Author: kat

Australian Census 2016 Who Is Liable?

Australian Census 2016 Who Is Liable?

It was a dreary day in August, you were trying to finish work early to get home before the Census night deadline or risk paying a fine of $180 or more. You rushed home and sat down in front of the computer, ready to do the survey but only to find out you are unable to access the Census website. Repeatedly, you kept on refreshing your browser hoping for the contents to load but the error message kept on appearing instead like a broken record. There is something obviously wrong and later that night you found out from social media that the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) website has been experiencing outages causing you and the rest of Australia grief. You are less than impressed and immediately blamed ABS for wasting your valuable time. But are they the main culprit for this chaos?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics, per its namesake, is a government agency responsible in gathering data from the public to understand Australia’s inhabitants and its needs. Collected data are analysed and are referenced by the government and the community enabling better planning on social, economic, environmental and population matters. ABS enlisted the tech giant IBM for a staggering contract of $9.6 million to host and manage traffic for the 2016 online Census. Various tests were done prior to the Census being kicked off, however, come Census night the website crashed continually. It was a frustrating incident even for the Malcolm Turnbull, who expressed his disappointment and specifically called out both IBM and ABS. Of course, if you are the client (ABS) your natural instinct is to point the finger towards the direction of the person you are paying to do the job (the service provider, IBM).

So what went wrong? Initial reaction from ABS was inferring to DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack or in plain English, their systems were compromised. But further investigation suggests, their servers could not cope with the surge in traffic from users trying to access the website all at the same time. IBM was dragged through the mud, their integrity tainted and heavy criticisms came left, right and centre because of the Census’s poor design and architecture. In essence, IBM’s lack of due diligence caused them dearly and perhaps future multi-million dollar government deals in pipeline. Though it makes me wonder how a veteran technology company, who has withstood the test of time, messed up substantially and out of all clients, the most bureaucratic…the government!

Strategies on Dealing with Sensitive Data

Strategies on Dealing with Sensitive Data

Unless you are living under a rock or in a cave somewhere off grid, the not so United States of America chose a very eccentric leader earlier this week which made the last few days more or less a circus. Yes, Donald Trump won the US presidency and a lot of people are upset causing volatility and shockwaves not just in the US but also across the world. What happened on election night with the Canadian Immigration website was extraordinary and describes the sentiment of non-Trump supporters. The website was reported to have crashed as it could not cope with the surge in traffic from the US, this support talks of some Americans wanting to move to Canada or anywhere else “rational” like Australia and New Zealand. I must say that I am grateful mum chose to migrate a couple of decades ago to Australia instead of the US! Thanks mum, I owe you peace, sanity and a good life!

So what went wrong for Hillary Clinton which caused her the oval office? I asked my American colleagues about their opinion of Hillary and one key denominator is trust. Clinton’s email controversy triggered a south bound ripple effect on the polls. The fact that she had set up a private server for personal and official communication while serving as a Secretary of State, instead of an official government account where classified information is deemed to be secure, was uncovered and scrutinized by the Federal Bureau of Investigation not just once but twice. Of course, Clinton’s opponents and the media feasted on this opportunity, even if the FBI cleared her twice. Regardless if she is innocent or not, damage was done. Clinton was regarded to have been “extremely careless” by the FBI and dodgy and suspicious by her critics.

Clinton’s mishap is a lesson for all. Security of sensitive data is a growing concern in a data-centric world like ours. In a much smaller scale like at home or at a personal level, there are ways we can do to protect sensitive data, such as:

  • If it is not necessary to collect and store the data then don’t – determine what is important and delete, delete, delete
  • Encrypt to prevent unauthorised access – data encryption is said to be the most effective way of securing data as access to a secret key or password is required. But don’t unknowingly give away that key or password (IE. writing it in your wallet or notepad for everyone else to see).
  • Store securely – there are a number of ways to achieve this from data masking, having backups from secure locations, use of security tokens, VPN, etc. It is ideal to research and seek advice from data security experts which can help you determine what is the best way for your situation.

