Common Misconceptions About Staff Augmentation

Staff augmentation has become popular in recent years. Being a new concept, there are certain things that people don’t understand about it. Simply put, staff augmentation is a way that a company fills the gaps between the skills they possess and those that they lack to complete a certain project by means of hiring temporary help. Companies often try to just redistribute workload to cover the area that is missing. However, by doing this, they are only taking away from the regular tasks they have and often won't get the end results that they want from the new project.

Answers to 4 Common Misconceptions about Staff Augmentation

Why do companies choose to flounder instead of looking for outside help through staff augmentation? Many people still have misconceptions and don’t exactly understand the idea, or they are simply unaware of the concept entirely. Continue reading to hear about the truth behind these misconceptions.

“It is a waste of money or more expensive than permanent employment.”

Many employers believe that since augmented staff is often paid by the hour rather than salary, it comes out to be more expensive. Some also believe that it does not save the company any money to contract someone just for one project. Looking at the comparison of the augmented staff’s hourly pay compared to the salary of permanent employees can be deceiving because this does not look at the whole picture. In reality, hiring augmented staff can help bypass in-house costs that it would take to search for, hire, and train a new member of the team. “There is too much risk and no long-term benefits.” Teams sometimes think hiring augmented staff is risky. They may be hesitant to relinquish power over certain projects. Or, they might not believe that someone working remotely will follow through on their promises. They may even be worried about work quality. However, staff augmentation teams are specifically trained to acclimate to different environments. This includes effectively working with varied teams and types of people. After all, this is their job—to work on one project and then move to another company or team. They are used to adapting and achieving goals within deadlines.

“Communicating and managing an augmented staff is too difficult.”

Because augmented staff often works remotely, many people believe that communication and management is more difficult. However, if you can keep open communication by way of email, phone calls, or virtual meetings, everything will be fine. Augmented staff expects to be very responsive and communicative, looking for opportunities to align with teams and increase efficiencies and productivity.

“Technical support is just as constructive.”

While technical support can be helpful, staff augmentation fulfills a different role. Staff augmentation actually brings in another person and skillset to help with a project. In contrast, technical support aids people already on the team with technical issues. Staff augmentation can provide benefits to many different types of businesses and teams. Companies can approach projects in a more dynamic and successful manner. They can meet more aggressive deadlines and objectives. Really, the questioning of staff augmentation isn’t about whether or not it is a good idea. It's about who provides the best services for the specific skillsets you are seeking. Not all staff augmentation services are equal, though. You have to find experienced staff augmentation companies with successful track records in a given sector. 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.

3 Tips For Conducting Remote Job Interviews

Conducting a remote interview can require a bit of an adjustment if you haven’t done one before. There are a few guidelines you can follow that will help you streamline the process and get the most out of your interview. Here are 3 tips for conducting a remote job interview.

Choose the Right Technical Setup

One key part of a successful remote job interview is selecting optimal communication and collaboration channels. It’s important to choose the right setup based on what you want out of the job interview. For example, if you want a face-to-face mode of communication along with the ability to look at specific elements of websites and documents in real time, you might use a tool like Zoom to incorporate video chatting and screen sharing. You would have a much less efficient interview if you tried to coordinate the same activities by phone. Overcomplicating your interview should be avoided as well. Too many tools that aren’t being used will only cause confusion and create barriers to getting to know job candidates. Overall, you should pick the tools that will best align with your goals for the interview. 

Establish Expectations and Give Directions Ahead of Time

The best way to allow job candidates shine is to give them clear expectations before interviews. This is especially important with remote interviews, where technical setups can add layers of complications. Some of these expectations can be purely practical. You might want to ask candidates to position themselves in a quiet space so you can hear them clearly. Or, if there are multiple steps involved with getting into a virtual meeting space (like in Skype or Zoom), you may want to give detailed instructions for these steps and ask candidates to go through them prior to the interview. This can help avoid issues and delays due to platform updates, device incompatibility, and lack of familiarity with tools. If you want candidates to conduct any work before the interview as part of the process, these same ideas apply. Make sure you give instructions on preferred file types and how to upload or share documents before the interview. 

