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.

What They Don’t Teach You About Project Management

March 12, 2020 / in Project Management, / by Number8

Project managers juggle several tasks at the same time. They communicate with all teams, make sure everyone is reaching their targets, keep an eye on the budget, and much more. While most project managers get project management training or formal education in the field, they learn several skills on the job through hands-on experience. Here’s a brief look at some of the skills you learn on the job as a project manager.

Project Management Skills, Explained

Delegating

Project managers must learn the fine art of delegating if they want to keep a project on track. People fresh out of school or working on their first few projects find it very difficult to delegate important tasks. They don’t trust their team members or even understand their competencies enough to delegate effectively. Experienced project managers eventually learn how to delegate important tasks to people who will get things done effectively or on time. They also know how to hold people responsible and determine whether a team member deserves a second chance if they make mistakes. If a project manager doesn’t know how to delegate, they won’t be able to grow as a team leader.

Choosing the Right Project Management Team

Project managers rely on their team to get work done. They need to select people they can trust to do a job well. In most cases, project managers break work down into sections, determine what kind of skills each section needs, create an employee profile based on that, and then recruit. Most experienced project managers know that this approach, while useful, is often limiting. A more direct approach of hiring as many competent, talented, and qualified individuals for the project as possible provides more flexibility. In this approach, project managers aren’t restricted by their employee profiles and can recruit more versatile candidates with multi-disciplinary skills. These people end up bringing more to the table on a project, which has a positive impact on the results.

Communications

Most school courses place a great deal of emphasis on communication, but it is still something project managers learn on the job. Every manager develops their method of approach when it comes to communication. They learn how to express their expectations, issue reprimands without discouraging team members, and praise good work without making others feel left out. Project managers with excellent communication skills also know how to remove people from their teams if necessary. This can be quite challenging for those new to project management because firing people is never easy. Most inexperienced professionals linger over the matter for weeks, or even months without acting on it. That can slow down a project or also harm the final results.

Negotiating

Where there is a team full of competent individuals, there’s bound to be some form of conflict. People have different opinions, approaches, skill levels, and temperaments. These can clash and create conflict in a team, which ultimately affects a team’s overall productivity. Someone with good project management skills learns how to handle different personalities and negotiate between them. They know how to read a situation and diffuse an argument without looking like they’re taking sides. This is an important skill to develop as it ensures your team remains productive. Conflicts will happen regardless of how carefully you choose team members, especially in the initial stages. People who have just started working together will take some time to become comfortable and adjust to different personalities. It is a project manager’s job to ensure everything goes smoothly. Managers must also be flexible enough to handle changes in project priorities, goals, and targets. They need to come up with ways to alter their plans smoothly, add more people to the team, and ensure everything keeps moving without any significant disruption. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.

Software Development QA Testing

Quality Assurance (QA) is an essential aspect of the software development process. Experienced professionals carefully comb through every feature, addition, and component of a software program or application to determine if it lives up to their standards. In this highly competitive world, companies can't afford to put out lackluster products. QA Testing is especially crucial in the software development industry because customers directly interact with and rely on software products. They'll immediately notice if something isn't working as it should. Here are some of the best practices for QA testing during software development:

  1. Always Keep User Experience in Mind

    When a company develops a product, the end goal is always to delight the user. You don't want to create something clunky, slow, inefficient, or challenging to navigate. QA testing teams often miss the bigger picture while examining minute details. If the overall user experience is poor, these small details won't matter.
  2. Know Who Your Audiences Are 

    Different audiences have different expectations. Developing a software program for millennials can be very different from developing a platform for an older audience. QA teams must keep the target audience in mind while assessing products to ensure it provides a good experience.
  3. Optimize QA Testing by Focusing on the Most Important Sections

    Oftentimes it isn't feasible to comb through every aspect of a software program's code during quality testing. Teams must optimize the process by prioritizing sections that are most important or relevant. Focus on testing components that directly impact users, since their experience is vital for a program's functions.
  4. Arrange Bug Fixes Based on Usage

    Every software product has bugs that must be fixed to improve user experience, and QA teams need to focus on flaws in the most relevant sections of a program. For example, bugs in the order placement or complaint registration components of an app should be addressed immediately.
  5. Maintain Communication with Developers

    QA teams and developers must work together during the testing process. Open communication between these two departments can optimize both testing and the development processes. Testers get a clearer idea about the developer's intentions, while developers understand how to improve the quality of their products actively.
  6. Run QA Tests in Real and Relevant Environments

    Your program should work on platforms that users commonly use. Most people don't have supercomputers or the latest operating systems. A large portion of your audience will want to run programs on slightly dated systems. Make sure every aspect of the product is working well on various platforms and real-life conditions.
  7. Have a Dedicated Security Assessment Team

    Typically it’s important to have a dedicated team that focuses solely on security operations. Modern users have a healthy distrust for software applications and won't trust any program without a reliable security system in place.
  8. Maintain a Dedicated Performance Assessment Team

