One thing I have been doing consistently on the last day of each year since I started BizTalk360 back in 2011 is donating a small amount to GOSH as a way of saying thank you for one more successful year.
In spite of where I’m in the world, I make a note on my personal calendar to do this activity first thing on 31st December.
A definition of success is different for different people, for me, it’s pretty simple, being healthy (people around me and myself), moving forward a few steps ahead from where we have started and try and help others move forward as much as I can. As long as we are not standing still or moving backward and everyone around me is happy then it’s a successful year.
This year we contributed $10k to GOSH bringing the total contribution to approximately $47,000 in the past 7 years. Here is the summary.
GOSH is one of the world’s leading children’s hospitals, housing the widest range of specialists under one roof. GOSH opened its doors back in 1852 with just 10 beds, today they get around 600 new patients every day. It was the first hospital in the UK dedicated solely to the treatment of children.
GOSH was supported by some of the great individuals like Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Diana Princess of Wales.
We feel proud to be associated with such a great organization with such a great cause.
As the year draws to a close, it’s time to gather your thoughts and think about all you’ve done, and every step – no matter how big or small, got you to where you are today.
Our parent company, Kovai Ltd., made huge strides this year and we have 4 active products in the market. We now have the complete package of tools to support hybrid integration scenarios .
A One Platform solution for your Operational, Monitoring and Analytic needs for your BizTalk environment
Empower functional support teams and Business users by providing end to end visibility into Azure integration Services with rich business context
The comprehensive way to operate, manage and monitor Azure Serverless Services related to Enterprise Integration
The Knowledge Base Software that scales with your Product
Customer Happiness Team
Managing all our customers and providing top-notch customer service is at the topmost of our priorities. Customer Service is all about serving and helping at the right time. It isn’t about selling or wanting something from your customers – But guiding and helping our customers to achieve the best from our products.
Being part of the technical support & Customer Relationship team has given us a good base to have well-meaning conversations with our customers and understand the crux of their issues and suggest suitable alternatives, workarounds or provide helpful information. Our clients really appreciate the time spent with them to help resolve their issues.
Customers don’t connect with automated bots,
Customers connect with real people.
This year the Technical support team pushed the boundaries of their skills and became part of the new DevOps teams.
DevOps is the practice of operations and development engineers participating together in the entire service lifecycle, from design through the development process to production support.
Everyone on the team provided their contribution in the form of developing a new feature, enhancing an existing feature, testing, documenting, writing blogs and so on. All the product support engineers underwent product training with the help of the respective developers who developed the product features and with the QA who tested, and they evolved from support engineers to QA cum Product Support engineer.
This year is again special for us at Kovai as we started a non-integration product that is mainly aimed at customers who are struggling like us to find a dedicated self-service knowledge base platform that meet our needs.
At Kovai Limited, we needed this platform for providing customer support for our products. In fact, the whole thought process of Document360 was driven by the pain points we have seen using the Helpdesk software for documentation.
We attended multiple events around London & Dublin, spreading the word of our Knowledge Base solution – Document360
Our annual event – INTEGRATE 2018 – had (420+) attendees, speakers, sponsors this year and was a grand success. The event was held at ETC. Venues in the city center of London.
We had a lot of interesting speakers from Microsoft as well from across the integration landscape all over the world. We had speakers from as close as the UK, but also as far away as New Zealand and Australia! All our sponsor booths had heavy footfall as well. It was great to meet old friends and make new friends by meeting people in the real world, who we normally only meet via email and conference calls!
Each year, we try to bring some entertainment to the event. Last year we had a magician, while a new interesting concept this year was that BizTalk360 hired Visual Scribing to come and draw a mural of all the presentations, capturing the key messages throughout the conference.
We also hired some entertainers whose skills the attendees thoroughly enjoyed. A Caricaturist who captured all the attendees true likeness and a skilled saxophone player who blew everyone’s socks off!
It was a testament to the hard work carried out by the entire team to successfully pull off an event of this scale.
We are surely going to run the INTEGRATE event in 2019 as well! In fact, there will be an event in London and one in Redmond at the Microsoft Campus.
Feel free to join us in 2019 as the registrations are already open now with Early Bird offering:
Xmas in Kovai UK
Team Kovai UK had a memorable Christmas lunch complete with Santa hats at the Rose & Crown, Orpington. As the usual tradition, we also celebrated Secret Santa in the office and had a few laughs and decorated our gorgeous Christmas Tree.
The year had indeed come to an end, and we look forward to the coming year as new challenges and opportunities come our way and with each step, we become better and build our strength and character.
So, another year has gone by, we are older and wiser and can look forward to the new year of things yet to unfold
Support deliberation is a process of discussing the challenges we faced in support handling. It is an initiative which our CEO suggested, and we are following this to transfer the knowledge to the team. With the different levels of support, it is important to share the knowledge between the team members, so that it would help them to resolve customer issues efficiently, when they come across similar kind of issues. It’s not only for the support team, the entire product team, including the developers, QA and the documentation teams take part in this deliberation.
I would like to narrate this blog as a Q&A session, so that I can explain in detail.
What is deliberation?
As deliberation defines, it’s a place where we discuss in detail about the support process and the challenges we faced in resolving the issues related to the product. Every participant will share their view and add points to the discussion.
Who are all the stakeholders?
Everyone who is inside/part of the product will take part. People from Development, QA, Document and Support. The thumb rule is no one should skip the meeting. It is important for every team member to attend this meeting, because it would be helpful for everyone to gather more information about the product, as well as the customer’s expectations and queries.
Yes…!! We are the stakeholders of BizTalk360
What do we discuss?
