Insights for IT Professionals – Page 3

Your Guide to Natural Language Processing

Natural Language Processing(NLP) uses artificial intelligence to read, comprehend and create meaning from human languages. The input for NLP can be spoken or written. Even if you’re not familiar with how NLP functions, you have probably heard about some of the growing pains it has experienced. Chatbots from leading companies like Microsoft and Facebook have been discontinued after notorious fails.

While there have been some real public mishaps with NLP, its recent successes far outnumber failures. AI writers and customer service bots are widespread now, fulfilling needs in areas as diverse as medicine and law. Your phone almost certainly has a digital assistant that helps you do everything from scheduling to translation.

NLP has now become a comprehensive solution to many communication needs. The process of converting human speech and written communication into usable data is in continual development. At this time, some of the key industries making the best use of NLP are healthcare, financial trading, email filtering, and search.

There are several key concepts that support NLP, providing useful data from the complexity of human language. These algorithms are separated into a number of categories:

  • Entity Extraction – The recognition of key entities, like people, places, numbers and times.
  • Topic Modeling – A process of discovering topics within a text and weighting the value of keywords based upon how they are distributed.
  • Lemmatization – Links words by their roots, reducing complexity in the document.
  • Stemming – The removal of prefixes and suffixes from words.
  • Stop Word Removal – Simplification of the text by removing articles, pronouns, prepositions, or other words that don’t affect overall meaning.
  • Tokenization – Removal of punctuation or other non-essential characters (such as hyphens)
  • Word Bag – A simple method of counting word frequency.

These algorithms, while not an exhaustive list of the processes available underlie much of the NLP revolution. Through the use of these algorithms, relationships between words, building contextual meaning that can be applied to data-driven customer-facing solutions. This helps to provide real answers to customer inquiries or to provide improvements to its main tasks. As this industry does rely on data, the ability to process more speech or text over time has inevitably led to improvements, and this trend will continue.

There are many challenges left to overcome. Language is very abstract, and differences in dialect and origins create problems in standardization. Detection of irony and sarcasm continues to be really difficult along with other complexities like metaphorical speech. Applying this in tasks like machine translation is still something that remains limited. But advances are moving along rapidly.

Applications like spell checking and basic chatbots have been around for well over 50 years now, and their capabilities go far beyond what humans can attain with editing and response times. These more simple tasks are now accepted as being the domain of NLP, but its applications are endless. Machine translation, speech recognition, text summary, and market analysis continue to advance rapidly in offering rapid solutions for daily tasks.

It is now a booming time to get more involved in NLP and utilize its incredible potential for business, better governance, and risk management.

Creative Ways to Generate More B2B Leads

To acquire customers, you will need to make sure that more people know about what you are selling. Below is a list of creative ways you can use to improve your B2B popularity and sales leads.

1. Ensure that You Have Right Conversations as Regularly as Possible

Complete reliance on one-direction modes of communication like blogs, websites, social media posts, and videos is a complete non-starter. It is essential to have one on one conversations with your prospective clients.

For instance, if one of your clients asked about a feature in one of your products. And they did so on comment section or chat, don’t send them a link to some FAQ page. Instead, you can offer them call-time and walk them through the explanation. If you did this, you get an added possibility of a sale. When emailing, initiate a video call and suggest a physical meeting. The idea is always to get as close to your leads as possible.

2. Use Social Media Lead Generation

Twitter can be a great B2B demand generation agency. In your quest for leads, the only challenge you will come across is finding the right people. When you overcome this challenge, then you can initiate engagements. These can be as simple as following them on twitter or engaging yourself in conversations with them.

Twitter also provides a search tool that you can use to find relevant people using keywords or hashtags. Other tools that are great for this utility include Followerwonk and CrowdFire. Another platform that could be very useful is LinkedIn.

3. Convert Website Visitors into Leads

One of the most effective tools that convert website visitors into prospective leads is Leadfeeder. This tool gets companies associated with your anonymous visitors. It then tweaks the data to give contact information for potential leads in those companies. This is an important tactic that works with any online generation of leads. It is a strategy employed by top companies to ensure a continuous flow of prospects.

4. Exploit the Lead Databases

With growing numbers of companies that provide information on leads, you can exploit the infinite databases provided to get yourself a number. However, it would be best if you exercised caution since malicious data or viruses could infect your computer systems. The quality of the information provided is another area of concern. LinkedIn is one type of a lead database that can offer quality and potential leads.

