A week had gone by so I jumped at the chance to catch up with my colleagues who had attended ScotSoft 2015.

Every year Scotland’s leading Digital technology event brings together the Technology community from IT recruiters to business leaders working in tech firms, in order to provide inspiration and understanding of topics surrounding one of the fastest changing industries in the world. The sessions are presented by a select group of world-renowned keynote speakers who cover thought-provoking topics each year leaving the audience with valuable insight to take away.

To kick off ScotSoft 2015, our Tech team headed over to the Developer Conference as it made its debut as part of the event this year. The team congregated alongside the masses of Scotland’s finest Techies to prepare for a great line up of speakers who covered topics from UX to Drone Technologies. Our Tech team chose to attend the following sessions - ‘Designing for Mobile’, ‘UX’, ‘Test Driven Development’ and ‘Soft Skills’.

Our Web Developer; Alex Ferguson on the Developer Conference

Designing for Mobile was a panel based discussion about Mobile UX featuring Duncan Blair; FanDuel and Michael Hayes; Add Jam.It was a well versed discussion about the current climate of mobile UX and how this being shaped by new emerging technologies such as wearables and devices with enhanced sensors which provide new ways for software to interpret the environment. There was a key point made that apps should aid users by surfacing information which is relevant to context of use.
The discussion also covered mobile apps: the reason behind their creation and how successful utility based apps are e.g – An app that does something for the users or an app that has to give something to the user and they have a specific reason to go out of their way to download it. Look at it this way, Users would not download an app to browse a company’s catalogue however they would go out of their way to download app that can provide a better alternative to use a company’s service. For the catalogue example I just gave you, an optimised web presence on mobile which integrates with Google search is a far more effective solution.

What I also took away from the conference is that Mobile Apps should be designed to integrate with platforms, work with existing design and UI themes of the system. Native apps should not just replicate desktop functionality but instead provide a slimmed down light version of key functionality, as users will expect this. Discussed cross platform mobile development, the benefits and pit falls and their personal preferences and the general consensus was that Native Apps were better as we have full access to the platform. However, on the other hand, for smaller businesses cross-platform solutions such as Xamarin can be an effective choice instead.

A particularly insightful part of the presentation was a conversation around the value of testing with actual users, incorporating feedback early into the design using UX testing tools such as Marvel and how developer’s assumptions of how software should work are different from what actual users expect. Remember: User feedback is critical in shaping user experience of a product.

UX Talks from Stephen Denning, User Vision and Steven Drost, Stipso.

This seminar focused on UX across the board rather than concentrating on Mobile UX. Basically stated that user experience is more than just about what is on the screen and should be considered as enhancing user ability to accomplish goals where interaction with a service which happens both on screen and in the real world. The key takeaway for me is how development companies should focus on improving user experience. It can be achieved if individual members of the whole process are mindful of UX throughout rather than relying on a UX expert.

Test Driven Development Presentation from Seb Rose, Claysnow.

Seb Rose discussed Test Driven Development. He states that test coverage is not the key metric for measuring effectiveness of testing and tests should focus on areas of the system with high risk and with high probability of occurring. The point he was trying to emphasis was the importance of testing throughout the development lifecycle. Typically testing is a process that is carried out during the UAT phases of a project which are done towards the end. Lack of or, worse, no testing at all throughout the development lifecycle could be detrimental to a project. Increasing the amount of testing can resolve issues can be more costly and testing should integrate though the whole development lifecycle.

Soft Skills: The Myth of the Qualified Developer Story based presentation by Pete Smith, One and three Consulting.

I really enjoyed this part of the morning sessions. Not really taking the form of typical talks as it was a story based presentation Pete Smith. His light-hearted tale touched on past failures in previous roles within the I.T world, his battle with his World of Warcraft addiction and his lack of motivation and self-doubt to move on and find his dream job and move out his comfort zone. By telling the audience of his past failures in dealing with management and poor handling of situations within the work place, Pete Smith probably connected with many individuals sat in the room. What I took away from this is that there are always lessons to be learned from others mistakes.

Alex said – ‘’Overall, I thought out of the seminars that I was able to attend last week at ScotSoft were really informative. The topics were current in the development world and I took away different key facts from each presentation. It was great to gain insight from individuals with an abundance of knowledge gained from years working in the industry.‘’ - This proving that the Developer Conference was an interesting new addition to the annual ScotSoft event.
After a break and some time to digest an information loaded morning, our group returned ready to absorb the afternoon sessions of the Global Forum.

