Web Accessibility: An Overview

Web accessibility is an important concept that every company should use to inform practice. Making sure your digital presence is accessible is an important part of doing social good, improving business outcomes, and engaging more deeply with a wider audience. Here’s a brief overview.

What is web accessibility?

The Web Accessibility Initiative states that ‘Web accessibility means that websites, tools, and technologies are designed and developed so that people with disabilities can use them.’ The web, in many ways, is a fundamentally accessible idea. The benefits of this accessibility positively impact the experiences of people with disabilities. They also help people with situational limitations (like bright lighting or a lack of audio capability), people using mobile devices, people with slower internet, and more. This is important to think about in the context of disability as a social construction in the physical world. We know that there are structural barriers that exist in the world which prevent equal access to institutions and experiences for some people. The decisions we make about what is worth designing around are fundamentally biased. These decisions inform the environments we construct in the world, and the ways we exclude or include people with different abilities. As a virtual space, the web has the incredible potential to remove barriers to interaction and access that exist in the physical world. This means a lot of potential for a positive social impact. However, any web design must carefully take accessibility into account for this goal to be achieved.

The why

Motivating factors for web accessibility are numerous and include legal, business, and ethical reasons. Some laws have minimum requirements for government websites and educational institutions’ websites. Additionally, some industries or individual organizations have existing guidelines for best practice beyond legal minimum requirements. These types of motivating factors often drive organizations to compliance-level accessibility. Organizations that deem the negative impacts of non-compliance too great a risk often invest in compliance. Some organizations want to pursue web accessibility because of its business benefits. More usable and appealing web tools and content often mean more engaged customers and stakeholders, an increased market reach, and brand enhancement. The why for some groups is also informed by what they think is right for social good. Organizations that see web accessibility as a way to make the world a more equitable place often want to invest their time and capital.

How to become accessible on the web

There are several levels of design and development where accessibility is important. These include development, content creation, SEO, project management, and more. Your organization's approach will also depend on your immediate context; incorporating accessible design from the beginning of a project is much different than retrofitting a design as an interim measure. Additionally, you may need to build skills and expertise in your team to implement web accessibility. Fortunately, there are a lot of great resources to guide you as you strive for greater accessibility. Here’s a list of a few resources to start with: As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

The Benefits of Cloud-Based Integration

Leveraging the cloud for various computing needs of an organization such as memory, data storage, and processing offers numerous benefits to businesses of all shapes and sizes. Cloud-based integration adds flexibility, scalability, and efficiency to any company’s day to day business workings while reducing cost and risk.

At its core, the cloud integration process centers on configuring multiple application programs to share data in the cloud and connect. In a correctly integrated cloud set up, various cloud-based and on-site applications can communicate effectively either via third-party software or directly.

Integrated Cloud Computing Functionality

Properly integrating a robust cloud model into your specific business structure involves significant planning, proficiency and preparedness around the various options and functions available to enterprises. Before looking at the benefits of these platforms, let's understand how they differ from your standard APIs or connectors:

  • Integrated cloud platforms are far more easily programmable than regular connectors. The latter is more like plug-and-play integration that is compatible only with specific applications.

  • While the former includes pre-built connectors, they can also be used to create customized integrations for various in-house applications.

  • These platforms are incredibly useful if you have multiple apps that you need to connect to the cloud or vice-versa.

  • A typical customer utilizes cloud-integrated platforms to connect a minimum of 10 SaaS applications to the existing system.

  • Beyond standard integration, a cloud integration platform will enable you to create an integration process. It means you can build a unique process that outlines an entire series of tasks and activities based on conditions or rules.

  • Cloud integration platforms prove to be value propositions because they are straightforward to use, from development to deployment.

  • With widespread adoption, cloud integration technology is now becoming increasingly affordable, and this has boosted the trend of using it.

Before the current day cloud integration solutions came into existence, organizations that wanted to migrate to the cloud needed to follow a complicated and lengthy process. These issues caused several variations in a company's daily workings affecting their efficiency and productivity. What resulted was a chaotic and highly compartmentalized cloud solution that created chasms between various loosely coupled applications.

