ISC Project Preview

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Hi everyone, it´s me again! It´s been more than a year since I wrote my first blog post, and I’ve regularly updated you with information about my project.

In one of my first blog posts I told you that I was assigned to a SAP Upgrade project for one of the largest retail companies in the Netherlands. After that, most of us working on the SAP Upgrade, were assigned to different projects for the same client.

Since then the number of ISC´ers working for this client has been steadily growing and we’ve joined various projects fulfilling a variety of roles. There are currently 14 ISC´ers working for this client! Through this blog I´d like to give you a bit more insight in the kind of projects we’ve been (and are still) working on.

SAP Factory
After successfully completing the SAP Upgrade Project in June 2014, a part of the ISC team (including me) has joined the SAP Factory. In the SAP Factory, our main task is to implement changes to keep on improving the SAP Landscape. The changes can either come from problems (production issues or bugs) or wishes from users to improve the current business process.

SAP Forecasting & Replenishment
During this project, the aim is to achieve a more streamlined supply chain management process using a new SAP Module. The F&R module replaces the old way of store and DC replenishment, which will help make more accurate predictions for order placements.

SAP Automated Testing
There is also a team who is responsible for making automated test scripts, made with a tool from IBM called ‘Rational Functional Tester’. The test scripts are made for various commonly used SAP transactions and applications within the SAP Landscape, and can be used to speed up the regression testing process when needed.

Store Improvement Plan
The goal of this project is to create a Store Improvement Plan (WinkelVerbeterPlan) website. This website will be used by store owners or managers to write down points they think are necessary to keep on improving. On this website they can also do planning: which points they are going to work on and for how long. After the time has finished, they can see whether they’ve reached their goal or not. The overall managers have the option to see how each store is doing and how well they are improving.

Doing what I want to do!

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By Smitha

Ever during my studies, I wanted to be “A Successful IT Professional”. Even though I didn’t have any idea about what makes it true, or what I shall do. Well, everything needs a good start.

It’s been 3 years since I left my job in India and shifted to the Netherlands. In the evolving field of IT, a gap of 3 years means a lot. When I was looking for a job here, most of them required a thorough knowledge of Dutch. The urge to do something on your own, to be independent, and, more than everything else, to utilise what I have learned, kept on haunting me.

That is, up until I came to know about the vacancy at the ISC through a dear friend of mine. And what other good things can happen? Then it was time to refresh some of my knowledge, to do an aptitude and English test, followed by the hiring day with group activities, interviews and testing our aptitude.

I had to wait one day, which felt like a year, for the results: I was joining per January 2015! Nothing could be better than this to start the new year. We started with 15 people in total, and everybody was just as excited to work for such a great company as IBM. The one and half month of training included e-learnings, virtual trainings, and face-to-face workshops for soft skills as well as mobile application development, and went so much faster than expected.

By the time I was finishing my training, I was already assigned to the EZ project with C#.Net. I asked the team whether I had to do some more reading and learning for this project, but the answer was to “learn while you are doing it”. And ‘they’, my team, are such great and nice people. Always ready to help me out, teach me, tell me about the project, and clear any lingering doubts. While I do think I disturb them a bit too much with my questions (“Could you please tell me a bit more on this?”), they tell me that this is the way you learn :-)

But now it’s all going very nice. Its like my dream came true. I hope this is the best opportunity for me to learn and grow, leading me on the path to becoming an expert in my field.

And already we are all ready to welcome the new hires from April! And for sure, the ISC is growing, just as each of us is.

Salesforce World Tour

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By Jos

The Salesforce World Tour is an event that provides hundreds of live demos of Salesforce applications, power sessions for each role, a Cloud Expo with 25 leading partners and a Keynote speech from one of the Salesforce Executives.

Salesforce is organizing these events in cities all over the world. Cities such as Boston, Toronto, London, Paris, Washington, Munich and last week I got to go to the event in Amsterdam, together with my ISC colleagues Frank and Orkhan. The ISC allowed us to attend this event during a workday, which was a really kind thing to do.

