10 Agile Project Management Terms You Should Know

Whether you’re planning on managing a project the agile way, or just want to stay up to date on the latest developments in the field, here are 10 agile project management terms you should know:

1. Agile Manifesto

The agile manifesto is a great starting point for anyone looking to familiarize themselves with the agile methodology. The manifesto outlines the 4 values and 12 principles of agile software development and was actually created by a group of software developers in an effort to provide a clear and alternative set of processes for developing software. The agile way of doing things prioritizes individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working software over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. 

2. Scrum

A scrum is a daily stand up meeting with the sole focus being to review each team member’s progress on any given project. Scrums help to keep everyone accountable and on the same page, ensuring no one falls too behind or gets too far ahead in the development of a project.

3. Scrum Master

A scrum master oversees the development process and acts as a problem solver for the team; preventing roadblocks and enforcing the agile way of doing things.

4. Stakeholder

A stakeholder refers to anyone with a vested interest in the product. This can be the client, the end user, sales people, legal representatives etc. Stakeholders have an informative role in the development phase, and are critical in defining the project’s requirements.

5. Backlog

The backlog is the ever changing list of the software’s requirements. It’s not to be seen as a to do list so much as a prioritized list of desired features of the product provided by the stakeholders.

6. Story

The story tells the software system’s requirements from the consumer’s point of view. For example, as “a <type of user>, I want to <perform some task> so I can <achieve some goal.>”

7. Burndown & Burnup Charts

A burndown chart visually measures the progress of a project over time (the vertical axis is made up of the backlog while the horizontal axis represents time). A burnup chart displays completed work (the vertical axis shows the amount done over the horizontal axis, time). These charts are essential to inspiring the team as they work and help provide a realistic time frame for the project’s completion as well as a working scale of the project.

8. Feature Creep

While changes are expected, and certainly embraced in the agile way of doing things, the phrase “feature creep” refers to features that are added after development has begun. Adding too many features during the development phase can result in feature creep and software that is too complicated or difficult to use.

9. Timeboxing

Timeboxing is kind of like time blocking in that it assigns a specific time frame to accomplish a goal. The definitive feature of timeboxing however, is that the work stops at the end of the timebox, instead of when the work is complete. This is extremely helpful in terms of productivity, and controlling the scale of a project.

10. Sprint

A sprint is a short development phase usually lasting anywhere from 1 week to a month. Sprints help prevent projects from feeling overwhelming and allows feedback to be given at appropriate junctures.

At Number8, we help project managers connect with highly trained and efficient IT support to help reach company goals. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at(502) 890-7665, or check out our information page!

What to Look For In a Nearshore Development Partnership

More and more throughout the United States, development work for web-based companies is moving out of the country. The reason that a company decides to look for offshore or nearshore developers is different from situation to situation. Some reasons for looking into nearshore outsourcing can include budget restrictions preventing the company from expanding in-house or office spacing being too limited to hire additional in-house developers. Regardless of the reason that a company decides to enter a nearshore development partnership, there are things to look for in the hired team.

Location

One of the main motivators behind web-based companies using nearshore outsourcing for development work is the fact that nearshore developers are usually in the same time zone as the company. If they aren’t in the same time zone, they are in a time zone with operating hours more similar to the company’s. This has a lot of benefits in regards to communication than working an outsourcing company located in India or another country on the opposite side of the world. Nearshore development partnerships are often established for this reason.

By operating in the same, or similar, business hours companies enjoy the benefit of being able to discuss problems in real time with their development counterparts. Being able to quickly address and resolve development issues results in faster turnaround times and happier clientele. When looking for a nearshore development partnership, consider the time zone potential teams are in and how that will affect your business.

Communication

When considering nearshore development companies to partner with, it is also important to consider if there will be a language barrier. While most nearshore development companies employ people who speak fluent English, some do not. Clear communication is a huge part of a successful partnership and a necessity for getting development work done quickly and correctly. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively will also affect how the business operates between the onshore employees and their counterparts. Without an open line of communication, it doesn’t really matter whether the nearshore development team is operating in the same hours as the onshore company or not. If the two teams cannot work together without a language barrier then the IT project will ultimately end up failing.

Quality

Companies searching for a nearshore development team to partner with should also assess the quality of the development team’s work. Does the team you’re considering partnering with have a portfolio of previous work they’ve done? Can they offer you statistics on how many projects they’ve successfully completed? It’s difficult to forge a successful partnership with so many miles between locations. Therefore, it is important that the team you choose for a nearshore development partnership is a strong one. Companies should trust their developers to complete projects on time and turn around workloads in a timely manner. There is nothing wrong with asking for statistics on project completions, turnaround times, and more. High quality work from a nearshore development team will be pertinent to your success as a company. Don’t be afraid to ask for proof of the quality of a company’s work.