At first, we used to conduct this meeting twice in a month for 30 minutes. We thought that we were delaying the process and for providing immediate attention to the support tickets, we cut down the days and currently we are conducting every week, Tuesday from 03:00 to 03:30 PM IST, sometimes it may extend a bit longer.
Each support person would come up with a list of interesting and challenging support tickets they had resolved the past week. The challenges include the support tickets, support articles, blogs, new feature requests and enhancements which were raised by customers.
What is the process?
The process is simple and clear, we will follow the below Agenda:
- Discussing past one week important/challenging support cases
- Discussing the solution provided
- Gather inputs from the team members
- What needs to be improved
- Key Takeaways
Simple isn’t it?
What’s the flow?
We start with the updates and actions taken on what we discussed for the previous week, based on the key takeaways from the meeting. Then we will discuss the current week challenges.
What did we discuss in the present week?
Well, let’s dive deep into this. We will take past 7 days tickets for the discussion.
Interesting/challenging support tickets
We started the meeting with the interesting/challenging support tickets which we handled that week. Let’s take a support case.
When a customer tried to install BizTalk360 on a stand-alone machine, they faced below exception during BizTalk360 database creation.
At an initial stage, we thought it might be a permission issue. Later, after a lot of effort we found it’s due to the TLS versions enabled in that machine.
The development team would only have more knowledge about the product functionality, but they would be unaware of the security configuration at the customer end. This discussion will give them a better insight into the customer scenarios. As a takeaway, we have conveyed this to the developer team and testing team. So, that they will know the dependency of the installer and work/test accordingly.
There is no perfect product and there is always more scope for the development of the product in the form of either bugs or enhancements. As BizTalk server is an ocean, we are trying to cover most of the functionality. Very recently we faced an issue with the customer side on Business Activity Monitoring (BAM). When they added a column, they received an error.
This issue happens when the end date column has NULL values and it was selected in the BAM query in BizTalk360.
We have passed this scenario to our team so that both developers and test engineers will be aware of it and they will include these scenarios in their test case checklist.
Creating team awareness
This topic is something interesting; even though it will be out of BizTalk360, it is still relevant.
Most of our customers started to face an exception in BizTalk360, once after installing a Windows Security patch update. We found the root cause, that not only BizTalk360 shows the exception, it is because BizTalk Server facing an exception, which is reflected in BizTalk360. We recommended removing the patch update and that solved their problem. Luckily Microsoft has re-issued the updated patch for the same on July 30, 2018.
Interesting isn’t it? We have conveyed to the team, so that they will be aware of the issue. If they face the same problem with BizTalk server, they will not wait for our system engineer to repair, but they will try to fix the issue in BizTalk Server. After that, the problem will most likely be fixed in BizTalk360 as well.
At BizTalk360, we evolve the product based on feedback we get from different forums like:
- Support tickets
- Customer relationship calls
- Feedback portal
- Direct feedback
Based on the customer’s feedback, the tickets will be discussed. The feedback may concern an existing feature enhancement, a new feature or a feature document.
Based on the discussion the action will be performed. Say for example, if the feedback comes to a documentation enhancement, one of us (as we are DevOps) will be assigned to complete the necessary changes.
For an existing feature enhancement or a new feature, we will discuss with the team. Based on the team members feedback, we will add the feature in the Feedback portal and make other customers vote for it. Based on the number of votes, we will include in the product or if it is already available in the portal, we will wait for the interest of other customers. If the team agrees to accept the feature for development, one of the persons will be assigned to develop or to improve the feature.
The Brainstorming session
This is an interesting part for me. We don’t want to run the session like a normal Knowledge Transfer session with the team and we always prefer an interactive session. So once after explaining the problem faced by the customer, we will ask the team what the best solution would be and what the necessary steps are to solve the problem.
The first point is to make the team understand the problem and get their opinion. It will help us to get the solution and their point of view and may provide a better dimension of that case. We have received a better suggestion from the team, every time.
Hidden fact, it helps themselves, while developing, testing or documenting a feature. They will always be aware of how the customer is using a feature and act accordingly.
Minutes of Meeting (MOM)
Each meeting ends up with the key takeaways and MOM. This will help us to follow up and take necessary actions. During the next deliberation meeting, we start up with the past week’s MOM or with the tickets what we have discussed.
Why we started this process?
We wanted to break the dependency of individuals like Module owners and get more knowledge from our higher levels. As DevOps, we should be ready to accept any challenge while working in different roles . It’s also important to understand and be aware of the customer environment and business requirements.
I want to take this opportunity once again to thank everyone in and out of BizTalk360 for this wonderful opportunity and believing in us. We are looking forward, for much more opportunities.
For a Software Product company, People are the valuable assets. To keep the business sustainable, we need to take care of the workforce, upskill them and retain the talent. As the years pass by, besides all efforts to retain existing workforce, there will be a churn due to various reasons – personal, circumstantial and business related. You need to reinforce your workforce with new people to:
- Refill the open position due to the exit of existing team member
- To grow your business, build new features, products, extend support to customers, market etc
Refilling a position cannot be an overnight activity unless there is an emergency. Any business should be prepared for emergencies by having a possible back up. Even experienced professionals cannot replace immediately as there is always a learning curve to get up to speed for the opened-up position.