We went there with our goal set to gain insight in the latest developments, to be motivated by how big Salesforce actually is and above all to become inspired, to come up with unique and innovative Salesforce functionality by ourselves.

We started our tour at the Cloud Expo meeting some people whose applications we used in our own work. It was nice to see a face to go with all the codes and applications we use! We gained quite some insight in possibilities regarding Salesforce development, and now have a couple of ideas on how to put this into practice.

Later during the event we went and listened to the Keynote speech. We were happily surprised that it was actually the co-founder of Salesforce.com, Parker Harris, giving the speech. During his speech, Parker introduced several guest speakers who explained how they implemented Salesforce in their companies. Companies such as KLM, PostNL and The Bencom Group (from Groningen’s very own Ben Woldring). It was nice to hear how these well-known companies are using the software that you work with every day. This is my personal motivation to keep learning and to keep getting better at what I do.

My own inspiration, however, came from something else. During the event I heard about Salesforce’s 1-1-1 model. What this model means is that 1% equity, 1% of the profits and 1% of the employees’ time will be put in a public charity. This already resulted in over $75 million in grants given, 750.000 hours of community service and providing product donations to over 23.000 nonprofit organizations and higher educational institutions. To me, this is heartwarming. Really, that feeling, when you’ve truly helped someone, isn’t that the greatest reward you can get from work that you do?

After the event, when I was on the train back to Groningen, I was reflecting on my day. I was both motivated and inspired. Ideas were coming to me. Ideas on how to move forward with Salesforce at the ISC. Ideas on how to give back to the ISC and to the world. I can’t wait to put these ideas into practice. My next blog will be about the results of at least one of these ideas. For now, I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my blog. Thank you and ‘till next time!

Salesforce World Tour Reflection

An excellent start

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By Pascal

Not even one quarter has passed and the ISC already has shown wonderful experiences in 2015. I will go through some of them quickly. We started with a new and talented group of colleagues in January. I have already worked with some of them and I´m looking forward to see them develop and add value to our company. As I am already talking about adding value to the company, we are proud that we have construction workers running around creating a whole new work floor for 100 new employees and a brand new Interactive Studio (we will bring you a time-lapse video of the construction soon)! The fact that we are growing in number of colleagues, square feet of workspace and experience feels really good and satisfying to me.

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Nowadays the sun is up after 6 pm, so the time for outside activities has come. At the project I´m working for we already played some intense soccer and basketball matches in the last weeks. This helps in relaxing and bonding. Part from the outside activities, the ISC Event committee organized an indoor soccer tournament. With 6 teams and a great audience, it was game on and our high performance culture really kicked in!

For me personally, the start of this Year of the Sheep has brought me new experiences in the Agile way of working at my project. Also, now the assessments and administration are finally done, I am formally a People Manager. This role, the steep learning curve at my SAP specialism, combined with a buzzing ISC client portfolio makes me proud to be part of the IBM Services Center Groningen!

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Rise to the occasion

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By Aman

Rounding up the new hires for the year of 2014, I joined the IBM Services Center in November. I had a somewhat unconventional beginning here, as I wasn’t part of a new group of employees and I also didn’t go through the customary six week training. Rather, on my first day, I was already made aware of the account I’d be working on and what my role would be. The training would be on the job, and I would learn more about the project when I began.

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Soon after, I was off to the Heineken headquarters in Amsterdam, eager to meet the rest of the team and discover what this new chapter in life had in store for me. Needless to say, I was nervous beyond words, somewhat anxious and jittery. I fail to imagine what they made of me when I entered the meeting room, not far from where Freddy Heineken once sat at his desk. A 22-year old kid, student of Economics, with no experience at all, had arrived to do ERP implementation for Heineken. And them all big shot consultants from IBM and Heineken, with 20 years in the field, wearing nice suits and shiny shoes. If they were a bit apprehensive, they never showed it, and in fact made me feel quite welcome. A few days later, I felt like I belonged, and told myself I must have done something right to be in that place! Never did I let myself forget that I was on probation. It’s crucial to stay professional at all times, and not appear to be overwhelmed by it all.

