Mr Fairman is an approved Associate Consultant at Appleton Greene and he has experience in information technology, management and e-business. He has achieved a Higher National Diploma in Electrical & Electronics Engineering and an EDP (Mini MBA). He has industry experience within the following sectors: Automotive; Defense; Electronics; Technology and Telecommunications. He has had commercial experience within the following countries: South Africa; United Kingdom; United States of America; Egypt and Turkey, or more specifically within the following cities: Johannesburg; London; Boston MA; Cairo and Istanbul. His personal achievements include: managed national roll-out of Tracker; facilitated handover of Egyptian EW project; managed Uplink project for LoJack; managed handover of SAAF project and designed BlueBox Home Energy System. His service skills incorporate: project management; technical management; SDLC; lifecycle management and technical leadership.
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High-tech developments have become more complex due to the high levels of integration required by clients, where the domain of the desktop must now be made available to mobile devices owned or not owned by the enterprise. This complexity leads to a wide range of problems as the IT solutions now have to be very agile, secure, accessible anywhere on the planet and usable on a wide range of devices. Developments have to be scrutinized in greater depth to ensure that what is being asked for by the client is achievable with the minimum of disruption to the business, but realizes maximum benefit.
This requires the ability to see the bigger picture and tailor the development to meet the exact needs of the business, not perceived needs. An alarming number of ITC developments fail or are abandoned due to overruns of time and cost, and an early indication that the requirements will fall short of client expectations. The most important key to success is the ability of the development to stay on track and stick firmly to the original requirements. This is easier said than done and requires a unique set of skills, honed over many years of witnessing how not to run and manage developments covering several industry sectors.
The key is being able to see the requirement from the outset and know what’s needed in terms of resources, technology choices and development partners. The service offering must have a clear vision of what’s required to analyze the requirement, communicate the design, and finally to develop and demonstrate the end result.
Developments need three attributes to be a success: vision, pragmatism and experience. These combined form a very solid foundation for finalizing a development that not only endures but produces the expected results. The most important phase is the beginning, as it is here that the information we require to design the solution is gathered from the stakeholders who will benefit the most. The vision attribute plays a major role at this juncture as it enables us to see at an early stage what’s actually needed in the design that is absolutely necessary. While we recognize the importance of engaging stakeholders, we have learnt to be selective and avoid spending too much time on developing a ‘wish-list’ as opposed to a specification.
The pragmatic approach makes sure that we direct all our resource time to achieving the goals and meeting the requirements of the client through the design of the system. When the development forms part of a program, we make absolutely sure that we will not be spending our time being side-tracked on unrelated issues. We make sure that our development strategy is tabled at the earliest stage with the PMO or projects directorate so that they understand our roles and responsibilities so that we have consensus.
Ultimately our experience drives our success as it is this attribute that moves us forward in the right direction, increases our productivity and gives us a sense of what works and what doesn’t throughout the life-cycle. This experience has delivered high tech and mission critical systems in the Aerospace, Defence and Telematics industries internationally. We avoid the unnecessary and concentrate on the necessary. This methodology is a philosophy that works, because it keeps the design principles true to what the client wants, expects and is paying for.
Companies can elect whether they just require Appleton Greene for advice and support with the Bronze Client Service, for research and performance analysis with the Silver Client Service, for facilitating departmental workshops with the Gold Client Service, or for complete process planning, development, implementation, management and review, with the Platinum Client Service. Ultimately, there is a service to suit every situation and every budget and clients can elect to either upgrade or downgrade from one service to another as and when required, providing complete flexibility in order to ensure that the right level of support is available over a sustainable period of time, enabling the organization to compensate for any prescriptive or emergent changes relating to: Customer Service; E-business; Finance; Globalization; Human Resources; Information Technology; Legal; Management; Marketing; or Production.
