BizTech

Business and Technology News from NUS

Month: October 2018

Understanding the Different Facets of Web Development

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Web development can be a complex field in the technology industry. As the digital era of developed societies continues to grow and mold new generations, websites and browser databases are becoming the necessary to business and companies worldwide. What used to be available in just certain countries, is now expanding more than ever before. The tech industry continues to grow because of how technology dependent humans have become. Consumers rely on technology for most daily tasks. From setting alarms on their mobile phones to help them wake up in the morning to utilizing one cup coffee machines to get their caffeine boosts, consumers need technology. Internet and social media interactions are how most consumers do their majority of communicating. As online digital communication shifts the way humans interact with each other, it’s important that web developers have a thorough understanding of consumer behavior and their target audiences.

A web development company comes from many angles. Their job is dependent on consumers visiting their sites. For this reason, the front-end developers must be creative in their design elements to foster a site that consumers flock to helping build ad revenue and an overall client base with a strong consumer following. Front-end developers focus their efforts on writing HTML, CSS, and Javascript. These types of coding languages create the back-end of what a consumer sees and clicks on. These types of developers are important because not only are they required to be tech savvy and knowledgeable, but they also must have a unique understanding of how consumers will interact with the site and what their initial thoughts on the site will be. They must work closely with other developers and the digital media team to accomplish their daily tasks and goals.

Front-end developers work well with back-end developers to gain a logical understanding of the technology and databases that will house the site. Back-end developers work to create and manage internet databases. There job is everything before the browser link is clicked. These developers learn programming language like C, C#, C++, Python, etc, to create the most efficient databases and programs available. These type of developers are often very logical in their analytical thinking abilities and the way the go about their daily jobs and performance. They must have critical thinking skills in order to complete each given task.

In combining both types of developers, a full stack developer does both jobs. This type of web developer is able to understand all playing fields of web development. Because of the horizontal plane of skills they possess, they are able to fit into any web development role. These types of developers have been slightly criticized within their own industry because some experts argue that being a jack of all trades in the tech field means being a master of none. Because the technology industry puts a high value on talented experts in niche markets, being able to perform all tasks means to them, only a general knowledge of each area is understood. This claim is not true for all full stack developers. Some may feel threatened due to their broad amount of skills for varying jobs. These types of developers are highly competitive among tech companies.

Java Developers – Essential Or a Dying Breed?

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The war for developer talent is getting hotter day by day. Coding is needed for everything, from building mobile apps to re-designing the website user experience. Java is the closest thing to a lingua franca in the IT industry. Java is a computing platform used to develop and share applications for desktop and server environments, and also an object-oriented programming language accompanied with a compiler.

Getting the Hiring Process Right

Engineers are kings and Java coders are indispensable to companies and society alike. Here are some tips to aid the hiring process for Java developers:

Hire Slowly

Hire slowly, goes an old dictum. Hiring should be undertaken in a slow and judicious manner in order to attract competent candidates. The technical competency can be assessed through a Java test or any other online exam platform. It is also a truism that top talent is unlikely to hang on for the long term and will inevitably gravitate to better things. A wise HR policy consists in making maximum use of top-notch available talent and simultaneously looking for fresh blood.

Check for Cultural Fit

Software development is a team effort and cultural fit therefore assumes as much importance as coding skills in many instances. Peer recommendations make immense sense in this context; A-level developers tend to recommend A-level developers as they would gel better with each other. On the other hand, B-level programmers would recommend C-level counterparts so as to look better in comparison.

Cut out the Flab

A smaller and leaner organization holds immense appeal for many. People are willing to forego an opportunity at a Google or a Facebook so as to code to their heart’s content and not wade through endless layers of bureaucracy in an impersonal work environment. They want to work at a smaller enterprise, make a difference and see their code in action. Small to midsize companies can use this to their advantage when pitted against the likes of giants such as Facebook and Google. Companies that offer the best financial payouts and perks are often found lacking in providing less tangible rewards such as job satisfaction. The bigger the company, smaller is an individual’s role and vice-versa, at least at the start of a career.

