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Monday, Apr 17 2017

The Future of Chatbots

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Chat Bots

 

Chatbots charged into the spotlight on the heels of artificial intelligence. They stood as an innovation within the customer service sector, providing simple interfaces for users to get the information they need without having to interact with a person. While the use of similar systems had been in place for some time, operating based on the abilities of language processing engines, chatbots took it a step further by allowing for additional depth within the conversation.

 

But the complexity of setting up these systems left many programs feeling clunky, and some were even considered practically useless. Additionally, chatbots could be taxing on a user’s system and provided little value when answering questions that could just as easily be looked up through a search engine or asked via an app.

 

News about chatbots has slowed since the later part of 2016, leaving many to wonder whether they would still play a role in today’s ever-evolving tech landscape. With that in mind, here are some challenges chatbots need to overcome to be considered valuable to users both today and tomorrow.

Complexity

From a user perspective, interacting with a chatbot often adds a layer of complexity when seeking answers to questions instead of lowering them. For example, if a user wants to get information about the weather, it is much easier to open a weather app than use a bot, especially when you factor in the learning curve associated with interacting with a chatbot. Even if a user has a more complex question in mind, it is still simpler to input a question into a search engine that use a bot to dig for the information.

 

Accessing specific apps to get to certain information has become the societal norm. And, unless the chatbot has something more to offer, it isn’t a habit that will be easily broken. For example, systems like Amazon’s Echo allow users to interact quickly with simple questions and commands. The interface makes what was once a multistep process a single voice command. Instead of having to open a music app, search for a channel, and select it, you simply tell the system to play your chosen station. If a chatbot can’t eliminate steps between the user and their goals, then the old process will reign.

 

Further, the amount of effort required on the developer side is daunting. Many bot frameworks leave a lot of the design in the hands of various tech specialists. It relies highly on a company’s ability to predict how a user will interact with the service, leaving a significant amount of space for errors through incidental omission.

Accuracy

Much of the appeal of chatbots is from a business perspective. Being able to automate basic customer interactions for common issues would be a high-value development. However, many bots lack the necessary accuracy to ensure these interactions run smoothly, risking customer satisfaction in the process and potentially causing a loss of a customer along the way.

 

When examined for business communications, an issue with accuracy makes the solutions a non-start. While losing a customer on the B2C side is frustrating, losing one during a B2B interaction can be catastrophic. Errors related to bots are simply intolerable at this level, preventing most companies from even considering them as a solution.

 

While chatbots lack a certain level of sophistication, the potential for growth is there. Much of what will make them a success is finding the right problem for which they can be an ideal solution. Over time, as accuracy improves, their use in business may outweigh their potential for customers, especially when customers prioritize speed when asking simple questions.

 

Will 2017 be a big year for bots? Not likely. But the potential is there for those who truly want to solve the issues mentioned above for great developments in the future.

 

If you are interested in learning more about how tech will change in 2017 and what employees should be a priority, The Armada Group has the industry expertise you need to get ahead. Contact us today and see how you can better position your business to excel this year and beyond.

 

Boot Camps

 

IT professionals are often faced with a choice when it comes to skills development and training, and they come in the forms of boot camps and certifications. Both options can provide benefits when it comes to advancing your career, but each will do so in different ways. And, since both paths require significant investments, you want to make sure you choose the best course of action for your career.

 

To help you weigh which choice is best, here is what you need to know about how boot camps and certifications fit into your career goals.

New Career or Career Development

One of the biggest determining factors is whether you are looking to start a new career or develop your current one. Often, boot camps are ideal for those looking to change their field or IT specialty, as they provide a strong foundation and key job skills in a relatively short amount of time. Additionally, they offer significant hands-on experience that lets you put your new knowledge into action quickly.

 

Certifications often support a field in which you are already working. It confirms you possess a specific skill set instead of focusing on the development of new ones. While a person can learn a new skill to achieve a certification, most certifications are focused on testing what you know and not necessarily teaching you something new. You can take courses designed to end in a certification, but a class is not necessarily a prerequisite for becoming certified.

Creation or Support

Many boot camps focus on the skills needed to create something new. They provide information regarding the use of relevant tools and how they are used to build and develop solutions within the target system. Additionally, the skills are often transferable into a variety of environments, making them highly transferable between related specialties. In many cases, boot camps are available for skills like software development and programming, where the creation of something new is part of the core duties associated with working in those positions.

 

In comparison, certifications are often related to specific computing environments. Further, they are often more concerned with supporting what is already in place instead of developing new solutions. These apply most to systems like networking, security, and cloud support. The focus is often on preexisting infrastructure and systems, with emphasis on keeping these operational with skills like troubleshooting, maintenance, and prevention.

Commitment

Typically, a boot camp is a significant commitment that requires your full attention for weeks. Many people would find it challenging, if not impossible, to attend a reputable boot camp while maintaining a full-time position. In contrast, certifications can be obtained while also maintaining traditional employment. While studying is recommended, and classes may be offered, you may be able to complete the work on your own time.

