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Posted on: October 06-2017 | By : Prasanna Sukuru | In: Agile,Project Management | 1 Comment

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    We are all aware that in Scrum teams, a great deal of importance is put on team collaboration, positive team dynamics, face-to-face communication, responsiveness to change, early feedback to customers and ROI – all in a fast paced setting.

     

    That puts a great deal pressure on the teams, so it helps have an additional edge apart from the high technical competencies required. So, what kind of edge?

     

    For starters, I believe one way to get that edge is to embrace mindfulness, a spiritual concept which is defined as paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally.

     

    There would seem to be no apparent connection between the two concepts, since Scrum is a hard-boiled project management methodology, while mindfulness may have stronger associations with a Yoga studio than a Scrum room.

     

    However, mindfulness helps promote openness, reflection, discovery, flexibility, adaptability, focused evaluation, and pragmatic decision making. These in turn are closely linked to benefits like increased creativity, innovation, emotional intelligence, empathic interpersonal relationships and the flexibility to accept change — all of which are critical to success in Agile teams.

     

    Below, I have illustrated the close connection between Agile philosophy and the principles of mindfulness.

     

    Agile Philosophy Mindfulness Principles
    Individuals and interactions over processes and tools Empathy Awareness
    Working software over comprehensive documentation Focus Motivation
    Customer collaboration over contract negotiation Non-Judgement Empathy
    Responding to change over following a plan Awareness Empathy

    It would appear that there is some overlap between mindfulness and Agile, so let’s look at two such core principles that can contribute to higher productivity and greater success.

     

    People:

     

    Both Agile and mindfulness focus on the ability to listen, understand, and use skill to respond to the needs of others.

     

    By strengthening and leveraging emotional intelligence through mindfulness techniques, Agile teams can learn to listen better and establish better connections with both the customer and within the team itself, which in turn boosts quality and productivity.

     

    Simplicity:

     

    One of the twelve principles outlined in the Agile manifesto is simplicity. The focus is on high value yet simple processes and solutions that reduce waste and increase quality.

     

    Mindfulness helps people become aware of unnecessary mental clutter, and enhances the skill of making simple choices. Someone practising mindfulness can identify and let go of energy-draining thoughts like negativity and uncertainty before they become problematic.

     

    Similarly, Agile focuses on simple designs, short meetings, and avoiding long discussions. Activities are organized based on priority and efficiency, which requires teams to be extremely focused and driven. Mindfulness techniques like emotional de-cluttering can help teams focus better.

     

    How to Apply Mindfulness Techniques

     

    There is more than one way to practice mindfulness, but the goal of any mindfulness technique is to achieve a state of alert, focused relaxation. This is achieved by deliberately paying attention to your thoughts and sensations without judgment, and steering the mind into the present moment.

     

    There are many techniques that take very little effort and can be done practically anywhere, anytime, such as Meditation, Mindful Immersion, Mindful Observation, Mindful Appreciation, Mindful Breathing and others. Below are some pointers on two important techniques.

     

    Meditation

     

    Broadly speaking, all mindfulness techniques are a form of meditation. Meditation is about remaining calm and effortless in an uncertain world. The Agile/Scrum world is set-up to respond to unpredictability, whether it’s changing user requirements, deliverables, deadlines, or unforeseen glitches.

     

    Meditation does the same. You go with the flow of your feelings, whether pleasant or unpleasant, and never push or force your mind or thoughts.

     

    The benefits or meditation are well-recognized and quantifiable. In fact, one insurance company reported a decrease in healthcare costs and an increase in productivity among employees trained in mindfulness/meditation. Many Olympic athletes attribute their success to meditation practices, and Google even has a formal employee meditation program, whose motto is, “Greater complexity outside requires greater clarity inside.”

    Mindful Breathing

     

    Another important aspect is focus on the breath, which is closely linked to our emotions and sense of well-being. Breathing techniques, when practiced regularly, foster more positive emotions and help steer an anxious, angry or regretful mind back to the present moment.

     

    In the Agile world, being in the present moment is essential, especially during a Sprint. It won’t help if the team is bogged down by thoughts of past Sprints or future Sprints. In the moment, the Sprint must become like your own breath, and one of the best ways the team can get back on track is to make the sprint commitment the clear focus of attention for everyone.