Evaluate Real-Life

The interviewers should never commit the cardinal sin of assigning a code challenge as part of the recruitment process. They should rather allot a real problem from the company stable so as to provide an insight into the project work that is done in-house and ascertain whether the candidate is a right fit for job at hand.

Be Flexible

We live in a fast-paced world where programming languages get stale faster than fashion. The interviewers should refrain from asking staid questions such as the mechanism of merging two arrays in Java and rather focus on algorithms and how candidates approach a problem. It is easier to learn a new language than acquiring problem-solving techniques.

In conclusion, hiring the best talent is of paramount importance and companies should not leave any stone unturned in recruiting the best Java developers.

The Age of Cryptocurrencies and Value: Developments and Changes in the Market

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The internet age has brought about change into every aspect of life and finance was not left out of the equation. Money, the bloodline of all modern day hustle, is also becoming a digitalized concept with millions of people playing around with numbers instead of banknotes over financial networks. Blockchain, or Bitcoin as it is better known, is the latest breakthrough in such a trend, as digital currencies have been skyrocketing in value recently to raise controversy, interest and suspicion at the same time. Information is key in this paradigm and visiting a cryptocurrency blog helps understand the dynamics of the digital revolution of money. Without insight into such dynamics, people have little control over their investments and might very well lose significant sums of money due to errors or shifts in the market.

The newly emergent Bitcoin trend has become so massively popular and widespread that in 2017, the value of a Bitcoin has surpassed the value of gold in the markets, with $1,290 per coin compared to $1,228 for an ounce of gold. The Bitcoin revolution has already infiltrated the corporate world with companies such as WordPress, Overstock.com, Reddit, Microsoft and Shopify accepting Bitcoin as a legitimate form of payment. With 21 million units in existence and 16.2 million in circulation, every ‘miner’ adds 12.5 coins into the market every ten minutes, creating a surge of expansion. Many see the technology as a viable source of investment as in 2017, the annual return on investment for Bitcoin was 155% and even more people are wondering when and if central banks will be issuing their own coins in the future. Banks such as Barclays, BBVA, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, Credit Suisse, JP Morgan, State Street, Royal Bank of Scotland and UBS have already initiated programs to promote Bitcoin investments while the Australian government has plans to reduce taxes on Bitcoin transactions. In the US, the government is preparing for the release of ‘Fedcoins’, official US Bitcoin currencies which will be exchanged for physical money in the future, showing the essence and power of digital currencies in today’s governance.

Naturally, being the most powerful and dominant economic authority in the world, the United States houses one of the most applicable and profitable markets for Bitcoins, raising attention to possibilities. The Securities and Exchange Commission has recently launched ‘FinHub’, an online portal for “engaging with companies using blockchain, artificial intelligence and more” and provide the SEC’s existing services at a single access point to promote communications between corporations and the public. One of the primary concerns regarding blockchain technology is the issue of disinformation against which the SEC hopes to create an informed public through such an investment as the platform will help investors file complaints against misbehaving companies or services. Scam websites are quite common in the digital currency business and the website intends to educate blockchain investors about possible risks. Among the website’s services is the ‘online meeting’ function that enables people to request appointments with companies or authorities for direct intervention. The SEC also is currently planning to hold its second ‘Fintech’ forum in 2019 to house representatives from the blockchain business and initiate discussion regarding some of the most dominant issues in the market today as well as promoting innovations in the field.

Such measures should be taken seriously as in September of this year, the Bitcoin prices have dropped by more than 20% within two days, creating a shockwave in the markets. Cryptocurrencies such as Etherum, Litecoin and Ripple were all subjected to significant losses in value while Goldman Sachs postponed its plans to enter the Bitcoin trading markets. Many speculate that the recent rise in Bitcoin value was due to the possibility of the banking giants entering the business as the markets readied themselves for a large-scale financial operation. However, the plans did not materialize and the value of Bitcoin dropped to $6,400 from $20,000 in December of 2017 with high possibility of the price dropping further down to below $5,000. The volatility of the market is deterring serious investors from taking action while internet giants such as Google, Facebook and Twitter are directly blocking cryptocurrency advertisements to avoid legal complications. The Securities and Exchange Commission has so far blocked several intentions for Bitcoin trading investments including those of Proshares, Direxion and Winklevoss. As the general sentiment in the markets is turning away from fascination to suspicion, many are wondering if Bitcoin was yet another bubble or not, making it harder for investors or authorities to foresee the currency’s future place and position within the markets.

