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!

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!

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!

Unexpectedly Losing a Key Team Member- How to Keep Things Moving Along

It happens to the best of us. Things go wrong in business, sometime the best employees quit, and it can be hard for any team to move on. Preparing for the loss of a leader is good practice to ensure that things get back up and running as smoothly as as possible, as soon as possible, should such a situation befall your company. Here’s how to handle the unexpected exit of a key employee, and minimize any disruption to the day to day operations.

1. Decide privately who is going to fill what role before breaking the news to the rest of the team.

Take the time to fully evaluate the company’s needs and explore all the options available. Whether you decide to promote internally or take the time to find an externally qualified candidate, having a clear direction and temporary solution in place will help prevent a drop in morale and overall productivity.

2. Tell everyone at the same time so they all receive the same information.

Clear communication is necessary in order to avoid inaccuracies and gossip from spreading around the office and instill a sense of leadership.

3. Remain positive and grateful for the lost team member’s contribution.

While everyone is essentially replaceable, you want your remaining team members to feel valued and supported professionally as well as personally. Exhibiting excitement for the lost employee’s success, even if it’s not with you, not only prevents future turnover, it leaves the door open for opportunities yet to come.

4. Conduct an exit interview.

Even though they are leaving, it’s important to find out why. This is a great moment for constructive criticism. Ask them how they would describe the culture as an employee, and what changes they would make if they could, etc. Gaining such insight allows for your team and company to improve and continue to keep employees that are integral assets. Lastly, be prepared to offer support to your team as roles change, or take on more yourself to make up for the gap during this transition. Doing so will be key in succeeding with as well as finishing current projects. At Number8, we help project managers connect with highly trained and efficient IT support to help reach company goals. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page!

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

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