In the world of ITC development there is nothing more satisfying than sitting in front of a client with problems, and then going away and designing a solution that solves these and results in a purpose designed system, that delivers the client’s needs. There is a huge amount of knowledge and skill involved in getting from the start of this process to the finish, but it is as gratifying for us as it is for the client and the various stakeholders.
Companies supplying COTS solutions are a ‘dime a dozen’ and generally provide a solution that has a long list of features that the client neither needs, or will probably never use. True innovation comes from being able to provide a bespoke solution exactly tailored to the client’s needs and represents the businesses demands. The ‘vanilla’ approach to developments may suit many businesses, but occasionally a specific need arises that requires a targeted approach to address a unique set of circumstances.
While all developments may seem to follow identical processes and apply a common methodology, bespoke design is fundamentally different in that it solves real problems and directs its attention directly at the problem. We have seen and experienced the huge sense of satisfaction with clients that have taken this route as in the end the solution is not only generated by them directly, but solves a problem they have identified that will help their business grow. With a targeted solution the client gets exactly what they have paid for and can readily see and experience the return on investment, rather than trying to understand what has been achieved with a general solution.
The following list represents the Key Service Objectives (KSO) for the Appleton Greene ITC Development service.
- Strategic Evaluation
The objective of this first process is to investigate and evaluate the reasons behind the development and how it will fit into the overall business profile of the organisation. At the end of this process we want to see that the introduction of the new product or system will definitely benefit the business, justify the development cost and meet all the user expectations. This is done by developing two roadmaps one for the business itself and the other concentrating on the technology and making sure that there is consensus with both and that they are complimentary. These roadmaps will take into consideration the current state of technology in the business, how it is performing and the previous development strategies that were applied. This will provide us with a clear understanding of how the organization treats new developments and where we can improve the processes that may need to be changed or new ones introduced. The new development will be carefully evaluated in terms of ‘strategic fit’ so that it not only achieves certain benefits, but improves any business processes and outcomes it has been conceived to fulfil. Part of our objective will be to play ‘devil’s advocate’ and get the various stakeholders to justify to us that the development requirements have been researched sufficiently to justify the impending investment. In this way we are able to detect any resistance or lack of detail in the strategy and obtain verification from the decision makers in the organization before moving on to the next stage. Any new development has to complement the existing technology deployed in the business and improve productivity, ease of use and take into consideration what new technologies are being developed. The secret of innovative thinking lies in the belief that anything is possible, and is only restricted by lack of courage, mind-set or budget. The key to innovation lies in a deep knowledge of what restrictions are in place that act as barriers to success, and how we break them down. When we understand the problem with absolute clarity, innovation will come naturally. This means opening our minds to the possible while spending less time debating the impossible.
- Development Planning
Any new development irrespective of its purpose requires careful planning prior to the commencement of the actual design and development stages. This takes the form of an audit where the manner in which the development resources will be utilized is investigated, adjusted and configured to suit the overall objectives, budget and management expectations. Depending on the details of the development, the amount of forward planning will differ. With hardware development manufacturers of components, semiconductors, printed circuit boards and any mechanical components have to be identified at an early stage so that scheduling can take place to suit the project timescales. With software development the availability of resources, both internal and external needs to be assessed during this planning stage, and arrangements made early enough to retain them. In those cases, where the resulting development will be deployed on a wide scale over many locations, then users at these locations have to be informed and made ready for installation and training. If any deployments are cross-border, then all the requisite commercial requirements have to be taken into consideration and the relevant parties informed at the earliest stage. With large developments where several external sub-contractors are going to be used, these need to be factored into the development planning at the right stages and their particular operating circumstances incorporated into the planning process. The development audit must investigate and establish any legislative requirements, quality assurance, type approval and certification requirements that the new products or services need to comply with. Some type approval procedures take several months to plan, book and execute particularly those where hardware products are submitted to an EU or FCC approval agency.
