Nearshoring Fast Becoming a Real Solution to Supply Chain Disruption, National Technology Leadership

There’s been a lot of talk recently about regulations that would forbid government-supported technology developed in the U.S. to be sent to manufacturers overseas. This idea sparked a renewed conversation about the benefits of nearshoring in general, and I wrote about it recently in a Forbes Tech Council blog post.

In addition to bolstering the nation’s manufacturing prowess, bringing the full Lifecyle of product development on-shore could minimize some of the supply chain disruption that we’ve seen lately. Other benefits of nearshoring that I highlighted in the Forbes article include:

  • Increasing security. Cyberattacks seem to be on the rise. Regardless of whether the breach is caused by malware, ransomware or other hacks, the result is the same – havoc across the very systems that run our businesses. Perhaps we would have greater control if we manage all aspects of product development.
  • Supporting U.S. competitiveness. The U.S. is typically ranked in the top percentile of technology leadership in the world, and contains a wealth of invaluable intellectual property. Keeping development of advanced AI and other technology solutions within the U.S. helps to safeguard this important asset. 
  • Mitigating risk. Given the vulnerabilities of the supply chain that were exposed during the pandemic, keeping development and manufacturing closer to home enables organizations and federal agencies to better manage and mitigate the risk of future disasters or other unforeseen circumstances. 
  • Ensuring diversity. Studies have shown that diverse teams perform at a higher level, and software development teams are no exception. When bringing software development and services back to the U.S., companies can better control how diverse their teams are – which has proven critical to quality AI, among other things.

One issue that continues to be raised is that, while nearshoring can be beneficial, the cost will always be cheaper off-shore. Yet, because U.S.-based nearshorers, such as Puerto Rico-based Wovenware or companies in the U.S. Virgin Islands, are U.S. citizens, they offer the same security and intellectual property protection, and share a common language, work ethic and business standards as mainland firms, but at much lower prices.

In order to maintain leadership in technology innovation and ensure greater security, diversity, quality and less risk, nearshoring is increasingly becoming a viable option. With or without growing regulations, it simply makes better sense. 

Chatbots: An insight Into Their Evolution

A group of people at MIT developed the first chatbot, known as “the mother of chatbots” Eliza. Though different from today’s chatbot, it served its purpose of imitating human-like interactions, by using a model known as the decision tree. Nowadays,  chatbots, at their root, are a form of AI capable of answering frequent questions from consumers, citizens, or customers. But, exactly how far have they come?

In a recent article in InformationWeek, I had the opportunity to dive into the evolution of the chatbot over the years. Its technology, which once served a fairly basic role, is now a key business tool for organizations. In the beginning, many users expressed frustration when engaging with chatbots because the answers were limited and too mechanical, but now their capabilities exceed basic questions, and can even understand tone of voice. As described in InformationWeek, below are the technologies that have paved the way for better chatbots:

  • Cloud-based technologies Cloud technology is adaptable and because of it, an array of industries, such as healthcare and retail, have been able to quickly deploy chatbots for better customer service. By using cloud-based technologies, chatbots are able to integrate with other systems, like CRM, to access information and accurately answer questions. This method of chatbot eases administrative burden and costs of large cell centers by providing help at all hours. 
  • Natural Language Processing(NLP) NLP programs are built upon machine learning and allow better conversational AI, upping the communication between companies and their customers. Technology innovations in NLP are also continually improving machine-to-human communication, understanding the nuances of different accents, phrases, dialects, and even languages.
  • Artificial Intelligence & Analytics The arrival of AI served as a gateway for “smarter” chatbots. Thanks to this, they are able to detect change in tone, and therefore different emotions and respond accordingly, like transferring a customer to a supervisor. They are also able to use predictive analytics and previous interactions with customers to help them identify possible customer churn and respond with a promotional item or service or they can transfer the call to a specialist who can better service the call.

How can we create more effective chatbots?