Turnover

In a recent study, the 7th Annual Conference on Information Science, Technology, and Management revealed that the turnover rate of software developers in India falls between 30 and 40 percent. In comparison, the turnover rate of Americans in the IT industry sits at 13.2%. By choosing to forge a nearshore development partnership, your entering into an IT sector with a substantially lower turnover rate. This, in turn, opens up opportunities to work with the same development team over multiple projects. Familiarity with how a team member communicates, delivers work, and executes tasks only improves project turnaround time. It also improves the business relationship, in general. Being able to establish a long-term business connection is one of the biggest benefits of a nearshore development partnership.

Deciding to enter a nearshore development partnership has its benefits and its risks. Thankfully, we feel like the benefits highly outweigh the risks. No matter how perfect a situation may seem, you will want to look at some specific metrics. If you are thinking about hiring nearshore developers to outsource some of the work at your company, be sure to ask these 12 questions before you hire anyone. For more information on outsourcing benefits, visit our blog archive to read countless articles on the benefits of a nearshore development partnership.

At Number8, we pair onshore businesses with a dynamic nearshore development team that will effectively get complete development work. Our entire team of nearshore software developers are based in  San Jose, Costa Rica. They are fully trained in agile product development and will produce the solutions your company needs to succeed. Interested in learning more? You can learn more about what we do on our website or call us at (502) 890-7665 today!

 

How to Approach Project Management the Agile Way

An agile approach to project management has become prolific within many industries ranging from software development, construction and even marketing. Approaching a project the agile way ensures the product meets the client’s needs in a timely manner. The agile method also specifically makes room for improvements along the way rather than at the end when a lot of effort has already gone into the finished product. The result is often a shorter development cycle and quicker product release.  

However, an agile project manager’s duties differ from that of a traditional one’s. While the typical project manager is tasked with communication and quality control and manages the scope, cost, risk and personnel, many of these responsibilities are spread throughout the team in an agile workforce. 

Agile encourages team members to determine how to best achieve their tasks, report on their progress and determine their own schedule. Instead of a project manager, teams evaluate their own time and cost as they move through their work. Project goals are set by what is called a “product owner” and an agile project manager is referred to as a “scrum master.” 

The scrum master (or agile project manager) deals with problems as they arise and handles interruptions so his or her team can focus on the work at hand. This often comes in the form of facilitating meetings and discussions, removing progress blockers and setting priorities.

While traditional project management dictates a detailed master plan that must be followed, the agile way aims to determine the requirements as the project progresses. For this reason, an agile project manager tends to only be utilized in particularly larger complex projects. 

When approaching project management through the agile mindset, one must:

Be Flexible

Agile is built to incorporate regular feedback, updates and changes in requirements. While it’s important to understand the end goal and overall scope of a project from the start, an agile project has many cycles to it’s completion. Therefore, an agile project manager must be flexible enough to work with what is thrown their way rather than adhere to an unchangeable itinerary. 

Prioritize Client Satisfaction

At the end of the day, project management has always been done in the name of customer service. This is perhaps exemplified in the agile model as a project manager is in constant flux when it comes to meeting a client’s ever changing needs. It’s important therefore to remember that the end goal is to ultimately satisfy the client even if it’s at cost to the original plan.

Embrace Meetings

Coordinating with team members, stakeholders and clients still remains a large part of an agile project manager’s role. The agile methodology embraces daily meetings often called “scrums” where everyone participates in team transparency. During these scrums, everyone shares what they accomplished the day before as well as what they are working on that day. These are brief workflow updates and can even be done standing up. If not done in person, video conferences are another way of establishing accountability. 

Be Prepared to Problem Solve

Central to an agile project manager’s responsibilities is the ability to quickly adapt and correct course when need be. Continuous improvement ultimately saves valuable resources by reducing the risk of a larger scale failure in the end.

At Number8, we help project managers connect with highly trained and efficient IT support to help reach company goals. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at(502) 890-7665, or check out our information page!

Why Mistakes are an Important Part of the Creative Process Even in Tech

Those in the Information Technology field know that software development doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s collaborative and often times risks need to be taken in order to achieve any level of innovation. With risks come mistakes and projects that don’t always pan out as planned.

However, IT teams that follow the agile methodology tend to be familiar with the ideology that mistakes are an important part of the creative process. The agile way of developing tech is adaptive in that it is designed around embracing feedback and learning opportunities.

