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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!

Preparing for the Remote Work Culture

If you’re making the transition to remote work after working in an office from 9-5, 5 days a week, you’ll quickly learn a notable difference in the work culture. Whether you’re looking to work from home or are an employer wanting to outsource tasks, getting familiar with the customs of those who work remotely will help you know what to expect.

Here are 3 unwritten rules of remote work:

1. Everything starts on time.

Because you’re not sitting in traffic during your morning commute, there’s really no excuse for being late. In the remote world, meetings start on time down to the minute. One of the biggest benefits of working from home is that it allows you to better manage every minute of your day. Couple that with the fact that you could be collaborating with someone in a different time zone, and every minute really starts to count. To make sure you don’t experience a technical delay, get used to checking your equipment early each morning.

2. Communication is key.

Sure, communication is key in any work situation. But when you’re communicating with someone who isn’t sitting in the next cubicle, it becomes even more prudent. In fact, 90% of how we communicate is nonverbal, so if you’re working remotely online, it can be easy for a few things to get lost in translation. Expect to over communicate by being prompt in your responses and utilizing the many tools available to you. Remember that the tone of online communication tends to be straightforward and casual. When it applies, provide links or visual examples for full transparency. Shared calendars and collaborative applications can help to keep everyone on the same page, whether it be project deadlines, tasks or vacation days. 

3. Nurture workplace relationships.

Yes, workplace relationships are still a thing when you work from home. While they can be hard to cultivate because of language barriers and time zones, a good workplace dynamic is an invaluable asset and can help ensure a project’s success. Taking the time to build camaraderie through friendly correspondence can go a long way. When possible, opt for an in person meeting, video or phone call, and consider using a chat app for water cooler talk.

As an employer, think about implementing a remote work policy to help establish standards and keep everyone accountable. A company mission can help communicate your vision and values, and as a result keep remote employees motivated.

At Number 8, we help companies connect with qualified remote employees to help with software development. We also focus on helping companies improve their internal IT processes. 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!

3 Things That Set Number8 Apart

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

1. We offer a blended model.

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

2. We treat our employees differently.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Top 3 Locations for Outsourcing Software Development

Outsourcing software development has become an increasingly popular path for startups and small businesses alike. Instead of taking on the overhead of hiring employees in house, utilizing a remote workforce allows you to focus on your core business functions while growing at an affordable rate.

When it comes to outsourcing, there are a myriad of options available. One can opt to go Offshore, Nearshore or Onshore in terms of finding a remote workforce. Countries farther away are Offshore, those nearby are considered Nearshore, and Onshore means operating within your own country. Depending on your company’s origin, there are many pros and cons that come with selecting a specific location to outsource your software development needs.

While the U.S. and Canada each have tech reliant economies, the cost associated with doing business there tends to be higher and the demand for skilled workers has resulted in a shortage. Therefore, most businesses are left with the option to take advantage of the resources of a more global market. Here are the top 3 countries for software development in terms of quality and cost:

Latin America

While many South American countries including Peru, Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia are becoming increasingly adept in the tech world, Costa Rica is a popular choice when outsourcing software development work. Their top notch IT programs produce good programmers and their culture has embraced innovation in technology as well as the agile methodology of project management. 

Asia

While India and the Philippines are known for their IT services, China is the leader when it comes to the outsourcing industry in Asia. China produces twice as many graduates as the United States, and as a result has a vast tech advanced work force. Coupled with it’s growing economy, China is a hot bed for outsourcing software development tasks. 

Eastern Europe

In Eastern Europe, Poland and the Ukraine dominate the field of outsourced software development work. Both have an abundance of educated software engineers as a result of rich STEM educational programs. 

Before outsourcing your company’s software development, you’ll want to properly vet each agency to ensure a high quality of work. Take language, cultural barriers and possible travel expenses into account as well. Countries with a stable and supportive government offer a more favorable business climate to operate in, and a difference in time zone could reduce the time to market or make communication difficult. 

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 Myths of Working With an Offshore Development Team

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

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

  1. The quality of the work will be poor.

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

  2. It takes jobs away.

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

  3. It’s a security risk.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Business Process Outsourcing Most Startups Should Consider

Sometimes hiring full time employees can actually slow you down and prevent your business from growing. That’s why so many startups are looking to business process outsourcing for help. Instead of bogging employees down with clerical work, outsourcing could enable your organization to grow faster by focusing it’s talent more on the core of the business.

What is business process outsourcing?