It is not practically viable to always hire experienced people for all the positions in an organization and on the other hand one cannot run the business with all junior people. There should be a right mix of talent at all levels. Having a strong supply at the bottom layer provides any organization with multiple benefits:
- Add young and energetic talent
- Can train them easily on the business needs of the organization
- They can scale up over a period
- Moulding them into the organizational culture is also easy
Running operations in India, which is a major supplier of Knowledge workforce to many businesses worldwide, there are a lot of opportunities to hire talent. Many organizations partner with professional educational institutions to hire, train and intake fresh talent. It is important to find a right partner for this engagement. Not all engagements between businesses and institutions become successful. There are various factors:
- The stage in which the business is – opportunities, needs, scale, revenue, funding, possibility to invest in hiring
- The stage at which the institution is – are the really welcoming, trusted partner, serious about supplying and supporting needs of businesses who approach them for talent
- The mindset of students – honour the offer made, respect the opportunity, passion for career, belief in the organization
In the past, we tried various recruitment and training methodologies and finally resorted to partner with an engineering college, like what most of the MNCs do. We were trying to reach out to multiple institutions, though all were really welcoming, we found a right partner with (SECE) Sri Eshwar College of Engineering, Coimbatore
- The management was very approachable, listen to our requirements and take necessary actions to support to train their students for our needs
- Faculty members of the college extend valuable support in grooming the fresh talent based on the training requirements we share
- Students respect and understand the potential opportunity that lies ahead with a growing and promising organization like us
The institution has got a lot of initiatives to provide industry-student linkage. They invite organizations to set up Centre of Excellence, labs, extended office as a remote location. We have signed an MoU and set up a Center of Excellence with them since 2017.
We struck a right sync with this institution for our growth at this stage and decided to recruit fresh graduates from this institution. In 2017, we hired 5 students and they underwent rigorous training which helped them to be readily deployable into products – Serverless360, Atomic Scope, and Document360. Within a few weeks into their job, their contribution is being used by multiple enterprises across the world.
Here are few throwbacks to the 2017 recruitment drive
Organisation overview to the aspiring candidates
Candidates taking up the programming challenge at SECE IT Center
2018 batch – welcome aboard BizTalk360
We came back to this institution again in 2018 for our future requirements.
Prior to the interview process, here are the messages that 2018 batch sent to the prospects from 2019 batch.
Based on our plans to market our products and exploring how other product companies work, this year we also came up with a new role – Technical Product Marketing and we offered an internship to two students. Within a couple of days, those interns showed very good capabilities to explore Serverless computing and they came up with a blog:
Serverless Computing and Enterprise Application Integration (EAI)
Basics of Serverless Computing
For the Software Engineer requirement, we considered various factors to assess the candidates:
- Cumulative performances in programming activities in their academic period
- Performance in Logical Reasoning and programming using a testing platform
- Approach to few problems by identifying right Data Structures & Algorithm
- Interview on programming knowledge
- Capability to explore latest technologies – Cloud Computing, Azure Integration Services, Serverless Computing
- Personality assessment
After rigorous assessments, we offered 4 candidates (in banner image) to join us as interns from late 2018.
We extend all the selected candidates a warm welcome and promise them a wonderful career!
Well, it’s almost time to say goodbye to what’s been a fascinating and fantastic year (2017) for BizTalk360 as an organization. It’s now become a tradition to cover the highlights from the year as a blog post. Check out our previous year recap stories: 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011
I noticed a pattern — as a product company our activities fall under few big buckets like product development, community activities, conferences, and culture. I’ve structured this post reflecting the major activities in 2017 based on these categories.
Writing this blog gives us the reality of what we have achieved as a team in 2017. Here is the top level summary
- BizTalk360 – 7 releases; (4 major releases + 3 patch releases)
- ServiceBus360 – 13 releases
- BizTalk360 Blogs – 154 Published
- ServiceBus360 Blogs – 44 Published Blogs
- Integration Monday sessions – 40 sessions with ~3500 video views
- Middleware Friday sessions – 46 sessions with ~6500 video views
- New Products: AtomicScope, Document360 (launch Q1 2018)
- Conferences (attended/organized) – Techorama, Microsoft Inspire, Igloo, Global Integration Bootcamp, Global Azure Bootcamp, AI Bootcamp, INTEGRATE UK, INTEGRATE USA, CloudBurst, Azure Day Gurgaon (2 times in 2017)
Community: We introduced the Middleware Friday initiative — an idea similar to the Integration Monday initiative that we have been organizing for the past 3 years to bring more value to the integration community. Middleware Friday episodes started off with Kent Weare bringing a video blog on specific integration focused concepts every Friday. Until September, Kent was running a single man show after which Steef-Jan Wiggers joined him and both started to deliver sessions alternatively every week. It’s been a perfect start for Middleware Friday in 2017 — 46 episodes with approximate 6500+ video views of the episodes.
Product update (ServiceBus360): We released an enhanced version of ServiceBus360 with a major overhaul to the pricing model and added new capabilities to the product such as the ability to send events to Azure Event Hubs, Governance and Audit capability, ability to edit and save entity properties, and enhancements to few existing features. You can check out the release notes here.
Community: On behalf of our TechMeet360 initiative, we organized a couple of events on Microsoft Integration Technologies at Coimbatore and Microsoft Azure Day in Gurgaon at Microsoft campus. We also covered the updates from the Azure Logic Apps team who came in live from Australia (Microsoft Ignite).
Product update (ServiceBus360): ServiceBus360 got few more new updates this month — a Home dashboard that displays the different namespaces and their configuration information, ability to perform CRUD operations on the Service Bus with more improvements to the existing features.
Product update (BizTalk360): We released version 8.3 of BizTalk360 that included enhancements to the existing Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) capabilities of BizTalk360 such as the EDI Reporting Manager, EDI Reporting Dashboard and EDI Functional Acknowledgement status, new ESB reporting capability with dashboard, introduction of Logic Apps operational capabilities and the Webhook notification channel.
Community: As a part of TechMeet360, we organized a meetup to watch Microsoft Visual Studio 2017 launch in our Coimbatore office. This month the team also organized and executed the maiden Global Integration Bootcamp event across two locations – Bengaluru, India and London, United Kingdom. Both the locations had a good turnout attendance for this event.