Benefits of Cloud Integration Platforms

Today, integration has altered the cloud computing game, and businesses everywhere are taking advantage of it. Some of the notable benefits of modern-day cloud integration in the real world compared to traditional and outdated migration techniques are:

  • Individual users can easily access crucial personal data from various devices in real-time.

  • Users can access all of their data without the need for an Internet connection from any place.

  • Users can use a single login for multiple integrated application programs, which is a very convenient way to access needed information.

  • Individual users can also easily merge their personal data from external applications such as calendars and contacts.

  • An integrated cloud platform shares control and administrative messages among multiple applications.

  • Data conflict and redundancy are avoided.

  • Data security and integrity are maintained very well due to the avoidance of data silos.

  • Cloud-based integration gives you flexibility and you can expand it to accommodate future growth.

Hire Professionals For Cloud-Based Integration Systems

While companies can create in-house systems, functionality and scalability are often not on par with those from third-party providers. If you are considering adopting this technology, it’s advisable to contact professionals with experience in delivering cloud-based integration services.

Professionals can help you design and deploy a scalable and agile cloud platform that effectively supports complex application architectures. These providers will design a solution that allows disparate applications to effectively communicate with fully-integrated custom cloud solutions.

As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Do’s and Don’ts for Virtual Meetings

The COVID-19 outbreak has impacted every business in the world in one way or another other. While people practice social distancing, many businesses are encouraging or even making work-from-home mandatory for their employees. This has led to an exponential rise in the use of various digital systems and tools, including video conferencing for virtual meetings.

It may seem convenient to jump out of bed at 8:50a.m., and after hurriedly washing your face and brushing your hair, get onto that virtual meeting scheduled at 9:00a.m, However, you should refrain from doing so. Even if you are experienced with online meetings, giving yourself ample prep time to set up and log on sets you up for a much more productive meeting experience.

As a company that has engaged in virtual meetings for years, Number8 has picked up a few things along the way. Follow along for some helpful tips on how to get the most out of virtual meetings.

12 Tips Every Business Professional Should Know

While preparation for a virtual meeting may vary depending on the context, here are some basic tips that can help you get the most out of the experience.

Do’s

  1. Test your microphone before the virtual meeting.

    You can simply conference with one of your colleagues to make sure it's working as it should. Low volume and poor audio clarity can impact communications, especially if you are discussing something crucial. Speak clearly and slowly when you are on the call so that none of the participants miss anything you say.

  2. Be aware of the video settings on your computer.

    Check if you have muted the microphone before delivering a monologue that no attendee will hear.

  3. Be prepared to share your screen.

    While this may be unlikely, if screen sharing is a possibility, you should make sure you are prepared. Shut down or hide other programs like email and unrelated browser tabs, and ensure your computer monitor is ready for sharing.

  4. Try to be in a space with the best internet connection possible.

    Virtual meetings are sometimes full of delays and frozen screens. It is advisable to do what you can to limit the type of distraction this creates. Set up your computer in the best location for connectivity, and limit your movement while on the call, as this can interfere with the quality of your connection.

  5. Wear appropriate attire.

    While you aren’t necessarily expected to wear regular formal office attire while attending virtual meetings, you should always wear professional and clean clothing.

  6. Make sure that your room is appropriately illuminated.

    It can be extremely disconcerting to speak with someone that sits in a dark and poorly lit location. It's best to sit in a place with side lighting. Consider positioning yourself near an open window or switch on an overhead light to brighten up the space.

  7. If you are sitting next to any décor or wall-art, make sure it’s work-appropriate.

    The surroundings should be clean and not cluttered or messy, even if you live alone. If you are sitting at your desk, ensure it isn't covered with trash, dishes, or coffee mugs.