5. Automate Your Marketing Means

If you’re not already collecting email addresses, you need to start doing so. To convert a person to a lead, you’ll need to be able to contact them. Therefore, email addresses, mobile phone numbers, and even social account handles are a great way to get to your lead. After you have contacted them, it is now easy to convert prospects into leads. You can store this information into a private leads database that you have designed to segment your prospects.

Conclusion

A good lead generation strategy is a hybrid of several tactics that you can implement either online or offline. It would be best if you also implemented measurable strategies in gathering your leads. These strategies will ensure that you’re able to improve with each new lead. Invest in the few things that work instead of those that don’t.

How Does Order Fulfillment Work?

Since the inception of e-commerce, retailers have sought the most efficient ways to transport goods from the market to the customer. Order fulfillment centers have sprung up all over the world in an effort to facilitate this goal. There are several components to a successful order fulfillment process. Here is a brief overview of some of the many moving parts in the order fulfillment system.

Partnership Connections

Retailers and other sellers must ensure that they have an accurate and reliable supply chain to meet consumer demands. In addition, every seller needs a dependable fulfillment and distribution plan. The partnership agreement between the seller and the fulfillment center is crucial to a seamless ordering process for customers. Business owners must set a clear up front contractor with each vendor, including the fulfillment centers, before establishing a sales platform. Being able to actually deliver for and delight customers is the crux of any business opportunity. Order fulfillment centers, in turn, should be transparent about what they are able to realistically provide for their customers. This includes honoring expected turnaround times and cost estimates.

Logistics

Transportation logistics is perhaps the most vital consideration of the product fulfillment company. This area is both time specific and subject to unforeseen delays. Most order fulfillment centers partner with a variety of freight carriers and offer expedited shipping options for their customers and end users. Despite having plans in place, air freight could be unexpectedly grounded due to weight limitations or security concerns. Likewise, ground transportation may experience delays due to traffic conditions, distribution backlogs, and even human error. Considering the many potential challenges, order fulfillment centers must plan carefully to avoid transportation delays.

Inventory Control

Managing inventory in a warehouse setting takes special skill and keen attention to detail. The order fulfillment process comes to a screeching halt when one or more products are unavailable. In these cases, the fulfillment center must decide whether to continue processing the order without the missing items. The alternative, creating a separate fulfillment ticket for the back ordered item, may cause significant delays in the process. The time spent on recreating work tickets and contacting customers, significantly decreases productivity and makes the overall order fulfillment process inefficient.

Quality Assurance

Every product fulfillment professional knows that customer satisfaction drives their industry. Order fulfillment companies actually have two sets of customers to answer to – the seller who contracted with them and the end user. When customers have special requests, the order fulfillment center has to accommodate their needs. These specific requests may vary by customer, and may even change once an order has been placed. For example, many sellers request blind shipping or third party-branded shipments. They may not want the end-users to know that they used a fulfillment center to process orders. Other customers may wish to include certain paperwork with each order. This may include an invoice, detailed packing slip, or personal note for the customer.

Each of the above mentioned facets of order fulfillment represent key components to a successful business relationship. Partners must outline reasonable expectations at the beginning of each new order. Further, order fulfillment centers must maintain an open line of communication to ensure any potential delays or concerns are quickly resolved.

How Important is SOC-2 Compliance?

Clouding computing is simplifying the lives of the digital population in many ways than one. It is easy to store and retrieve data and share files with colleagues or customers, not to mention the easy automatic software integration. 

The benefits can be easily tainted by the security concerns because the data shared on the cloud could be sensitive or proprietary. To address those security concerns, AICPA developed SOC-2 that all cloud-based businesses and SaaS companies should comply with. Why is this compliance important?

Helps monitor all operations

The most significant benefit of SOC-2 compliance is that it ensures your data is kept safe and shared discreetly. One way to accomplish this is by monitoring every attack you know of and even those unknown to you. The comprehensive monitoring functionality can help provide all-around protection from a host of attacks.

Monitoring unknown attacks can be done by identifying any abnormal activities and scrupulously analyzing the data presented. When monitoring everything known and unknown to you, it will be easier to prevent catastrophic events like Wannacry and NotPetya.

Incident prevention

SOC-2 compliance ensures that incidents that threaten customer data or infringe privacy policies are resolved. Whenever an incident starts taking shape, it should be handled while it is still at the buds. 

