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5 Benefits of Stakeholder Interviews

There’s no denying it, for developers and project managers alike, stakeholders can have a somewhat looming presence throughout the duration of a project. It’s only natural considering they are often deeply invested in the project’s outcome and can even greatly influence the development of it. However, simply taking the time early on to interview those who have a stake in the outcome of the project can have numerous benefits. Here are 5 reasons why you should carve out some time in the planning stages of your next project and chat with your stakeholders.

1. Craft a Cohesive Vision

Often there are a lot of key players involved in any given project. What better opportunity than the early stages to come to a common consensus on execution? Chances are there may be more than one stakeholder, so sitting down with each one and shedding light on their own unique perspective can help your team anticipate how they will each influence the process and enable you to drive alignment right from the start. 

2. Set the Right Goals & Priorities

Consider this part of the research stage. Stakeholders can provide much needed context for what the success of a project will look like as they are part of the user audience. Therefore, inquiring about each stakeholder’s goals, agenda, and purpose will provide immeasurable insight in terms of delivering a satisfactory end product.

3. It Saves Time & Money

When you don’t have to rely on assumptions, you save your team from having to do time-consuming and costly rework. Having a conversation with stakeholders at the beginning, is proactive and will help to establish a realistic project plan and scope. 

4. Collaboration

Collaboration and communication is just good business. Having a rapport with your project’s stakeholders builds trust and credibility. The relationship with stakeholders should be viewed as more of a partnership in which each side feels validated and helps drive the project forward.

5. Proactive Problem Solving

Stakeholders are a valuable asset to any project not only through their monetary support, but their ability to voice concerns and identify challenges. Interviewing them from the start is a great way to see the constraints your team may be facing and bring things to the surface now rather than later. Structure the development process like a walk through, and allow them to aid in the decision making process. 

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.

5 Email Habits to Stay More Organized at Work

Believe it or not, there is a right way and a wrong way to use your email. Managed poorly, your email can vastly reduce your productivity at work, causing mounds of undue stress and anxiety. If you constantly find yourself coming up for air after dealing with a flood of emails, here are a few habits to cultivate so you can efficiently reign in your inbox.

1. Time Management

It can be easy to lose track of time when working from your email. Instead of popping in and out of your inbox throughout the day, consider removing email notifications to help you focus on the task at hand. Rather, set aside blocks of time during your day to deal with emails.

2. Take Action

When you do set aside time to work on emails, don’t merely read them and then let them pile up. Take action on every message by utilizing the 4 “D’s” of email. Either Delete it, Deal with it, Defer it, or Delegate it.

Delete it: You don’t actually have to save everything…Not every email needs a response or pertains to you, so save yourself the time and your inbox the emails. Don’t be afraid to delete things within reason and try to only keep emails that are informative resources or ongoing projects.  

Defer it: Even if you can’t respond to a certain email right away, don’t be afraid to acknowledge that you received the email but will respond within another time frame. Flag it as either unread or with a special tag so it doesn’t slip through the cracks. Marking it appropriately will ensure you come back to it later. It may even prove useful to create a folder for these messages you’ve put off so that they don’t get pushed to the bottom of your que, and you can deal with them all in one place.

Delegate it: CC yourself on things you need further information on in order to take action. This way you remain in the loop and focused on your responsibilities.

3. Set up Folders

Two words: Inbox Folders. Create folders in your inbox either by subject, client, project or priority depending on what best suits your business. Your inbox should just be a holding place. Once you have “dealt” with an email, either delete it or keep it in one of these folders as an archive that you routinely manage. 

4. Filter, Filter, Filter

Unfortunately, most emails we receive don’t even have important or relative information. Often, it’s worth the time and initial investment to utilize email filters that block out spam or marketing emails. At worst, they’ll at least limit the amount you receive as going through and deleting them is a major time waster. 

5. Write Better Emails

Think about the kind of emails you want to receive and incorporate this into your own emails. Short and to the point, with a clear subject line is always best. If you find yourself rewriting what is essentially the same message over and over again, save and reuse boilerplate emails. Of course you can also always send fewer emails by calling, popping in, or texting for something urgent. 