Culture: This month we extended our UK office with extra space and complete redecoration with playing area for pool/table tennis and table football.
BizTalk Server Feature Pack 1: Microsoft BizTalk Server team announced the availability of Microsoft BizTalk Server 2016 Feature Pack 1. We wrote some in-depth blog articles covering the features. Azure Application Insight for Tracking, Advanced Scheduler for Receive Locations Service Window, ALM Continuous Deployment Support with VSTS via Visual Studio, Rest Management API’s, Power BI Operational Template.
Community: Our team organized and executed the Global Azure Bootcamp event at a local college in Coimbatore. We had speakers from the Escalation team at Microsoft, Bangalore for this event. This gave a good chance for our BizTalk360 support staff to have an interaction with the Escalation team and understand how they take customer support and happiness as their top priority.
Product update (BizTalk360): We released version 8.4 of BizTalk360 that included capabilities such as data monitoring for Azure Logic Apps, Folder Monitoring, FTP/FTPS/SFTP monitoring, IBM MQ monitoring, BizTalk Health Monitor (BHM) Integration.
Product update (ServiceBus360): The feature set in ServiceBus360 also gradually increased with the capability to import namespaces entities from Service Bus Explorer, ability to resubmit dead-letter messages from Queues and topics and the relay endpoint monitoring capability. The ServiceBus360 team also got the opportunity to meet Paolo Salvatori at Microsoft, Bengaluru and discuss the road-map for the product.
Conference: This month saw the team from Kovai Limited (both India and UK) making their way to Antwerp, Belgium for the Techorama conference.
Community: We hit the 100 mark on Integration Monday — 100 sessions in about 30 months! This is quite an achievement from the team given that organizing a session every week is not an easy task. Finding the right speakers, slotting them on the calendar, accommodating last minute schedule changes, sending out newsletters for every week’s event and lot’s more, the team behind has been doing a fantastic job in keeping the integration community active under the Integration User Group banner. For the 100th episode, we wanted to make it really special — the team from the Microsoft Product Group at an open Q&A session with the community.
Conference: Our flagship annual conference INTEGRATE 2017, spanning across 3 full days, had a tremendous response with about 380+ attendees from 50+ countries around the world. We followed up the events with blog posts from all the three days. Here are the links to the articles, in case you missed it. Day 1 blog | Day 2 blog | Day 3 blog
Here’s a short video from our videographer Nigel Camp —
We also gave away the BizTalk360 Product Specialist and Partner of the Year awards (as with the previous years) during the event. The event finished off in great style, as we announced the US version of INTEGRATE 2017 in October.
Product update (ServiceBus360): We added Analytics of dead letter statistics in Queues, additional notification channel (Microsoft Teams), ability to resubmit and delete messages in Topics, activity configuration for dead letter messages (resubmit, resubmit & delete, delete the message).
Conference: July also saw our team from India and UK travel to Washington D.C. for the Microsoft Inspire event. We took a booth at Inspire 2017 to showcase our BizTalk360 and ServiceBus360 product offerings to potential Microsoft partner companies from all over the world.
Community: As part of TechMeet360 initiative, we organized a workshop series on “Getting started with Azure” a Microsoft Technologies Roadshow along with Sri Eshwar College of Engineering. We established our collaboration with Sri Eshwar College of Engineering by setting up a Center of Excellence (CoE) lab that will benefit students to keep them up-to-date on Microsoft Technologies.
Hiring: After 2 days of the rigorous screening process, we were able to offer placement to 5 students from Sri Eshwar College of Engineering.
Culture: As an internal practice, we started conducting quarterly meet-up events to reward the best performers from every team. Being a small company, it’s very important to appreciate the hard work put in by each employee.
Product update (BizTalk360): We released BizTalk360 version 8.5 with new interesting features — BizTalk server host throttling monitoring, flexible email template engine, BizTalk server availability monitoring, Integration account integration within BizTalk360. Read what our partner Integration Team had to say about this release.
Product update (ServiceBus360): For ServiceBus360, this month was really special as we extended our customer base to 6 paid customers (3 new customers). The product started to gain traction in the market and we could definitely see the increase in numbers MoM.
Conference: Our team from India (about 6 employees) attended the Design Thinking Summit 2017 at IIM, Bengaluru as part of our learning and improvement program.
Community: We organized a joint webinar with NServiceBus team on the topic “Introducing messaging in your design should not hurt so much“. Saravana Kumar and Sean Feldman delivered the session talking about how you can introduce messaging effectively into your design.
On behalf of TechMeet360, we executed the Microsoft Azure Day event in Gurgaon. An additional feather in the cap moment — TechMeet360 was officially recognized as a community with Microsoft!
Product update (ServiceBus360): We added a couple of new features to ServiceBus360 — the ability to transfer the account ownership to a super user and a new Operations Management Suite (OMS) notification channel. We also engaged with an external firm to work on a Product Discovery Workshop (PDW) to come up with a brand new UI/UX for the ServiceBus360 portal.
BizTalk Server: September saw an important update from Microsoft regarding Microsoft BizTalk Server heading in the open source direction. This was definitely a welcome change from Microsoft in the entire 17 years history of BizTalk Server.
Community: The team organized and executed the first global *.ai Bootcamp 2017 at Coimbatore. The topics included AI, Bots, Cognitive Services and Machine Learning.
Conferences: I’ve attended Integration Bootcamp event in Charlotte, North Carolina. A two days event which gave the opportunity to mingle with the product group.