    A performance assessment team will navigate a program or application from a user's perspective. The process helps them identify issues in the performance of the end product and provide detailed reports on it.
  9. Test Third-Party Systems

    Applications and software programs often use third-party components like social media plug-ins, shopping carts, etc. Users will only have a smooth experience if all third-party systems work efficiently with your program. Always check them carefully for compatibility issues or related problems.
  10. Always Take Customer Feedback into Account

    No system is infallible, and QA teams are no exception to this rule. Fortunately, you have a large group of thousands of users willing to provide feedback on an application's performance. Always take their inputs into account during the QA testing process.
A well-planned and well-executed QA routine will ensure the product that reaches your audience is as reliable and efficient as possible. Companies should also review their QA routines regularly to ensure they remain useful, especially if you notice that too many issues are slipping through the cracks. At Number8, we believe in developing software that is user-friendly, reliable and completely functional. As a result, we are always recruiting talented QA professionals for quality assurance jobs on our team. To learn more about how we can help you complete and successfully launch your software project, contact us at 502-890-7665. 

5 Principles of UX Design Everyone In Tech Should Know

January 9, 2020 / in Tech Advice, User Experience, / by number8

User Experience (UX) is the most crucial factor to consider while designing a new product. UX dictates how people interact with a product or service, how pleasant their overall experience is, and their journey while looking for solutions. Modern customers are very sophisticated, picky, and willing to discard any product or service that doesn’t offer an optimal experience. That’s why everyone in tech must understand UX well and know how to prioritize it in the new products and services they introduce. Follow along for an overview of 5 principles of UX design everyone in tech should know.

5 Principles of UX Design You Should Know

1. Understand Your Audience

It’s nearly impossible to design a useful UX framework without understanding your audience. What do users find appealing, what are their priorities, and what do they value? Designers must understand their target audience(s) to develop products and services with good UX, and they can do this by establishing a strong audience profile based on small and Big Data. It will be the foundation of your project, providing clear guidelines on how to move forward.

2. Have a Clear Design Intent

Your product or service can quickly become lost in a veritable forest of digital distractions. Everything from innocent cat videos to angry social media posts can tear a prospect's attention away. That's why designers must focus on intent and create unique experiences to attract users. Make sure every element of an application or website is purposeful or contributes towards UX. For example, something as simple as a button going green when a user has completed a task can add to their experience. This simple action has a clear intention of giving users a sense of accomplishment and completion.

3. Clarity is Important

Unique elements make an impact, but clarity is also essential. Users want a simple, straightforward journey when looking for solutions. No one wants to waste time figuring out how a particular element of your app or website works. Make sure all functions are clear, straightforward, and simple for the best results.

4. Predictability is Essential

Browse through a few websites or applications carefully. You'll notice several distinct similarities in their layout. For example, most sites have a clickable logo with a homepage link at the top left corner. Many also have drop-down menus with products or services situated under a header banner. Apps have a desk with links to home, search, profile, etc., at the bottom. These factors ensure your product always has predictable navigation, which improves the overall user experience.

5. Get to the Point – Quickly!

Online audiences have short attention spans and are always in a hurry. This means UX designers need to offer them the shortest possible route for getting people what they want. Most users won’t linger on your platform while they seek a specific result. You must work to eliminate all unnecessary steps and set them to a solution as quickly as possible. Create a product that delivers excellent value to customers. Make sure every aspect of it has some purpose or meaning for the best UX. User experience isn't just limited to the digital world. It has an impact on a company’s overall reputation and operations. Brands that deliver a seamless user experience on all fronts tend to have a much better overall reputation. As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to become more efficient and increase profits. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.  

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.  

The 12 Principles of the Agile Manifesto

The agile methodology started in the software development industry in response to the limitations of traditional software development principles. Eventually, companies realized that it could be used to improve project management, team management, and other such processes. Agile focuses more on individuals and interactions between different teams than processes or sophisticated tools. There are 12 core principles of the agile manifesto.

  1. Customer Satisfaction – Providing Early & Continuous Delivery

    The Agile Manifesto states that developers and companies can achieve customer satisfaction by delivering products early for testing and feedback. Teams can continuously share their progress with the clients and incorporate their input into the product. The focus is on fulfilling client priorities and then focusing on other aspects of the project. This allows developers to adjust to the client's changing requirements during the development process. Customers get a more refined product at the end of this process, and they're more satisfied.
  2. Responding Positively to Change – Even During the Later Stages of Development

    The modern business environment is fluid, and customer requirements change frequently. Traditional working models don't adapt well to change, especially during the late stages. The agile methodology adapts to change quickly at every stage. Agile offers a simplified model for requesting and making alterations in the product design. There's no formal documentation or approval required, which can speed things up.
  3. Frequent Delivery of Product Elements