     

    Still skeptical? The only way to prove me wrong is to try promoting mindfulness on your own team.

    There’s literally nothing to lose, yet you stand to gain a more positive environment, happier Scrum teams, increased productivity, greater flexibility and adaptability, better focus, and clear-headed, pragmatic decision making.

     

    Try it out and let me know how it works on your team. Or, comment below and share your own experience with mindfulness.

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    Prasanna Sukuru
    Prasanna Sukuru is a Principal Consultant and leads Syntel’s Agile Center of Excellence. She has...

     
    Posted on: October 04-2017 | By : Guninder Bhatia | In: Agile,Artificial Intelligence,Project Management | 2 Comments

    With the recent trend towards automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), it appears that the application of AI can not only transform enterprise computing, but now has the power to change project management as well.

     

    For a while now I have been exploring AI, and how developments in AI can benefit project management – be it traditional or Agile.

     

    A Quick Background on Bots and AI

     

    The most common definition of AI is intelligent behavior exhibited by machines, and a Bot is simply software that performs a task on the user’s behalf. (Wikipedia gives a good general definition of AI and Bots)

     

    AI is already being used in many areas like speech recognition systems, search engines, personal digital assistants like Siri, self-driving cars and many more. One of most prevalent examples of an AI application is a chatbot — a computer program that mimics conversations with people via audio or text, using simple command line-like interfaces or natural language processing.

     

    With the increased use of messaging apps like Slack, chatbots are becoming the interface of choice for executing repetitive tasks.

     

    The Role of Bots and AI in Agile Project Management

     

    As a Project Manager, I spend a great deal of time manually tracking projects and creating reports and charts to share the status of a project. This undertaking can deliver accurate and useful information, but often, highly talented (and highly paid people) end up burdened with tedious administrative tasks. Instead, they should be doing things more suited to their talents — like prioritizing the roadmap, working with a customer or managing a key stakeholder’s expectations.

     

    According to Gartner, they estimate that “by 2030, as much as 80% of routine work— which represents the bulk of human hours expended across today’s PPM disciplines — could be eliminated as a result of collaboration between humans and smart machines.”

     

    With respect to Project Management (especially Agile Project Management, where automation is an essential part of the continuous delivery journey), AI has a significant role to play.

     

    Bots and AI can be an excellent option to automate regular project management tasks, enabling skilled staff to focus on other high-value intellectual activities instead. It can not only automate simple tasks, but also uncover insights on project performance and perform more complex tasks and make recommendations — something that only Project Managers are capable of today.

     

    PM Bots Currently in the Market

    • Stratejos — Assists with estimates, budget, and sprint management
    • Memo — Assists with team knowledge management
    • Hugo — Manages team learning and knowledge management
    • HipChat — Quickly checks the status of a JIRA task (not an AI Bot)

    Agile Project Management bots can drive ALM tools to trigger events or user requests. Agile Bots can automate tasks based on predefined rules or via sophisticated algorithms, which may involve AI.

     

    Simple Bots can be used for a variety of tasks, including automated report generation, adding tasks to the to-do list, or sending out task reminders. However, adding AI into the mix can provide a level of service that rises above many of the bots available today. Some of these use cases could include:

     

    • Facilitating Daily Standups :At the end of the work day, an intelligent Bot can connect with team members and ask for the status of an assigned task. Each team member will respond with an update on what is completed, what is in progress, and any roadblocks.
    • Publishing Daily Status Reports :Before the daily scrum, the Bot can create a report with a breakdown of all tasks the team members are working on, or any major roadblocks they are facing.
    • Task Assignment :AI-powered Bots can automatically assign tasks to the most qualified team member for upcoming sprints, based on the team member’s expertise.
    • Sprint Planning: A Bot can generate an alert if a sprint has too many or too few tasks for the team. Likewise, it can identify team members that are overloaded or have too few tasks on their plate.
    • Bug Tracking and Assignment: Bots enabled with AI can track and identify updates made to source code, and link those changes to the team members who made them. This enables real, actionable tracking of team performance, and makes it easy to assign follow-up tasks to the right team member.
    • Risk Alerts : With the use of advanced analytics, Bots can proactively generate alerts if there is a risk of over budgeting and estimation, and drill down to understand where things are going wrong.
    • Recommending Best Practices :Bots can also show which best practices need to be followed and which ones are not creating any business value. It can also link the impact back to project metrics, to better understand the rationale for a particular practice.

