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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.

 

Outsourcing IT? What to Look For in an IT Outsourcing Agency

Outsourcing is a great way to get things done at an affordable cost and avoid the hassle of adding more people to your staff. For example, you can delegate all of your IT maintenance requirements to an external IT firm instead of creating a new department for it in-house.

There are two opinions on outsourcing; some people believe it’s a great way to get the job done while others worry that outsourcing compromises quality and security. The quality of service depends on the competence of the firm you hire. Here are some things you should look for in an IT outsourcing agency:

  1. Substantial Industry Experience

Look at the amount of experience the company has before hiring them. Experienced establishments know how to interact with customers, understand priorities, and have a proven system in place. They are better equipped to deal with emergencies, unexpected delays, and last-minute changes. You can ask the company about their experience directly or look at the information provided on their website.

  1. Good Company Culture

IT companies often struggle to maintain a good company culture or work ethic, which can compromise the quality of service provided. Do some research into the company’s background to understand if their culture aligns with yours. This can be especially beneficial if you intend to maintain a long-term relationship with the outsourcing partner.

  1. Reputable Past Clients

Looking at the past clients and getting in touch with them can tell you a lot about the company. Ask the outsource partner to provide some referrals so you can discuss the quality of services provided with someone who has already worked with the company. Past clients will offer unbiased and straightforward information about the company. They will point out flaws and habits that you need to be wary of while highlighting the right qualities.

  1. Good Infrastructure and Technology

An IT company should have good infrastructure and technology. For example, you won’t want support from an IT company that still uses outdated technology and software programs. You won’t want to share vital information with an establishment that doesn’t have a robust and current security system in place. Make sure the company uses the best and most current technology so you can get the most consistent results.

  1. Strong Customer Support System

A reliable customer support system is the heart and soul of any outsourcing partner. Look for a company that spends time and effort on their customer support. There are many ways to identify a proper set-up; look for the characteristics mentioned below:

  • The partner offers multiple ways to get in touch. You can call, message, email, live chat, etc.
  • They provide a dedicated expert as your point of communication. You can go to this expert for all of your concerns.
  • They offer 24/7 support for emergencies. For example, IT maintenance and repair service will respond promptly if your system crashes, even if it is on a Sunday.

Good customer support is one of the most important characteristics to look for in an outsourcing partner.

  1. Wide Range of Services

Keeping track of multiple vendors and outsource partners is a drain on resources, which is why you should look for a company that can handle all of your IT needs. They should be able to provide on-site services, remote services, conduct new installations, dispose of old hardware, etc. If you can find a company that does everything you need under one roof without compromising quality, hire them.

At Number8, we help businesses optimize their operations with onshore, nearshore, and offshore outsourcing. Our teams–both foreign and domestic– provide effective communication and service that allow your business to grow at a rate that keeps up with your market. 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 here!

5 Inspiring Things You Should Know About Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a fascinating person. He is the man behind Tesla, the company that introduced revolutionary electric cars into the market. He’s also the force behind SpaceX, which is a private organization that launches rockets into space and frequently collaborates with NASA.

Recently, Musk created special flamethrowers and sent a Tesla car into space. He’s a man who doesn’t hesitate to experiment and pushes the boundaries of tech innovation fearlessly. Here are some of the most inspiring things you should know about Elon Musk:

  1. He Amassed His Fortune Before the Age of 30

Elon Musk became a millionaire when he sold one of the first companies, an online media-services establishment, to Compaq for $307 million. He was 27 years old at the time and ready to keep moving. He founded X.com, which eventually became the highly successful PayPal. Musk sold that company to eBay for $1.5 billion and earned a profit of around $180 million from that sale. He was already a success story before he established his two most significant projects; Tesla and SpaceX.

  1. Both Tesla and SpaceX Were On The Verge of Failure

SpaceX and Tesla are both successful companies now, but they came close to failure just a few years ago. SpaceX tried to launch its flagship rocket three times and failed. He lost a considerable fortune during those six years and was down to his last $75 million.

It took around $90 million to build a rocket at that time, which means Musk could barely afford another launch. He was the sole owner of the company, so he didn’t have much support. Tesla was also in a rocky boat. Their first product, the $100,000 Roadster, had several quality issues and faced many recalls.

Fortunately, both companies recovered. The fourth SpaceX launch was a success, which impressed NASA enough to give the company a multibillion-dollar contract. Tesla also managed to brave public distrust and launch successful products. The third-generation Tesla cars are a big hit. This goes to show that everyone faces ups and downs and need to be persistent.

  1. Musk Wants to Make Tesla Cars for the Masses

Tesla started with a premium product that most people couldn’t even dream of owning. They launched a fast Roadster with a price tag of $100,000, which put it firmly out of reach for most people. But Musk has a plan to create one luxury line, one mid-range line, and one mass consumption line. In 2016, Musk introduced the third generation Tesla vehicles with one model priced at $35,000.

Tesla has already made an impact on the automobile industry and has been a disruptive influence. Many other manufacturers are trying to follow in their footsteps and release their electric car models.

