have an issue tracker application. These applications show the issues your team has completed, is working on, and will be working on in the future.
For many teams, Jira is the issue tracker of choice. One of the perceived advantages of Jira is that it serves as a “single source of truth” across an organization. This gives managers an accurate view into the progress, or lack thereof, of an organization against its product development goals.
But is Jira, or any issue tracker application, suited to this role as single source of truth? Is Jira an anti-pattern; poised to attack us when our back is turned?
Often, to do something worthwhile, getting started is the hardest part. Take going to the gym or writing this blog post. I feel great once I’m done, but I can come up with a million excuses not to even begin.
And so it is with data visualization, at least historically. Analysis paralysis rears its ugly head and you’ve thought of too many ways to depict your data to even begin to put pen to paper, or cursor to application, as the case may be. Conversely, you’re at your computer with a blank slate staring back at you and no earthly idea how you’ll begin to fill it. Sometimes, you have something created but the hoops you’d have to go through to change it creates a barrier to – you guessed it – starting.
Here at TeraThink, we work to create opportunities for everyone to learn. Recently we had the opportunity to have the 23rd Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, talk to us about her new book Aim High: Chart Your Course And Find Success. Hosted by our Leadership Community of Practice, Debbie shared some lessons learned from her very impressive career.
I am lucky enough to know Debbie in her role as a Board Member here at TeraThink. I knew that her insights and inspiration would be spot-on for our audience. As outlined in her book, Debbie told us her story. She shared how failures had become successes and about how a path that seemed clear was actually not. Most importantly, Debbie told us that having purpose and passion are keys to a life well lived.
Alfresco is bringing their Alfresco Days series of events back to D.C. again on May 23. The 2019 Alfresco Government Summit focuses on generating discussions around leveraging Alfresco as a platform in the cloud. Specifically, as an open source content services platform living in AWS.
TeraThink will be there again this year to talk about how we make content services work using Alfresco in AWS. We have been leveraging the content services platform (CSP) approach to deploying enterprise content management (ECM) for a few years. During that time, we’ve learned a lot of lessons. We will be bringing that expertise to the Application Platform Revolution Panel moderated by Alfresco founder John Newton.
Before the 23rd, I want to take a few minutes to giving you a preview of some of the thoughts we will be sharing.
One of the great things about using content services in your digital transformation efforts is the automation a lot of information governance processes. You can link business entities, automate the application of policies, and reduce duplicate content. All of which increases reliability of information and reduces redundancy. The newly digitized processes streamline the work that you do daily, increasing your ability to innovate across your business.
Sounds great, right?
But what about those policies you are applying? Have you thought about what they are doing? Do they reflect the realities of your day-to-day? Now that you are no longer dealing with paper and information silos, you can revisit your records policies that were written years ago.
Do you suspect that your company’s commitment to agile consists of jargon and sloganeering, as opposed to actual organizational and cultural change? Then you would do well to refer to this pamphlet on Detecting Agile BS (pdf) produced by the Department of Defense’s (DoD) Defense Innovation Advisory Board (DIB) in October of 2018. The DIB established itself to bring the best practices and innovations of Silicon Valley to DoD software development. The pamphlet was the result of luminaries such as Eric Schmidt, Reid Hoffman, and Neil deGrasse Tyson coming together turning their gimlet eye towards true agile practices in DoD software development.
I’ve excerpted some interesting parts of the pamphlet below and tied in some of my perspectives based on my current TeraThink project at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Full disclosure: TeraThink is a for-profit company, and as such is not 100%-free of BS. However, I like to think we have less BS than most. I’ll detail why through highlighting key flags that a projects is not truly agile.