Verb Days 3: Live Updates

The Verb Days are here!
To help you get a glimpse of what we’re up to, stay tuned to this post. We’ll be sharing updates throughout the day.

8:00 PM – Almost 12 hours into the hackaton, it was only natural we deserved some pizza! Its divine effects were noticed right away: the sound of swift typing echoes throughout the office. People are getting enthusiastic. Only a couple of hours left until the final presentations!

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2:00 PM – Time for a healthy lunch to boost the energy level. After enjoying the delicacies provided by Biomediterraneo, we’re ready to work some more!

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10:00 AM – Debates have ended and teams have divided their tasks. Everyone’s focused in front of their screens. A second round of coffee seems about right.

Verb Days 3

8:00 AM – It’s happening! The Clouders are in the house. Ideas start popping up. In big secrecy, however. You can hear enthusiastic whispering from various corners of the office. The smell of fresh coffee is in the air, helping us push the pedal of inspiration. In less than 15 hours, we will turn thoughts into reality. At least a beta one. :)

Verb Days 3: Teaser

Just a couple of days left until Christmas and everyone is getting all cozy.

Not at 4PSA though! We’re tuning our focus to the maximum, because it’s Verb Days again!

Verb Days, now at its 3rd edition, is an internal hackaton that we’re hosting every year before the winter holidays. In teams including both tech and non-tech people alike, we spend a full day to create and implement an application of choice. It’s an adventurous process that involves creative thinking, sharing ideas, laughter, coffee, healthy snacks and…coding. Lots of coding!

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The event lasts from early morning to midnight, but time flies fast when you’re having fun. At the end of the day, each team must present a running demo and convince others how awesome their app is. It’s not just coding, it’s also good marketing and presentation skills. :) Everyone competes for the big prize: eternal admiration and a super gift! Well, that’s until the next edition of Verb Days, where even cooler apps will be born.

The teams competing in Verb Days 3 are as follows:

  1. Thunder Wild
  2. Long Live Your Family
  3. #padawans
  4. WOW & Co.
  5. ∞ Infinity
  6. MIAO

This year’s edition is a bit special too: the hackaton welcomes outside guests to join and every team can have a non-Clouder member :)

To get a glimpse of what happened last year, check this out.

Curios to follow us in our endeavors at Verb Days 3? We’ll be live blogging tomorrow here and on Facebook. Happy engineering, Clouders!

Hour of Code, Our Way

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation on Facebook to attend Hour of Code Romania. I don’t usually pay attention to such notifications, but this one was somehow different, as the name got me thinking :) I know what you can do with a line of code, but what does an hour of code represent?! This was enough to trigger my curiosity, so I did a little research.

Long story short. Hour of Code is a global movement that takes place in more than 180 countries during the Computer Science Education Week, 8-14 December, when teachers, NGOs, and companies try to reach out to as many students as possible and deliver an introductory computer science class. This isn’t just about technology companies, as 67% of software engineering jobs are outside the industry, in banking, retail, government, entertainment etc. Every student in every school should have the opportunity to learn computer science. Why? Because computer science and computer programming enable algorithmic thinking, boost analytical skills, and drive innovation. It’s code demystified in a world where 90% of the schools don’t offer programming classes, nor count computer science courses toward graduation. While, in the meantime, there are a whole lot more IT jobs available than students and this happens everywhere in the world. According to code.org, by 2020, only in US the gap will be 1,000,000 software engineers.

Big names in the technology world, entertainment industry, and even politics (who else ;) ) support this movement by using their influence, delivering computer science classes, and making donations. And this is where 4PSA Clouders stepped in.

Clouders’ Way

We strongly believe that technology can and will improve our lives, if it’s used the right way. The future belongs to those who know how to control it and benefit from its ever-growing power. This might sound like a bad science fiction movie from the 90’s, but it’s actually not: learn how to control technology, so it doesn’t control you! This is already happening in our smartphone, Wi-Fi driven world.