  8. When you are in a group call without any video, introduce yourself before you begin talking.

    Most programs send notifications as to who is talking, but conference line numbers do not. Therefore, it’s advisable to take the extra time to introduce yourself, depending on who is in the meeting and how well the participants know you and the sound of your voice.

  9. Whenever you are talking, look straight into the camera rather than looking at yourself talking on your computer screen.

    It helps others on the video call feel like you're fully present and engaged.

Don’t

  1. Forget to mute your microphone each time you’re not speaking.

    Follow this even if you are alone in the room. Background noises can be an annoyance and distraction, and impact the meeting’s flow.

  2. Position the camera too high or low, or hook it onto a different monitor.

    Strange camera angles can be unflattering and distracting during video conference calls. Set the camera at eye level and on your monitor before getting onto the call.

  3. Read or check emails or read articles when on a video call.

    Do not do any other work while on the call. The rest of the participants can easily tell if you are distracted, and that is disrespectful and unprofessional.

Keeping these helpful tips in mind is an essential part of maintaining professionalism when you are participating in virtual meetings. You should plan ahead as much as you can. There are always unexpected interruptions that can challenge the quality of any meeting.

As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

How To Increase Your Tech Team’s Off-Site Productivity

Many IT companies have started to allow employees to telecommute on a part-time or full-time basis. People can work from home, cafes, or even parks instead of commuting to work every day. While this has several advantages, it can also hamper a team’s productivity if it isn’t handled correctly. There are several ways to help teams be more productive when they are working off-site. Here are some tips that can help:

1. Invest in Technology

Technological challenges can hamper a team’s productivity and make working from off-site locations a frustrating experience. It is important to make things easier for employees by providing them with tools to keep things organized. Use efficient conferencing or messaging applications like Zoom, Slack, Microsoft Teams, or Google Hangouts to ensure everyone can communicate without interruptions. Additionally, there are several project management and tracking applications available online, including Asana, Airtable, Trello and Todoist. These tools can help managers, teams, and temporary staff remain connected.

2. Implement Regular Check-Ins

Check-in with your team on a regular basis to ensure that everyone is on the same page. This doesn't have to be a long or drawn-out process, but it can help people remain connected with team members. It can also help people switch to work-mode when they are at home and navigating household distractions. A simple call or a video conference that discusses daily priorities, tasks, goals, and targets will help people start on the right track. It is easier to maintain productivity when team members have a clear agenda at the start of the day.

3. Track Work

Several applications allow managers to track just how much time employees spend working on a particular project. These applications give a very board view of an employee's working routine and help managers identify people who are falling back. For example, some employees work better during evenings or nights and may put in more hours during this time than during regular office time. If you track work, it is easy to see such a pattern and adjust their schedule accordingly. Off-site work can be very flexible and convenient if handled correctly.

4. Provide Emotional Support

Employees that work remotely are prone to occasional feelings of loneliness and isolation, especially if they don't maintain a proper work-life balance. That can lead to depression, burn-out, and a serious dip in productivity. Managers must help remote teams remain connected and offer some form of emotional support. In-office workers socialize, engage in conversations over coffee, joke around when there's no work to be done, and blow off steam. This helps them maintain emotional equilibrium and stay productive. Home, libraries and coffee shops don't offer this kind of social stimulation, which can take its toll over time. Encourage casual conversations and schedule video conferences dedicated solely for team members to reconnect with their coworkers.

5. Reward Good Work

Reward good work with positive feedback and praise. People working remotely can’t feel the general air of triumph that most on-site teams feel when a project is completed. That’s why it is important to reward good work with verbal praise regularly as it helps team members feel accomplished. A simple text or email with a few encouraging words about meeting targets and completing tasks on schedule can help.

6. Encourage Proper Work-Life Balance

Keep an eye on how much time team members spend on work. It is easy for work to take over life if there’s no separation between the job and personal life. It is important to establish a good work/life separation early on. Make sure your team works for a specific number of hours every day and limit all communications for specific times. Don’t call or message after hours unless there’s an emergency.