A Bite of the Apple – Marketing in the Food and Hospitality industry

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No matter the industry, marketing plays a significant role in keeping that industry alive. Marketing is the core of making a business flourish or fall into disarray; the perfect marketing strategy can launch a business into stardom, and a poorly-managed marketing tactic can cause even the strongest business to go into meltdown. The hospitality industry, for example, is ripe with new and successful marketing tactics such as a coffee subscription with your regular order that makes it cheaper overall, or a group discount with your restaurant booking.

The bottom line is that it is all about the customer. The food and beverages industry is entirely dependent on the customer’s preferences, opinions, and purchasing dependability. And seeing as the industry revolves around the customer, so should the marketing tactics of any food and beverages institution. Here are the two biggest and most important reasons why your marketing must evolve solely around your prospective and existing customers.

First and foremost, marketing in the food and beverage industry must cater to the current trends. It is a widely-known fact that customers of any industry tend to flock towards the latest trends in a bit to have tried them for themselves. Catering to the curiosity in your potential customers will always yield success – while the trend lasts. Constant market research into the next big thing in food and beverages will not only keep you ahead of the game, but allow you the opportunity to build your business’ reputation (and yours by association) quicker.

Additionally, the trends do not always work for very long. Instead of investing wholeheartedly in the trends, invest a little and then make it your mission to interact and communicate honestly and openly with your customers to find out what is working and how they feel about it. Customers want the hospitality industry to speak to them and to give them what they ask for. The aim of the game in hospitality is to appease entirely to the customer’s taste buds. In this way, listening to the customer has never been more integral to a business’ success – if the customer does not enjoy what you put in front of them, they will not want to pay for it.

Before they even walk in the door, individuals are your customers. Rather than catering specifically and exclusively to those that order from your store, make it a priority to cater to everyone in the area – even before they walk into (or up to) your establishment. Consumers are not likely to give their business to a restaurant, café, or pop up food truck if they are not offering something that customers genuinely want. This is an age-old fact, but it is one that has been gaining more traction as time has gone on.

For this reason, it is more important than ever to be entirely inclusive rather than figuratively exclusive. The food and beverage businesses that market for the many rather than the few are the ones that make it in the long-term.

Behaviour Analytics and A.I. Changing the Future of E-Commerce

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E-commerce represents a perfect intersection of technology and people. In the past decade, there has been a massive boost to the e-commerce sector with a rising number of people choosing online shopping options in favour of traditional retail. The driving force behind this revolution has been cutting edge technology that has improved not only the logistics of e-commerce but also how customers interact with brands. The online retail experience is still evolving, with customers relying more and more on their social connections, online recommendations and advertisements to drive their purchase and repurchase decisions. Here are 3 ways technology is changing the future of e-commerce:

  1. Customer Behavioural Analytics

Web analytics and behavioural analytics are two fields that have started to gain importance in improving the online shopping experience of customers. Even though customers prefer to research products and services that suit their needs, they still expect online retailers to offer them options in terms of their preferences. Online behavioural analytics offers a lot of data on customer buying behaviour that can help retailers improve and tailor their merchandising, marketing, advertising and other strategies. Web analytics can also track how much time customers spend on certain sites and hire e-commerce website design services to improve engagement.

  1. Increasing Supply-Chain Efficiency

While online shopping, customers expect super-fast, seamless and efficient shipping, delivery, return and exchange processes. As a result, retailers also need to match up to such expectations by improving customer experience for existing customers. Retail technology can help businesses do just that – by streamlining these processes and eliminating any inefficient operations so as to optimise the entire process. In addition, several supply chain practices such as real-time delivery, cross docking, third party logistics and cross functional integration can also be integrated to make the online shopping experience more satisfying. Further, some companies are taking innovative steps in this regard, to combine online, offline, logistics and data across a single value chain. This was a model proposed by Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma, called New Retail, where retailers, both large businesses and niche category specialists, can leverage technology in order to serve the customer efficiently.