Just picture this: an eight year old boy with the tablet in his hand. Tap here, tap there – everything’s at his fingertips. Now, imagine him at his desk, solving a maths problem. Not the simplest problem, but, still, doable. And yet, he needs a little time to think it over, to try various options and then, when it’s finally solved in his head, he has to put it in the mathematical form. Not instantaneous anymore! So, are you surprised that he doesn’t have enough patience for anything else but his tablet?!

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What if your kid knew what’s hidden behind those Angry Birds, Minecraft, Talking Tom games he enjoys playing so much? Or how many lines of code you need in order to be able to check in with your friends at the movies?! Or how much storage Instagram uses for all those like-able pictures?! I’m not even mentioning the miraculous instant messages that vanish into thin air inside Snapchat ;) No, most kids don’t know that, but we could make them curious. Cause this is how everything begins…

curiosity mood... on
tackle imagination... start
use your brain... restart
find the right path... --force
I made it myself... [ OK ]

If schools and the educational system don’t understand that, we, the community should open their eyes and teach them. As it is never too early, nor to late to learn!

#HourOfCode with 4PSA

This is how it all started. We found out about the world-wide Hour of Code movement and shared it with the team. A couple of Clouders volunteered to deliver an Hour of Code at a school in our headquarters’ city, Bucharest. Three and four graders.

We packed in our knowledge, chose several tutorials from http://ro.code.org/learn, unleashed our joie de vivre and off we went on a rainy December day to meet the young padawans. And everything that unfolded was way beyond our wildest imagination :)

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Our goal was to take the children for a journey in the beautiful world of algorithms and software engineering. We wanted to show them there is more behind tablets/smartphones/computers than just nice games and social networks. They had millions of questions and, had the class not been over, they would have stayed there for hours and hours asking us more. They were spontaneous, challenging, fast, full of joy, and extremely refreshing. And suddenly, the cold winter rain became a summer shower :)

They proved to us once again that the curiosity and desire to know more are great drivers for passion. And passion for software engineering can be awaken early and last for a lifetime. This is a precious lesson. Thank you, children!

Follow Your Passion, Whether for IT or…Tea!

You know what they say, businesses made with passion are the ones that make a difference. It’s the case for any industry, which got us thinking: how does passion for other types of businesses differ from our passion for IT?  What is it that drives others?

To explore this notion of passion, we’ve set out to learn the stories of people who are putting a shoulder to a very different wheel than ours. As of September this year, we’re thus organizing a series of monthly internal meetups called Labors of Hercules*.

What’s It About?

At each meetup we invite a different speaker (from outside the company) to share their unique passion with us. In September, we welcomed a business lawyer. In October, there was a traditional Japanese martial arts Sensei. For November, our guest speaker was Adelina Dondorici, a tea aficionado at tea house Joie de Vivre in Bucharest.

Adelina traveled to Asia, back when she was building a strong career in media sales. Her encounter with that culture and its reverence for tea fascinated her. It was the first hint that she would change paths. Soon after returning to Romania, she visited the tea house. As the place was looking for a business partner, Adelina gladly stepped in. Reminiscing that particular decision, Adelina says that, for her, the tea business became her passion from the moment she dived into it. This is an interesting twist to the more familiar saying that one should turn their passion into a business.

We could definitely sense the passion in Adelina as she introduced us to the world of tea. She first guided us through the history of various types of tea (black, green, red and white) and infusions (herbal and fruit). Then, to make learning easier, we had a hands-on experience: Adelina invited us to guess the ingredients in various combinations.Those of us who were more intuitive even earned themselves some tea for the winter days to come! Drinking tea has something refined and mysterious about it (no wonder some cultures turned it into art!), and Adelina knew very well how to suggest this. Furthermore, by being very knowledgeable and open, she quickly captured and guided our interest. We can only imagine how she inspires her clients everyday. (smile)

Tea at 4PSA

So What’s Passion In This Case?

It’s about single-handedly getting an audience of avid coffee-drinkers to enjoy high-quality tea, be intrigued by its various tastes, and even start consuming it (well, at least occasionally). It’s about communicating a certain attitude and feeling to people, setting a change in their lives for the better…really, tea is healthier than coffee! It’s about keeping this enthusiasm and professionalism every day, whether with existing clients, new ones, providers, distributors, media or simply new listeners.