Business process outsourcing (BPO) involves contracting out certain operations and responsibilities that either take place in the back or the front office to a third party.

Responsibilities such as billing, human resources, and finance usually make up the back office or internal business functions of a company. Back office contracted work encompasses the following: purchasing, payment processing, insurance, retirement, hiring and recruiting, accounting, payroll, and general bookkeeping.

Marketing, administrative duties, as well as tech and customer support, are operations usually performed by the front office. These are more external, customer and client related business functions. Any social media, telemarketing, app testing, help desk support, customer interaction via phone or email, scheduling, and data entry that needs to be done would entail front office outsourcing.

Companies can outsource to a variety of locations.

Offshore outsourcing occurs outside a company’s country, nearshore outsourcing is in a neighboring country, and onshore outsourcing happens within one’s own country but out of the state. There are pros and cons depending on the location of the contractor. For example, a dollar can go further in other countries, but time zones and language barriers may prove problematic. 

BPO is a popular startup growth hack in that it saves valuable time and money.

Outsourcing to skilled and flexible personnel allows a burgeoning business to build a team as they need to. This is ideal when compared to time spent searching for and interviewing the right candidates. Contractors are also flexible in regards to workload.  Additionally, they are an affordable solution in terms of benefits and the costs of training as well. Obtaining remote workers through an agency means they are already qualified and require less of a financial investment. 

Both back and front office functions are integral to keeping any company running smoothly. By outsourcing business processing, tasks can be completed with the utmost speed and efficiency. 

At Number8, we help fast growing companies find quality remote workers that creatively contribute to your business’s success. 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!

Improving the Quality of Your Code: 11 Tips from Number8 Developers

number8 developers If you want a product that works and people will enjoy, Number8 developers know to begin with quality code. Of course, writing is a skill that takes time and practice– we all can’t be masters of our craft from the get go. In fact, about 20% of a programmer’s time is actually spent writing the initial program. The majority of the time, the programmer is debugging (fixing errors) or maintaining (adding features to) the program being developed. If you want to cut down on the amount of time you spend going back and forth correcting errors and modifying features, it helps to have a flexible plan of attack for crafting great code as you write.

Here are some favorite tips for improving the quality of code from Number8 developers.

1. Storyboard your solution before you even begin coding.

Remember how you were taught to create an outline for a school paper before you actually wrote it? As it turns out, not everything they taught us in high school was useless.

2. If you can’t map out your logic on paper, you are not ready to start writing your code.

You should be confident enough in your vision to defend it to a judge.

3. Remember: it needs to be user friendly.

When you work on the technical side of things, like Number8 developers, it’s easy to get tunnel vision and forget that not everyone who is using this product will speak your language. Remember to take user friendliness into account if you want your end product to be successful.

4. Get a second opinion for your layout or logic

You never know what problems a fresh pair of eyes can point out. Be open to criticism and use it to become better, not bitter.

5. Comment, comment, and comment some more.

Number8 developers comment on everything they build in order to inform others that may be reading the code so readers know what exactly their intentions are. If your code isn’t easily read and understood by other developers, you could end up losing your job.

6. Be mindful when naming variables.

Haphazard names can lead to confusion when it comes to modifying or amending issues in your code. Your variables should be descriptive, but to the point, and able to be differentiated from other objects in your code.

7.  There’s always something new to learn.

Mastering a code language takes lots of time. Be patient with yourself and open to learning new things, no matter what your expertise. Like any other language, whatever code you use can change and evolve with time, so it is up to you to work with it and adapt as needed.

8.  Delete unnecessary code.

When you are writing code, be sure you “clean up” as you go and remove code that has no purpose. Leaving superficial code in your finished product may not have immediate implications, but it can cause problems and confusion later on.

9. Be consistent with your style.

If you are working with a team, before you begin you should all agree on standard practices for things such as how consistent your indentations should be. Once those guidelines are established for things such as whitespace, naming, commenting, and any other rules you establish, stick with them from beginning to end.

10. Look at other people’s great coding.

If you want to write great code, it helps to read great code. Just as a fiction writer needs to review the works of great authors throughout history, a developer should look at the back end of products they admire or want to emulate.

11. Don’t Repeat Yourself.

The DRY or DIE (“Duplication Is Evil”) principle states that “every piece of knowledge must have a single, unambiguous, authoritative representation within a system.” Overdefining or overwriting will make your final product clunky and inelegant.

At Number8, we help fast growing companies find quality software developers that creatively help teams with their product develop and IT operations using agile development. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 developers and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page