     

    Where Do We Go From Here?

     

    Ultimately, an AI system or AI Bots will improve outcomes while saving time and manual effort. However, there are some challenges, as these early AI tools for Agile Project Management rely on capturing and maintaining data correctly, which itself requires human intervention.

     

    Thus the question: Can a machine or Bot eventually imitate the intellect of project managers and replace them?

     

    In my opinion, there is currently no threat of this. Perhaps in the future they may begin to approach our level of intellect and decision making, but for now they are simply useful tools we can employ to take our team performance and productivity to the next level.

     

    What are your thoughts? Will the Bots replace us eventually, or are they just a means to an end? Comment below!

     

    For a while now I have been exploring AI, and how developments in AI can benefit project management – be it traditional or Agile.

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    Guninder Bhatia
    Guninder Bhatia works as a Business Analyst, Healthcare Practice with Syntel. She has over five...

     
    Posted on: July 17-2017 | By : Gauri Deshmukh | In: Industries | No Comments

    Recent posts

      Pharmaceutical companies are often among the largest and most complicated organizations in the private sector, which are constantly under close scrutiny and subject to complex regulation. Their business success depends on the timely and successful completion of clinical trials. Clinical trials generate incredibly complex data and unless there are efficient processes and modern technology in place, numerous problems can occur. Without the right processes and supporting technology, pharmaceutical companies can pursue a flawed trial or flawed compound for too long and fail to cut their losses. Even if the trial design is good and the compound is promising, the inability to collect, manage, analyze, and package the clinical data can produce long delays that cause costs to soar and keep the drug from hitting the market.


      A deeper look at each step of the drug development process reveals a recurring theme of missing, incomplete, or erroneous data that wastes time and resources and adds months or even years to the drug introduction process.


      It is imperative for pharma companies to master the key entities in clinical trial data for real time feedback on trial progress and patient compliance, reducing the overall elapsed time and cost of clinical trials.


      Current data issues in the pharma industry

      • Lack of consistency in creating unique identifiers for products, projects, studies, sites, investigators, and other key data across the company hampers project management and cross-functional communication and coordination


      • Insufficient enforcement of clinical study data standards significantly increases processing cost at multiple stages and compromises study quality – potentially placing patient safety and entire development projects at risk


      • Difficulty in locating documents in a timely manner, due to inaccurate or incomplete document metadata tags, poses (potentially critical) risks to regulatory submissions and inspections


      When is data considered to be of high quality?


      When the data:

      • Is accurate, current, consistent, complete, and relevant
      • Possesses integrity (e.g., unique identifiers, no duplicates, and parent-child records are properly linked)
      • Can be easily accessed across systems
      • Can be easily processed and analyzed for multiple uses
      • Retains all of the above, even as data volumes grow and new data sources and integrations are introduced


      How can this be achieved?


      A robust Master Data Management (MDM) Solution can help achieve all of the above by offering a customized solution in the near term, mid term, and long term, aligning to the strategic needs of the customer.


      Master data management has helped customers achieve great successes in other industries. It’s now time for the pharma industry to use this solution to achieve the below benefits:

      • Simplified business operations, standardized processes and better cross functional collaboration for study, site, product, project, investigator, and subject enterprise assets management
      • Single source of truth to publish these key entities to all the required stakeholders/systems across the enterprise
      • Facilitate connecting the dots to identify new business opportunities and facilitate strategic decision making by providing consistent, consolidated, standardized, enriched, accurate, and inter-related master data to reporting and analytical systems


      Summary


      The global digital disruption affects the pharmaceutical industry as much as any other industry. The companies that succeed will be the ones that best manage, use, and share data.


      Transformation, however, is not necessarily an immediate change. Especially in large companies, new processes and technologies will be implemented over time and potentially a large number of individual projects. Each project will need its own justification, delivering a measurable return on investment. Using MDM to deliver the master data needed for each project’s success accelerates RoI on each project by making it easy to rapidly find and reuse the data required for an individual project.


