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5 Stakeholder Questions To Ask Before Starting the Software Development Process

Software development is an intricate process that requires skill, planning and team effort. There are several stakeholders involved in the project, from company executives to various departments within the company.

It isn’t possible to satisfy all of them completely, but you can take their concerns into account before working on the project by asking the right questions. Doing so can help you understand their priorities and plan the development process accordingly. Here’s a list of 5 questions to ask before starting a software development process:

  1. What is the Product?

Projects tend to get out of hand if you don’t have a clear vision in mind. Software developers need to understand what the end product should look like before they even start planning for it. For example, does the company want an app that will help users find the best online deals? Does it want a software program for its HR department?

Stakeholders can provide a list of features or ideas for the end product to make things easier for a development team. If there’s any dispute about the final product, this will be the best time to resolve it. Make sure everyone is on the same page before proceeding.

  1. What is Not a Part of the Product?

Developers can sometimes go overboard and add features or elements that aren’t necessary. That happens if they don’t know what should be excluded from the final product. For example, if a website is only delivering to the US, there’s no need to include a feature to convert prices to other currencies. In many cases, stakeholders assume their development team is going to deliver something, but the latter is unaware of it. It is essential to establish what you will and won’t deliver.

  1. What is a Successful Product?

Software programs are tools designed to achieve a specific goal or purpose. A company creates a website if they want to establish a presence online. They design an app if they want to build a robust and long-term customer base. They develop a software application to make daily processes easier. If the product fulfills these goals, it is considered successful.

The end goal isn’t to deliver a good product; it is to provide a product that succeeds in the market. There’s a clear difference between these two goals. For example, a website can be beautiful and functional but still not provide all the services the target audience needs. Stakeholders should define what a successful product means to them at the start of the project.

  1. Do We Have a Single Point of Communication?

This is one of the most challenging aspects of project management. The project starts with one team and one client, but eventually, a large number of people start becoming part of the process. The IT guy must approve one aspect of the design, the other should please the marketing expert, and so on.

If these people start offering suggestions or requesting changes, the project can quickly get out of control. It is crucial to establish a single point of communication between stakeholders, clients, and development teams. You can maintain a smooth flow of information while keeping track of numerous requests.

  1. What are the Potential Roadblocks or Problems?

No one likes to discuss problems before they work on a project, but you need to address it. Gather all stakeholders together and ask them about possible hurdles. Can the project run out of money? What happens if some temporary contractors don’t live up to expectations? What if the client changes their mind in the middle of the project? If you know about possible hurdles, you can develop systems to counteract them.

These questions will help a team start their project on a firm foundation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to stakeholders; the answers will help improve the quality of your end product.

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.

 

The 12 Principles of the Agile Manifesto

The agile methodology started in the software development industry in response to the limitations of traditional software development principles. Eventually, companies realized that it could be used to improve project management, team management, and other such processes. Agile focuses more on individuals and interactions between different teams than processes or sophisticated tools. There are 12 core principles of the agile manifesto.

  1. Customer Satisfaction – Providing Early & Continuous Delivery

The Agile Manifesto states that developers and companies can achieve customer satisfaction by delivering products early for testing and feedback. Teams can continuously share their progress with the clients and incorporate their input into the product. The focus is on fulfilling client priorities and then focusing on other aspects of the project. This allows developers to adjust to the client’s changing requirements during the development process. Customers get a more refined product at the end of this process, and they’re more satisfied.

  1. Responding Positively to Change – Even During the Later Stages of Development

The modern business environment is fluid, and customer requirements change frequently. Traditional working models don’t adapt well to change, especially during the late stages. The agile methodology adapts to change quickly at every stage. Agile offers a simplified model for requesting and making alterations in the product design. There’s no formal documentation or approval required, which can speed things up.

  1. Frequent Delivery of Product Elements

Rather than forcing the clients to wait for several months, the development team can deliver the project in stages. You need to make sure every aspect is finished, tested, and styled appropriately. This gives customers quick fulfillment and offers assurance that their project is progressing as planned.

  1. Communication Between Developers & Executives

There’s often a communication gap between developers and executives. People who work on the project have more technical skills and knowledge about the product, while executives understand the business side of things. This can lead to miscommunication, delays, and other such issues. Agile requires everyone to be on the same page and maintain open communications.

  1. Trusting Developers & Teams to Do Their Job

Many executives don’t trust their workers to choose the right job, which results in micromanagement. Such micromanagement can hamper productivity and place unnecessary pressure on the team. Projects should be built around motivated and passionate professionals who understand their strengths. Self-organized teams are more efficient and content to work on every aspect of their projects.