Developing these 5 habits should help you feel a sense of control over your inbox and allow you to stay on top of your to do list!

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!

Stressful Work Environment? 10 Fast & Easy Ways To Relieve Stress

Regardless of how much you love your job, it can be stressful at times. According to a survey from Everest College, 83% of workers in the US are stressed at work. There are many reasons that an employee can be stressed. For some, it is an unhealthy work environment. For others, stress at work can be a result of a lack of job security, a poor work/life balance, or feeling underpaid.

In the IT sector, quickly approaching deadlines or a high influx of clientele contribute to a stressful work environment. Data malfunctions, system crashes and miscommunication between team members are additional factors that can contribute to feeling stressed on the job. Since working in a stressful environment is unavoidable at times, it is important to know quick ways to relieve stress in the workplace. Below, we’ve outlined 10 fast and easy ways to relieve stress when you find yourself stressing out at work.

10 Ways to Relieve Stress at Work

  1. Build Positive Relationships with Co-Worker

    Co-workers who can commiserate with you on common stressors are blessings in disguise. Having friends in the office who you can vent to in confidence is a huge stress reliever. When you talk about stressors, you contextualize them and can often resolve the issues altogether. If you’re feeling stressed at work, find a friend and confidante then sit down and talk about what’s bothering you.

  2. Exercise

    Exercise has been proven time and time again to relieve stress. You don’t have to do a full-blown workout to incorporate exercise into your workday. Taking a short walk during lunch or a quick walk around the building when you’ve got 10 minutes can make all the difference. The point is that getting outside and getting your heart rate up hugely benefit stress relief. If you don’t have time to get away from your desk consider requesting a standing desk. An act as simple as standing when you’re used to sitting all day can hugely benefit the receptors in your brain that manage stress.

  3. Improve Your Diet

    Stress eating is real. While it may feel good to binge eat greasy pizza when you’re feeling down, it’s not helping you manage your stress. In fact, a healthy diet is going to benefit your stress levels much more than an unhealthy diet will. By eating foods high in carbohydrates, fat, and sugar, you’re more likely to feel lethargic and less likely to tackle difficult tasks. When you choose to eat complex carbs, high fiber fruits, and superfoods like kale and dark chocolate, you’re helping your body and powering your brain. A healthy diet will keep you from worrying about your weight on top of your job and will help keep you focused on the tasks ahead. In the end, you’ll be benefiting your body and your workload.

  4. Start Your Day Off in a Positive Way

    We’ve all heard the saying, “someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed” and while it’s an expression, it rings true. A huge factor that determines your stress levels is how you start your day. When you start your day late and find yourself rushing, you’re more likely to be stressed. Some ways to ensure you start your day off right include preparing your breakfast and lunch the night before, picking out your work attire in the evening, and getting at least 8 hours of sleep without that time cutting into your morning.

  5. Breathe, Breathe, Breathe

    Breathing is a great way to relieve stress and calm yourself down. By practicing deep breathing, you’re sending your brain a message that says, “calm down and relax”. Not only does deep breathing reduce stress, but it also relieves tension. There are a few different deep breathing techniques that can help with stress reductions. A study recently came out of the University of Michigan explains the different techniques, how to do them, and their benefits.

  6. Cut Down on Interruptions

    Interruptions surround us within the work environment. From meetings and email threads to extended lunch breaks and social media, there are distractions everywhere. While some interruptions are necessary, most of them are not and are contributing to your stress. Try cutting down on interruptions by setting aside specific times for meetings, addressing your inbox at a certain time, and limiting your social media usage.

  7. Tackle One Thing at a Time

    Prioritizing your day is another great way to eliminate stress. Making a to-do list of tasks to work through can help to put your day in a manageable perspective. By completing one task at a time, you will be able to focus entirely on said task. This will keep you from having to revisit it throughout the day. A helpful tip is to make an outline of how your ideal workday would pan out and then try to stick to that outline.