      MDM helps us by providing processes for how we collect, summarize, and cleanse our data to ensure consistency, and appropriate governance in the ongoing maintenance and use of this data.


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      Gauri Deshmukh
      Gauri is a domain Consultant for Clinical Data Management. She has more than 11 years of Domain...

       
      Posted on: July 11-2017 | By : Prashant Ranade | In: Industries | No Comments

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        Whether we are ready for it or not, the digital age is upon us. Not a day goes by without reading or hearing about some digital disruption in today’s global economy, as more companies build their business models on next-generation technology.


        While it has created new opportunities, digital also forces CEOs to understand how to effectively use technology in today’s fast-paced, on-demand world.


        To truly “go digital” requires seamless end-to-end technology integration, not just a swanky front-end app, because “anytime,” “anywhere,” and “always-on” are the true barometers of a digital enterprise.


        For the CEO, this poses a complex challenge: how to improve efficiency, agility and speed to market, reduce run-the-business costs and channel this savings into change-the-business efforts.


        Clearly, the central challenge of digital modernization is adapting to change, but at its core, digital is like any other technological innovation. Innovation can enable us to do something completely new, such as in the case of air travel, x-ray technology and television. In the digital age, this is exemplified by the payments industry. Anyone can now process credit cards, buy a coffee using just their phone, or even pay for items as they are placed in a shipping basket.


        Innovation can also enable us to do something more easily, more efficiently, or more elegantly. Examples from the past include more efficient travel via automobile or more convenient communication by mobile phone.


        In today’s travel industry, the core products and services — like reserving and purchasing airline tickets or rental cars — have not changed, but mobile technology has now enabled an easier, more convenient, and more elegant way to manage travel.


        The fundamental job of a CEO is to look at their business and decide the “what” and the “why” of the business and figure out how to create a differentiated offering. The CEO then needs to ask the question: Do I want to do something completely new, do I want to make my existing business more elegant or efficient, or strike a balance between the two?


        Once that is decided, it is time to engage your outsourcing partner.


        How Your Outsourcing Partner Can Help

        Here are some ways an outsourcing partner can help CEOs navigate the digital landscape:

        • Stay current on the latest technology

          Your company may operate an airline, issue credit cards, provide banking, investment or insurance services, or manufacture a product—and it’s the CEO’s job to focus on this core business. With the rapid pace of change in the digital age, it’s almost an impossible task for a CEO or their teams to stay current on numerous complex technologies. Moreover, digital technologies are constantly evolving, and the “latest and greatest” tech may not be mature enough for your business. Your outsourcing partner’s core business is technology. Let them do the research, training, and heavy lifting. They should explore how new technologies can benefit, damage, or otherwise affect your business.


          In the face of digital disruption, there may be a point where you need to make tough decisions on which systems to retain and manage, which to migrate to new platforms, and which need to be re-invented and modernized completely. A trusted and experienced partner can help walk you through this decision, and a strong ecosystem of partners can improve reliability and speed to market.


        • Provide the scale you need to support your business.

          The mantra today is lean and efficient, both for staffing as well as for skills. Hiring and training is expensive, so let your partner bear the risk and burden of keeping enough staff on hand to handle peaks and valleys in demand – it is their business. They should be able to provide recommendations to build human and computing architectures that can scale as you grow. Above all, be intellectually honest. Tell your partner where you want the business to take you, and ensure that their plan can scale for the long-term, not project by project. It’s best not to enter the discussion with preconceptions of “how big” or “how much” of any resource will be required. Experienced partners can employ strategies like managed services and automation to create scale where you thought there was a bottleneck.


        • Manage the cultural and communication aspects of technology projects.

          The challenges of managing complex projects over long distances and long time periods are well-documented. If you had to invent a process and methodology from scratch for every project, nothing would ever be finished. Be sure that your partner is well versed in the latest methodologies.


          As a CEO, you must clearly communicate the business needs, and let your partner recommend a suitable approach to achieve your goals. There are new development techniques like Distributed, Scaled, Offshore Agile or Ogile® can virtually erase geographic differences and bring teams from all across the globe together for a project.


