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Indian Finance Minister throws Infosys under the bus as new e-tax portal fails on first day

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India’s new tax e-filing portal went live Monday night, and was down less than 24 hours later, leading union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman to jump onto Twitter with some pointed questions for the site’s developer, Indian services giant Infosys.

Infosys won a contract to build the tax portal in 2019. The new tech was promised to reduce the wait for refunds from 63 days to one day, and to improve the user experience.

After the new portal went live, Sitharaman sent a celebratory tweet. But after many would-be users reported difficulty accessing the site, she was inspired to throw some blame at Infosys and its co-founder, Nandan Nilekani.

Nilekani managed to take it on the chin, responding that day one indeed had technical glitches Infosys was working to resolve.

Income Tax India isn’t the first government service to have its debut bungled and certainly won’t be the last. The US Healthcare.gov website famously suffered software and capacity issues when it debuted in 2013 to register people for coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

The UK NHS has also seen its share of troubles. Last month it was discovered that the vaccine-booking website exposed individual vaccine status without authentication.

As for Infosys, the company has been down this road before and survived the journey. A 2015 contract to build and maintain India’s GST system endured technical glitches, some of which went unresolved for almost two years. Infosys Chief Operating Officer U.B. Pravin Rao told in-country news outlet BusinessLine the problems were mostly due to backend network management.

Infosys has gone from strength to strength since.

The tax portal remains inaccessible at the time of writing, as the outage nears 24 hours. ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/06/09/indian_tax_portal_fail/

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You’ve been told to do a digital transformation. First, you’ll need a digital culture

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Webcast Making the case for digital transformation is easy. Deciding where to begin? That’s the tricky part.

Can you transform your products without first transforming your services? But can you do either of those without first transforming your systems? But if you start transforming your systems first, where does that leave your products and services in the interregnum?

Yes, you can see how people tie themselves up in knots. And therein lies the answer: people.

The fact is that to fully grasp the opportunity, your first step is transforming your internal organisation, from the management team downwards. Or should that be outwards? By creating a digital culture, your people will drive the change rather than see it as something that is imposed on them.

And if you want some pointers on how to kick this off, you should join our upcoming webcast on Creating a Digital Culture, on July 2 at 1100 BST. Proceedings will be overseen by our own extremely agile Tim Phillips. He’ll be joined by Workday’s CTO for EMEA, Oliver McKenna, who has seen transformations play out – and not – over the course of more than 30 years in tech.

Together they’ll highlight the changing role of the CIO, and work through the seven components of a digital culture. They’ll also show you how to harness technology to enable a culture of agility.

Joining Tim and Oliver is a refreshingly straightforward process. Just head to the registration page, drop in a few details and we’ll update your calendar and remind you on the day. Then all you need to do is tune in on the day and contemplate the benefits of agility – from the comfy chair of your choice.

Sponsored by Workday

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/06/16/start_a_digital_culture/

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Google opens Workspace to anyone with a Google account, but you’ll need to cough up for the good stuff

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Google is extending Workspace, its rebranded productivity and collaboration tools, to “anyone with a Google account”, and will introduce Workspace Individual subscriptions with “premium capabilities.”

Workspace was launched in October 2020 as a more integrated approach for users of Google’s business applications, including Gmail, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Calendar and Meet, formerly known as G Suite.

The name likely comes from the idea of forming collaboration spaces, rather than merely working on documents. An existing feature called Rooms lets users bring chat, documents, and tasks into one web page. This is set to become rebranded as Spaces, “a dedicated place for organizing people, topics and projects,” according to VP Javier Soltero.

The company has now said: “Starting today, all of Google Workspace is available to anyone with a Google account.” The statement should be qualified.

Planning an elaborate family party in Spaces

Planning an elaborate family party in Spaces

First, some key features of Workspace have not yet been released. “Over the summer, we’ll evolve Rooms to become Spaces and introduce a streamlined and flexible user interface,” said the post. Second, the free version is limited. Google has introduced a new subscription called Workspace Individual, which adds “premium capabilities.” The exact list of what these capabilities are is to follow, but we can expect them to include custom domains, additional security features, increased limits for Meet videoconferencing, live streaming, and premium support.