As Albert Einstein once said, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

Here’s why you shouldn’t let the fear of making a mistake keep you or your team in your comfort zone:

Mistakes let us know what doesn’t work and paves the path for what could.  

When it comes to developing something new or going into uncharted territory, mistakes are bound to happen. But with experimentation comes discovering a new way of doing something and that is almost always value added. By pivoting and testing new ideas, one is better able to evaluate and refine a product or idea and then learn from it. 

It’s not the mistake that defines an employee, but how they rebound from it.

If mistakes are inevitable, a team should know how to handle them. Take the stigma out of it, and you’ll find that enabling a team to make mistakes means also giving them the opportunity to problem solve effectively. Employees who take accountability for their mistakes and are able to learn from them are a valuable asset to any company. Instead of creating a culture of fear where one tends to get defensive if a mistake is made, establish one where everyone feels empowered enough to innovate and safeguard for the future.

At Number8, we help project managers connect with highly trained and efficient IT support to help reach company goals. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page!

6 Reasons Why Agile Software Development Will Remain Relevant for the Foreseeable Future

Every development methodology has its pros and cons. Depending on the size and culture of a company, the structure and plan best used to oversee the process of developing a system can vary. However, it seems that as of late, the Agile Methodology is winning out as the best way of managing a both a company and software development team’s resources. 

Here are 6 reasons why Agile software development will continue to remain relevant, perhaps even as a management approach within other industries.

  1. It’s Collaborative

    The Agile method runs around daily meetings or “scrums” that cultivate accountability and teamwork. During any given scrum, each team member shares their accomplishments from the last work day, announces what they are currently working on, and mentions any possible impediments to progress for the team to help them problem solve. These meetings keep everyone on schedule, and create a cohesive atmosphere where each person is able to work cross-functionally and continuously learn from one another.  

  2. It Offers Flexibility 

    Setbacks are common when it comes to software development. The Agile methodology’s time frame offers flexibility in that it builds in time for future corrections. By embracing the ideology from the start that not everything is going to go to plan, Agile prevents errors from halting a development project by making time for them. 

  3. It Promotes Efficiency 

    With this flexibility comes a sense of urgency because of the level of communication that exists within Agile. Problems are tended to efficiency because of the cyclical like feedback and level of interaction between all team members. The speed at which corrections are made is key in that they save time and resources; allowing a company to stay within budget.  

  4. It’s Adaptive

    As it’s adaptive in nature, Agile welcomes changes in requirements and feedback. This way of thinking is value adding as it encourages innovation and risk taking at every stage of the process. 

  5. It Tests for Quality

    The focus of agile is test driven. Software is developed in a way that continuously tests for quality. Problems are identified early on in order to achieve the best possible end product.  

  6. It Offers Transparency

    Agile is inherently transparent. Therefore, stakeholders and product owners can ensure a proper return on their investment. Additionally, the customer, developer and project manager remain on the same page and achieve a desired level of communication. 

At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.

 

Meetings At Work – 4 Reasons Why They Are Useful

When it comes to meetings at work, they can either be really informative or drag on past the point of productivity. For those in the IT world who have embraced the Agile methodology, meetings are a daily occurrence called “scrums.” Development teams lead these gatherings to regroup and give status reports concerning their specific projects. Additionally, even when working with remote workers, it can prove beneficial to touch base with them face to face via a video conference, as things can be misconstrued in other formats like email and chat. 

No matter what industry you’re in though, meetings are an essential part of business. In fact, if done right, they can propel a company toward success. 

Just in case you’re not sold, here are 4 reasons why meetings are useful in the workplace: 

The Power of Brainstorming 

Sometimes it takes meeting with your team to get a new perspective on a project or problem. Collaborating collectively allows for new ideas to be shared in a safe and confidential space. Innovation is best nurtured when everyone feels they are heard and have been given the opportunity to contribute.  

Providing Information 

Meetings are perhaps most often used for providing information and dispersing tasks. If structured properly, they don’t have to be the drudge most employees have come to know and fear. These kinds of meetings work best if there is a clear agenda and a leader who is not afraid to interrupt and push forward. To some extent, everyone should be given the opportunity to speak. This is a great time to discuss priorities, air grievances, and gather help from those less bogged down with assignments. Providing information in a meeting is constructive in that everyone is on the same page at the same time.

Strategic Planning 

Usually a company participates in annual strategic planning to set the course and pace for the upcoming year. Planning strategically can be helpful in setting goals and motivating your team to seek action based results. Doing so can also ensure everyone is kept accountable throughout the year. Additionally, meeting within this context gives leadership the opportunity to recognize potential in members who may be interested in taking on more responsibility or growing their role within the business. 