  1. Face to Face Conversations

Essential instructions and project requirements can become lost in endless chain emails, which is why face-to-face communication is necessary. Executives should obtain feedback from the source and work with the team on the project. Virtual communications like video conferences can help in this process.

  1. Collocation & Pair Programming

Collocation is the process of making a team work from the same open area. Pair programming is when two programmers are assigned the same workstation. One programmer is writing the code while the other looks at the bigger picture. Both swap roles every few minutes. Both of these processes improve product quality and make teams more productive.

  1. Sustainable Development

No one can work continuously or at a demanding pace without experiencing some form of burnout. Agile methodologies focus on improving work-life balance and making sure everyone in the team is healthy. Product development is only sustainable if workers are allowed to get adequate rest.

  1. Self-Reflection to Improve Overall Performance

The agile manifesto is focused on the human aspect of development. The best designs come from teams who are committed, passionate, and happy to work. They also come from teams that are willing to look back at their past work and improve.

  1. Simplicity

The Pareto Principle says that you get 80% of the work done with 20% of the effort. Professionals should focus on the 20% and make sure that 80% of the work reaches the customer on a priority basis. You can then focus on the nitty-gritty and refine the project later.

  1. Self-Organizing Teams

Executives should give their teams some room to flex their creative muscles. The team has skilled employees who are experts in their field. Allowing them some independence will help product development and improve overall work culture.

  1. Adapting to Change

Agile means fluid and adaptive. You can only be agile if you’re willing to accept changing demands and requirements during a project. Everyone can plan for a perfect product, but you can only develop something substantial through trial and error. Adopting agile principles can help improve your team’s performance and productivity significantly.

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.

 

“Automated QA: Save time, use a web calendar handler!”

Number8’s very own Derick Arzu was recently published on Medium. Read the article on automated QA processes below.

Text boxes, check boxes, radio buttons, and other elements of forms are fairly simple to deal with when it comes to developing UI functional tests for a web application. But what happens when you want to write a test that verifies that the UI for a web calendar is working?

You are probably thinking that it can be easily achieved with a couple of clicks and validations, which is not only true but also the approach that led to the idea of a handler.

Before you discover how to make your automated QA team very happy, here are some reasons why writing a simple function or just a segment of code that deals with ONE specific calendar is not as scalable. Imagine you are a QA Developer at a company who is developing the websites for airlines A and B and your team is requested to create the automated test suites. Sounds quite easy, you will use the same code in both projects, nothing will need to be changed; until someone shows you the designs of the two web calendars each airline uses in their website.

Beginning with the obvious differences, airline A uses two windows while airline B uses only one; that surely represents a significant change in the code of that first approach. Another difference you might not have noticed is that airline B has a dropdown to change the year of the calendar, so that would mean a slight change in the method used to get the text of the displayed year. Those are two visual differences that will affect the way your bot interacts with the calendar and the DOM will surely surprise you with more.

Now that you are interested, the coding begins!

This handler was implemented in Node.js and uses WebdriverIO as the test framework that interacts with the browser.

You will find out that the framework has two functions ($ and $$) to fetch web elements. However, a hierarchy of classes will be created to manipulate elements, later on you will learn this is so that the handler can easily be able to cover many web calendar designs.

The main class is Element. Here is where, the method to obtain the fetch function is implemented, it has two parameters:

    1. selectorObject (required) which refers to an object with two properties; the first named selector , is a string that specifies the selector that will be used to fetch the element. The second is index, which is an integer that must be assigned to the object if the fetch result wants to be treated as a single element and not as an array of elements.
    2. additionalProperties (optional) is an object with any property that wants to be added to the fetch result. The subclasses of the hierarchy use this to manage how some data is obtained from the web elements, you will learn this later on.

Read More…

Q & A Best Practices

On top of delivering a project on time and within budget, developers must test for quality assurance upon completion to ensure stakeholders’ expectations have been met.

However, testing for quality after a product is built, usually results in far too little, too late. The agile model of software development encourages practicing quality assurance throughout every phase of the project. The agile way also prioritizes quality by making it the responsibility of every team member, not just the QA testers. As a result, the QA team coordinates efforts with the development team at each iteration, providing continuous testing.