The company told us that Workspace Individual will cost $9.99 per month – more expensive than the existing Business Starter package, according to the pricing on this page, but no doubt with better features. The target market is “individual business owners.”

Last month, at its I/O event, Google launched Smart Canvas, which adds features such as “smart chips”, pop-up panels which show details of people, files and meetings recommended by its AI engine for insertion into a document. These are in Docs now and coming to Sheets “in the coming months.” Another new feature is “topic voting tables,” polls for quick insertion into collaborative documents, and pageless docs, which are not paginated unless converted to PDF for printing.

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Another key feature is “picture in picture,” where you get to see a small video of the presenter when they are sharing content in Docs, Sheets or Slides. Users can present content to a Google Meet conference directly from the document they are working in. Also coming “in the next few months” is emoji reactions in Docs – just the thing for those dull business meetings. There is also an offer of “assisted writing” including “warnings about offensive words and language” as well as suggestions, no doubt AI-driven, to “make your writing more impactful.”

Users wishing to try out the new Workspace experience are directed to enable Google Chat in place of the now-legacy Hangouts. Once enabled, Rooms would become available within the Chat application.

New Spaces feature including a document with a Smart Chip

New Spaces feature including a document with a Smart Chip

Google’s main competitor in this space is Microsoft, and this battle remains to some extent one of hybrid (Microsoft) versus web-based (Google) collaboration. Online collaboration has always been more natural on Google’s platform, working in the browser, versus the Microsoft world of documents in desktop Office, and with Workspace the company is attempting to press home this advantage. ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/06/14/google_workspace_free_google_account/

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Flush with cash: UK utility Southern Water names 13 winners who’ll drink up £50m application deal

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IBM, Tata Consultancy Services, and Wipro are among 13 winners on a £50m deal to help build and manage applications for UK utility Southern Water.

The £878m-turnover infrastructure company, which provides water services across southern England from Hampshire to Kent, named the vendors as a pool of pre-qualified service providers to build, operate, and transfer applications.

The winners fall into five lots: digital services such as application lifecycle management development; consulting, software development, internet and support; management of assets and geographic information systems; operational technology and telemetry services; and enterprise information management.

Oracle and SAP make up the basis of the utility’s main application estate.

Southern Water has already signed up with MTI Technology (snaffled by Ricoh), a Brit IT services biz, in a £15m contract to provide professional and managed services for data centre modernisation, data protection, and security in what was described as a digital transformation. MTI was also to host business applications, including SAP, Microsoft Exchange, and Oracle databases.

The utility firm, which provides water to 2.6 million customers and wastewater services to more than 4.7 million homes, has a long-running relationship with IT services and outsourcing firm Capita, which it extended for five years in 2018 in a deal worth £30m.

A consortium of investors calling itself Greensands Holdings Limited own Southern Water, with the biggest shareholder being JP Morgan [PDF, see page 8].

Where there’s water, there’s phishing, apparently

A cyberattack led to the shutdown of some Southern Water systems in February last year. An employee had inadvertently opened an attachment in an email purporting to be from the company’s CEO with a subject of “Coronavirus”, a source said. The insider told The Register that networks including the system responsible for Supervision, Control, and Data Acquisition (SCADA) were affected.

The company has also struggled with its business data. In June 2019, Southern Water was hit by £126m [PDF] in penalties from the regulator Ofwat for breaching its statutory duties on sewage treatment, including the “deliberate misreporting” of data, and the dumping of untreated effluent into beaches, rivers, and streams.

The fine illustrates the broader management challenges any IT transformation will be required to support. Ofwat said: “We have… concluded that [Southern Water] has failed: to have adequate systems of planning, governance and internal controls in place to be able to manage its wastewater treatment works [and] to accurately report information about the performance of these works.” ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/06/14/southern_water_names_13_winners/

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Snowflake agrees it’s good to share… on its platform, while Databricks opts for a more vendor-neutral approach

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Among the blizzard of new language support for Snowflake’s data warehouse this week was a plan to beef up its data marketplace, which promises users somewhere to buy, sell, and otherwise share data on the platform. The problem is that it is far from the only game in town.

SAP, by sheer coincidence, also launched a data market plan this week, a few weeks after Databricks announced its open standard for data sharing, hoping to get a more vendor-neutral approach to the thorny problem off the ground. The application giant and the data lake poster child join other tools for cracking the nut, including those peddled by long-time data integration specialist Informatica.