Teams that strike the right balance between flexibility and maintaining a proper schedule are most successful at off-site work scenarios, while maintaining high levels of productivity.

As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Ransomware Attacks In The Healthcare Industry

May 28, 2020 / in Cybersecurity, IT Trends, / by Number8

Ransomware attacks have become increasingly common in recent years. Individuals involved attack healthcare systems and other installations that contain critical private information to get data that is valuable to their targets. According to recent reports, damages caused by ransomware attacks are increasing, totaling billions of dollars every year. For example, a Boardman, Ohio-based Urology practice paid thousands of dollars to hackers during a ransomware attack in order to get their data unlocked, as reported by Ciso Mag. These attacks take over established systems and only release them when the ransom is paid. Doctors and medical staff are locked out and can't access important patient files, which can place people at serious risk.

Why is Ransomware so Challenging?

Ransomware attacks are challenging because they are very difficult to prevent. Hackers constantly change and improve their strategies and many have resources at their disposal to invade poorly secured systems. The healthcare infrastructure is particularly vulnerable because it doesn't have the best cybersecurity. Ransomware attacks may happen when employees accidentally download malicious code into a hospital's systems. For example, something as simple as opening an attachment from an unknown source can create a dangerous hole in your security. Employees receive hundreds of emails every day so it is easier to miss warning signs, which enables malicious code to enter into the IT infrastructure. While firewalls and internet security systems can stop some of these attacks, they can’t fully prevent them. That’s one of the reasons why these attacks have become so common and can even happen to systems with relatively strong security measures in place. Attackers used to target small and less secure IT systems in the past but they have changed their strategy and have become bolder. It is important to take aggressive steps that will help keep these invasions at bay.

How to Secure Your Systems Against an Attack

Stopping these attacks will require strategy and a careful approach. Companies need to come up with a multifaceted response policy that involves employee training, prevention, early detection, planned response to an attack, and strategies for dealing with a locked-down system. Here are some suggestions that can help:

1. Secure Your Systems

The first step to prevent a ransomware attack is to secure the IT infrastructure as much as possible. Install internet-facing security software like antivirus, firewalls, and other such programs. They will act as the first layer of security to block most malicious codes. Make sure essential programs on all devices accessing the company’s network are up-to-date. Software developers release upgrades with protections against the latest threats regularly. Outdated software programs have more security holes than new programs.

2. Control Access

Controlling access is a very efficient way to ensure your systems are more secure. Create multiple levels of access based on an employee’s level of authority in the organization. Make sure people can’t get into sections that aren’t relevant to their responsibilities. For example, a nurse from the cardiology department has no reason to get into the oncology department’s servers. Restricting access as much as possible can help keep vital information secure. Set up privileges for different departments and different levels of employees.

3. Training

Ransomware attacks happen because of ignorance. Many employees don’t know how to detect and avoid malicious code. They unknowingly download these codes onto company servers and create a vulnerable access point. Comprehensive training and regular seminars will help keep employees alert to ensure they remain vigilant.

4. Create a Response Plan

If ransomware code is already in your system, you need to trace it and try isolating it as quickly as possible. A fast response and strong emergency procedures will help protect your information and limit damages. It will also provide IT teams a clear guideline on how to handle the threat. Just paying the ransom isn't enough and it won't make your systems safe. Ransomware gangs maintain backdoor access to their victim's infrastructure for months and may attack at any time if you don't upgrade your security. It pays to stay vigilant and ensure your security is up-to-date as possible. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

The Future of Remote Work in a Post-Pandemic World

During the current coronavirus pandemic, businesses across the world have had to adapt in myriad ways as in-person services and office spaces have been disrupted. Some businesses have not found ways to adapt and remain closed, while others have been able to change on the fly and continue to operate. Remote work has become a new norm for many. But what does all of this mean for the future? In a post-pandemic world, will remote work infrastructure need to be available indefinitely to prepare for future disease spread? Will some workers simply stay remote?  Let’s take a look at the future of remote work. 