Product update (ServiceBus360): The feature set in ServiceBus360 started to go deeper and deeper with the addition of Logic Apps Management and Monitoring capabilities, Data Monitoring capability, activities to process dead-letter messages from Topic Subscription, Endpoints Monitoring, and advanced User Access Policy.
I also wrote an article on LinkedIn about the challenges of managing a distributed cloud application and the future of ServiceBus360, the direction we were taking to make ServiceBus360 a better product in the market.
Culture: We had the quarterly meet for Q3 and in the second week of October. Mid October, about 20 people from our India and UK office traveled to Dubai for the company retreat to honour the efforts of our long-standing employees. It was 4-days of complete fun and frolic, and the team came together to have lots of fun! Here’s a short video of the moments from the trip —.
Conference: Immediately after the team retreat, our UK team flew across the pond to organize and execute the INTEGRATE 2017 USA event. Scott Guthrie, Executive Vice President at Microsoft, presented the keynote on Day 1 at INTEGRATE 2017 USA event. In case you missed the event updates, you can read the recaps here Day 1 Blog | Day 2 Blog | Day 3 Blog
Product update (Atomic Scope): At INTEGRATE 2017 USA, we made the announcement of our third product – Atomic Scope. Atomic Scope is an end to end Business Activity Tracking and Monitoring tool for hybrid integration solutions involving Microsoft BizTalk Server & Azure Logic Apps. We started working with some of our partners as an early adapter, the product will hit the market in Jan 2018 (public beta and release).
November started off quite well, as for me personally, I was invited to Buckingham Palace as part of the Silicon Valley to UK program recognizing “50 scale-up CEO’s” in London (in a segment).
Product update (ServiceBus360): We launched a revamped version of the product (v2.0) with a revamped website as well with new capabilities such as Composite Applications, and bunch of new capabilities such as Management Stack (Azure Service Bus Queues, Topics, Relays, Event Hubs), enhancements to the existing user access policy to cater to the new composite applications concept, ability to repair and resubmit the messages back to queue or topic, and a revised pricing model.
Product update (BizTalk360): Towards the end of November 2017, we also released BizTalk360 version 8.6 with new features such as Reporting Manager (Analytics), event log data monitoring, Microsoft Teams notification channel, BAM related activities and documents and enhancements to existing features as requested by our customers.
Product update (Document360): I published an article on LinkedIn about my ambitious idea to build a product in 14 days. We decided to build Document360 (a SaaS product; a self-service knowledge base product for software projects and products) — our fourth product in a hackathon mode in December where we planned to bring the entire company together to work on a single mission — get a minimum viable product (MVP) in 14 days that can be taken to the market. I traveled to India to stay close to the team during the development phase.
So, what did we achieve in 14 days? To answer your question, I compiled this blog post giving a summary of our progress with Document360.
What’s in store for 2018?
2017 has been fabulous for us at Kovai Limited — started off with 2 products (that are pretty much mainstream today) and 2 new products scheduled for GA in Q1 2018. We are continuing to invest in our mainstream products BizTalk360 and ServiceBus360, while at the same time increase the number of products that will solve specific user problems.
We already started planning for INTEGRATE 2018. The event venue is already secured; further announcements related to this event will follow shortly. We will get involved in Global Azure Bootcamp and Global Integration Bootcamp events similar to 2017, so keep a watch out for updates on these events. We have also sorted out the Integration Monday speaker line up for the first 2 months of 2018. We will continue ramping up India focused events like TechMeet360 to build awareness in Integration space.
Thank You! Wishing you a Prosperous New Year 2018
All of the above achievements by us over the last 12 months wouldn’t have been possible without the support from families, friends, employees, customers, and partners. I would like to thank everyone for the support and being a part of the successful journey. Wish you all a Happy and Prosperous New Year 2018!!!
One of the main thing on my agenda on the last working day of the year is to make a donation to GOSH (Great Ormand Street Hospital) charity. I started doing this since we launched BizTalk360 back in 2011.
Here is the summary of what we have contributed to GOSH in the last 5 years with the links to the articles.
bringing the total contribution to ~$36,000.
There are some incredible stories what GOSH has done to young people with challenges like Moment 16-month-old boy hears sound for the first time, Gift of life for little Elliott after long-awaited heart transplant
There are times in life when “thank you” doesn’t seem enough. There are some great people out there doing some incredible things, this is our way of giving little support to them. We hope to do more in the future.
Let the new year brings joy and happiness to everyone.
In case you haven’t been on social media lately, you may have missed out on the fact that nearly everyone is sharing a photo collage of the past year.
So here’s a blog talking about my past year in BizTalk360 where I (Rochelle) work as a Customer Support Agent as well as being part of the Client Relationship Team.
Support Technical Training
The year started off with a bang, with technical training provided to the Support team so they would understand better the internal workings of the product and furthermore helped them get a better insight into the various troubleshooting steps carried out by Developers during calls.
Support has been a large part of my daily activity, where the team advises customers regarding their technical issues. Besides these, we also do a Best Practice Installation for new customers which helps them set up the product in a 2-hour slot and gets them up and running.
Client Relationship(CR) Team was formed in BizTalk360
This is a new initiative in BizTalk360 to reach the end customers, to understand their pain points and to improve business relationships. It has been a really rewarding experience to actually speak to the customer rather than the typical email chains we actually get to know them better.
Just a few months after starting the program, we expanded the 2-person team to 4 and reached almost 350 customers. We celebrated in the office with a nice cake!
Our team is now in regular contact with most of our customers. Quite a few of the scenarios we faced were customers having minor niggling issues with the product and didn’t know that they could be easily resolved. Moreover, a few of our customers were unaware of the Tracking Manager feature introduced in v8.2 onwards, which could really be helpful to them. We listened to their usage of the product and then identified and suggested possible solutions or workarounds.