The point of Snowflake’s Data Marketplace is to make it easier to ingest third-party data, into the analytics environment, as it is all in Snowflake’s architecture. Last November, it announced third-party service providers would have the option to enrich data by running risk assessments, augmenting a data set with behavioural scoring, or “simply outsourcing the more advanced analysis” without having to move the data, Snowflake said at the time.

Now the marketplace has hit general availability and the $33bn-IPO company has released new features including a try-before-you-buy option to allow users to access and evaluate sample data. It also talks up new usage-based purchase options to let companies buy and sell data entirely on the Snowflake Data Marketplace, which the vendor says would streamline the process of purchasing third-party data.

Snowflake CEO Frank Slootman last week told us the marketplace was “very important to our overall strategy.”

Meanwhile, senior veep for product Christian Kleinerman explained that data providers once had to transact outside the platform when selling their wares. “Now with monetization options in the platform, they will be able to implement one of a number of business models: usage-based, query-based, compute time, or time-based. Customers are going to be able to browse the marketplace and assess the different data and purchase through the platform.”

Though Snowflake has made an impact among investors, it is relatively new to the enterprise market. Here, SAP has more than a 40-year history, with considerable chunks of business data stuff inside its enterprise applications. The German vendor is now promising to make business data more sharable via the SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, the public cloud system.

Due to go live later this year, the plan is that customers will be able to access external data assets “in a matter of clicks that could take weeks or months today when integrating themselves,” SAP said.

Jan Gilg, president SAP S/4HANA, told us this week that the move would also allow partners to offer “pre-built content” for data-driven applications for their customer. “[T]he new data marketplace for data is a game-changer for partners because it’s so easy, it’s like the Spotify for data sharing.”

Coming at the data-sharing problem from a different angle again earlier this month, Databricks launched an open-source project called Delta Sharing, which will be donated to the Linux Foundation. Databricks said the open protocol would support secure sharing of data across organisations in real time, crucially independent of the platform on which the data resides. The initiative is supported by AWS, Google Cloud, and BI and visualisation firm Tableau.

At the time, Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi told The Register that financial data providers such as FactSet, the New York Stock Exchange, and S&P Global had agreed to be part of the open sharing project, as had other data system providers like Starburst. “For the first time, you could produce a data set in Databricks, and you can share it with another company, which might not have Databricks, they might have Starburst. They can access the data securely, it gets tracked and audited.

“The problem with Snowflake is everybody has to buy Snowflake for [its marketplace] to work. The truth is a very small fraction of the data in the world is in Snowflake. Even in the cloud, they have a very small fraction of the data.”

But Doug Henschen, veep and principal analyst with Constellation Research, told The Reg data sharing was more than a simple matter of having an open data format. “What I like about the Snowflake Marketplace is that it’s clearly addressing the challenge of facilitating the exchange and monetisation of data. There’s real value in managing the marketplace, facilitating transactions and handling the invoicing, billing and payments for both parties.”

But another senior analyst, who asked not to be named, was much more sceptical about Snowflake’s promise. “The idea that everyone’s going to put everything into Snowflake is a nice aspiration for them to have. But it is one Amazon, Google, and Microsoft share with their various data platforms.”

The Databricks approach is more likely to appeal to data providers who are hoping to avoid lock-in to a specific vendor, he said. “The danger is you can make yourself dependent on a supply of data, and then you also have to use a particular vendor. People will want the choice; they don’t want to have to come through a particular product or channel.”

At the same time, Snowflake’s lack of maturity in the enterprise market might hold it back as the de facto data-sharing platform, he said.

“Snowflake is a hot product at the moment, and if it can get over the threshold where a network effect kicks in, then it might work, but it is not obvious. Snowflake is not that big a company; it is an order of magnitude smaller than AWS, for example, which has its own data sharing products. Meanwhile, SAP has the advantage that so many businesses are already using its applications.”

Snowflake might be hot on the stock market, but cool heads should take a look at its enterprise track record before committing to its data-sharing platform. ®

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Source: https://go.theregister.com/feed/www.theregister.com/2021/06/10/snowflake_data_marketplace/

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