There is a variety of SOC 2 compliance services that can be implemented by companies using the cloud. JupiterOne has easy to use and cost-efficient software for businesses that need these services. The software removes the need for excess tools and reduces the response time significantly.

Timely alerts of abnormal activities

Alerts are a great way to identify threats before they become a large problem and spiral out of control. Alerting systems can be a pain, however, because there might be false positives sounding alarms. To ensure that this does not happen, SOC-2 compliant companies use parameters that signal activities out of the norm for each industry. 

That uses a lot of industry data about the operations and trends specific to the type of business and sector. The end result is a flawless system sounding alerts on issues that actually need your attention. The alerts notify you with ample time to resolve the issues and do not alarm users on false positives.

Detailed audit results

Audit trails that should be implemented as part of SOC-2 compliance ensure that there is enough information about every attack. The compliance requirement of conduction audit trails provides the security provider information that can expedite the process of remedying awry situations. 

Security providers can also use the data to provide more advanced defenses for future implementation. The data provided answers the who, what, when, where, and how of a security attack. 

One of the best results that are returned by the detailed audit results is information about the perpetrator. That data can be used if you would like to lay charges against the attacker.

Forensic data

SOC-2 compliance requires cloud-based security services to have data forensics that is actionable regarding attacks that have been identified. The forensic data should include the origin of the attack and other parts of the system that were affected. All that forensic data can help make predictions on where the attack might spread, making it easier to curb a widespread catastrophic event. 

The forensic data can also be used to detect future threats and mitigate the impact it could have on the system. Above that, the data improves the implementation of corrective measures of the security system. In the future, the forensic data can be used to create new parameters that will be implemented on the abnormal activities alarms.

Creating A Successful Marketing Strategy for SaaS

SaaS (software-as-a-service) is a fast-moving space in which consumers are moving through products at a record pace. As a result, the cloud market is expected to grow at a staggering pace in the next year. It is a great time for your SaaS company to break into the market or stake your claim.

To stake your claim effectively, you need a successful SaaS marketing strategy. Your SaaS marketing strategy needs to drive demos and subscriptions. Here are some tactics and tips you can implement to create a successful SaaS marketing strategy:

What is unique about SaaS marketing?

SaaS companies generally aim to target and maintain long-term, returning customers. SaaS companies need to constantly and consistently communicate through marketing campaigns to prevent customer turnover. Many SaaS companies offer a free version of the product to get customers and then use marketing to maintain them.

Additionally, while most companies can establish a customer profile which details what a customer “looks like,” SaaS companies cannot establish a fixed customer profile. Customers involved in SaaS companies tend to be in different places in their journey, and so the customer base looks more complex.

The basics of a SaaS marketing strategy

You need to combine a variety of channels and tactics to create a successful SaaS marketing strategy. Email marketing, SEO, Webinars, and social media marketing all combine to form the best marketing strategy. 

Email marketing is far from being outdated and can be a successful strategy if used properly. Email marketing is key to getting clients onboard through demos, announcing new products or content, checking in, and sending company newsletters.

SEO helps improve your reach and shows how your product is better than that of your competitors. Establishing a strong SEO strategy is essential for successful marketing. Likewise, social media marketing is key to your SaaS marketing strategy. 

Delivering relevant content and advertising to your customers is important in keeping them interested. Greenfly helps you streamline content workflows to push relevant content across social platforms to draw in customers.

What should you prioritize?

You need to be in immediate contact with customers. SaaS users expect the brand to be reachable around the clock for any situation, so you need to establish resources across all marketing channels to keep customers interested. 

Use social media platforms as a primary connection point for customers, so you can provide fast feedback. SaaS clients are also likely to look at reviews and recommendations from current and past customers. 

Ensure the reviews and testimonials you display are positive and helpful. However, don’t only display reviews that are free from criticism. When a company has reviews that are only entirely positive, customers might not trust the brand and suspect that reviews are bought or fraudulent.

Demos should be simple

People don’t want to work too hard to get a chance of trying or using your product. When you invite people for a demo or offer a demo product, the process should be straightforward. 

The demo should not only be easy to sign up for, but there should also be clear indications on the duration or features of the demo and what steps a client should follow once the demo time has expired.