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Last month, I had my first week in the field, the real field. Now this was the true test. We visited Brasseries de Bourbon in La Réunion, a tropical island far far away in the Indian Ocean (the pictures are from there), for phase one of our ERP implementation. Heineken has a majority ownership of several subsidiaries around the world. My project has 12 countries in scope over the next 2 years, and I’ll be working on-field at half of them – as a Functional Consultant, specializing in Finance. Very exciting, to say the least! The week in La Réunion proved to be a thoroughly enriching experience, where they would constantly throw me into the deep end and see how I’d perform. The management would have daily feedback sessions with me, and that was most useful. Not only is it reassuring to know where you can improve, but also that they’re willing to work with you to make you a better consultant. What matters most is that one is a good communicator, professional and socially-agreeable. The rest of the skills and knowledge for the job can be picked up along the way, and that’s been my biggest takeaway.

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Back at the ISC now, and working on the Design phase of the implementation, I go about my daily tasks with a lot more confidence, buoyed by the faith shown in me. I still believe every day is a test, because that brings out the best in one. Kick-starting my career at a massive global corporation like IBM, further consulting an enterprise which sells a cool product, and traveling the world through work – it’s been a dream come true. We might be fortunate with the opportunities that are given to us, but it’s what we do with that opportunity that defines us. Grab it with both hands. And never let go.

Break everything

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By Albert-Martijn

Or at least, try to. Throw a brick through the front window. Kick down the door. Uplift tables and turn them over. Press all the buttons on the coffee machine at the same time. Leave the door of the fridge open. Click on ‘log out’ while you haven’t even logged in yet!

What?

What was that last part? Clicking on a button? How is that breaking something? Well, creating an application through programming is just like building a house and filling it with household appliances. You need a fundament, weather resistant walls and a roof, different rooms with different functions, etc. But what if the fundament isn’t strong enough and will sink when it rains? What if the walls aren’t stable and will blow over in the wind? Or, going back to programming, what if the text field, meant for a person’s name, also accepts numbers? What happens if you use bogus information for your credit card, and the application accepts it? Sure, you now have a free fridge, but you also committed fraud.

You’re probably catching on by now, and yes, this is about testing. Take a wild guess and tell me what percentage of road bridges work as intended. Go on, throw it out there.

80%?

90?

99% even?

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And then realize how many times you see news headlines about bridges collapsing. That’s right, almost never. So it’s basically a 100%. Yes, be impressed, that’s an amazing figure. But also means we can be sure these bridges won’t fail us. And they managed to do so by testing it thoroughly. How many cars can fit on this bridge at the same time? Double that number. How hard does the wind blow in this region? Triple that number.
What is the highest speed the heaviest available truck can move at and hit the bridge from below to dislodge it? Quadruple it. Does the bridge break? See where and why. Adjust building material. Positioning. Maintenance. Test again. A product tested in this way can, with a high probability, withstand the test of time. Or, even better, the test of the end-user. And we all know they can be a force of nature.

Your application is a product. People WILL try to break it, knowingly and unknowingly. And you need to test it, and see if it is end-user proof. Find out what doesn’t work, how the system can be cheated, how shortcuts can destroy the experience, and make sure no-one can ever do that again. The more creative your test approach, the better. You’ll find defects you could never dream of.

So, break everything… to make it work!

First months at the ISC

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by Mart

One and a half months of training to be a mobile developer, and now for something completely different…

Last week I started on the DoMuS project. Why the strange camelcaps? Don´t know. Someone got creative? This ongoing project is about maintenance, updates, and solving technical user problems for the document management system of Economic Affairs.

A single document management system: that´s it?

You´d wish. The document management system is an endless list of servers, databases and client PC´s. One could easily fill six of these blogs by just listing the different servers involved.

Luckily, my mentors Thijs & Matijn take me by the hand through this complicated landscape. And these guys are great! My every “And what did you do just now?” is thoroughly explained without a single sigh on their part. For which I thank them.