Organizations are slowly relying more on chatbots to be the bridge between them and their customers. Adapted from InformationWeek, here are five best practices to adopt to ensure that companies are supplying the best customer experience:

  1. Understand your customer. Learning who your customers are will serve as a guide for you to know where their needs lie. Example, if they reach out via Facebook, make sure to have a chatbot there. 
  2. Let them know that you understand them. By using AI and analytics, the customer experience will be individualized and the customer will then be aware that you are responding in accordance to their needs.
  3. Ensure privacy and security. With the constant widespread fraud attempts, it is important that chatbots reinforce privacy and security and verify that they are indeed communicating with the correct person.
  4. Solicit feedback. In order to continuously improve, request feedback from the customer, once the issues are fixed.
  5. Monitor chatbots for continuous improvement. Establish KPIs measuring performance metrics. These should be studied by a supervisor who can then fine-tune and improve the bot.

Chatbots nowadays can and should be adapted to reflect the brand of a company, by using technology that integrates personality traits into the bot. As chatbots evolve, we can expect to see a shift in how they are viewed. Instead of being poor substitutes for people, they will become the preferred brand ambassadors of a company.

SBA Celebrates Latinx Entrepreneurship: Excellence & Pride

I was honored to be invited to speak at a series of panel discussions held by the U.S. Small Business Administration to commemorate National Hispanic Heritage Month. Moderators, Mark Madrid and Bibi Hidalgo, introduced the guest speaker, administrator Guzman, the first Latina appointed by the president to run a trillion dollar agency that has been working tirelessly to stabilize the U.S. economy in a time of crisis.

Administrator Guzman led the discussion, Testimonies of Excellence and Pride, which I was a part of, along with other panelists: Teresa Razo, CEO and owner of Cambalachee and Villa Roma Argentine and Italian Restaurants; Ryan Bethencourt, CEO of Wild Earth; and Shannon Jacques, Chief Development Officer of the Albuquerque Hispano Chamber.

As part of the panel, I had the opportunity to hear others talk about the unique journeys their companies have embarked on, how they have impacted the economic ecosystem, and how COVID-19 challenged them last year. I also got to share my own observations and Wovenware’s successes and challenges. As a digital transformation consultancy, as well as a member of a successful federal government contractor team, I was asked what advice I would share with others that could help them succeed during this pivotal time.

One saying came to mind as I prepared to share my thoughts, “Luck is when preparation meets opportunity”, and that is certainly true for everything. I believe that continuous learning should be a focus for all members of an organization, no matter what career path they may be on. Learning is what prepares you for any situation and, in this field, you need to be prepared. You have to be willing to work hard and connect with others who will open new doors for you. It is important to figure out your end goal and strategize how you can get there.

Due to COVID-19, our main focus was placed upon our staff, and we were among the lucky ones. We’re fortunate to be in an industry where remote work is possible. Our team was able to go to the office, pick up the equipment needed, and work from home. But, reaching out to them on an individual level, figuring out what they needed to continue to flourish in a time of crisis was imperative. 

Teresa Razo shared how her business pivoted by turning its restaurants into a marketplace, due to the fact that products were scarce. She thanks the support system around her that helped her refocus her business. Shannon Jacques on the other hand, centered ideas around what her firm needed to do to help other businesses. She believes that work ethic was her priority. By showing up, setting the example, and learning how to delegate, she presented traits that go hand in hand with continuous learning and that should be implemented daily so as to be prepared for future challenges.

Something that stuck with me long after the panel was the fact that it doesn’t matter how different our stories might be, the key element that connects us is innovation- in how we adapt and pivot to meet challenges and opportunities. I’ve previously mentioned this and will continue to, because innovation will  keep pushing us forward and grants us the ability to continue to grow as small businesses. 

 I would like to thank Administrator Guzman and moderators, Bibi Hidalgo and Mark Madrid, for allowing me to participate in this panel. We at Wovenware are committed to tackling every obstacle and celebrating our journey as a Latinx small business that’s growing every day.

Need to Create a User Interface for Your Web App? React or Angular are Good Bets

By José Francisco Rodríguez-Zayas

When we design and develop a new web application, one of the most important elements that must be considered is its user interface. The user interface (or UI) is the product that the “end-users” will use to interact with the application. Factors that we need to consider for the UI are: usability, responsive design, colors and the user experience, all important components when designing a new web application. 