        With nearly two decades of experience as a CEO as both a user and a provider of outsourcing services, here is what I have learned:

        • It’s easy to get drawn into the technical or operational aspects of any project. Stay focused on the end game, and be clear about the outcomes you hope to achieve, not the “nuts and bolts” of a project.
        • Know what aspects of your business are outsourced, but retain your overall ownership of the project and be sure it is aligned with your business strategy.
        • When engaging with any kind of outsourcing partner, step back from the details and identify the business challenges that you want to solve or overcome. Remember that ultimately, you are responsible for the “what” and the “why” of the project.
        • Communicate these goals early and often, and let your partner do what they are best at – the “how.”


        There are many reasons to outsource in the digital age–technological, operational, cultural–but the visionary CEO will take a close look at their business to understand how best to use digital disruption to their advantage. Whether it’s finding a new way of doing business or simply an easier, efficient, or more elegant way of running current processes, CEOs must stay true to their business, focus on their core competency and see the big picture. Everything else is just ones and zeroes.


        This article was originally published on The CEO Forum

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        Prashant Ranade
        Prashant Ranade is the Co-Chairman and former CEO of Syntel, a global provider of integrated IT and...

         
        Posted on: June 06-2017 | By : Dr. Rohit Sharma | In: Analytics,Big Data,Business Agility,Digital Modernization,Digital Solutions,Healthcare Informatics,Life Sciences | No Comments

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          It’s no secret that drug and device safety is of the utmost importance in today’s competitive life sciences marketplace, and Pharmacovigilance (PV) is a major component of an effective drug regulation system for evaluating and monitoring adverse events (AEs). The importance of PV to the healthcare industry is underscored by a few striking facts:

          • Adverse events reported to the FDA increased at 13% CAGR from 2006-2014,and serious AEs increased by 15% during the same time period
          • According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), adverse drug reactions account for 100,000+ deaths per year, making them one of top ten causes of death in the U.S.
          • The growing number of ADRs and chronic diseases will increase the global PV market size, which is expected to reach $8.2 billion by 2022.

          Pharmaceutical and Medical device manufacturers face a number of AE-related challenges, including:

          • High cost of managing AEs in-house
          • Lack of internal resources to manage the huge AE workload
          • Evolving and un-harmonized regulations
          • Stringent reporting timelines
          • Increased reporting of adverse events in social media and literature

          Syntel is here to help, with Pharmacovigilance services that balance innovation and risk, while providing the fastest case processing and the highest quality. Syntel’s PV offerings for adverse events include:

          • RPA-driven Case Processing

          Syntel’s automated case processing takes AE cases from multiple sources and feeds data directly into your safety database, with integration and real-time information exchange between stakeholders. It also eliminates manual data entry for higher productivity, quality and efficiency.

          • Pharmacovigilance Center of Excellence (CoE) Services

          Our PV CoE provides end-to-end adverse event case processing, including case intake and triage, medical coding and narrative writing and aggregate reporting.

          • Safety Analytics, Risk Management, Signal Detection and Analysis
          • Safety Data Management

          Global safety database migration, implementation and validation

          • Social Media Integration with SAP HANA

          Screens social media, performs text and sentiment analysis, and reports on tweet density, trend analysis, and ADR severity   analysis.

          How the SyntBots® automation platform powers PV:

          The benefits of Syntel’s PV services include:

          • Automated AE case processing through the SyntBots automation platform. SyntBots shortens processing time by as much as 30%, reduces cost and manual effort, improves quality by reducing human error, and enhances operational efficiency.
          • Reduced costs enable you to fund new technology investments and optimize R&D processes such as clinical trial discovery and reporting.
          • Unique factory-based operational model that balances efficiency, compliance, quality and effectiveness.
          • Deep process experience in Individual Case Safety Report (ICSR) processing from sources including spontaneous, clinical trials, literature, solicited and social media for drugs, OTCs and medical devices.
          • Robust experience in support, implementation, migration and customization of safety databases like Argus and ARISg
          • Syntel’s scalable, knowledgeable global workforce enables more flexible engagement and pricing models.
          • Delivers an audit-ready PV service platform that supports MHRA, EMA and FDA audits.

          References:

           

           

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          Dr. Rohit Sharma
          Dr. Rohit Sharma is a Pharmacovigilance Consultant, Life Sciences, Syntel. He is Dentist by...

           
           

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