  8. Quit Self-Imposing Stress

    A lot of work-related stress is self-imposed. By setting unreasonable deadlines for yourself or avoiding certain items on your to-do list because they are hard to tackle, you’re creating stress that can easily be avoided. An easy way to avoid self-imposed stress is to apply other methods of stress management on this list to your work life.

  9. Be Comfortable

    Being uncomfortable can also contribute to stress in the workplace. Wearing clothes you feel uncomfortable in to uphold an image can contribute to your stress. Sitting in an uncomfortable chair can also cause stress in the workplace. Even something as minor as dealing with distracting office noise can make it hard to focus. Speaking up about office discomforts can benefit your day-to-day work life tremendously and cut down on stress.

  10. Kick Bad Habits

    Kicking bad habits that cause you to stress is a great way to reduce your stress at work and at home, too! Whether your bad habit is checking social media too often or finding yourself overwhelmed with topics unrelated to work while at the office, eliminating those causes can have great effects. BlockSite is a great Chrome extension that can help you cut back on visiting websites not related to your job and can help eliminate your stress in the workplace.

While stress in the workplace can’t be completely avoided, it can be managed. The number one step to managing your work-related stress is to identify the causes. Once you’ve discovered what is causing your stress, start taking steps to eliminate those causes. Eventually, your work-related stress will disappear and your life at work will improve drastically. If you feel that these tips will not help you with your stress, you may consider a new career path. Not all people are cut out for certain jobs and that is completely fine. In the end, personal wellbeing and mental health should be your highest priorities.

At Number 8, we promote a healthy and stress-free work environment. If you are an IT professional who is in search of a job, contact us today. You can give us a call at 502-890-7665 or check out our contact page!

Why Mistakes are an Important Part of the Creative Process Even in Tech

Those in the Information Technology field know that software development doesn’t occur in a vacuum. It’s collaborative and often times risks need to be taken in order to achieve any level of innovation. With risks come mistakes and projects that don’t always pan out as planned.

However, IT teams that follow the agile methodology tend to be familiar with the ideology that mistakes are an important part of the creative process. The agile way of developing tech is adaptive in that it is designed around embracing feedback and learning opportunities.

As Albert Einstein once said, “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

Here’s why you shouldn’t let the fear of making a mistake keep you or your team in your comfort zone:

Mistakes let us know what doesn’t work and paves the path for what could.  

When it comes to developing something new or going into uncharted territory, mistakes are bound to happen. But with experimentation comes discovering a new way of doing something and that is almost always value added. By pivoting and testing new ideas, one is better able to evaluate and refine a product or idea and then learn from it. 

It’s not the mistake that defines an employee, but how they rebound from it.

If mistakes are inevitable, a team should know how to handle them. Take the stigma out of it, and you’ll find that enabling a team to make mistakes means also giving them the opportunity to problem solve effectively. Employees who take accountability for their mistakes and are able to learn from them are a valuable asset to any company. Instead of creating a culture of fear where one tends to get defensive if a mistake is made, establish one where everyone feels empowered enough to innovate and safeguard for the future.

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!

6 Reasons Why Agile Software Development Will Remain Relevant for the Foreseeable Future

Every development methodology has its pros and cons. Depending on the size and culture of a company, the structure and plan best used to oversee the process of developing a system can vary. However, it seems that as of late, the Agile Methodology is winning out as the best way of managing a both a company and software development team’s resources. 

Here are 6 reasons why Agile software development will continue to remain relevant, perhaps even as a management approach within other industries.

  1. It’s Collaborative

    The Agile method runs around daily meetings or “scrums” that cultivate accountability and teamwork. During any given scrum, each team member shares their accomplishments from the last work day, announces what they are currently working on, and mentions any possible impediments to progress for the team to help them problem solve. These meetings keep everyone on schedule, and create a cohesive atmosphere where each person is able to work cross-functionally and continuously learn from one another.  

