Anant Corporation Blog

Our research, knowledge, thoughts, and recommendations about building and leading businesses on the Internet.

Category Archives: Business


Team Collaboration – Slack, Airtable, and Trello: What Makes Them Good

During our most recent webinar, Rahul Singh covered a few of our favorite tools for team collaboration: Slack, Airtable, and Trello. The first two tools are both relatively new to our company whereas the latter one has come to the forefront of our company’s processes after a bit of time in the dark.

Slack

Slack was initially a tool that we tested out in our company to improve our internal communication. At the time, we turned away from it because we were afraid that it would become a major time suck that would slowly but surely decrease the efficiency of our team. We stuck with Google Hangouts / Chat for a bit but decided to give Slack a more solid go about a year and a half ago. Our experience thus far has been nothing but positive. The standard tier of Slack is more than enough for a small business to operate on, and the maximum amount of integrations allowed in the free tier is optimal for a company of our size. We use Slack with a variety of integrations, some of which are:

 

  1. Sending automated weekly reports to our managers from Metabase, an awesome open-source BI tool, to seamlessly get critical data in the hands of leadership.
  2. Receiving instantaneous updates on commits and deployments across our different set of software development tools in our #_devops channel:
    1. GitHub
    2. CodebaseHQ
    3. DeployHQ
    4. AppVeyor
  3. Sending tasks to either of our project management tools through our #_chief channel:
    1. Trello
    2. active.collab

Trello

We have most often used Trello as our “Master Backlog” project management system, there are many tasks we are often unable to complete in the current time window but nonetheless would like to keep in the backlog for when there are future opportunities to address them. Recently, we have started relying more heavily on Trello to assist us with Agile Scrum Planning for some of our external projects (clients) and internal initiatives (Research & Development, Sales & Marketing…etc).

 

 

The clean interface, the ease with which a user can move cards around, the overall ability to get a bird’s eye view of the project at any time, and the ability to add burndown charts and estimates to cards via plugins such as Scrum for Trello and Burndown for Trello make this tool an indispensable part of our workflow.

 

 

Below you can find a screenshot of a template for Agile Scrum Planning in Trello. Additionally, here is the link to it.

 

 

Airtable

Airtable is what you would get if you mixed Google Spreadsheets, Microsoft Excel, Trello, and a lightweight online database. We’ve covered this particular software tool more extensively in a blog post you can find here. We’ve used airtable for a good amount of things ranging from job applicant tracking to sales territory planning. Below you can find a screenshot of the “Advertising Campaigns” Airtable template found here.

 

Additionally, some of our favorite features of all three of these tools are:

  • Their ability to work with other systems in our process
  • The fact that they are SaaS products
  • Their focus on team collaboration and activity tracking
  • The speed at which they operate
  • Good native mobile applications for iOS and Android

 

At the end of the day all of these tools can work in conjunction with one another and help your team get a boost, but nonetheless, it is important that your process is ironed out and clear for everyone to understand. No amount of stellar software tools will fix issues that stem from faulty processes…and well most issues stem from faulty processes.

 

If you’re interested in finding out more you can access the slides and a recording of the webinar below!

 

 

What Makes a Good ETL Project?

Bad

  1. Bad ETL (extract, transform, load) projects are ones that don’t have a strategy for different types of information or lack of knowledge management on how to add/remove different data sources, add/remove processors & translators, and add/remove different sinks of information.
  2. It doesn’t necessarily have to be on any particular platform, just that it has structure.. just as any software should have.. an architecture.

 

Good

  1. Simple systems that separate E / T / L into composable blocks that are scriptable or configurable.
  2. Compiled systems are good too if the volume is extreme.
  3. A good bash pipeline is just as good as any as long as its well documented.

 

Ugly

  1. Using ESB (Enterprise Service Bus) for ETL.
  2. Using Spark for ETL.
  3. Basically using things that have advanced features for business logic for doing simple transformations that really don’t need to belong in these computing environments. Conjoining simple message delivery (ETL) to an advanced message delivery (ESB) or advanced computing (Spark).

 

Why should an organization undertake such a project?

To meet a business goal(s). Sometimes it’s to gain intelligence, sometimes it’s to create data products to create value, sometimes it’s to show predictions.

Comes down to how does it affect the organizations’ perpetuity. Some of the questions a business should be able to answer are:

 

What other solutions provide the same end user results?

Tools like Domo, or Tableau, or recently something like Periscope (in the SaaS world) can be useful to gain basic insights without having to do ETL if the data is ready. Other open source tools can be used as well such as Kibana, Metabase, and Redash as long as the data is available.

 

What are the trade-offs between the various solutions?

Ultimately if the data isn’t ready, ETL may be required to get it clean enough for those tools to allow users to visualize/explore it properly.

Data Wrangling & Visualization of Public / Government Data

Rahul Singh, CEO of Anant, had the opportunity to co-organize and MC the May Meetup of Data Wranglers DC where the speakers, John Clune and Timothy Hathaway, covered two topics related to open government and public data for data processing and visualization. We had a great turnout at the event and had the chance to do some networking after.

Our next two meetups will focus on Search & Knowledge Management (June Meetup) and Machine Learning for Data Processing (July Meetup), check out the Meetup page for more details when they become available.

Big thank you to John Clune and Timothy Hathaway for taking the time to present to the group if you have any interest in speaking please don’t hesitate to reach out to Rahul at rahul@anant.us.

 

Below you can find a recording of both presentations.

Software Algebra – Building Applications Without Reinventing the Wheel

As technology has continued to mature in the last two decades there have been many challenges overcome, obstacles faced, and solutions crafted. A recurring theme, in the area of obstacles (more specifically, self-imposed obstacles), has been the propensity for software companies to more often than not 1) turn to developing applications from the ground up for a particular problem or 2) take existing pieces of software that are perfectly fine for their specific use case and then tailor them to a different (but sometimes slightly similar) use case.

 

Software Algebra is essentially a best practice in software development to make sure that we are using 1) the tools best suited to a particular problem 2) while also dodging the trap of re-inventing the wheel by starting from scratch or trying to fit a tool into solving a problem it was never intended to address.

 

There are multiple cases in which this best practice is entirely ignored, most commonly so by inexperienced software architects who have the “my hammer can solve all problems” mindset. Often times, one of the best ways to avoid falling into this trap is to relentlessly focus on getting a Minimal Viable Product (MVP) out of the door in a time-boxed span of time and iterating multiple times on that MVP to steadily bring it up to support all use cases.

 

We recently spoke about this topic at the WebTech Conference in Washington, DC and will be doing so again on Tuesday, April 11th at 6PM at the University of Maryland Baltimore County, you can find additional details as well as register for the event here.

WebTech Conference – Software Algebra

Rahul Singh will be presenting on Thursday, March 30th at WebTech on the topic of Software Algebra. He’ll be speaking about the ways online software (SaaS) and open source applications can work in tandem with web and mobile applications to deliver powerful business results.

 

From this presentation, you will learn how to plan and build web apps that support business process using existing software. This approach takes a very practical approach to taking inventory of business teams, processes, information, and systems and creating future-proof web systems without reinventing the wheel.

 

Thank you, Iron Yard DC for hosting us! Register and view the schedule of speakers here, looking forward to seeing you.