Is Passion For Tea Any Different?

Let’s just say that we know every twist in our communication and collaboration software like Adelina scents every ingredient in her tea. Or that we also aim to make our clients’ lives easier and better with the products we build. It’s not that relevant whether a business becomes a passion or a passion becomes a business – that was our conclusion after the meetup. When you have both, you can change the world. First your own, then that of others.

* Wondering why the name Labors of Hercules?  Perhaps capturing Cerberus or slaying the nine-headed Hydra are too though tasks for a mortal being. Yet having a business means taking up big challenges and confronting many risks, thus appropriating the Greek legends to the contemporary scene of passionate entrepreneurs.

 

Cloud Trailblazers Reap Major Rewards

Many of us know that cloud offers enhanced collaboration, disaster recovery, increased scalability, and smaller costs. But do you realize there’s also a connection between the use of cloud computing and increased business agility?

The Cloud Makes Businesses More Agile

The cloud helps organizations respond to the fast-paced business universe with speed, agility, and flexibility. Think about a company that has sporadic amplified workloads, such as when a retailer handles increased online sales during the holiday season. Without the cloud, an organization must over-buy IT resources for such peaks. Then, once the crests pass, the company still needs to manage and update the inactive IT gear. However, by migrating to a cloud solution, a company is able to add or delete computing power, memory and bandwidth on an as-needed basis. This undoubtedly helps the retailer better and more rapidly respond to change.

Or, consider the example of a medical billing company. Focusing for several years on managing billing and accounting processes for healthcare practices, the company wants to enter the popular electronic medical records field. This move is expected to reach a never-ending list of healthcare groups. As a result, the organization turns to a cloud solution that can provide the necessary flexibility and scalability to accommodate the growth it is anticipating. These are just a couple of examples of how cloud computing can have a direct impact on increased business agility.

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Research has also shown that those businesses moving most aggressively to the cloud are enjoying a competitive advantage through augmented business agility. Specifically, 74% of enterprise decision makers say that cloud computing has provided their organization with a competitive advantage, according to Harvard Business Review Analytic Services. Moreover, 32% say that business agility was their primary reason for cloud adoption, followed by both increased innovation and lower costs with 14%.

Faster, Better Response to Market Fluctuations

When it comes to business agility, the cloud allows organizations to be more responsive to fluctuations in the market, helps them get to the market faster with new products and services, and shortens time to market for new business launches. Let’s further explore how speed from cloud computing can enhance business agility:

  • Addresses business changes: By migrating to an elastic cloud solution, your enterprise is able to scale however necessary to meet changing business demands. If a company over-provisions its in-house data center, the enterprise is unable to scale back. Conversely, an organization can quickly and seamlessly right-size its environment supported by the cloud.
  • Enables applications to grow quickly: Dated approaches to configuring hardware and software are time-consuming. However, cloud computing provides a rapid deployment model that enables applications to grow quickly, helping your company match increasing usage requirements. Let’s suppose a cable provider is offering an attractive deal for a limited time. The flexibility that cloud computing brings will help the provider make it through that hectic promotional period, leading to unprecedented business growth.

The benefits that cloud computing brings are clearly indisputable. So, what are you waiting for? Give cloud communications solutions a try. It’s the only way to increase business agility fast and steady.

SMBs Thankful for Their Unified Communications Systems This Holiday Season

As Americans join their families around Thanksgiving tables this year, many will reflect on their gratitude for family, friends, good health, and their jobs. Back at the office on Cyber Monday, SMB decision makers that worked to deploy a company-wide Unified Communications (UC) solution in 2014 are counting their blessings, too :)

Among mobility, productivity, cost savings, and automation, UC offers SMBs benefits such as voice communications with instant messaging, fax, conferencing, and plenty of other advanced business PBX features. The business improvements brought by these technology advances are causing the UC market to explode. In fact, the global mobile UC and collaboration market is expected to grow from $5.15 billion in 2014 to $17.38 billion by 2019, at a CAGR of almost 30%, according to MarketsandMarkets. What’s more, a significant majority of the top UC performers achieved a break-even return on their UC investment within the first year.