Re-centering

Without meeting from time to time, a company’s policies have a way of falling through the cracks. Convening from time to time just to give everyone feedback and have a general review of the proper procedures can be immensely helpful in keeping a growing business on track. Not to mention it helps to rustle everyone up and out of their respective nooks and show some appreciation for a job well done. 

At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.

An Overview of Scrum Certification

What is Scrum?

The term “scrum” is borrowed from the team contact sport rugby. In rugby, everyone has to work together for the duration of the game. Applied to the world of information technology, scrum’s holistic approach assures that no one is left behind or too far ahead during a project. In fact, development teams that utilize scrum, lead daily meetings or “scrums” to ensure everyone is on the same page. During these, team members give status reports on progress made for their specific project.

Though the concept of scrum predates the Agile way of thinking, it is a subset of the Agile methodology in that it is a development methodology that supports a more cyclical, flexible and adaptive way of working through a software development cycle. A typical scrum team consists of a product owner, a development team, and a scrum master. The owner envisions the project, while the team follows through with it from beginning to end. Meanwhile, the scrum master provides leadership and acts as an authoritative figure for the development team.

Becoming Certified

For those that work within the product development game, becoming certified in scrum is a valuable asset to cultivate. Demand for this certification has only increased alongside the growing popularity of the Agile methodology.

While receiving a scrum certification is quite the investment, it is a relatively quick process. Depending on if you’re seeking a junior or senior level course, it can take anywhere from hours to days to complete. Those that become certified in scrum are usually scrum masters. Scrum masters are tasked with inspiring, enabling, and guiding their teams through the process of product development. They also facilitate collaboration and productivity from the team and resolve any issues that may impede the unit’s progress.  

It’s important to note that scrum is not only used in agile software development. It can be immensely helpful when it comes to managing projects in an array of other fields as well. Before you enroll in a scrum certification course, be sure to properly evaluate the accreditation. This ensures that the class is from a credible organization that your employer respects and values.

At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.

5 Myths of Working With an Offshore Development Team

Working with an offshore development team is becoming a popular alternative staffing solution in the software industry. Not only does it reduce operating costs, but it allows a company to build a team at their own pace. However, offshoring work comes with it’s fair share of misconceptions.

Here are a few common myths about the pitfalls of working with an offshore development team.

  1. The quality of the work will be poor.

    While trusting remote workers is reasonably hard for any employer or company to do, reputable offshore development teams have proven to help tech companies advance within the industry. As long as a partnership and relationship is established, and industry standard benchmarks are relied upon, the quality of work received will not be lacking.

  2. It takes jobs away.

    The fact of the matter is that U.S. based tech companies are facing a shortage of IT professionals. Offshoring some of the workload actually frees up current staff to work on reaching their goals. Developing the company’s end products is always more worthwhile than working on lesser routine and task oriented maintenance.

  3. It’s a security risk.

    Depending on the type of work that is being offshored, data privacy and intellectual property breaches can be a concern. Unfortunately, these security risks are just as likely to happen onshore as they are off it. Detailed contracts outlining who is liable can help curb risks and ensure everyone is compliant in terms of security needs. 

  4. We won’t be able to communicate with one another.

    In addition to the possible language barrier that comes with having offshore employees, there are also varying idioms, gestures, customs, and behavior norms that can throw communication off kilter. However, it is in no way impossible to find an offshore team that is either fluent in english, comfortable with a specific dialect, or capable of communicating through the right channel. In today’s world we are all connected online, and the agile project management method is specifically known for enabling more transparency between working partners. The idea that one cannot work in unison with those from other cultures is at most an antiquated idea as email, video chatting, and instant messaging allow for those from around the world to communicate with one another better than ever before.

  5. The time gap will mean a lag in productivity.

    In the IT world, completing projects quickly is crucial as ideas and and new technologies are always evolving. Depending on the geographical location of overseas partners, offshoring can often mean a difference in time zones and work day hours between teams. While this understandably seems worrisome, it’s important to remember there are many countries where part of the work day overlaps. Therefore collaboration can take place. If this isn’t the case, many companies make the difference in time zones work for them with round the clock support between both countries and teams.

Finding the right partners to grow your team and business is an essential ingredient for success. Why not utilize resources from around the world and open your company up to the best the industry has to offer?

At Number8, we help companies create software products with the help of offshore development. If you questions about our consulting process and why we are the right offshore software development company for your team to work with, then give us a call at (502) 890-7665 today!