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7 Tips to Position Fast Growing Gazelle Companies for Success

gazelle companiesJust like a herd of gazelles moves quickly over the Savannah, gazelle companies grow swiftly over a short period of time. Investopedia defines gazelle companies as businesses that “double its revenues over a four-year period” while “starting from a revenue base of at least $1 million.” That’s a 20% increase each year… quite a feat!

When a business booms this quickly, it can easily get caught up in its growth. Following these nine simple tips can help position gazelle companies towards success, so they can continue to expand for years to come.

Tips for Success Among Gazelle Companies

1. Practice Consistency

When your operations are consistent, it’s easier for employees to notice an abnormality that needs to be addressed. Furthermore, consistent operations make it easier for new team members to acclimate to the company. This factor is a must for a growing business.

2. Focus on Client Service

It’s paramount that a company never forgets the people who got them to this point of success — the clients. Therefore, don’t let the rapid growth distract account managers and other employees from providing excellent service at all times.

3. Instill a Teamwork-Driven Company Attitude

An employee should never respond to a manager with “that’s not my job.” If something needs to be done, it’s every team member’s responsibility to do what is in their power to meet the objective.

4. Foster Creativity

Not only will your employees appreciate a work environment that allows them to stretch their creative muscles, a company that encourages creativity is better able to solve problems that arise with rapid growth.

5. Pay Attention to Competition

Your company doesn’t need to live and die by what your competitors are doing, but ignoring them opens up a giant blind spot that can be taken advantage of in the future.

6. Be Painfully Organized

When it comes to growth, it’s easy for a company to set certain things aside for them to get lost in the shuffle only to realize down the road that having that certain thing on hand could be a real help. When it comes to operations, over-organize just to be safe.

7. Outsource When Needed

The more your company grows, the more big picture ideas you need to stay on top of your market. Make sure your big picture people have enough time to follow through with their ideas by outsourcing work where needed — for instance, in software development.

Gazelle companies and their speedy growth are becoming more and more common. At Number8, we help gazelle companies stay on top of their growth by connecting them with top tier outsourcing talent. 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 Team Building Exercises for Agile Developers

team building exercisesTeam building gets a bad rap. While employers are open to implementing team building exercises into the workplace, they are often met with resistance. Employees sometimes see team building exercises as a waste of time that they can’t afford and won’t enjoy. This is especially true of team building exercises that occur over a weekend when employees are enjoying time off.

Team building exercises are meant to be productive, fun, and meaningful. Going into team building with a negative attitude negates a lot of the exercise’s benefits. This is a shame, considering the plethora of benefits team building exercises have including:

  • Improved communication
  • Develop team roles
  • Better interpersonal relationships
  • Maximize profitability
  • Inter-team networking
  • Improved morale
  • Help improve skills
  • Shared learning
  • Encourage mission focus

If you manage a remote agile development team, these benefits are probably sounding very appealing. So what is a project manager to do when they want to improve cohesion in their agile development team? Team building exercises, of course. Employees do not have to be in the same office or even away on a weekend together to practice these exercise.

The activities outlined below can involve developers who work both on-site and remotely. All it takes is video chat capabilities and a block of time where you can all meet. These team building exercises are proven to help strengthen communication skills and team productivity! Considering they are all free and can be done in-office with remote workers, they are worth giving a shot.

5 Team Building Exercise to Try with Agile Developers

 1. Two Truths and a Lie

Each person participating writes down their name, two things about them that are true, and one thing that is false. All three things should be relatively believable. As each person reads their two truths and a lie, the rest of the team has to figure out which facts are real, and what is the lie.

2. Find the Common Thread

Developers are split into groups and must figure out a commonality that runs through each member. The first group to find the common thread wins.

3. Show and Tell

This one is pretty much the same as the old school time activity. Each team member gets a day to bring something in that allows the rest to get to know them a little better. This can be a live demonstration, or it also works through the written word.

4. Blind Drawing

Split the group into small teams or pairs. Have one person blindfolded and the other team must instruct what the blindfolded member must draw, but they can only use abstract descriptions… nothing concrete. This is a great communication exercise perfect for long distance developers.

5. What’s on Your Desk

Have each member bring an item from their desk and instruct them to transform it into a new product for the company. Have each member give a two minute presentation “selling” the product to the rest of the group.

As stated earlier, these team building exercises will help build trust, strengthen bonds, and enhance communication skills. They also work to get creativity flowing among team members and could result in new processes, projects, or products! Have you ever participated in, or run, a team building exercise that you found beneficial? We’d love to hear about it!

At Number 8, we promote team growth and development with both our on site workers and nearshore developers. 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!

Explaining the Agile Process and the Transition to an Agile Scrum Environment

agile scrumMaking the move from waterfall to an agile scrum development environment can be a big move, but for many software teams, it’s definitely worth the transition. When you work in an environment that utilizes the scrum methodology, it’s likely this organization values open communication, collaboration and efficiency.

While we’ve already explored the basics of agile scrum in previous blog posts, we haven’t delved into the actual format of agile scrum meetings. Depending on team preferences and styles, these meetings typically take on different forms and timelines, but they all include certain characteristics of the scrum methodology.

First let’s meet the “typical” agile scrum team. These are the actual people involved and engaged throughout this process. It all begins with the “Product Owner” and his or her vision for the project. Next we have the “Scrum Development Team.” This group of cross-functional members works together in a self-organizing, collective atmosphere. The “Scrum Master” is more of the team manager, providing an important type of leadershipo inside the group. The job of the Scrum Master revolves around facilitating and resolving any issues experienced throughout the entire product development process.