Proud to be part of this fun team as well!
My first INTEGRATE @BizTalk360. It was an amazing event with so many interesting speakers and the scale was so large. We had 400 participants from all over the world!
We were all given the opportunity to introduce ourselves and a few of the speakers in the events.
We met many of our existing customers and it was wonderful to finally put a face to all the email exchanges we’ve had via Support and the CR teams. BizTalk360 Customers and Partners from all over the world arrived. The 3 days were packed with so many activities – besides organizing and setting up the event, we also took testimonials from our customers on the product BizTalk360 and the entire INTEGRATE experience as well. Can’t wait for next year’s event in June 2018!
Here is one of our customer quotes.
BizTalk360 has made INTEGRATE one of the must attend integration events of the year.
Customer Site visit
BizTalk360 has a lot of features which can be quite overwhelming for someone new. Many companies appreciate an in-depth intensive BizTalk360 training provided by our BizTalk360 Experts. I was given the opportunity to join our BizTalk Administrator/Export on his training session. It was a learning experience to actually see the product being used in action at the customer site and all the possible issues they face when trying to set up the integration environments and monitoring with BizTalk360.
I also joined our Business Development Manager – Duncan to present the product to one of the UK’s leading estate agents in Central London. We hope to make this a more regular occurrence to personally present to companies interested in BizTalk360.
Fun Fridays in the Office
This year we also started Fun Fridays wherein the lunch hour, we have some fun and games. I have organized a few of the team building sessions and everyone really enjoyed them. We played games like HeadsUp(similar to dumb charades) and also had a secret team mission in the office (which was to place an object on another team’s desk without them noticing for a certain period of time).
Christmas Celebrations in the BizTalk360 before the Hackathon begins in India (December)
We celebrated Christmas in style by having a number of events to mark the festive holiday. We had a magician to show us some spectacular tricks, celebrated Secret Santa, and had a lovely meal in a local restaurant.
So that was a quick tour of 2017 in the BizTalk360 Office. As Facebook says
Because a year is made of more than just time,
It’s made of all the people you spent that time with
Design Thinking –the name sounds different. Can we design our thinking? Yes, we can and this is what we learnt from the Design Thinking Summit 2017 which was held at IIM Bangalore. We are grateful to our organization for providing us such a wonderful opportunity to participate in this event.
BizTalk360 always focus on the motto “You grow, we grow, together we grow”. In this way, they always help the employees acquire skills through different learning and training programs. One such opportunity was given to 6 of us to attend the Design Thinking Summit 2017 and I am lucky to be the one among them. In this blog, I would like to share my experiences in the DTSummit. Special thanks to Saranya and Umamaheshwaran for adding more meaning to this blog by sharing their experiences.
An intro to Design Thinking Summit – Insight:
Design Thinking is a creative, repeatable, human centered approach to problem-solving and innovation. It draws upon experience, imagination, intuition, and reasoning to explore possibilities of what could be—to create desired outcomes that benefit your customers. This summit was organized by a group called Pensaar, powered by a team of highly experienced design thinkers and problem solvers. Over the 3-day workshop conducted by Pensaar team, we learnt how to understand customers, articulate insights that will inspire innovation, ideate till you get disruptive ideas that we can rapidly test with customers. It is focused on learning by doing. All while experimenting, experiencing, having fun and being surprised. There were around 160 participants this year for the DTSummit.
Day 1 at the Design Thinking Summit:
It was all new for our BizTalk360 team about the event. We were asked to assemble in the event venue at 8.30 AM. To our surprise, the participants were split into different teams and each one of us was in the different team. This was a nice experience as we got to know different people as the participants were people from different professionals. We were given cards with our photo attached and the table number written on it. Everything was a team activity with a team coordinator for each team.
Design think involves four stages namely
- Discover – understand people and their ideas
- Insight – Identify trends and inspire innovation
- Dream – Ideate solutions for problem statements defined
- Disrupt – Prototyping techniques that visualize solutions
The first day was about “Insight”. The first step towards insight is “Discover”. The foremost task is to understand people and their ideas. The “Insight” stands for identifying trends and pattern of data which will inspire innovation. The below quote explains it.
Fall in love with the problem and not with the solution
Products must be created for behaviors and not for intentions
The first day started with an event to come up with an innovative team name for each team. The stationeries were provided along with post-its. An interesting this to be noted at the venue (IIM- Bangalore) was that plastics are banned and we were given glass water bottles with our names printed on them. There were around 12 teams and each team came up with unique names.
The interesting interview:
The next event was an interesting interview with a reputed industrialist. The aim was to capture the insights of the person and utilize them for a better understanding of the requirements. We were asked to listen to the interview and note down our points in the post – its. The important feature of the post is that we cannot write long stories in it. The notes must be short and understandable. Hence, we need to make sure we have better words to describe our points and ideas. Some of the key insights derived from the interview were:
- Be focussed on process
- Build expertise and use them when opportunity is given
- Soft skills to be more focused.
For example, consider a scenario where we gather the requirements for a product from a customer. The skills to be observed in this process is:
- Asking open ended questions
- Listening skills
- Observing skills
The Research Methodology:
Once the customer requirements are gathered, the next step is to dig deep into them for better understanding. One of the research methodologies was:
This is a visual representation of landscape within which a problem exists. The map contains the connections between the different stakeholders involved in the problem. We can visually depict the interconnections and inter-dependencies between the stakeholders in the system. This way we can draw key inferences and insights by asking questions like, what are the challenges in the system, what can be improved, what interventions can be made to make a positive impact.