Prepare for Multiple People in an Interview

If you are conducting an interview with multiple people at the same time, either with your team members or multiple interviewees, this is all even more important to get right. The more people who are involved with the interview, the greater chance there will be a technical difficulty that could hinder progress. It can be helpful to establish a point person on your team to handle any setup and technical difficulties that may arise. Provide their contact information to candidates to help streamline communication. They can also be the go-to person for everyone internally. If you take the time to go through these steps, your interview will be well on its way to success!  As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to hire remote workers. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.

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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

“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...

4 Powerful Tips to Improve Communication at Work

November 7, 2019 / in Job Happiness, / by number8

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.

When Small Businesses Should Turn to Outsourcing

Outsourcing is a buzzword right now. Companies, large and small, are seeing the benefits of outsourcing and taking advantage. However, more often than not, the larger companies are the ones who truly take advantage of outsourcing. This is mainly because they have the funds and the work to do so efficiently. That doesn’t mean small businesses can’t benefit from outsourcing. They just have to approach outsourcing for small business wisely. And be sure to only use it when it is sure to benefit the company. So, where does a small business owner start when considering outsourcing? With just that - a consideration. Pairing the consideration that business could benefit from moving work outside the office with an assessment of the business practice is a good place to start. This way of thinking will ensure that small business owners are making the right decision at the right time. Only once a lot of thought has gone into how outsourcing can help your business will it be time to look into outsourcing options. Follow along to learn what should be considered when looking into outsourcing for small business and where to start.

Four Signs Outsourcing for Small Business Could Help Your Company

1. The Same Problems Keep Coming Up

Every business, big or small, experiences a problem that continues to come up. Maybe it’s a part of a quality assurance checklist that is constantly overlooked. Or, perhaps, the team is unable to effectively deliver one of its promises time and time again. If there’s a particular aspect that the company continues to struggle with, it may be time to outsource that aspect. There are a couple of questions business owners can ask themselves to determine if outsourcing is the best option. First of all, is there someone within the company who can take the work on? Can they do so without compromising their own set of day to day tasks? Secondly, can the company afford to pay this worker less than what it would cost to hire an outside agency? It’s time to outsource that work and keep the company moving forward if “yes” is not the answer to both questions.

2. Requested Work is Out of Your Wheelhouse

Another time to consider outsourcing is when work requests are coming in that your team cannot handle. Perhaps they don’t have the bandwidth to get it done effectively. Or perhaps the experience just isn’t there. Regardless of the reason, if there is work that needs to be done and your employees don’t have the ability to do it, it may be time to outsource that work. Another opportunity to outsource when work is not in your wheelhouse is when it concerns a chief officer within your company. There are plenty of agencies that supply CMOs, CFOs, or CISOs to companies struggling with filling those positions or functioning without them. That’s one of the beauties of outsourcing — no matter what it is you need, someone out there has it.

3. A Lot of Your Time is Spent on the Same Tasks

Do you find your day-to-day within the office is spent on the same tasks that could be chalked up to housekeeping? Perhaps you’ve observed that some of your most competent workers are spending too much of their time on tasks below their skill level. Regardless of the reason, if you can automate mundane tasks then do so by all means. Find programs to help with social media posting, billing, and additional clerical work, data entry, and the like. For all other tasks that you’d like to delegate to someone that is not a crucial member of your team, outsource. Some tasks can be outsourced to interns, so look at local colleges for interns interested in a career in IT. Other tasks can be outsourced to third-parties, both nearshore and offshore, depending on what kind of turnaround time you’re needing.

4. Your Creativity is Not Meeting What’s In Demand

Most companies that deal with website design, inbound marketing, or social media management have a grasp on creative tasks. Whether it’s an entire design team that remains in-house or a single person who is an expert in all things creative, if your company is cranking out design work, there is a designer on staff. While a single creative member or a team of designers can get a massive amount of work done, what will you do if a client requests video work? It’s not feasible to hire an entire video department for a one-off project, but you can adjust your pricing to cover outsourcing a video project. Outsourcing may add a few lines to your company’s month-to-month balance sheet, but the benefits of it often far outweigh the cost. When applied correctly, to the appropriate aspects of a small business, outsourcing can be extremely beneficial. At Number8, we offer nearshore outsourcing services to a variety of business across the United States who need help with developmental work. If you’re looking for a team of experienced developers to help your small business churn out software development, contact us by calling 502-890-7665 today!

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