Our Chief Operating Officer, Ian Bell on the Global Forum:

The theme for this year’s Global forum was Think Big/Start Small with a focus on how individuals are at the centre of the rapid change we are seeing today, either as catalysts for change or as the end users of data via mobile and end point devices (Smart Phones Laptops, Tablets etc.)

Graeme Gordon CEO from IBF who sponsored the Global forum set the scene by saying whilst the focus was on the big data debate, it was the small data that we need to take notice of as it was our understanding and use of this that would make the real difference. His view was that individuals are becoming important data centres in their own right by our greater use of mobile and end point devices and it is these devices that will be the game changers moving forward.
The role of the individual was further emphasised by Kimberly Blessing director at Think Brownstone during her presentation entitled “Intrapreneurship – How to Take Entrepreneurship Principles and Apply Them Inside Existing Companies”. Kimberly’s theme was that even in the biggest organisation it is the individuals within the company that show the “Intrapreneurship” tendencies that will be the best at effecting and enabling change to bring business benefit, often doing it without being asked. The companies that can recognise these Intrapreneurs and give them the environment in which to succeed will reap the benefits of innovation, growth and just as important employer engagement and commitment.

Joe Marks co-founded Upfront Analytics Ltd continued the theme that individuals are key to Invention and Innovation in Corporate R&D. Joe has had a number of senior roles (From 2007 to 2012 Joe created and led Disney Research, the premier technology lab in the media & entertainment industry) where he emphasised and demonstrated that in all of his successful projects it was key individuals that were at the heart and critical to the success of the projects as it was though these individuals; working in a team, that pushed the invention and innovation to a level that had not been achieved before.

Duncan Anderson, Watson Europe, IBM covered the subject of cognitive computing becoming a reality in his presentation “Is ‘Cognitive Computing’ another Industrial Revolution?” Duncan explained Cognitive Computing as the Artificial Intelligence (AI) of today, the here and now. He gave the background to how the Watson project came about to develop a computer that could compete against humans on the US TV programme Jeopardy using an artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions poised in natural language. One of its first commercial uses was in the diagnosis of Cancer treatment where Watson could do some of the early diagnosis freeing up the specialist in this field to deal with more complicated cases. Duncan also highlighted other areas where Watson technology would have a positive effect on our daily lives. So from competing on a game show has led to saving lives, definitely a case of Think Big/Start Small that has had a successful outcome.

The final presentation of the day was from Chad Sakac the President of Systems Engineering at EMC globally with his presentation “Leading Through ‘What the hell is going on” and how we deal with change and innovation in today’s fast paced environment. Chad’s view is that given the pace of change and innovation we are seeing it is inevitable we will see disruption events more and more. These disruption events are forks in the road and you have to go left or right as straight on (keeping doing more of the same) will lead to companies falling behind. Change shouldn’t be seen as good or bad but something that needs to be embraced. In this environment of change size is longer an advantage, small companies have the ability to change quicker and adapt better, with individual at the centre. Chad’s summing up of what is the correct formula for success was “integrity (heart) coupled with intelligence in a culture that embraces fear (of change) and harnesses passion (but not combined with stupidity) leads to innovation”.

A very informing set of presentations which gave a great insight into how thought leaders were putting individuals forward as the key to success in a fast moving and constantly changing world, where we shouldn’t see change as good or bad only that is inevitable , which we should embrace and understand the opportunities that it presents. The companies and more importantly the individuals in these companies that can achieve this will be the ones that succeed.

''Think big/Start small.''

The Awards Dinner:

Following the Global Forum, our group headed over to the annual Awards Dinner which was held at the EICC. The Awards Dinner is an occasion where around 800 guests and delegates of the Global Forum come together to network and recognise the up and coming Young Software Engineers from universities across Scotland. With a huge skills gap in our current economy, the event was a perfect place to continue raising awareness of the digital skills gap and encourage the younger generations to consider careers in both Software Engineering and Computer Science. We enjoyed good food, great company and after-dinner entertainment from British comedian; Paul Tonkinson – All in all, it was a wonderful end to a busy day for us.

Thank you to Polly and the ScotlandIS Team for organising another great day at ScotSoft 2015. Polly’s efforts within the IT industry have not gone unnoticed over the years as she was also presented with a well-deserved, outstanding personal achievement award.

We look forward to seeing what’s in store for 2016!

Ian Bell
Client Delivery Director

Ian founded 2i in 2005 and is responsible for the strategic direction and delivery of the overall business objectives. A key part of the 2i management team, Ian oversees 2i's delivery services and ensures that the highest standard of software testing and test consultancy services is always met.