  1. Use of Artificial Intelligence

Although artificial intelligence in e-commerce seems like a futuristic thought, more and more companies in recent times are incorporating AI into their business processes to enhance customer experiences. AI can be used effectively to provide highly personalised and customised experiences to consumers, for example the use of chatbots on websites to learn customers’ preferences and suggest products accordingly. AI is also increasingly being used to analyse customer data, track buying behaviour, influence and predict consumer behaviour and many other processes to enable automation and increase efficiency.

Technology has thus redefined e-commerce by allowing brands and businesses to find new and innovative ways to interact with their customers. The proper use of technology can allow companies to gain a competitive advantage over other brands in the market; however the acceptance or rejection of such new technologies will depend upon its ease of use and its cost effectiveness.

Mileage Allowance: What Singapore Can Learn From the States

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Mileage reimbursement refers to the IRS standard compensation that you grant your workers for utilizing their own autos, vans, pickups, or trucks for business-related errands. The U.S. government sets a mileage reimbursement rate every year, for example, 2018’s rate is 54.5 pennies for every business mile driven. Consider an employee or business representative who drives 10 miles to meet a customer and 10 miles to come back to the workplace. In this particular case, they’re entitled to a mileage reimbursement of  $10.90 (20 X $0.545).

Workers are usually required to monitor the mileage they drive for business, including other details like date of travel, type of business errand, origin/destination location, and total miles travelled.  The recordkeeping comes in handy when they fill the mileage reimbursement forms provided by their employers. Depending on what mileage reimbursement best practices an organization follows, the workers can use a single to state information about all the business trips they’ve made or ask for multiple forms. As a business owner, you must include details related to mileage reimbursement in the employee handbook and/or talk about the deadlines, exemptions and qualifications during orientation.

Under the Federal Law, you’re not required to provide mileage reimbursement to your employees. However, from employee satisfaction fulfilment to tax deduction, offering mileage reimbursement to your employees has numerous advantages. When you don’t compensate your workers for the time and effort they put in while running business errands, they’d most likely be disappointed and unhappy with their job. Remember, having disgruntled employees not only reduces the overall productivity at your workplace, but also deters future candidates from applying for a job at your establishment.

Mileage reimbursement is also considered a tax-deductible business expense, which means, you can avail a tax break from the IRS by submitting Form 1040 and Schedule C or Form 4562. Remember, according to the Fair Labor Standards Act, you’re required to pay a minimum wage to your workers after they’ve been compensated for their miles. The mileage reimbursement amount cannot be included in the minimum wage. If your uncovered mileage expense brings down your employee’s salary below minimum wage, you can be penalized and/or be taken to small claims court.

You can either include mileage reimbursement with the employee’s payroll or use a direct check/deposit. Most businesses tend to reimburse their workers separate from their regular wages, however, you can opt a method that’s mutually convenient for both parties. The industry standard is to compensate mileage within a definitive timeframe (say, 2 weeks) after receiving the reimbursement form from your employees. Since, mileage reimbursement falls under the “accountable plan” and are considered business expenses, avoid including the amount on the employee’s Form W-2.

In today’s rapidly-evolving, technologically advanced world, a variety of payroll software are being marketed to business owners who are looking to simplify the whole process of mileage reimbursement. Instead of occupying your resources with manual labour, who are likely to make mistakes, you can let our machine overlords take care of everything.

The Millennial Influence on Global Tourism

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It is a known fact that the millennial generation loves to travel. Over the last decade, millennials have influenced the travel and tourism industry in many different ways. Travel has ever since become more accessible and even more affordable. Social travel has made transitions happen in the tourism industry and changed the locations people prefer to visit. Millennials find any possible reason to travel, be it a romantic luxury getaway through a Ubud honeymoon package or taking a spiritual pilgrimage in Europe. Tourism has also seen an increase in diversity due to millennials wanting to experience more from travel. Tourism has even extended to medical tourism which is classified differently in different places all over the globe. Either by the digital innovations in travel, the improved tourism marketing or the reviews available all over social media, tourism has been greatly influenced by millennials.