In the near future I hope to be a wizard in the DoMuS environment like they are; dancing through firewalls, rolling out patches like a rabid dog, and taking control of client PC´s like I own those busters. Until that day of mastery arrives, I´ll keep listening, learning, and thanking all my colleagues for their support.

Non stop learning

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By Nuria

It has already been seven months since my last blog, and eight since I started working at the ISC. Although my education period finished at the end of July, I cannot say that I have finished learning, and I`m almost certain I will never say that. At the ISC you are always learning new stuff. Sharing knowledge is one of our values. As you can imagine, there are several ways to keep learning.

For example you can learn from colleagues. In my opinion this is one of the best ways. Knowledge is up to date at ISC. From my experience, you learn not only advices, but also the best approach to perform your tasks. My colleagues have helped me on my projects and I am very grateful! Thank you guys! I think everybody tries to do their best.

Besides learning from colleagues you can attend to Workshops at the ISC. They are usually arranged by Education Committee and they are about different topics. From Bluemix to Git, to a workshop about Communication.

You even learn when you are on a project! Project experience is the best way to put your theoretical knowledge into practice, gain expertise and realize what your gaps are to focus on…you know..never stop learning!

And finally you can learn from the platform “IBM Think Academy”. There you can find topics that matter to IBM, and all IBMers, like cloud, big data, analytics, mobile and social media.

Interesting, right? Maybe I am forgetting some other ways, but I will let you tell me when you join us!

My first day at the ISC

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By Ray

February 12th, it has now been 6 weeks since I left my old job and joined the ISC. A lot has happened since then but it was all for the good.

My first day at the ISC was a nervous, but a good one. I started off with a new graduates group who. The graduates were starting their training in mobile development and I joined them for the first two weeks. That was a lot of fun. We got to know each other a lot better and we learned to trust each other. We went drinking and bowling with most of the ISC and I got to know a lot of new people.
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After two weeks I got my first assignment for the ISC. It would be a short one, just to keep me busy until my other assignment would start. For this assignment I had to go The Hague for initially 4 or 5 days a week. Thankfully I was able to discuss this with the project manager there and we agreed it would be for 3 days a week.

I met the team whom I would be working with. they were great and I received a warm welcome into the project. Just as every project has it´s issues, so it was for this project. The start-up was a bit troublesome, the communication with the Chinese developers was difficult, but when the ball started rolling, everything fell into place. We kept moving forward, because our  goal was to successfully complete the project.

Now the project is almost finished. The deadline has almost arrived, due to the fact our Chinese colleagues are leaving this Friday because of the Chinese New Year. We are handling the last issues so that we could close this chapter with success. And then it will be 7 weeks after I started working at the ISC. It was a difficult choice for me, but it felt like the best choice that I have made in a long time regarding work. I feel at home and welcomed by the ISC and it´s been a long time since I enjoyed going to work every day and looking forward to it.

Time flies

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By Malissa

At this moment I’ve been at the ISC for a year and getting close to one and a half year. I still can’t believe it’s been that long already! Something that is even more surprising to me is that I’ve been on one account for the entire time. I hear you thinking, “That’s boring!”, but to be honest, it’s not.

Throughout the time I’ve been involved in several projects, all of a very different nature. For example: I’ve given support on very different applications, I’ve worked with some very experienced colleagues from the IBM office in Amsterdam to write a due diligence report, and I’ve been inventorying applications and making the appropriate documentation. Because of this diversity it has been quite fun. Personally I love working with people, and with the assignments I’ve had and still have, I have the chance to work with all kinds of people.

The only disadvantage for me is that for quite some time I’ve been staying in a hotel on weekdays. Even though I have a good time with my colleague in the hotel and eating at restaurants, I’m looking forward to the chance to cook for myself and wander about in my own home again.

Being an ISCer has been and still is a great pleasure thanks to all the colleagues. In my projects we work hard, but there still is time to goof around sometimes and make fun. At the centre the atmosphere is still pleasant, energetic and it’s just fun to be there after a week on location.

Just imagine, just last year July I graduated and now I’m working at the ISC, having fun with colleagues and gaining more and more experience each day.

But whatever happens, one thing is certain: Time sure flies when you’re having fun!