- Solution Analysis
It is uncommon for us to arrive at a single solution at this early stage in the process. Usually we find ourselves with several ideas and solutions that may fit the bill. In order to eliminate these, we apply a set of analytical principles that help us define and ultimately decide on the best approach. Applied as a research discipline Solution Analysis will not only address the technical needs of the problem, but also consider any operational, planning, corporate policy and change management issues. Each of these major issues are analyzed as criteria for final solution selection and discussed with the client on an ongoing basis to ensure compatibility. Although similar to the Requirements Analysis as a typical process in project management, solutions analysis differs in that it concentrates on the use of technology solutions to solve business related issues rather than managerial processes. With bespoke technology developments it is important that the resulting design addresses the problem directly, and acts as a catalyst for any other related issues within the business that may influence the problem. Experience has taught us that it is easy to get side-tracked if too many unrelated issues become part of solving the problem. The solution will have to stand on its own once completed, but have the ability to accommodate other solutions in the future. In this way its value is better understood and the performance criteria more easily measured. During this process, we begin to develop a sense of the dimensions of the solution with regards to cost, infrastructure requirements, project magnitude and resource demands. The end result of this analysis will be the framework for a solution together with estimates of the resource requirements. These solutions are presented to the client in detail, showing how and why they have been chosen, their relevance and what the benefits and outputs will be once completed. This analysis will also address budgetary issues, ongoing support costs, training and recruitment requirements and any licensing requirements. Finally, the solutions will address security issues regarding data, hacking and cyber-attacks prevention.
- Design Process
It is always pertinent to advise a client how the design process will work, what will be addressed during this process, roles and importantly what it’s going to cost. The methodology used to arrive at a final design is an important factor as it has to match the magnitude of the development, should not fall short of the requirements, and should not be overkill. The methodology will demonstrate the level of competency expected by the client, and the ITC industry in general, by applying established standards, processes and compliance requirements. When we are engaged in the design of solutions that will incorporate both hardware and software components, we approach the design process differently to when we are only dealing with one or the other. This difference entails building in processes that ensure compatibility between both disciplines is managed throughout the design and eventually the development life-cycles. The firmware used to drive the hardware must be designed to be compatible with any operating systems involved in the overall system. This approach is known as Top-Down Design and we use it to identify each component or device in the solution and design these as individual items so that we can verify its functionality before we look at the complete system. In this way we avoid surprises when we start integrating and testing the final solution. There are many design tools, development platforms and simulators available to us today to speed-up the design process. More importantly these tools allow us to better predict performance criteria before we commit to manufacture and final development. This ability now happens early on in the design phase enabling the client to see what they are getting before the project spend gets costly and the development risk increases. Completion of the design process will result in the provision of design documentation including specifications, drawings, CAD files, Test Specifications, Training Requirements and certification requirements.
Development is the actual effort that converts the detailed design from concept to a finished system or product. During this phase prototypes are built to verify and test the various system architectures, software programmes and hardware designs. Where there are both hardware and software components being developed for a new system, activities that are common to both need to be carefully planned especially where the same development resources are used. The numerous tasks relating to the development are broken down into smaller workable components known as a work breakdown structure (WBS). This structure divides the overall development into discrete work modules and assigns personnel, costs and timescales to each one with routing information showing connections to other tasks. In this way a large complex development that can take several months or years is better managed and progress is more easily tracked. The bulk of resource effort in a development project is assigned during this phase. It is the culmination of all the design tasks and the coming together and integration of the proposed hardware and software components, outsourced equipment and integration with existing systems. The data models for the various software applications are built as mock-ups so that their results can be better monitored. This also allows a more meaningful approach for developing any user interfaces as these can be tried and tested in an almost live environment. Regular review meetings are held during this phase as this is the ideal opportunity for management to analyse progress and feedback. Experience has shown that it is vital to create an offline environment where all the software developments, hardware designs and integration components can be built and tested as the development cycle progresses. The problem with most business technology solutions is that they are directly responsible for maintaining and increasing the bottom line, so any disruptions will be costly. This offline approach also allows training programs to be developed for users and support personnel, prior to going live. The output of the Development phase will be products that are production ready and meet the original Scoping and Requirements of the business, management and the users. At this juncture the system is handed over to the testing team who will put the products through their paces and provide constant feedback to the development team to enable any changes or fixes to be carried out.