Tourism marketing, a big part in the promotion of tourism across the world, has seen a huge transformation in this digital era. There has been a direct link of the millennial generation and how they acquire information towards the manner in which that information is delivered back. Time and again millennials have been called the most important customers for the travel and tourism industry. Due to this focus on millennials, a lot of companies have started to adapt to new marketing strategies. These include utilizing social media as the main platform for promotion and using influencers to increase the popularity of particular locations. A lot of countries have seen a tourism boom in locations that are more “Instagram appropriate.” The main traveling audience is young, therefore, the tourism industry has to find new ways of attracting that audience. The current generation has also focused a lot on luxurious travel as well as business travel. Both, being used as opportunities by the hospitality industry, hence, increasing luxury tourism as well.

Social media has definitely been one of the major reasons due to which tourism has been impacted by millennials. There are studies that prove that people are traveling for the likes a picture can potentially receive. Moreover, a lot of the times the likes and promotion a location is receiving can contribute to more travel occurring in that specific location. Social tourism, however, includes more than just likes, it includes the reviews that locations receive on travel websites and even the packages available through travel apps. Millennials are also choosing jobs that allow them to travel, and are more willing to leave their jobs in order to travel. Traveling is an important part of the millennial lifestyle, this importance that millennials put on travel has accelerated tourism in many parts of the world. The tourism industry is also consistently using new technological innovations in order to garner a greater audience. For instance, certain tourism companies are using virtual reality to attract their customers. Overall, the use of technology by millennials has created a shift in the market and allowed tourism companies to diversify their marketing techniques. Tourism is now more than just the curiosity of culture, it is a lifestyle and has become an important aspect of the millennial generation.

Solar Technology Changing the Face of Tomorrow

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Elon Musk, the visionary entrepreneur, said “If solar energy was the only power source and if you just took a small section of Spain, you could power all of Europe. Avery small amount of area is actually needed to generate electricity that is needed to power civilization.” Elon Musk is bang on target as solar energy reaches the earth’s surface every hour and this is enough to power the entire planet for a year and commercial solar power may well see the light of the day.

Revolution is brewing in the solar power space. The recent past has witnessed a giant leap in solar technology investments.  The International Energy Agency has predicted that the world will produce 662 GigaWatts of solar energy by 2035 at an investment of $1.3 trillion. Manufacturers are creating efficient systems to harvest and store solar energy, and the cost of per watt of silicon photovoltaic cells is on the decline in the past few decades. Satellite-Earth imaging is enabling companies such as Solar City to make rapid and accurate decisions on solar panel installations. There is also a substantial jump in the ability to capture solar energy and store it for the night and the future. A massive rise in battery production is also on the horizon as Tesla’s Gigafactory alone will produce 35 Gigawatts worth of the batteries by 2020; this is more than the existing total global battery capacity.

The solar technology is expanding at a spectacular pace. The bulky rooftop panels will soon become a thing of the past with the advent of solar panels, solar windows et al.

Glass solar panels are visually attractive and durable compared to silicon cell panels. They possess a high degree of fire resistance and lower susceptibility to erosion. Frameless solar panels would make use of specialized mounting apparatus, thereby giving the panels a streamlined look. Bifacial solar panels, commonly known as double-sided panels, will offer substantial value addition by harnessing sunlight through both sides of the panel.

Solar windows are another exciting emerging solar technology. Looking like normal windows, the solar windows will generate energy as sunlight passes through the coating in the glass. Solar windows have the potential to power entire buildings and complexes.

Solar home lighting has been around for some time. Solar lights increase efficiency of power utilization and reduce electric bills, but have been hitherto been restricted to homes. But this is set to change soon as municipal and other governmental bodies look at cheaper lighting options to power the street lights.