Offering a demo restricted by time limits is a sure way to get clients interested in your product since they are exposed to a full package right from the start and they can see what value it brings. 

However, offering a demo with limited or restricted features can pique clients’ interest. It may drive them to purchase the full package to experience the value it aims to add.

How Technology Changes are Making Seniors Lives Easier

An AARP survey found that 76% of Americans of 50 and older would prefer to stay in their current homes as they grow older. Advances in technology are making this possible as they make day-to-day life easier by automating household tasks and removing various obstacles to independence. 

Technology is changing the experience of aging in a fundamental way at a time when the global population of older adults is growing. For the most part, older adults are not as allergic to new technology as they’re made out to be and many of them own smartphones, tablets and computers. 

Smart devices

The growing population of aging adults has served as a wake-up call for tech companies and product designers. They are creating devices for older adults with large icons, large print and sharp color contrast. They reduce the number of clicks needed to navigate programs and help users find what they’re looking for intuitively. 

Smartphones and tablets: Staying connected with family and friends is a top concern for aging adults and a smartphone or a tablet is a valuable link, especially with apps like Whatsapp and Facetime that make conversing easy and affordable. 

Smartwatches: Smartwatches are helping to monitor the health and safety of older adults. Some of them can sense that a user has fallen and alert emergency services.

Smart stoves and ovens: These can prevent older adults from burning down a house due to having forgotten to turn off the stove or oven. 

Programmable thermostats: Older people tend to lose body heat faster and a programmable thermostat can help to ensure a home stays at a safe and moderate temperature despite the weather. 

Phone apps 

Phone apps make it possible to send personalized reminders to seniors to take medication, shop for supplies, schedule appointments, book transportation, and more. Family members can have the peace of mind of being able to keep track of seniors and know where they are at all times. 

Comprehensive health care apps: Many comprehensive health care apps perform crucial functions such as tracking blood pressure and glucose levels. For example, a handy feature on some apps is the ability to scan pill bottle labels to create a detailed list of medications to share with a doctor. 

These comprehensive healthcare apps make elderly care easier for aging adults and caregivers. Tandem Careplanning’s carefully vetted caregivers give the elderly the personal care they deserve. 

Emergency Response Services

Lack of sight, mobility and hearing can put the elderly at risk when they are on their own. Emergency response services have improved vastly over the past decade. Companies are even manufacturing various safety gadgets, such as a safety belt that deploys airbags around the hips when a senior begins to fall. It then sends a signal to a device so emergency responders can get to the location quickly.

Voice assistants

Virtual assistants such as Amazon Echo and Google Home are useful for the elderly, thanks to their voice-command capabilities. If someone is in a wheelchair, for example, getting to traditionally positioned light switches can be difficult, and a voice-based assistant can come in handy. 

Robots

The next step in automation will probably be robots that make life easier for everyone, and potentially better and safer for older adults. Robot vacuum cleaners are already being used in many households and robots specifically geared towards elder care are beginning to emerge. 

Washington State University researchers have tested a robot with sensors embedded all over a home to identify when someone needs help and video technology to give instructions for tasks such as taking medication. 

Why Developers Should Integrate Crypto into Applications

Cryptocurrency has become recognized as a currency that can be used to shop and complete online transactions. Even walk-in shops also accept this form of payment now and that has exponentially increased its significance. However, mobile app developers haven’t used much of cryptocurrency on their applications. 

The use of cryptocurrency on mobile applications will help simplify the lives of consumers and also promote the use of this currency. Various other reasons should inspire developers to integrate crypto into their applications. 

Here are 5 reasons that should make developers integrate cryptocurrency in their applications.

Digital payments

The use of cryptocurrencies has been very efficient in carrying out a lot of business. And because of that, customers need to learn how to buy bitcoin in-store, by using cash from BTMs or through wire transfers. Transactions completed using bitcoins or other cryptocurrencies usually use a simple and straightforward process. 

Also, with credit card payment, you take the money from their accounts and they don’t pay it forward to you. That makes it easier for customers to dispute the transaction and then the credit card company takes the money back. With crypto, the customers pay you voluntarily by transferring the money to your wallet.

App security

When using regular payment options for in-app purchases, the security of the mobile app is at peril. Users could try and make payments fraudulently and hackers may try to destroy the database you use. There are a lot of things that could go wrong when using regular payment methods, but when using crypto, things are different. 