The Office of the Australian Information Commissioner has further information on securing information, which can be accessed via the website https://www.oaic.gov.au/agencies-and-organisations/guides/guide-to-securing-personal-information). I highly recommend to visit and read through the fact sheets as it tackles Privacy Act, personal information security, information lifecycle, risks, types of security and so forth.

Considerations When Using Copy Written Materials

Considerations When Using Copy Written Materials

So you have a project due which requires some research but time is against you and the due date is fast approaching. You turn to the almighty power of Google’s search engine for comfort where you innocently copied and pasted materials to build up your project. At the back of your head a little voice is whispering “You are missing something here, something is not right”. And as you continue, the voice becomes louder and louder, forcing you to think what are you doing wrong. Are you unintentionally harming anyone?

A bright light bulb lit, which given you the idea to seek advice from a wise colleague of yours, Paul, who is a subject matter expert in this field. Paul has done extensive research on the topic of copyright and has happily shared the following points with you as guidelines on remaining compliant when projects like this arises and research is required:

  • Create yourself – as much as possible if it is achievable to create the material yourself then it is best to do so, this saves time in researching for contents and getting permission from owners of the material. So, if you require photo of a native tree for your project, then walk around the park and take photos. The sunshine and fresh air is a bonus, it is healthier!
  • Obtain permission to use material from the owner – if you must use someone else’s work, ask the owner nicely and have it in writing with their details (such as having an email confirmation). Good to cover your back side if things go south and they changed their mind later on.
  • Check if the website does say the content can be used or copyright free – look for this indicator that the content on their website is copy right free. I recommend to screen shot this section as a point of reference and store in a secure location.
  • See if you can pay royalty or get a licence to use the material – something that is frowned upon especially if you are a struggling student but if you need to then you must! Better to pay than get sued by the owner. Legal fees and bill on damages can further drain your funds.

In a nutshell, always assume no one is exempt and everything is under copyright. It is highly recommended to read through the Australian Copyright Act of 1968 which outlines the scope of copyright laws in the country which can be found on the Australian Federal Register of Legislation website (www.legislation.gov.au). Also, the Australian Copyright Council is there to help for inquiries relating to copyright in Australia. For international copyright, Australia has treaties with some countries where copyright laws are reciprocated but it is best to look for the local copyright laws of that country to ensure you are doing the right thing and abiding by their laws.

Scrumban: A different way to be Agile

Scrumban: A different way to be Agile

If you’ve been working in software development any time recently, you’re probably more than familiar with the Scrum—a methodology that comes with both pros and cons.  Now,  there is a  different way to approach project planning and management that some projects may find useful. It’s called Scrumban.

But first, what is Scrum?

Scrum is an iterative and prescriptive process for building software using the Agile methodology. A development team plans and commits to completing a certain amount of work in a certain time period called a sprint. At the end of the sprint, the team reviews the work with a product owner. They then hold a retrospective to analyze their processes during the sprint, and determine what can be improved next time.

Scrum can be an effective tool for introducing teams to Agile. Its more rigid structure provides a framework of understanding that is far easier to grasp than the loose nature of  Kanban might be for teams used to rigidly planned waterfall-style projects.

The daily standup, planning, review, and retrospective meetings are excellent touch points for periodic checking in with the work that is happening and reviewing with stakeholders. The retrospective itself is the crown jewel of the Scrum framework, and is what enables teams to focus on continuous improvement, or Kaizen.

One of the primary motivations for moving a team to Scrum is to get away from the often restrictive and inefficient processes of the waterfall model. In this model, there is frequently too much time spent on planning and designing before any work begins. After that, teams find themselves unable to respond to change later in the project as the developing and testing proceeds. All of this is why waterfall is a sub-optimal process for software development.

But look at the makeup of a typical Scrum sprint:

  1. Team plans the work that will be worked on over the next sprint.
  2. During planning, teams try to design as many features as possible, so that they can more accurately estimate what they can complete during the Sprint.
  3. During the Sprint, the team develops and then tests their user stories.
  4. At the end of the Sprint, the Product Owner reviews the work completed, and decides which of the stories are shippable and ready for production.