Arriving at the problem statement:
We now have the ecosystem map. The next activity is to identify the problem statement. We can consider anyone of the stakeholders and derive the statement for them. The stakeholder may be a customer, an employee, the government or the senior management of the organization. Each individual team member was asked to write down his/her problem statement based upon the following points describing:
- User characteristics
- Outcome the user tries to achieve
- Barrier existing to achieve the outcome
- Root cause of the barrier
- How the user feels because of the root cause and the barrier
This problem statement is important because it is from this point, we will move forward in deriving the solution for them. From the individual points, the team coordinator would discuss and come with a single problem statement for the team. The problem statement is written from the user’s point of view and it helps to identify and articulate the right problem to solve for the users.
There are different tools which help us in deriving the problem statement which may be:
Empathy map – mapping the different data points for the user
Subway map – plotting the objectives with respect to the current state and prioritizing them.
User persona – Using quote cards, we can derive the insights for different problems given in the cards.
Journey line – steps involved from arriving at the problem statement to improving on the solutions
These tools are considered the convergent research technique tools for understanding the problem better. At the end of the first day, the Pensaar team collected the feedback about the activities conducted.
Day 2 at the Design Thinking Summit:
The first day went interesting and the outcome was the problem statement. Now comes the second day of the event. We were all more excited for the second-day activities. The second day started with the Introduction of the Pensaar team, who are behind the screen for this wonderful Summit.
The agenda for this day was “Dream”. The first day resulted in finding the problem statement with the insights obtained from the different groups. Now, we need to walk our way to find the solution for this problem. But that would not be so easy. One problem statement would be worked upon by all the 12 teams. So, there would be different solutions and it’s important that we identify the best solution.
Arriving at the Customer Benefits:
The first activity for the second day was to “Identify three key customer benefits”. Customer benefit leads to improvement in customers’ life. It is what matters most to the customer when choosing our product over others. The benefits can be measured through certain metrics, which help you in identifying right priorities to acquire many customers. It can be done by crafting a creative Q starting with “How might we”. This lets you to reframe the problem as an opportunity and ideate solutions with a sense of optimism and see the possibilities
There was another surprise waiting for us during the lunch break. It was picnic lunch for each team. The team members had to collect the lunch for their team mates and have under the trees in a different area. This was very interesting and we all enjoyed it.
Tools for Ideating:
The next step is to ideate solutions for the problem statement based on the key customer benefits. This was the next activity given. There are various tools that are used for the ideation and few of them were given for the teams for activity. Few among them are:
This is a method for discovering the questions to make breakthrough differences in problem-solving, innovation, operational excellence and culture. The questions must be focussed on the facts and situation to get the root of a problem.
Emerging Tech cards:
These are small cards containing information about the emerging technologies in different areas. The activity was to identify the relevant tech card and find out how to make use of it in identifying the solution to the problem.
This is drawing inspiration from nature to design the solution. Simply put its mimicking nature to inspire sustainable and innovation solution. We can take an example of ants and their ability to self-organize to find the shortest route. This can be used to find the best solution.
This was a post lunch activity. The teams were asked to write the problem statement and the ideas for a different solution. It is to build a collaboration among the teams than to be an individual. So each team member would be visiting other teams to gather knowledge about their ideas and provide some inputs for the improvements.
With this activity, we came to an end for the second day.
Day 3 at the Design Thinking Summit:
The day 3 was even more filled with enthusiasm among the team because we all had new friends and the past two days gave us a different experience. This day started with the activity for “Disrupt”. This will develop prototypes for the solutions derived and then be experimenting them. It started with
It’s a visual tool to build a narrative around the solution to get feedback and refine the concept. The teams were asked to build the story board with their problem statement and the solutions.
This is an excellent tool to create an elevator pitch to communicate our concept to users in less than 15 secs. The steps include creating a Twitter-friendly message about the solution and adding supporting points to explain it.
Experimenting the solution:
The final activity of the event was experimenting the solutions. Each team was asked to create an experiment card which includes the hypothesis, the experiment. Metric and the outcome. With this card, we can experiment our solutions with different users and find the outcome. The teams move around IIM to find the users and the filled in those cards according to the responses received. It was totally a different experience where we also traveled out to find the users and got the feedback from them.
It was totally a fantastic experience for all of us. Design thinking starts from identifying the exact problem statement (Insight), ideating through different solutions (Dream) and experimenting those ideas (Disrupt) for the development of an employee as well as an organization. These tools can also be utilized in our day to day activities for the betterment of our life as well as career. Thanks to BizTalk360 for giving us a chance to participate in this event and looking forward to more such events.
BizTalk360 Employee Welfare Benefits:
Always our Management is trying to provide a great working place to all our great employees working at BIZTALK360. We have already started to introduce a lot of Employee benefit schemes and programs to make the working environment as more comfortable for our employees.
“On what high-performing companies should be striving to create: A great place for great people to do great work.”–Marilyn Carlson
Recently we have introduced “Group Medical Insurance Policy” (GMIP) to all our confirmed employees with one of the most famous Insurance Provider – Star Health & Allied Insurance Company Limited through Fiducial Brokers.
Employees who have completed their 2 years of services with BIZTALK360 will be covered with INR 5 Lakhs sum Insured and others with 3 Lakhs sum Insured. In that GMIP we have not only covered the employees and we have also covered their families as well like Spouse, children, and their parents. As of now two employees from our organization have utilized this medical insurance and have received funds towards expenses spent for their medical treatment.
On the first week of August 2017, we have organized a Dental camp through our Insurance Vendor Ms. Fiducial Brokers at our premises under the supervision of Dr. Manikandan from M/s Tooth Town Dental Clinic along with his team members Miss. Akshaya and Ms. Sindhu. The Toothtown clinic is providing Quality Dental care in comfortable surroundings, following a strict protocol of Sterilization, using Disposable materials, high-end dental equipment’s, maintaining Appointment and hassle free dental treatment.