First of all, the databases won’t be affected much and only users that have validated their payment will have access to the in-app purchased features. The use of blockchain makes security even tighter but yet still practical.

Global accessibility

Crypto has gone global and in most currencies, it has started being utilized to the best of its capabilities. When using traditional payment methods, there are a lot of fees and charges that will end up denting your pocket. 

For example, selling a product that costs $1 abroad may end up making you only $0.60 due to credit card, international currency exchange, and app store fees. 

Also, the countries you sell to may be limited; with blockchain, those limitations don’t exist. It is a global currency that can be used for safer and more efficient transactions.

Riding the crypto wave

Undoubtedly, cryptocurrencies have taken the world by storm and have gained the attention of many. The majority of the people who are interested in safe transactions that don’t risk personal data have focused much on apps and shops that accept cryptocurrencies. The popularity of cryptocurrencies has even tapped into the mainstream business transactions. 

For example, an entire building in Dubai sold its apartments using bitcoin. You can ride this wave of popularity by appealing to the cryptocurrency fanatic audience. Using cryptocurrencies will also make your business easily scalable because the growth of this type of currency seems positive.

Omitting the processing of personal data

Processing sensitive data such as credit card information and other personal details required to fulfill payments need a lot of money. You need to ensure that there are stringent security protocols in place to protect the data and they are costly to implement. 

The business should also pay third-party merchants to process transactions. Besides that, if your app isn’t popular, they will be less likely to use their credit card when prompted to. 

On the other hand, cryptocurrencies use a blockchain network, which makes it much more secure than credit card transactions. Even when hackers try to intercept the data, they won’t be able to use it because it is in the blockchain.

6 Tips for Better Coding

When first starting any kind of software development, it’s easy for beginners to have their hopes dashed once they reach one of the several plateau phases you’re likely to encounter.

The learning curve for any particular technology is never straight. Along the way, you’re going to encounter problems that seem impossible to understand or master. Achieving true mastery isn’t easy. However, there are sets of practices you can use to help hone your skills and develop them into something greater.

Here are six great pieces of advice to get you started.

Use a coding standard

Writing bad code is easy. Fixing bad code is difficult and frustrating. Before you venture into any real-world projects that can be pushed into production and used by other people, it’s important to learn how to write good code.

There isn’t a single definition of what good code is, but the most common way of describing it that it should be readable, maintainable, simple and well-designed. Coding standards are created to put certain restrictions in place and prevent you from writing bad code.

Most large companies have some form of standard you can research: Google, Airbnb, and Microsoft all maintain different code standards for instance. These cover Java, JavaScript, and C# respectively. Many companies have code standards for different programming languages, too.

Make sure you’re comfortable

Most development work you’re going to do throughout your entire life will be done while sitting down. It only makes sense, then, that your workstation should be as comfortable as possible. If you don’t have one, consider setting apart a certain section in your room for working and nothing else.

Getting comfortable might mean getting a nice pair of wireless headphoness to listen to music with, getting a better keyboard, blue light filter glasses or even getting a better chair. If any part of your body hurts at the end of a long workday, that’s a sign something needs to change.

Write tests

Not everyone is a fan of test-driven development, but even the most obstinate of developers will agree that writing tests are important. Writing tests helps you to catch bugs before they occur, saves a lot of development time and gives you a good basis for documenting your code.

Write comments

It will probably be quite a while before you can write self-documenting code. Before then, write as many useful comments as you can. For instance, write down what a certain function does and why you wrote it the way you did (instead of any other methods, if available.)

It may sound silly if you’ve never experienced it, but you will probably forget what a piece of code does down the line or why you wrote it the way you did. Changing fragile code without direction can lead to more problems than actual solutions.

Use meaningful variable names

The first lesson towards writing self-documenting code you will likely ever get is writing self-explanatory variable names. For instance, let’s say you have a variable that stores the number of dogs that have been vaccinated.

Instead of naming it ‘dogs’ or worse ‘a’, use phrases such as ‘numberOfDogsVaccinated’ if your code in a language like Java or ‘number_of_dogs_vaccinated’ if you code in Python. This small difference can make an incredible difference later on.

Learn how to use Git

Git is the most famous version control software out there and perhaps one of the most crucial tools you ever need to learn. Git provides a tool for collaboration, tracking code changes and reversing errors if they happen to sneak their way into production. Once you join a team, knowing how to use it is an irreplaceable skill.