I was awarded the prestigious ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award during the second year of my 5 year engineering apprenticeship with British Aircraft Corporation (now BAE Systems). This was an achievement because there were over 120 other apprentices nationally in the UK that were considered. The award is based on the quality of work carried out during the previous year, attitude towards fellow workers and management, discipline and the ability to solve problems quickly and successfully.
During my period of contract with Plessey EaE in Egypt, I was responsible for a team of 12 engineers and technicians working on an Electronic Warfare Project for the Egyptian Signal Corps. The project completion had been outstanding for several years due to mismanagement by several parties and lack of engineering leadership. Managing the team I successfully submitted all the outstanding projects for customer acceptance which resulted in a hefty Performance Bond amounting to several millions of pounds being released to Plessey. I was promoted to Country Manager.
Grinaker Electronics Group
I was hired initially as a Senior Systems Engineer to work on a large Ground-to-air communications network for the South African Air Force. The project had fallen behind due to the resignation of my predecessor who had been transferred to another project. I managed a small team of internal engineers and several external suppliers and handed over the completed project 2 years later. I was awarded the Grinaker Employee of the Year award the following year, and promoted to General Manager.
Tracker was awarded the LoJack licence for Southern Africa. I was initially hired as a consultant to design the nationwide network and assist in writing the technical specification for the system as part of the licence submission to Government. After award of the licence, we were given 6 months to build the network, commission over 1000 Police Vehicles with Tracking Equipment, build a National Control Centre and recruit a team of 16 fitment technicians and other technical team members. I successfully completed all these tasks and was appointed to the Tracker Board as Technical Director.
During my tenure at Tracker in South Africa, I developed the Uplink technology solution for them. This advancement resulted in the company achieving the highest stolen vehicle recovery rate among all of LoJack worldwide licensees, including the US. I was hired by LoJack in Boston to recreate this for the US and South American markets. I had to manage the design and development of various new hardware devices and software in conjunction with technology companies in the USA, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico. The upgraded network was commissioned two years later within the budget.
More detailed achievements, references and testimonials are confidentially available to clients upon request.
This service is primarily available to the following industry sectors:
Private vehicle owners now have an array of software controlled systems fitted to production vehicles. These provide the driver with warnings about how the vehicle is being driven, its proximity to other vehicles, assistance with braking in a potential emergency, the ability to read and process road signs and prompt corrective actions, and the all-important interface with the Smartphone. The big tech companies like Microsoft, Apple and Google are all providing content and integrating versions of their popular operating systems so that all their mobile apps used in Smartphones, Tablets and Laptops can be integrated with the vehicle system. This has opened up a host of new content providers and advertisers who can push video and data into the vehicle environment, further extending the reach of Information Technology. Cars have become mobile computers, with high specification processors controlling all functions from speed, safety and comfort to climate control and vibration. Major FPGA manufacturers are delivering automotive specific accelerator processing solutions that integrate Radar, Pulsed Laser (Lidar), Infrared and Ultrasonic sensor technologies that deliver split-second information and warnings to the driver. These sensors provide 3D Surround View Video Processing, Rear View Cameras, Blind Spot detection, Lane Departure Warning, Traffic Sign Recognition, Forward Collison Warning and Pedestrian detection. Governments in various parts of the world are pushing for legislation to make many of these safety features a legal requirement on future vehicles. This will result in full connectivity within the vehicle systems, tethering of Smartphones and Tablets, and remote access to Cloud, Home Office and Enterprise based applications using public wireless networks like LTE and Wi-Fi. We have already seen gradual adoption of Android Auto and Apple Car Play operating systems by several auto OEM’s, with more to follow. Ford recently announced a technology partnership deal with Blackberry to standardise on the use of their ONX platform across their entire vehicle range. This demonstrates that the large tech companies providing desktop and mobility solutions are entering the automotive sector in a big way. The end result will be the fully connected vehicle that will offer all the advantages of the desktop environment for entertainment, driver and passenger safety, navigation and Internet access. Many manufacturers are already testing autonomous vehicles with legislation for their use on public roads becoming a reality in the short term. The whole issue of these vehicles will revolve around safety particularly on fast crowded multi-lane highways. There are certainly a few mountains to climb before we see a proliferation of these on our roads. One of the realities is that all of these vehicles irrespective of make or model will need to communicate with each other, not just the immediate space surrounding them.