There are many technologies available for developing user interfaces for web applications. In this blog, I’ll outline some of the features integrated in two of the main technologies that exist today: React JS and Angular, my experience using them, and how they allow me to provide a functional and intuitive user experience for users.

What is React?

React.js is an open-source “toolbox” created using JavaScript meant for frontend development. Open-source means that anyone can modify it to better meet their needs. This “toolbox” is used for building user interfaces focused on single-page applications. It controls the view layer for mobile devices and the web. This library also allows the creation of reusable UI components. React.js was first created by Jordan Walke, a software engineer working for Facebook. Its main focus is to be scalable, simple, and fast. It can be used with other JavaScript frameworks. 

What is Angular?

Angular, instead of being limited to a library, is a development platform, where you can select from its integrated collection of libraries, built on the typescript, a programming language. This language is designed for developing large applications. Angular, then, is used for building expandable web applications. This platform features a client-server communication, among other things. It has a wide range of tools to develop small scale projects to grand scale ones. An important thing to mention is that it is constantly updated, its latest updates brought by an Angular team at Google. 

While both technologies can be used to improve the user experience when designing web apps, there are key differences:

  • React is a library and Angular is a framework. 
  • React allows you to choose many ways for handling the business logic, while Angular is the all-in-one UI development kit. 
  • If you choose Angular  you will not have as much flexibility. The framework controls how you build the app and supplies all the necessary tools to develop the UI. 
  • On the other hand, React is a lightweight library which allows you to select your libraries and learn them. With Angular they are included in the framework.

So, which should I use? 

The answer is “it depends” (like always in this industry). In terms of popularity, React leads, but Angular also has a great community supporting the framework. In terms of quick start, React has a simpler learning curve, while Angular has a more complete one. If the project is mid-level or a big one, developers prefer Angular because it is easier to maintain over React, and it is easy for testing. For small projects, developers prefer React for light and easy development and great performance.

Both Angular and React are good choices for web application development, and, having worked on several projects using each, you can’t go wrong with whichever one you choose. Yet, careful consideration should be given by your team in the design phase of a web application.

Oh and by the way, I didn’t include “Vue.js” in this post because I do not have much experience using it, but it is definitely worth taking a look at it. Web application development is always a learning experience.

Speed Interviews: Carlos Meléndez on The Great Turnover

It’s clear that “The Great Resignation,” and massive workforce turnover is a major issue impacting companies everywhere. Articles like: The Next-Generation of Data Scientists Requires a New Approach and The ‘Great Resignation’ Is Finally Getting Companies to Take Burnout Seriously, are dominating the news. The main reason for this workforce challenge is COVID-19, but it’s not the only one. Employees today feel more empowered and are looking for more than just a paycheck, which is a good thing, but puts employee in a tough position of needing to fill critical positions against a shrinking talent pool. We took fifteen minutes to address the subject with Wovenware’s CEO, Carlos Meléndez. Continue reading to learn how the great turnover is impacting companies everywhere, and what we can do to make it better: 

Many companies are facing staff turnover and it’s making it difficult to deploy critical IT projects. Are you seeing this with your customers?

Carlos Meléndez: Yes. I’ve heard from many customers and prospects that while they understand how critical it is to deploy their digital transformation projects for productivity, competitive advantage and business growth, they simply don’t have the IT staff to do it.

What do you think is causing this turnover?

CM: Part of the problem is clearly COVID-19, which has stretched IT staff to the limit, as they work to keep technology moving along seamlessly in remote-work models. But, I also think the tech talent shortage, which has been going on for a while, is also a key factor. Technology has been moving so fast that we simply don’t have enough of the software engineers and data scientists experienced with it. It’s not only a question of retaining good staff, but having the ability to hire new talent to fill in the gaps.

What are a few things we can implement to solve this problem?

CM: Once you have a team of experienced IT professionals you don’t want to let them go. While a good salary can go a long way, there are other ways to boost the employee experience. This includes offering better work/life balance and reward systems, encouraging employee input, or using the data in HR or other systems to identify workers who may be on the edge, due to too many work hours. These are just some measures that can help you keep valued staff, but let’s face it, the Great Resignation is still in full swing. Partnering with a nearshore services company like Wovenware can help you develop a new operating model to jumpstart digital transformation efforts seamlessly.