  1. His Work Ethic Is Not One To Be Rivaled

Musk works hard and has an unbelievably busy schedule. According to an interview, he has only taken two weeks off in almost 12 years. He also has 100-hour workweeks and only sleeps around 6 hours every night.

Of course, not everyone can or should follow this example, but people can get inspired by his commitment to his dreams. Musk has many goals in mind, and his current success is just a starting point.

  1. His Entrepreneurial Spirit Manifested Early

Elon Musk had a mind for business even before he was a teenager. At the age of 12, he developed and sold a game to a computer magazine for $500. That was big money for a child living in Africa back in 1984. It was a simple enough game named Blastar, and it wouldn’t get much attention now, but it shows that it is never too early to start. Ideas can come to you at any age.

 

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.

 

4 Powerful Tips to Improve Communication at Work

Communication is one of key pillars for any relationship. It could be a personal relationship, a friendship or a business relationship. People sometimes think that rules for personal communication don´t apply to a work environment but this is not true.  Every human has needs, emotions, hopes, values and dreams. And each person faces situations in their personal life that may sometimes impact job performance.

Staff turnover is one of the main challenges many companies face.  While employees come and go, many are less likely to leave if they are in an environment where they feel respected, rewarded, safe and comfortable.  People tend to be happier in work environments where they are confident enough to speak to coworkers and managers about their lives – this includes work related topics and personal ones too.

This is why communication is so important in the work environment, both among employees in the office and for those that work remotely. While maintaining good communication with employees who work together in the same place each day may seem straightforward, it is sometimes less obvious how to improve communication with those working off site. As an agency that specializes in connecting nearshore technical talent with U.S. companies, we’ve got some worthwhile insights into this challenge. Follow along for helpful tips to improve work communication, including communication between onshore and offshore workers.

Four Helpful Tips To Help You Improve Communication At Work

1. Employees are human beings, not numbers or metrics.

Many companies focus on growth, revenue and developing new products/services or improving existing ones. Sometimes by doing this, employees start to feel more like numbers, or pawns in a game of chess. When dealing with human resources, emotions play an important role. Employees are much less likely to make sacrifices for companies that make them feel like a cog in a wheel. It is tough to go the extra mile for a boss that doesn’t seem to take interest or care about anything but the bottom line.

According to Dale Carnegie, author of the award-winning classic: “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” the main thing people care about in life is themselves. Every person wants to feel important, valued and appreciated.

Henry Ford surely recognized this back in 1914 when he started paying his employees $5 a day. (This was a big salary increase.) He also reduced shifts from 9 hours a day to 8. By doing this Ford quickly solved a high staff turnover problem that his company was experiencing. This led to notable increases in production.

If a company can make its employees feel important, feel that their job matters and that they are important assets for the company, they are far more likely to do the extra work needed to go from good to great, and to take care of the company as if it was their own. While a motivated employee will communicate better, it is an employer’s responsibility to make sure employees know they are free to express what is on their mind.

2. Body Language Matters.

Over 50% of the things we say are non-verbal. Given this, learning body language is an important part of developing more effective communication.

If you are a manager, it is essential that you practice your body language skills so that when you speak with your employees you can transmit your ideas in the best possible way and avoid any misunderstandings of what you are trying to convey.

Things like maintaining an upright posture, making eye contact during conversation and keeping your chin up will radiate confidence and those around you will see you with respect.

Besides using body language to communicate well at work, it’s also important to understand body language signals in others. This might be especially important when dealing with offshore employees that normally communicate through apps like Skype or Zoom.  Knowing how to identify body language signals like face and eye gestures and tone of voice will enable you to read between the lines of the message that a coworker wants to transmit.

3. Make Yourself Available to your Co-Workers.

One of the easiest ways to make yourself accessible to coworkers is to simply tell them that you are available. People want to know they can count on you and the only way they will know this is if you communicate it. People want to know that their colleagues are people that can listen to them and understand what is going on.

Sometimes it may be difficult for people to communicate issues directly, especially with a manager. In these times, it can be useful to have a way for people to anonymously ask questions or even express complaints. Having a channel of communication that enables people who are too uncomfortable or shy to speak directly to leaders is a great way for a company to stay informed about situations they may otherwise not know about.

4. Share Something in Common.

Many of the best managers are comfortable sharing something about their personal lives with their coworkers. They might participate in a fun office outing or simply take an interest in the lives of their employees. Something as simple as remembering a birthday can make an enormous difference to a person’s morale at work.

This type of leader tends to be one that can talk about any topic with employees, not just work-related things. Often these more informal conversations help to build trust and work satisfaction. They also improve overall communication by making people feel more comfortable and secure.

Take the time to develop relationships with your coworkers and create a trusting environment for people to open up to you. You will likely be pleasantly surprised by the results.

3 Secrets that Super Successful Companies Use for Fast Growth

What differentiates rich entrepreneurs from the average ones? Why do some businesses make their founders very wealthy while others make their founders struggle each month to make ends meet? Some people say its sheer luck — trying something at the right moment in the right place with the right people. And in part, there’s some truth to that.

However, there are some important things that average entrepreneurs ignore, and in the end this not only causes them stress but sometimes even their entire career trying to make a business successful.