Governments are forced to evaluate how they spend defence dollars, and where they direct Research and Development activities, and with whom. Systems development no longer needs large multi-million dollar budgets, or large teams of engineers and scientists to develop ground-breaking technology. Almost all of the IT developments currently are carried out by small private companies spread around the world. The cost of manufacturing what were military grade semiconductors, microprocessors and SOC (system on chip) solutions have decreased significantly, and are being made by companies the world over. The latest technology whether in hardware or software form is now within the reach of private companies and even garage engineers who can develop anything with the tools available on the Internet? Technology also plays a major role in the design, development and manufacture of sophisticated defence systems ranging from an aircraft carrier to an assault rifle in the form of CAD/CAM (computer assisted design/computer assisted manufacture) software applications. These allow a new design to be carried out within a computer networked environment, which sends completed designs to the machines that manufacture the end product. All the stages in the development and manufacturing life-cycles are fully integrated and stored in data files. There are no more blueprints, or drawings and no paper-trail. We have also seen the widespread introduction of 3-D printing in the R&D world where completed product designs can be printed on a specialist printer, cutting down development time and costs. The Internet and WWW is fast becoming the biggest threat to the defence of a country and its assets. There is a real problem with the ease at which a terrorist organisation, or enthusiastic individual can not only access sensitive information, but how it is just as easy to distribute it worldwide. The proliferation and sheer reach of wired, wireless, satellite and fiber networks makes it easy to create havoc in our society. It is estimated that the US DOD and other government defence organisations distribute over 90% of their voice and data communications over public networks. Weapons systems, missiles, aircraft, helicopters, warships and surveillance systems all use varying levels of embedded software controlling commercially available chips, processors and semi-conductors. This means that at some stage any or all of these systems can be hacked by individuals or organisations that know the device’s embedded code, which is available from the manufacturer, or is published on the Internet. In the past military and national defence organisations routed their sensitive information over point-to-point private networks to protect the content. What one once considered closed technology by Defence contractors, is now well and truly in the public domain. The problem with technology is that it has now reached critical mass. Everybody has it, or can get it, cheaply.
Today the Electronics industry is being driven in many ways by digital convergence with more and more products becoming multifunctional, as opposed to one product for one function. Digital convergence is combining IT, Telecommunications, Consumer Electronics and Entertainment (ITTCE) under one banner with multifunctional products supporting VoIP, IPTV, Mobile TV and Smart TV capabilities. This has uncluttered technology in the home where the number of devices has reduced but the individual functionality is retained. This is possible through multiple services running under common operating software platforms making integration and device sharing easier. With the huge advances in recent years in the area of microelectronics development and the computerisation of manufacture, the time to market for new products has been reduced to months instead of years. Design engineers using CAD/CAM software can complete complex designs in a matter of weeks due to the huge database of circuit design files and software routines. Once the design is captured it can be sent electronically to the production line and manufactured almost immediately. This degree of automation has also brought down the price of finished products substantially, meaning more sales in more markets. Semiconductor manufacturers are already producing highly integrated System on Chip (SOC) solutions which further cut-down development times. These solutions take away the work engineers need to spend on integrating