Solar powered transportation would be another innovative offshoot of advances in solar technology. Solar-powered roads are already in limited usage and solar energy will power the cars, buses, railroads and airplanes of the future.

To conclude, harnessing the incredible power of the sun is indeed a technologically and financially daunting task. But humankind is moving in that direction in leaps and bounds due to the power of science and technology, and the journey continues.

Food and Beverage Businesses Promote Their Supply Chain as Their USP

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Everyone loves good food and nice drinks but as a business, food and beverages is a different story. People have different tastes and for restaurants, keeping up with customer demand is a hard thing to do. On the customer’s side, one cannot really know what to expect, given all the different tastes and qualities available, not to mention the possibilities of stumbling upon tasteless or unhealthy foods or drinks. It can be eating tacos in a Mexican restaurant, sushi in a Japanese diner or enjoying a macchiato at a popular Chippendale café, it really does not matter: quality and failure exist at the same time and one should simply know where to eat and drink. Otherwise, risks exist in vast amounts and the customer will surely come across a troubling situation at one point or the other.

One of the hardest things associated with running a restaurant or a café is keeping up with finances because both are multi-dimensional and sophisticated businesses with numerous operations going on simultaneously. There are many cases when restaurant or café owners cannot tell where they spent money or simply cannot track expenditure in the accounting books because of time limitations or lack of responsibility by the personnel. Given the technical differences between the food and beverages business and other conventional types of business, accountants also have been known to confuse such owners with technicalities. Therefore, a proper management system is a necessity for restaurant and café owners in the name of navigating through present or past operations safely. On top of this, creating menus that appeal to the majority of the customers is also a demanding issue because people have diverse tastes and not every chef can be trusted with cooking quality food or preparing delicious cocktails. In many occasions, restaurants and cafes fail to deliver the expected quality because they have either chosen the wrong type of food and drinks to serve or their chefs were amateurs and should have never been hired in the first place. Successful restaurants on the other hand directly target specific customers with quality foods and drinks that have been prepared by talented and experienced personnel.     

Naturally, with so much human factor involved, both on the producer and consumer side of things, marketing rises up as one of the most important aspects of the food and beverages business. This is why restaurant and café businesses are both great examples to consider when looking at entrepreneurial marketing from a professional point of view, because in such businesses, there exist “hustle, determination, anxiety and passion.” The food and beverages industry operates upon ecosystems, meaning that the consumers are indulged in a business culture that involves many different players. As a result, every product or service is introduced and promoted to a vast number of people or organizations: an almost automated marketing scheme in itself. Such projects also enable their owners or administrators to take notice of customer lifecycles, meaning that their operations are directly related to customer behaviour. Consequently, those who can comprehend such behaviour will end up creating direct links with such customers to market their products and services perfectly well. Such restaurants and cafes usually have a message or statement to share with their customers and therefore marketing becomes an easy task to accomplish, as the hook and the bait are already existent. Finally, such projects convert effort directly into money at a fast pace and therefore it becomes easier for the owner or the administrator to evaluate the success and failure rates of their marketing strategies.

Only a couple of decades ago, food and beverages business was a traditional one with minimal creativity or experimentation allowed, whereas today, all types of different restaurants and cafes pop up daily, aiming at appeasing different types of customers. Music, namely hip-hop, has become a dominant influencer in the given business in Australia recently, with many hip-hop themed restaurants operating in major Australian cities for quite some time now. In such locations, the name of the business is attributed to a hip-hop star such as Jay Z or Beyoncé, the menu is comprised of items echoing song names or lyrics while the interior design and music are both dedicated to the sub-culture, its icons and images. Although criticism has emerged regarding the authenticity of such a marketing approach, the customers seem to enjoy the idea quite a lot as such restaurants are making serious bucks in profits. The most obvious criticism in this sense is that hip-hop is an underground and anti-corporate movement and making money over gangsters and thugs is not an ethical thing to do. However, there also exist people who go and eat at such restaurants because they enjoy the music and the arts, and for such people, the gimmick is too good to ignore.      

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