Implementing a feedback loop is a fundamental step in the quality assurance process. In order to guarantee that the product meets all of the requirements (feature functionality, design, reliability, usability and efficiency), it can be helpful to enlist the perspectives of those with varying backgrounds. This can include those proficient in testing, business and or development.

Quality assurance testing can be both manual and automated. While both approaches are proficient at mitigating bugs, automated software testing is often more beneficial in that it is quicker and more effective at checking for code correctness. It’s important to remember that the goal of Q & A testing is to find faults within the software so that an error-free application can be delivered to the client.

The following are integral software testing methods when best practicing quality assurance:

Test Driven Development (TDD)

TDD works by building a project’s code around the QA tests. The programming team first designs and builds tests for functional code, and then creates code that will pass them. This development method helps everyone gain an understanding of the code’s purpose before development; guaranteeing the initial functionality of the code and effectively building in quality.

Behavior Driven Development (BDD)

Similar to TDD, in that the test is written before the code, BDD tests the behavior of an application under specific conditions. This is done with the end user in mind. As development progresses, BDD often proves to be more reliable than TDD. BDD is also written in English instead of code, allowing for a more streamlined feedback loop.

Acceptance Tests

Acceptance tests are simple pass or fail tests that check whether or not a feature behaves as it should. These are often automated to meet customer and business requirements.

Regression Tests

Once one feature is functional, regression tests ensure it’s stability throughout the software’s other modifications. As more features are built, these automated tests check that the others aren’t being negatively affected as a result.

Exploratory Tests

Exploratory tests are usually manual, in that a human operates the software looking for unknown unknowns. These tests are meant to identify new situations that the development or QA teams haven’t thought of.

Once a product thoroughly meet’s it’s intended purpose and performs well under pressure, the QA testing is complete.

At Number8, we believe in developing software that is user-friendly, reliable and completely functional. As a result, we are always recruiting talented QA professionals for quality assurance jobs on our team. To learn more about how we can help you complete and successfully launch your software project, contact us at 502-890-7665. 

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!

How To Overcome 7 Common Software Development Obstacles

Launching a newly developed software is as challenging as it is rewarding. Developing software from the ground up is no easy feat. It takes a lot of planning, time management, and knowledge of the ins and outs of information technology. When the launch of a software development project goes off without a hitch, it’s an IT miracle. It’s known that with software development, as with most IT projects, there can be some obstacles to overcome. More often than not, things go wrong within the coding or through a development process that must be fixed. Sometimes developers even have to go back to square one and start the entire project over. However, that is not always the case. Developers prepared to overcome obstacles are often successful in doing so. The key is knowing how to overcome common software development obstacles. This way you can ensure that the launch of your software goes smoothly.

You may be asking yourself if every software development project is different, what are common software development obstacles? And that’s what we’re here to help you with today. Follow along to learn how to overcome 7 common software development obstacles before starting your next project.

7 Common Software Development Obstacles You Can Overcome

1. Poor Time Management Sets Unrealistic Expectations

Mismanaged timelines and missed launch dates are common obstacles that people overcome during a software development project. Whether it’s due to unforeseen roadblocks or issues that were expected to come up, there’s not much worse for a project than an extended delay. One of the best ways to avoid missed deadlines is to brainstorm with your team before starting the project. What could go wrong? Which pieces are expected to break? Where do you foresee there being delays? Being prepared for the inevitable bumps in the road is the best way to get over them smoothly and without too much delay. When a problem does come up that threatens the timely delivery of a project, stay calm, get the team together, and work as a group to find the best way forward.

2. Issues with Integration

Compatibility can be an issue with any project. When developing new software from the ground up, how do you ensure it pairs with all the tools the client already uses? One of the best ways to go about integration is through the use of application programming interfaces (APIs). Another option is to partner with the other tech brands that the client is prone to use. Find ways to work together with already utilized tools and teams of developers experienced with said tools.

3. Breakdowns in Communication

No software development program was launched alone. Depending on the size of the software development project, the team working on it can be as small as 5 people or as large as 20. When a communication breakdown occurs, it can have disastrous effects that could put the entire project in jeopardy. One of the best ways to avoid a communication breakdown is by hiring an effective project manager. Someone who can divide tasks among the team then ensure each of them is done and any changes which may affect the entire development outcome are communicated effectively is imperative to a successful project.

4. Overloading the Software with Features

While some features are necessary, others can be downright frivolous and simply load a software down. There is such a thing as too much and, when it comes to software, the line between just enough and too much is very thin. One of the best ways to circumvent overloading your software is to focus on features that truly embellish the core goal of the program. Less is always more in software and features that help the software rise above other programs are useful, but the goal of the software is to solve a problem, not create more, so keep features slim.