  2. It Offers Flexibility 

    Setbacks are common when it comes to software development. The Agile methodology’s time frame offers flexibility in that it builds in time for future corrections. By embracing the ideology from the start that not everything is going to go to plan, Agile prevents errors from halting a development project by making time for them. 

  3. It Promotes Efficiency 

    With this flexibility comes a sense of urgency because of the level of communication that exists within Agile. Problems are tended to efficiency because of the cyclical like feedback and level of interaction between all team members. The speed at which corrections are made is key in that they save time and resources; allowing a company to stay within budget.  

  4. It’s Adaptive

    As it’s adaptive in nature, Agile welcomes changes in requirements and feedback. This way of thinking is value adding as it encourages innovation and risk taking at every stage of the process. 

  5. It Tests for Quality

    The focus of agile is test driven. Software is developed in a way that continuously tests for quality. Problems are identified early on in order to achieve the best possible end product.  

  6. It Offers Transparency

    Agile is inherently transparent. Therefore, stakeholders and product owners can ensure a proper return on their investment. Additionally, the customer, developer and project manager remain on the same page and achieve a desired level of communication. 

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.

 

Meetings At Work – 4 Reasons Why They Are Useful

When it comes to meetings at work, they can either be really informative or drag on past the point of productivity. For those in the IT world who have embraced the Agile methodology, meetings are a daily occurrence called “scrums.” Development teams lead these gatherings to regroup and give status reports concerning their specific projects. Additionally, even when working with remote workers, it can prove beneficial to touch base with them face to face via a video conference, as things can be misconstrued in other formats like email and chat. 

No matter what industry you’re in though, meetings are an essential part of business. In fact, if done right, they can propel a company toward success. 

Just in case you’re not sold, here are 4 reasons why meetings are useful in the workplace: 

The Power of Brainstorming 

Sometimes it takes meeting with your team to get a new perspective on a project or problem. Collaborating collectively allows for new ideas to be shared in a safe and confidential space. Innovation is best nurtured when everyone feels they are heard and have been given the opportunity to contribute.  

Providing Information 

Meetings are perhaps most often used for providing information and dispersing tasks. If structured properly, they don’t have to be the drudge most employees have come to know and fear. These kinds of meetings work best if there is a clear agenda and a leader who is not afraid to interrupt and push forward. To some extent, everyone should be given the opportunity to speak. This is a great time to discuss priorities, air grievances, and gather help from those less bogged down with assignments. Providing information in a meeting is constructive in that everyone is on the same page at the same time.

Strategic Planning 

Usually a company participates in annual strategic planning to set the course and pace for the upcoming year. Planning strategically can be helpful in setting goals and motivating your team to seek action based results. Doing so can also ensure everyone is kept accountable throughout the year. Additionally, meeting within this context gives leadership the opportunity to recognize potential in members who may be interested in taking on more responsibility or growing their role within the business. 

Re-centering

Without meeting from time to time, a company’s policies have a way of falling through the cracks. Convening from time to time just to give everyone feedback and have a general review of the proper procedures can be immensely helpful in keeping a growing business on track. Not to mention it helps to rustle everyone up and out of their respective nooks and show some appreciation for a job well done. 

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.

8 Traits of a Skilled Project Manager

A project manager’s job entails moving a project from conception to completion all the while ensuring a client’s needs and wants are being met and that the team is reaching it’s deadlines. This requires a lot of planning and executing. Additionally, finding the right person for the job can be quite the task as the role of project management requires a specific and well sought after skill set. 

Whether you’re searching for a good candidate to fulfill a project management position or looking to become a skilled project manager yourself, here are some important traits to hone in on. 

8 Characteristics of a Skilled Project Manager

1. Organization

In order to set realistic timelines and stay within budget for each and every project, a project manager needs to be a well oiled and organized machine. Seeing a project through from beginning to end in an organized and proficient way often entails being able to utilize the right tools to set goals and milestones, as well as schedule meetings and assign tasks. 