This checkup includes General Dental Screening and counseling to our employees. Also, they had explained the importance of a Dental check up on a regular basis to prevent any dental related issues in future like gum diseases, tooth decay (cavities). The doctor has suggested all of us for a bi-annual checkup to keep our teeth as healthy as possible.
The eye camp was conducted by the World’s Largest Eye Care provider who is having a maximum number of stand-alone surgical centers M/S Vasan Eye Care Hospitals P Ltd – Lakshmi Mills branch on the same day when we had conducted a Dental camp. Team members from Vasan Eye care Ms. Haripriya (Optometrist & Counselor) and Ms. Sumitha (NCT) have done the following check-ups to our employees under the guidance of Mr. Pappusamy.
- General Screening
- NCT ( Non-contact Tonometry)
Before proceeding with Non-contact tonometry check-up, they have done a preliminary screening to determine the eye sight correction (+/-). After which they have started for NCT check- up which called as “Air Puff test” to determine the pressure of our eyes.
Counselling was provided by the Vasan Eye care team to all the employees in our office. They have advised for a regular eye check-up for us as Software Engineers are the most prone to eye related ailments. Also, we got a common suggestion from them to use anti-glare glasses while working and watching T.V. to prevent any eye related problems in future.
Few employees from our office weren’t aware that they had sight issues and only came to know after this camp. We could realize the importance of a regular Eye and dental check-ups by this camp.
We believe that “A Healthy lifestyle not only changes your body, It changes your mind, Your Attitude and Your mood.” Hence, we are planning to conduct these types of camps to our employees every six months.
BizTalk360 Eye & Dental Camp in Pics
Community events are an integral part of BizTalk360. TechMeet360 is an innovative technology event drive taken by BizTalk360 where all the technical admirers integrate and get endless possibilities to learn and explore different cutting edge technologies.
On April 21st 2017, a whole organizing team of Global Azure Bootcamp 2017 was gearing up for the event. All the preparation was going on in full swing. I found the wave of enthusiasm spreading on everybody’s face and doings. Administration panel was busy with final checklist preparation and gift packaging. Our Event coordinators (Arun/Sriram/Kuppurasu) were busy with accommodation arrangements for the speakers. For the first time, Microsoft speakers (Deepak Rajendran, Harikharan Krishnaraju, Vinod Sundarraj, Amit Kumar Tripathi, Madhura Bharadwaj, Karan Singh) presented at a Coimbatore event. We wanted to improve our work culture and take inspiration from Microsoft, so we invited the speakers to the BizTalk360 office for a round of technical discussion. Originally planned for 1-hour session, went close to 2.5 hours. The entire engineering team was ready with a bunch of questions to be discussed with the team during the meeting which had been arranged.
With full of excitement, it was 6.30 pm in the evening and the team here at BizTalk360 was waiting for the arrival of the speakers from Microsoft product support group, excited to welcome the team in our office. After all the welcome formalities, as planned the discussion panel had been set up and the whole BizTalk360 engineering team – Microsoft meet up began with a warm introduction.
Lucky people get opportunities (we are lucky enough to get the opportunity to work at BizTalk360 since we are community focussed and not just work focussed), brave people create opportunities (here we have awesome techies to create the opportunities), and the Winners are those who convert problems into opportunities (here we all are having a record of success to convert problems into opportunities, to solve one common problem). Precisely this is what our two flagship products are built with. To solve the problems in the integration platform, we have converted the problem into a solution.
Here at BizTalk360, all the above-said things are happening in the right proportion. Opportunities will knock just once. It is up to you to make yourself grow to the next level. Every day is a new start here to grab new ways of learning technology and shape yourself personally and professionally.
The discussion arranged with Microsoft product support team was a great opportunity for us to gather their experiences and make most out of it. Discussion started with how the support process guidelines the Microsoft escalation team. Regardless of the issue, how the given problem statement to be approached and how to build a good relationship with the customer is a most essential factor of our discussion. Be it a production issue or a staging, essentially we should understand the frustration level of the customer and go ahead with isolating the problem and navigate to the root-cause. On any fine day, an issue will get resolved, but the bond between the customer and the support engineers should last long. Treat the issue of the customer from your own shoes, this makes the customer gain lot of confidence in us and our product.
As the support process, has been filtered at various levels according to the expertise, the first and foremost thing is to scope the issue:
Before you begin troubleshooting any problem, scoping is very important. You must distinguish what is working and what is not working. From the big picture to a small pixel as a Top-Down approach.
Isolation (narrow down to the exact root cause):
Once the problem is scoped, you need to identify where the root cause lies. A checklist would be helpful after the problem is scoped. By asking more information concerning the problem will be useful to confine it from real assumption.
A simple command prompt ping can save you from the issue. Usage of multiple troubleshooting/diagnosing tools should be used to narrow down the issue. Rather than using the external tools, we can always make use of the internal tools like command prompt, event logs and IIS trace which spares your investigating time. Additionally, open-source external tools like: Fiddler, Postman, Net-Stat, Wireshark and so on will comprehensively understand the issue.
How often can web meetings be scheduled with the customer?
Good relationship starts with a verbal conversation. It is always better to immediately get on a call with the customer to understand the problem instead of going through multiple email iterations.
The team wrapped up after the informative and interactive session.
By the end of the discussion, we were able to get the crux of Customer handling, troubleshooting tips, Technical Knowledge, Escalation Engineering and lot of friendship.
In the process of growth of our support process, we are further adapting/implementing the suggestions from the MS Escalation team to get acquainted with our customer expectations.