As an agile software development company with decades of experience, we’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot by working with successful entrepreneurs. Here are three things we’ve noticed that successful companies tend to have in common.

3 Things Many Successful Companies Share

  1. A focus on the right type of growth.

According to Robert Kiyosaki there is a difference between being a self-employed business owner and super successful entrepreneur business owner. Kiyosaki explains that a self-employed business owner owns a job not a business.

Some examples are: the mechanic that opens at 9 am and some days has to stay until 10 or 11 pm working because he has many cars in line. Another example is the entrepreneur who starts a neighborhood market and becomes a slave to the business working 12 or more hours a day because he or she has to have everything under control. These types of entrepreneurs often end up getting burned out by their business.

These entrepreneurs tend to focus on internal growth. You hear these types of business owners saying: “this year our company grew 5%”. Their growth strategies focus on things like cost control, finding cheaper suppliers, or selling a little bit more.

Successful business owners with superfast growing companies tend to focus on external growth.

American businessman and author of “Your First 100 Million” Dan Peña is an expert in growing companies geometrically. According to Peña, there is no way that you can grow a company internally as fast as you can externally, and the only way to grow a company externally is through acquisitions.

Peña started Great Western Resources with a leased fax machine and an $820 investment in his newborn son’s bedroom. He quickly began making acquisition deals, buying other businesses in his same industry. After purchasing several smaller businesses and making a conglomerate he went public eventually making $450 million.

Look around at many of the big companies today. You’ll notice that initially many were start-ups that gained early traction by purchasing other businesses, finally becoming successful conglomerates.

Have your heard of Virgin Group? It’s a conglomerate with more than 38 companies inside. Owner Richard Branson clearly knows a thing or two about external growth.

Have you heard of Warren Buffett? One of the richest men in the world started buying stocks from different companies and now his own company Berkshire Hathaway is involved with nearly 100 companies.

Why would an entrepreneur want to grow 10% or 15% internally when it is possible to grow 100% or more externally?

  1. An Understanding of Compound Interest.

Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon and the richest man in the world with a net worth of over $100 billion collects a normal salary just like any other CEO.

Why would a person with $100 billion receive an annual salary of less than $100K? Because he understands the power of compound interest. High speed growth is often the outcome of reinvesting profits into a business. This reinvestment can include: developing new products or services, technological innovation, expanding operations to different countries, and focusing on growth.

Warren Buffett lives a similar simple and frugal life, with a focus on reinvesting his dividends in new stocks, acquiring more stocks from many different companies and developing the large conglomerate mentioned previously.

  1. An Ability to Harness the Power of Technology.

Remember the old cab companies that you had to either call or hail on the street? That is a thing of the past with technology companies like Uber transforming everything. Technology enables people across the world to request transportation in a convenient way, knowing who will come, what license plate and vehicle color/make/model to expect, etc.

How was Uber able to grow from being a simple cab concept to a $70+ billion company? The company leveraged the power of technology. Every business, regardless of the industry, should consider how to grow leveraging technology as an advantage.

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 and we can get the conversation started.

 

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. 

6 Hackathon Innovations & Startups

Hackathons are known to be breeding grounds for innovation. Often put on by an organization or university, these collaborative computer programming events are a great way to empower young entrepreneurs and thinkers alike.

What is a Hackathon?

A hackathon takes place over a set period of time, usually a weekend. During this time, teams set out to develop a solution to a problem in the form of a prototype that they will then pitch to whoever is hosting the hackathon. While primarily coders participate in these hacking marathons, people from all backgrounds including designers and marketers are encouraged to be involved during the software development process. Often many successful applications arise as a result!

Here are 6 recent hackathon innovations & startups: 

E-Farm

E-Farm is a service that was developed at Be-Bound. It is online produce market that allows consumers to purchase directly from farmers.  Shoppers can source food from multiple farms and get to know the story behind both the farmer and their farm before their order is delivered to their home.

StartTalking

StartTalking is an app that connects users with counselors, coaches and doctors. Originating out of Kansas City’s Hacking the Gigabit City event, users can send messages, video conference or participate in group sessions with their providers from anywhere anytime. The app is secure, affordable, and guarantees privacy.

PowerWells

PowerWells came out of a Techstars Startup Weekend. The service provides light and mobile phone charging from electronic waste and commercial solar panels to those in remote communities that don’t have access to electricity.

Piece of Mind

Piece of Mind is a wearable device for patients with Alzheimer or Dementia. Created during an Angelhack, the app allows caregivers to monitor a patient’s movements in real time and prevents loved ones from getting lost.

EchoLoco

EchoLoco is an app that was developed during the Urban-X Hackathon. It provides audio maps for the visually impaired; helping them to safely navigate cities with the aid of real time cues.

CropSafe

CropSafe is an online platform that was created during an Angelhack in Dublin. It works to predict impending diseases and crop contamination by surveying plots of land via satellite imagery and machine learning. The service even offers solutions to affected landowners.

Our dedicated team of software developers at Number9 are located in Louisville, Kentucky. Together, with our nearshore office in Costa Rica, we have worked 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 complete your project.