 

Ultimately, choosing which option is right for you is highly dependent on your personal career goals. Continuing education often plays a significant role in any technology field as new developments reach the mainstream on a regular basis. So, even if you choose one of the training opportunities today, it doesn’t mean the other won’t be right for you tomorrow.

 

If you are interested in exploring new positions to help you progress along your career path, The Armada Group has the industry expertise needed to help you explore your options. Contact us to see what new opportunities are available in your target field, and what it takes to land the job today.

 

Python Developer

 

It’s no secret that software developers, including those who with Python experience, are in high demand. Low unemployment means many Python developers are seeing salaries rise, and those working in Silicon Valley are seeing significantly higher compensation than the national average. To help explain why being a Python developer can lead to big bucks in Silicon Valley, here is an overview of all of the factors at play.

Unemployment Rates

As 2016 came to a close, the unemployment rate amongst tech pros across the nation sat at 2.9 percent. This is well below the national average, estimated to be 4.7 percent. While the unemployment rate for some IT professionals, include web developers and information security analysts actually rose, software developers saw unemployment fall even further during 2016, reflecting the increased demand for these skills.

 

The trick with low unemployment in certain IT positions is that new employees aren’t entering that portion of the workforce at a high enough rate to offset the rise in demand. Python developers traditionally have significant amounts of education and training, and it can’t be obtained overnight. If more workers don’t choose to enter the field, the downward trend for unemployment may continue in the software development sector.

Cost of Living

A variable that affects anyone living and working in Silicon Valley is the cost of living. The cost of housing, food, utilities, and other basic expenses are elevated when compared to the national average. This means companies looking to attract the top Python developers need to offer salaries that offset the increased costs associated with being in the region.

 

However, some regions that are also known for a high cost of living, like New York City, have yet to meet the same salaries being offered by businesses in the San Jose area. When looked at from this angle, just because an area has a higher cost of living when compared to other parts of the nation, that doesn’t guarantee the compensation offered is designed to offset it.

Higher Skill Levels Required

Silicon Valley is still considered a hub for technology with significantly more tech companies operating than average. This means competition for IT professionals is especially high, pumping up salaries in efforts to bring in new talent and retain current employees.

 

While possessing Python development experience is often enough to get you a strong starting salary at a new company, vacancies in the San Jose area typically require a higher skill level on average than positions in other metro areas. As the level of experience rises, so do the salaries. And that means highly talented software developers can position themselves for above average compensation if they are able to work in the Silicon Valley area.

 

If you are interested in Python developer positions in the region, The Armada Group has the industry knowledge to help you get a strong salary for your skills. Contact us to discuss opportunities in your area today.

 

Coding Boot Camps

 

Almost any individual who has taken some time to research how to enter the lucrative field associated with coding has likely heard about coding boot camps. Typically, these are intensive forms of hands-on training that promise to provide you with the skills in you need in a relatively short amount of time. However, they can be costly and generally require a significant time investment to complete (though much less than a formal college degree).

 

Determining whether a boot camp offers the right value depends on your specific needs. To help you determine if one might be right for you, here are some major points to consider.

Focused Education

A boot camp is a highly focused form of education and is considered a fairly immersive experience. Unlike many college degrees, you won’t be dividing your time between coding classes and a range of other subjects. Instead, you will essentially live and breathe coding for a period of time. The approach can be helpful for those who haven’t pursued a college degree due to weaknesses in a subject unrelated to technology as it eliminates the requirement.

 

Additionally, the lack of extraneous coursework means your education will take less time that even many vocational schools. It isn’t uncommon for a coding boot camp to last anywhere from 8 to 12 weeks, which is much shorter than options offered through almost any other institution.

Direct Support

The fast-paced nature of a coding boot camp often requires a fair amount of support to be available at all times. This means that well-designed courses provide access to instructors who possess a strong skill set and are able to share it with others. Additionally, some boot camps can be fairly small in regards to the number of participants, and smaller class sizes make it easier to get one-on-one help the need arises.

 

However, to get the most value out of these classes, you need to be technically inclined and a fairly fast learner. Otherwise, it is easy to fall behind. And these classes don’t wait for those who need additional time to nail down a concept.

No Regulation, No Guarantees

It is important to note that coding boot camps are regulated as of this time. That means you aren’t guaranteed to cover the same material from one boot camp to the next. Additionally, the quality of the experience may vary dramatically. If you are interested in attending a boot camp, take the time to research multiple options before committing. That way you can increase your odds of selecting one that offers a strong value for the money.

 

Additionally, there are no guarantees you will find a job immediately after completing the work. While many of the stronger boot camps do offer career support, there is no way of knowing how long it will actually take to secure employment.

 

However, you can increase your odds of finding opportunities by working with an IT recruiter, such as those from The Armada Group. Contact us today and explore the coding positions that may be available to you.