While companies in the U.S. struggle to retain in-house expertise, Wovenware, as a nearshore company, can make sure you don’t jeopardize critical digital transformation projects because of a lack of staff. Reach out to us here: info@wovenware.com

The Next-Generation of Data Scientists Requires a New Approach

In the recently published Forbes Tech Council  article, “Just when A Data Scientist Has It All Figured Out, The Rules Change,” I had the opportunity to discuss the evolution of AI and the future prospects for rising data scientists. 

In the article, I presented some statistics from The Bureau of Labor Statistics that reinforces the growing need for data scientists. According to the research, the number of computer and information research science jobs will increase by over 22% through 2030. While this comes as great news for anyone looking for a job in data science, it also sets up a challenge for companies looking to fill much-needed AI expertise.

Not only has there been a scarcity of data scientists, but the new generation will be required to come with an entirely new skill-set. In the Forbes article, I go over some strategies, all centered around education, that should be considered and implemented– by future data scientists everywhere.

The new requirements can partly be attributed to COVID-19, which pinpointed certain structures that weren’t working anymore. Humans had to step in with what distinguishes us from machines- logical reasoning. Data scientists are problem solvers, but now more than ever, they have to be able to step out of the box. How can they do this? With continuous learning. Here are some strategies that will help promote that:

1. Professors must be accountable. Professors, once reaching tenure status, should be required to undergo continuous learning, not only in the classroom, but also by getting out in the field. 

2. Data science certification should be a requisite. Just like in other fields, it is the professional’s responsibility to comply with certain regulations to remain licensed. Data scientists should be required to log a certain number of hours of professional development to earn and keep a “licensed” data scientist label. 

3. Private business partnerships should be established. Universities should form stronger partnerships with private businesses with the aim to set up student apprenticeships. This would familiarize rising data scientists with the business environment.

4. Diversity must be required learning. Without the study of diversity and tolerance, data bias can ruin AI projects.

5. Data science should begin well before college. Data literacy should be a part of children’s curriculae  to prepare them for the data-driven world.

Data will continue to drive economic growth and business decisions. To ensure that the future of data falls into the hands of a capable data scientist, academia must update its agenda and prepare future professionals for a new business landscape.

Facebook LatinX Virtual Supplier Showcase 2021

I recently took part in the first Facebook Latinx Virtual Supplier Showcase Series aimed at celebrating and increasing opportunities within the Latinx communities. This event, co-hosted by Facebook Supplier Diversity and the Latin@ Facebook Resource Group, included a track on Marketing, Research, and Technology. I was included, as part of the Technology team, and invited to share a presentation highlighting the essential services that Wovenware offers. 

I explained that our services, as a digital consultancy with real experience in service design, software engineering, and emerging technologies — all, focus on digital transformation. I gave insight into past projects and collaborations, and into current prospects all while underlining the importance of the four pillars that contribute to our journey and our hope for future endeavors. These four pillars that contribute to our journey and integrate digital transformation are: Strategy + Design; Apps, Integration, & Modernization; AI & Cognitive Solutions; and Cloud Solutions. As innovators and business leaders in Puerto Rico, we are dedicated to carrying out these four pillars to help businesses deploy the digital transformation projects that help them move their businesses forward.

After wrapping up the presentation, I was asked by Tamika Thompson, the technology showcase moderator, what I thought Wovenware does best. What would I say is our core competency? It can be difficult to sum it up in a few words, but I tried to capture the essence of our services. “Our best services are delivered on the AI front, creating custom and predictive analytics algorithms, specifically in computer vision,  AI, and complex software development for enterprise projects, most often in regulated industries”. 

This inaugural Facebook event closed with final remarks from Jason Trimiew, Director of Facebook Global Supplier Diversity, and a performance by Gina Chavez, a Latin Grammy Nominee. The Facebook Latinx community is filled with business innovators, award-winning artists and change-makers and I was glad to be a part of this event, which will continue to spotlight and celebrate our diversity.