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Let’s further explore why SMBs should be thankful for their UC solutions:

  • Access to all business services even when out of the office: Your company experiences enhanced mobility when migrating to a cutting-edge UC solution. Phones can be configured to ring on multiple devices at once – a desk or softphone in the office and a mobile phone, for example, so users never miss an important call. Similarly, users can get all the information they need no matter where they may be. If you’re a growing delivery company and your employees are always on the road, they are able to access pertinent communication flows from wherever. And customers too enjoy this constant accessibility.
  • Smaller bills compared to hosting on-premises: Hosted UC costs less for SMBs than on-premises solutions when you factor in equipment, software, and personnel costs. In addition, UCaaS relieves the SMB from having to manage its own telephony systems.
  • More productive employees: Your workers can choose the communications method that makes the most sense for the exact task at hand. In many cases, these benefits extend to customers and business partners, as well. All of these capabilities add up to make employees more productive, able to get the information they need faster and make good decisions more quickly. With the ability to use the device of their choice to do their jobs, they also experience improved satisfaction.
  • Seamlessly integrates with CRM: State-of-the-art solutions give you access to advanced reporting and statistics, which enable you to make better business decisions. Look for a system that has the ability to seamlessly integrate with your existing CRM platform, which gives your agents access to a 360-degree view of customers and their interactions with your company. As a result of CRM integration, your agents will be able to deliver a personalized customer experience. Seek out a provider that can leverage your existing systems to make the agents more informed and productive.

Is your business ready to migrate to a UC solution? Share your thoughts about a potential future move in the comments section below.

And, for those who celebrate it, happy Thanksgiving and don’t eat too much turkey ;)

The Role of UC Analytics in Driving Customer Loyalty

Take a look around you the next time you’re sitting in a café. Chances are nearly everyone you see will be glued to an Internet-connected device of some sort that is producing heaps of data – be it through emails, phone calls, social media or Unified Communications (UC) applications. Ever thought about the role that such an amount of personal information can play in the business world? It’s quite huge. Because, when companies pull all this data together, analyze it, and build profiles for customers, they are employing a customer analysis strategy that can provide them with great insight – helping them deepen their knowledge base to ultimately improve the customer-business relationship and drive sales. Read more

How to Implement Collaboration Software in 3 Easy Steps

If you want to learn how not to implement collaboration software, here’s the perfect hypothetical situation: a mid-sized company is looking to enhance the knowledge sharing and productivity of its employees. As a result, the firm settles on a collaboration solution and the IT department has the task to implement the platform.

But then things take a turn for the worst. IT only focuses on deploying the software expediently, paying no attention to the initial or ongoing solution design. The technology rolls out to the entire company with no testing phase and, after deployment, IT hardly provides any training. Read more

How Unified Communications Can Improve Your Legal Practice Business

Imagine this scenario: a lawyer and a client, separated by thousands of miles, need to decide if they’re going to accept a settlement by the 5 p.m. deadline. They planned on connecting over the phone at 4 p.m. to come to a decision, but the client is too busy with another meeting. Thankfully, with the help of Unified Communications, they are able to connect via instant messaging and discuss the settlement (without having to leave the meeting), reaching a decision before the deadline passes.

Alright, but using instant messaging to communicate legal data is risky, you might say. And it is, if you’re using, for example, messenger apps over social networks to send confidential information. However, with a professional UC platform, both parties involved, lawyer and client can rest assured that their instant communication stays private and information is not leaked. Read more

Brace Yourselves, Millennials Are Coming

The highly experienced but less tech-savvy baby boomer generation has been dominating the global workforce for some time now, but that’s about to change. Before you know it, the soon-to-retire boomers will be replaced by the ambitious, technologically savvy and collaborative millennials, who don’t remember a time without computers and smartphones. Growing up with laptops, Wi-Fi, 3G and social media, the digital world circulates through their system as they expect immediate access to information at all hours of the day. Read more

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