5. Not Understanding Exactly What the Software is For

One of the best ways to succeed in software development is to have a clear vision of what success looks like. Being able to completely understand how your software should work if it is working well will make it much easier to get to that finished point. Determine the “why” of the software before beginning the development process. Once you start, do not waiver from that why without good reason.

6. Not Realizing the Importance of Quality Assurance

Customer satisfaction is dependent on extensive quality assurance. Sending a software development project out into the world without assuring it is working as well as it possibly can is IT suicide. In order to achieve a high-performance product, the quality of the coding needs to be reviewed and tested continuously throughout development. Consider hiring a tester from a third-party source or create your own quality assurance checklist, in-house, and employ it repetitively.

7. Not Having a Target Audience Defined

While you, and your team, may think that your new software project is the best thing since sliced bread, not everyone will. Defining a target audience can help to avoid wasting time and money once the project is launched. Outline the demographics of the ideal user of your software. Then build a marketing plan that will appeal to that demographic. There are third-party companies available to complete market research, including focus groups, which can help identify the perfect consumer and what rings true with them in regards to marketing.

There are a lot of dos and don’ts to consider when developing new software. These are some of the software development obstacles our team has learned to avoid.

The more dos you can accomplish and don’ts you can avoid, the more likely your project will launch smoothly. All in all, the more planning you can put into your project prior to starting, the better. The tips above will help you to avoid a variety of issues, but there are always unforeseen circumstances.

If you are in the middle of a software development project and have hit a roadblock, Number8 can help. Our dedicated team of software developers located in Louisville, Kentucky and at our nearshore office in Costa Rica has worked together to launch countless software projects successfully. Contact us today by calling 502-890-7665 to learn more about what we can do to help you wrap up your project.

3 Things That Set Number8 Apart

With so many options for IT consulting and agile software development, why choose Number8?

1. We offer a blended model.

At Number8, we offer all the benefits of typical offshore tech support with nearshore capabilities. Our headquarters are based out of Louisville, Kentucky and we have technical professionals throughout the U.S. We also have more than 100 associates in a total of six countries including our offshore team in Latin America and nearshore office location in San Jose, Costa Rica. Whether the need is local or can be handled off-site, we are able to work with our U.S. clients in their timezone and language with the best possible mix of development assistance.

2. We treat our employees differently.

It’s our mission at Number8 to give our associates and IT contractors the opportunity to develop a rewarding and challenging career while enjoying the best possible work-life balance. We pride ourselves on our employee retention rate and value building long term partnerships with our clients as a result of it.

We also understand just how important family is and the ability to have a flexible work schedule is a major benefit of working remotely. For example, one of our Junior Developers John Lewis, who came onboard about a year ago, has recently decided to shared his story with the Number8 family. After the passing of his wife last April, he now lives in Costa Rica with his three children.

“N8 is an incredibly unique company and I think that comes from its foundations. The entire team as well as my clients have been incredibly supportive during what has been a depressive period for me. I couldn’t work for a month, and though I thought I would lose my job I didn’t. I can’t even count the number of times someone has asked me if I needed anything. Though Christmas was particularly hard for us, as it was my wife’s favorite holiday and our gifts from the U.S. were stuck in customs, Number8 surprised us again. Literally the only things under the tree were the gifts that Number8 gave to my children. I am so grateful to Number8 for all the resources that they’ve put at my disposal. I honestly cannot express it any more because it is so emotional for me. To everyone who has supported me, I can’t say thank you enough.”

3. We are experienced in a breadth of programming languages.

Having been in the custom software development business for several years, our professionals specialize in a full range of programming languages and skill sets including:

-Microsoft .Net     -ASP.Net     -Javascript     -LINQ Visual Studio

-C++/C#         -MySQL       -Oracle       -OO Development

-Microsoft SQL Server        -Ruby         -Agile Development and Scrum.

Additionally, we do a considerable amount of Java development, and a lot of front-end development using javascript MVC frameworks like Angular, Knockout, Ember and Backbone. We also have software development teams working in PHP (Aura, Yii, Zend, Laravel, Symfony, Phalcon, CodeIgniter, Cake).

At Number8, we connect companies with IT talent and software developers that are fully trained in product development. By encouraging talent to come up with creative solutions, they remain motivated and positively contribute to a healthy company culture. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 give us a call at (502) 890-7665.

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!