 

universities

Technology has become a disruptive force in almost every industry. The Internet of Things (IoT) has increased awareness regarding the potential connectivity of systems, including real-time monitoring and reporting through certain city infrastructure components. Additionally, new service-oriented businesses whose foundations are in technology, such as Uber, are changing how people use certain services within a city, changing revenue flows. Even advancements in automation can fundamentally change how a city operates as technology changes employment levels throughout an area.

 

All of these shifts require leaders and planning professionals within city areas to have a new understanding regarding the impact of technology on the landscape. Whether it is the relevance of data analytics for acquiring needed information, the technical expertise required to implement and maintain certain pieces of infrastructure, or the foresight required to anticipate changes based on market trends, formal education is often required to support these smart city developments.

 

And universities across the country are embracing the challenges of today’s smart cities to create the professionals that will be required tomorrow.

Adding Data Analytics

The value of data analytics can be applied to a variety of fields, and more colleges and universities are acknowledging that fact. Entire degree plans are dedicated to the subject, and a variety of fields have individual courses designed to cover the most relevant aspects of the topic within particular industries.

 

Additionally, many schools have used the increased demand relating to data analytics to create separate certificate programs for professionals looking to expand their knowledge and skills. This provides working adults who may have already secured a college education in the respective fields to gain knowledge regarding data analytics to support the continuation of their careers.

Technology Integration and Sustainability

Technology is giving cities new options in regards to sustainability within their infrastructure. One of the early developments included the use of sensors to manage street and traffic lights to reduce energy costs, as well as monitor water mains to identify early signs of leaks. Advancements of this nature have the ability to lower city operating costs through the better management of resources as well as spot potential issues before a major failure results and large-scale repairs are needed.

 

All of these points can help a city become more sustainable by limiting the excessive use of natural resources and making system repairs for lower costs by addressing issues early. The addition of these technologies requires professionals who are prepared to work with these systems and have led to the creation of suitable higher educational options designed specifically to meet that demand.

And More

Smart cities can include many more technology-driven features designed to help municipal employees manage certain conditions more effectively and improve the resident experience in regards to daily living. Public safety can now include courses on the use of traffic, dash or personal cameras as information sources. Additionally, urban planning now involves the use of digital signage to direct traffic based on the precise driving conditions that are detected within areas traditionally subject to congestion.

 

The potential for other advancements is also vast, and many colleges and universities are stepping up to the plate to create courses and programs designed to meet these developments if they haven’t already. This helps shrink the talent gap and provides areas with new options for technological advancement in their daily operations.

 

If you are looking for a technology professional to help your organization meet the demands created by the smart city movement, The Armada Group has the expertise to find your ideal candidates. Contact our skilled recruiters today and let our recruitment technology help make your hiring practices smarter than ever.

 

Friday, Feb 17 2017

Is Code Coverage Effective?

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code coverage

 

When software developers need to measure the quality of their code, many turn to code coverage. The technique provides a metric regarding how much of the code is covered by the testing plan, giving definitive feedback regarding the thoroughness of applicable testing.  But how effective is code coverage, and does it actually help you create a better product?

Shorten Development Timetable

Professionals working in the software development field state benefits regarding the amount of time required to complete testing. Since code coverage serves as a tracking mechanism, less time is required to maintain the code. It also supports initiatives like agile and DevOps by creating a more efficient test plan and limiting technical debt.

 

Some development programs include code coverage within their product. For example, Microsoft Visual Studio provides internal tools for measuring code coverage. Additionally, third party solutions are available to test code based on a variety of languages. That means you do not have to dedicate internal resources to the creation of these solutions. However, manual methods are also available, though they can add time to the development cycle.

Clear Coverage Results

Code coverage allows developers to see exactly which code was tested and which code wasn’t. This helps confirm the portions that are working properly while guiding further testing to reach portions of the code that were not covered in prior testing.

 

Since the status of the testing is easily measured, this allows companies to set minimum thresholds before a release is scheduled. However, many businesses find it unnecessary to reach 100 percent coverage before considering release. Instead, a target of 80 percent or more may be sufficient. Then, if issues arise post-release, developers already understand which code was not previously tested, helping to speed up troubleshooting efforts.

Code Coverage Shortcomings

One area where code coverage is lacking is in the potential quality of the code. The system lacks the ability to determine whether the underlying tests were of a high enough quality to evaluate the product code properly.

 

Additionally, there is nothing to prevent developers from focusing on unit tests when higher code coverage targets were required. If a business puts extreme pressure on developers and focuses on particularly high code coverage requirements (such as 95 percent or higher, depending on the amount of source code involved), testers may not have the time required to create high-quality tests while also meeting the requirement.

 

Ultimately, code coverage cannot judge how meaningful a test may be, only what was tested. To ensure quality testing, additional policy may be required to guide efforts. Additionally, the tests may need to be reviewed to ensure best practices are being used.

 

This means that the results of code coverage will only be as useful as the code driving the test. Organizations will need to create standards regarding how the analysis will be performed to yield high-quality results.

 

If your company is interested in hiring new developers familiar with code coverage, The Armada Group has the skills required to find your ideal candidate. Contact us and see how our hiring solutions can work for you.