2. Communication

As with any role, communication is important. However, for a project manager, excellent communication skills are paramount. This is because their role acts as an information pipeline for both the client and company as a project progresses. A project manager must be able to manage expectations both within her team as well as when consulting with a client. Communicating in an honest and respectful way leaves no room for misinterpretation and fosters good working relationships. 

3. Leadership

A good project manager is also a good leader; someone who can managing people effectively. Keeping up with your team’s level of productivity on a current project as well as being clear about what should be prioritized and the best way to manage time takes real leadership. Additionally, a successful leader can comfortably delegate tasks, track their team’s progress, hold them accountable, and even share credit for a job well done.   

4. Vision

As a project manager, one must be able to see and account for an infinite amount of possibilities. Planning ahead means accounting for potential pitfalls and necessary revisions. This way,  if and when they happen, the project does not fall behind schedule. Additionally, by having enough foresight, a project manager is able to anticipate and prevent mistakes before they can halt a project. 

5. Drive

In order for any given project to be successful, it’s essential that the project manager is passionate about it’s development. One who lacks drive will not be able to motivate their team properly to meet deadlines and reach new levels of innovation. By having a stake in the company, a skilled project manager is likely invested in the outcome of their projects and more likely to prosper because of it. Additionally, those who enjoy helping others naturally have a drive and passion for their work because they want to see it do well. 

6. Problem Solving

Setbacks are inevitable no matter the project. A skilled project manager is able to quickly problem solve an issue before it has a domino like effect and causes the whole project to lag. Good problem solvers are creative and not afraid to take action. 

7. Composure

When things don’t go as planned or a project is right up against a deadline, an experienced project manager is able to keep their cool under pressure. This trait is vital in making sure projects reach completion. Staying composed when dealing with a difficult situation, whether with a client or a glitch in development, allows for things to get back on track quickly.   

8. Team Building

Part of a project manager’s job is to oversee his or her team during a project. In order to inspire coworkers to do their best work, a project manager needs to be an effective team builder. Team building often entails showing compassion when needed and cultivating an environment where everyone feels they can approach you and ask questions. When your team is comfortable asking questions as they work on an assignment, they’re less likely to make mistakes that will need to be corrected down the road. Encouraging this kind of participation and offering helpful as well as positive feedback streamlines 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!

How to Encourage a Culture of Continuous Learning Among Your IT Team

It should come as no surprise that providing professional development opportunities for your employees often results in new found innovation, creative problem solving, increased levels of productivity, and even upward mobility within the company. As a chief officer or project manager, here’s how you can support continued education for your IT team.

1. Provide The Resources & Time

If your team has to take it upon themselves to continue their education, chances are they’ll struggle with finding the right course and fitting it into their schedule among their many responsibilities. One way you can ensure your employees don’t get stuck or remain stagnant in their skill set, is by incorporating education into their work. Offering a set amount of hours of uninterrupted, paid learning not only motivates employees to seek growth, it makes it realistic. Whether it’s learning a new software tool or a strategies on improving performance in general, enabling your team to continue to develop will allow your company to keep up with the pace of the always evolving world of Information Technology.   

2. Tailor it to Your Work Culture

Continued learning doesn’t have to look the same for every business or IT team. It can be formal, informal, in the form of a quarterly retreat, weekly seminars, or online classes. What’s important is that you tailor it to your work culture. Depending on the size of your company, it may even be beneficial for employees to offer up topics they’re interested in and start from there.  

3. Lead By Example

Before you can establish a culture of continuous learning you must first create an environment where one is not afraid to ask questions. It can be scary to admit you are weak in a certain area or don’t exactly know how to do something. However, just because one works in the field of IT, doesn’t necessitate that they are skilled in it’s every specialty.  

4. Set and Share Goals

One way you can lead by example is to set and share your own goals for increasing your knowledge, both short and long term. This can be in the form of an action plan that details how you are going to reach these goals. Once you have established a means of providing educational opportunities, it’s beneficial to follow up with your team’s goals to ensure that there needs were met as well as learn how your employees plan to implement what they learned. When your team understands what they’re doing and why, they’ll be more engaged in the process and more productive overall. 

 

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 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.