The Future of Remote Work in a Post-Pandemic World

Initial successes and issues during the pandemic

As mentioned, some businesses were much more prepared for adapting to remote work than others. Many tech companies that already had significant numbers of remote workers and work from home policies have found it easy to go remote with office teams. However, industries like manufacturing, where in-person work is essential, have not been able to take the same approach. Many have had to adapt on-site operations to meet social distancing guidelines. Further, many other factors like access to computers at home, employee tech proficiency, company culture, and unaddressed security risks for remote workers have prevented some companies from fully adapting, regardless of industry. 

Where remote work may become essential

There are some industries where cultivating remote work in our newly changed world may be a key to survival and growth. Educational institutions have had to adapt to online learning and working quickly. Many universities have switched to online courses for their current semesters, and some may be moving towards doing the same in the fall of 2020. With potential future outbreaks following the current situation, it’s very possible that remote working and learning may become a new norm at least some of the time for universities.  Healthcare is another industry where remote adaptation has been essential for some. For those healthcare providers deemed non-essential during the pandemic, telehealth has become a lifeline to an otherwise inaccessible portion of their patient bases. Therapists, primary care physicians, dentists, and others have launched remote care options to continue treating and advising patients. During continued shifts in disease spread in the future, this may be the key to making non-emergency care possible.

Disparities in access to remote work

As alluded to before, access is a key part of making remote work systemically possible. Many employees do not currently have the equipment needed to work from home. They may not have the training or familiarity to efficiently work remotely either. Companies that can work to address these disparities may be able to make remote work accessible to more employees.  Additionally, remote work itself is accessible at different levels to different groups of people depending on their industry. While information workers are much more likely to be able to work remotely, service industry workers have a much harder time given the structures of job duties. Macrosocial disparities also impact who gets access to remote work. When you add in just the layers of educational attainment and class, the disparities in the data grow even more. Many workers with a bachelor’s degree or higher have the option to work from home. Those with less educational attainment have the option at a much lower rate. Higher wage white collar jobs often tend to skew towards remote accessibility too. High wage employers are often more likely to offer equipment and training to make it possible.  As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call at 502-212-0978 and we can get the conversation started.

Tips For Transitioning To An Agile Approach To Software Development

The agile software development lifecycle is often considered one of the best approaches by industry experts. Studies show that this approach ensures software development teams are 37% faster in delivering products and 16% more productive, which can benefit your company significantly.

Many software development teams follow the traditional waterfall approach, which is fairly straightforward while also being very rigid. With this approach, the design tends to happen all at once up front, with the final product being unveiled at completion.

Such an approach isn’t very suitable for modern markets, especially if you need to develop a complex, large-scale application. Follow along for some tips to help teams that are intimidated by the prospect of transitioning to an agile approach.

6 Tips To Help Your Software Team Become More Agile

1. Make Sure Everyone is Onboard

Agile relies on collaboration between different teams. it will only be successful after a comprehensive implementation involving all departments from executive and management levels to ground teams. That's why it is important to make sure everyone is on board and agrees to adopt the agile approach. Program sponsors must get management commitment in particular to ensure success. Make sure both business and IT sides of your company agree to get involved before working on the transition.

2. Train Staff

The Waterfall and V-Shaped software development approaches don’t require much formal training, but agile is different. It is a little more complex and flexible, which means training can help developers adopt it completely. A few training sessions will ensure your team is familiar with the system and knows how to use it well. It will also ensure your staff doesn’t feel confused or overwhelmed by agile’s more complex workflow. Making the transition easier for a development team ensures your end-product isn’t affected by the change.

3. Maintain Communication

Communication is an important aspect of Agile because different teams working on different phases of the product must remain on the same page. Communication is especially vital when you're transitioning from other systems like Waterfall or V-Shaped to agile.. Teams should work from the same location and report their progress on a consistent schedule to team leaders. This will help you notice any issues with adaption and clogs in the machine early on.