    Rather than forcing the clients to wait for several months, the development team can deliver the project in stages. You need to make sure every aspect is finished, tested, and styled appropriately. This gives customers quick fulfillment and offers assurance that their project is progressing as planned.
  4. Communication Between Developers & Executives

    There's often a communication gap between developers and executives. People who work on the project have more technical skills and knowledge about the product, while executives understand the business side of things. This can lead to miscommunication, delays, and other such issues. Agile requires everyone to be on the same page and maintain open communications.
  5. Trusting Developers & Teams to Do Their Job

    Many executives don't trust their workers to choose the right job, which results in micromanagement. Such micromanagement can hamper productivity and place unnecessary pressure on the team. Projects should be built around motivated and passionate professionals who understand their strengths. Self-organized teams are more efficient and content to work on every aspect of their projects.
  6. Face to Face Conversations

    Essential instructions and project requirements can become lost in endless chain emails, which is why face-to-face communication is necessary. Executives should obtain feedback from the source and work with the team on the project. Virtual communications like video conferences can help in this process.
  7. Collocation & Pair Programming

    Collocation is the process of making a team work from the same open area. Pair programming is when two programmers are assigned the same workstation. One programmer is writing the code while the other looks at the bigger picture. Both swap roles every few minutes. Both of these processes improve product quality and make teams more productive.
  8. Sustainable Development

    No one can work continuously or at a demanding pace without experiencing some form of burnout. Agile methodologies focus on improving work-life balance and making sure everyone in the team is healthy. Product development is only sustainable if workers are allowed to get adequate rest.
  9. Self-Reflection to Improve Overall Performance

    The agile manifesto is focused on the human aspect of development. The best designs come from teams who are committed, passionate, and happy to work. They also come from teams that are willing to look back at their past work and improve.
  10. Simplicity

    The Pareto Principle says that you get 80% of the work done with 20% of the effort. Professionals should focus on the 20% and make sure that 80% of the work reaches the customer on a priority basis. You can then focus on the nitty-gritty and refine the project later.
  11. Self-Organizing Teams

    Executives should give their teams some room to flex their creative muscles. The team has skilled employees who are experts in their field. Allowing them some independence will help product development and improve overall work culture.
  12. Adapting to Change

    Agile means fluid and adaptive. You can only be agile if you're willing to accept changing demands and requirements during a project. Everyone can plan for a perfect product, but you can only develop something substantial through trial and error. Adopting agile principles can help improve your team’s performance and productivity significantly.
At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.  

“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...

Q & A Best Practices

On top of delivering a project on time and within budget, developers must test for quality assurance upon completion to ensure stakeholders' expectations have been met. However, testing for quality after a product is built, usually results in far too little, too late. The agile model of software development encourages practicing quality assurance throughout every phase of the project. The agile way also prioritizes quality by making it the responsibility of every team member, not just the QA testers. As a result, the QA team coordinates efforts with the development team at each iteration, providing continuous testing. Implementing a feedback loop is a fundamental step in the quality assurance process. In order to guarantee that the product meets all of the requirements (feature functionality, design, reliability, usability and efficiency), it can be helpful to enlist the perspectives of those with varying backgrounds. This can include those proficient in testing, business and or development. Quality assurance testing can be both manual and automated. While both approaches are proficient at mitigating bugs, automated software testing is often more beneficial in that it is quicker and more effective at checking for code correctness. It's important to remember that the goal of Q & A testing is to find faults within the software so that an error-free application can be delivered to the client.

The following are integral software testing methods when best practicing quality assurance:

Test Driven Development (TDD)

TDD works by building a project's code around the QA tests. The programming team first designs and builds tests for functional code, and then creates code that will pass them. This development method helps everyone gain an understanding of the code's purpose before development; guaranteeing the initial functionality of the code and effectively building in quality.

Behavior Driven Development (BDD)

Similar to TDD, in that the test is written before the code, BDD tests the behavior of an application under specific conditions. This is done with the end user in mind. As development progresses, BDD often proves to be more reliable than TDD. BDD is also written in English instead of code, allowing for a more streamlined feedback loop.

Acceptance Tests

Acceptance tests are simple pass or fail tests that check whether or not a feature behaves as it should. These are often automated to meet customer and business requirements.

Regression Tests

Once one feature is functional, regression tests ensure it's stability throughout the software's other modifications. As more features are built, these automated tests check that the others aren't being negatively affected as a result.

Exploratory Tests

Exploratory tests are usually manual, in that a human operates the software looking for unknown unknowns. These tests are meant to identify new situations that the development or QA teams haven't thought of. Once a product thoroughly meet's it's intended purpose and performs well under pressure, the QA testing is complete. At Number8, we believe in developing software that is user-friendly, reliable and completely functional. As a result, we are always recruiting talented QA professionals for quality assurance jobs on our team. To learn more about how we can help you complete and successfully launch your software project, contact us at 502-890-7665. 

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