What does this mean? Scrum is a series of miniature waterfall projects wrapped up into iterations called “Sprints.” This is a push-based system, where another solution would be to use a pull-based one. Enter Scrumban.

What is Scrumban?

Scrumban is a pull-based system, where the team no longer plans out the work that is committed to during the planning meeting, and instead continually grooms the backlog. The same Scrum meetings (planning, review, and retrospective) can and should still take place, but the cadence of them can be more context-driven. The real key to moving to Scrumban, though, is ensuring that work in progress (WIP) is still limited.

Work-in-progress limits, not Sprints. With Scrum, the amount of work that is ongoing is limited by the Sprint time commitment. But in Scrumban, with no specific time commitment, the team must limit itself through the use of WIP limits on columns within their task board. The goal is always to move tickets in a flow from left to right on the board. If too many issues are in progress, the team is at risk of not finishing anything to high quality standards. Instead, there should be a maximum number of tickets allowed per column. If the number of tickets in that column ever exceeds the maximum, the entire team should swarm onto that column and help move tickets on. This should happen no matter what functional role a team member fills.

Planning meetings. These should take place as often as they are needed. When the team is unable to regularly pull stories off the top of the backlog at their normal pace, a planning meeting is necessary.

Review meetings. Reviewing work with clients and customers is the only way that development teams can get the feedback necessary to properly adapt what they are working on. Clients tend to prefer that these are held at a regular cadence.

Retrospective meetings. These can vary when held, but a general rule of thumb is to hold a retrospective after every review. This is the most useful part of the Agile process and should be given the proper place for that.

Standup meetings. Standup meetings in the Scrum world follow a simple pattern. The team takes 15 minutes and each person says, a) what he/she did yesterday, b) what he/she is working on today, and c) what is blocking any of that work.

In practice, this boils down to redundant statuses that recount information available on the team’s task board. For Scrumban, a more effective method is to refocus on the flow of tickets on the board. That same pattern of yesterday/today/blocked can be transferred to the tickets themselves—the group moves through each column and briefly discusses each ticket and what is necessary to move that ticket rightward on the board. This provides far more context to the team and informs everyone of any major architectural or design decisions.

Metrics. Metrics can certainly be useful, but they are often abused by managers and business stakeholders who want to unnaturally simplify a complex process into a one-dimensional number. Velocity, the amount of story points a Scrum team completes in a single Sprint, is such a metric that incentivizes lower quality at the end of a Sprint as a team scrambles to finish every last story they committed to. When the number fluctuates, as is common with a newer team, the stakeholders begin to question the outputs of the team, and even the effectiveness of Agile itself.

Instead of velocity, a useful Scrumban metric is cycle time. This is the length of time a ticket takes to complete, measured from when it is first began. Over time, a statistical analysis of all tickets in the project can yield a mean cycle time and standard deviation. This can be a useful planning tool at a macro level, as it is trivial to add up the number of stories and multiply by mean cycle time.

Kat Catan

Kat Catan

I am a forward-thinking, passionate and highly motivated professional who offers first-rate leadership, project and program management skills. With a strong mix of business and analytical experience, I have worked in various fast paced high tech firms such as Informatica, VMware and Ingram Micro.

In my current role as Senior Business Operations Analyst at Informatica, my key responsibility is to explore fundamental business issues and provide comprehensive data analysis and recommendations to our company leaders. I am a trusted business operations advisor to Asia Pacific’s Regional Senior Vice President and Executive Leadership Team where I work in partnership to cultivating productivity, efficiency and cadence, as well as develop long-term strategic business change and improvement solutions. I live and breathe analytics, reporting, forecasting and operations to drive consistency in business discipline and performance. As a sales process and data expert, I am the ‘stable foundation’ that ensures our teams deliver on their promise.

What I bring to our team ‘The Magnificent 11’ is passion in maximising opportunities through the use of data, getting data into the right hands to create meaningful business impacts, while delighting my stakeholders (internal or external).

On my spare time, I enjoy being outdoors close to nature and experiencing its beauty which is sadly often forgotten by our busy lives.

**Peace Out**