4. Collaboration is Important

Agile places a lot of emphasis on collaboration during software development. Teams that were traditionally isolated from one another must communicate regularly to ensure they move through all phases smoothly. That can only be possible if you encourage a collaborative atmosphere. Agile requires team members to contribute their thoughts, opinions, and ideas to the project. It encourages people from different teams to identify mistakes and share them, which helps improve the quality of the end-product.

5. Create a Plan and Road-Map

Experts recommend creating a plan and road-map for agile adoption. This ensures the process isn't as intimidating for your team. Developers transitioning from Waterfall or other methodologies are accustomed to a rigid, straightforward project structure. Agile is more flexible so creating a plan or road-map can help. This plan will change during the project if needed, but it will still provide some direction.

6. Ensure the Transition is Gradual

Shifting to the agile model abruptly will do more harm than good. A gradual transition gives your team and stakeholders some room to adjust and adapt their work habits accordingly. This also ensures team members don't develop bad habits that may hamper the quality of their work later. 

It is a good idea to bring in an experienced agile coach to guide your team and establish a foundation for the system. This ensures you have a good plan in place and the transition is as smooth as it can be.

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. I f 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.

SOC 2 – Securing Our Future

May 12, 2020 / in Uncategorized, / by Number8

We have an announcement- number8 is now a SOC 2 compliant organization!

 

logo for AICPA and SOC certification               

Oliver Ray - Roughly a year ago, our management team had a discussion about the impactful investments our organization could make to establish a more secure future for number8. These conversations quickly crystalized into a clearly defined need to adopt and implement a standardized framework for control and oversight activities related to our consulting offering. The management team set out to find the most appropriate audit and control framework for our remote software development consulting services. Through multiple client and prospect interviews we landed on the SOC 2® - SOC for Service Organizations: Trust Services Criteria that has been defined by the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA). The SOC 2 standard creates consistent reporting on controls enacted throughout a service organization that are relevant to security, availability, processing integrity, confidentiality, and privacy. These reports are intended to play an important role in the oversight of an organization. They also establish key processes for internal corporate governance and risk management processes, as well as regulatory oversight. The last key advantage of the SOC 2 standard is the ability to continually enhance different controls to suit the needs of clients. At number8, we value the creativity of helping clients get more work done and reduce the barriers to deliver quality software. Due to the number8 track record of high-quality client interactions, SOC 2 seemed to be the ideal standard for us. There have been no major security incidents in the 11 years number8 has been in operation even as we’ve grown our team to over 200 consultants distributed across 14 countries. Our long-term commitment to our clients and our consultant’s long-term commitment to development has certainly had an impact on our ability to provide secure processes to our clients. More than 50% of number8 consultants have been in some form of a development role for more than 8 years and 75% of our current consultants have been working with the same client for more than 1 year. While working through the preparation of our most recent SOC 2 report, it became clear that the standards and control framework established by the AICPA matched closely with the corporate values defined at number8. We have developed our core values with our clients firmly in mind. Not just as they are today, but how they will evolve in the future. Specifically, 3 of our 8 values were prominent in this decision:
  • Everyone at number8 is Customer Obsessed – we guarantee our client needs are met. We adopt our clients’ products and challenges as our own.
  • We always Embrace Transparency – we ensure all work is completed with the highest degree of quality, honesty and integrity. We seek to own our errors, be realistic about the expectations we set, and express courage in asking difficult questions. We are open about everything we do.
  • Every consultant the comes to number8 Builds for the Future while Prioritizing for the Present - It is imperative for the success of our clients to consider the impact that daily decisions have on the future of their organization. number8 consultants consider future impact; while increasing velocity today.

          -Oliver Ray, Managing Director  

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number8’s onshore office is located in Louisville, Kentucky where our Account and Relationship Managers work hard to provide all of our clients with exceptional customer service. We also have consultant offices located in Escazú, Costa Rica and San Pedro Sula, Honduras that give us a strong local presence allowing for top-level recruitment, technical training and low employee turnover.

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