The Agile Process and Different Types of Agile Scrum Meetings

Now that we’ve provided a basic understanding of the team and scrum qualities, it is time to move on to the actual agile scrum process. Agile software development is often described as an incremental development process. This process becomes more of a cycle in terms of movement. If there is an issue or a setback, the process might move backward to resolve such issues. This cyclical process allows the project to easily continue forward as well. This is where the agility of this method becomes vital. But for more of a visual, the scrum process begins with the sprint planning meeting and proceeds from there. Here is an overview of the different types of scrum meetings:

Sprint Planning Meeting:

This meeting begins with the Product Owner. This is where he or she explains her vision for the project as well as ways for the team to meet this goal. During this meeting, team members decide the amount of work they can complete in a timely manner. This is also when the team moves work from the Product Backlog to the Sprint Backlog. This step requires a lot of planning and usually this takes around 8 hours for the group to decide on a finalized 30-day Sprint.

Daily Scrum and Sprint Execution:

From the planning meeting, we move into the daily scrum meetings. Every single day for about 30 minutes, the team gathers together to report any issues or progress on their tasks. Though brief, this meeting is an essential part of the scrum process. It is designed to keep all group members on track in a cohesive manner. Normally the Product Owner is present during all daily scrum meetings to assist in any way.

Sprint Review Meeting:

This meeting is used to showcase a live demonstration of the work completed. During the sprint review meeting the Product Owner, Scrum Master and stakeholders are present. They review the product and suggest changes or improvements.

Sprint Retrospective Meeting:

This meeting is held to facilitate a team’s reflection on their progress. The team speaks openly about their organizational concerns and teamwork. During this meeting, dialogue should remain friendly, non-judgmental and impartial. This review session is a key part of team building and development and it’s also very important for future scrum projects.

Backlog Refinement Meeting:

The last type of scrum meeting reviewed in this article is the backlog refinement meeting. Team members focus on the quality and skill work involved during sprints. This meeting is necessary for the business owners to connect with the development team and is used to assess the quality and development of the final product. This meeting involves important reflection on the team backlogs. These backlogs are often written in User Story form and specify what makes the product useful to the consumer.

Scrum meetings involve so much more than the brief descriptions provided above. There are many additional pieces to the scrum process including things like burndown charts and scaling, but the point of this post is to provide an overview of different kinds of scrum meetings. Regardless of the type, all scrum meetings encourage organization, progress and resolutions. With this incremental and cyclical software development process, all members have the ability to communicate openly and honestly. With the process of scrum and the sprint timeline, projects are more efficiently completed with the help of a capable and cooperative team and Product Owner led by a skillful Scrum Master.

Whether you are already using an agile approach to software development, or are considering transitioning towards a more agile methodology, the senior level agile developers at Number8 can help you make the shift. For additional details about working with a Number8 software developer, give us a call or contact us via email.

Transitioning to Agile Software Development

Agile Software Development

Business leaders are not usually concerned with the inner workings of their company’s software development– but should they be? According to the methodology of agile software development, there should be more interaction between managers and programmers.  When implemented correctly, agile development principles allow developers to stay flexible in order to build a quality project. The management side gets involved to qualify changes in deadline and anything else needed to enter the market.

Agile Software Development: Developmental Duties

When shifting towards agile software development, one major change is the amount of day-to-day duties the development team has. For one, they have to begin incorporating more QA measures in order to test developing software’s performance. It’s a dramatic shift for workers, but over time the agile software develop method will save them time with development processes.

Developers will learn to quit relying on manual testing, else they risk falling back to the previous waterfall processes. This allows them to catch bugs early on, so they can fix the software as they go. The more developed software is, the more confusing it is retracing your steps in order to find the bug.

Agile Software Development: Management Duties

The best thing a manager can do for their team when attempting to transfer to agile software development is to emphasize the importance of changing the way the team thinks as a whole. Hanging on to the old ways of developing will slow down the transition and make it more difficult to incorporate the new ways into day-to-day operations.

Managers should communicate regularly with team members. This ends up being a time intensive practice, but it’s a cornerstone of agile methodology. A main tenant for the method is people over processes. Communication is especially important because with agile, developers don’t have a defined role. Instead, they are given a certain amount of flexibility, as far as roles go. This can be pretty confusing for a manager, but it allows them to assess each team member’s strength to create more efficient processes in the future.

At Number8, we help companies transition to agile software development so they too can experience the improved 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!

9 Business Trends to Watch For in 2017

business trends

As a new year begins, industries all over the world predict new business trends that will influence the months to come. In 2016, trends in the IT world included: investing in training remote employees and large industries personally connecting with customers. As we move into 2017, some of these business trends are continuing to gain momentum, while new trends are also emerging.

2017 Business Trends

As software developers involved in many growing businesses, we not only follow trends, but see them happening in real time! Follow along for our observations and predictions about 9 business trends that will impact the IT world in 2017.

1. Hybrid IT

As the IT world gets larger and continues to move faster, Hybrid IT is going to continue to grow. The combination of on-site and cloud-integrated programs will require employees to have expanded knowledge on both platforms. It will shift the focus of data storage to a scale-able metric that has potential to grow as business does. With Hybrid IT, employers and employees alike will have wider access to the data files necessary to continue business. They’ll also be able to maintain brick and mortar locations and offices simultaneously.

2. Specialization

As millennials continue to enter the work force, specialization will begin to have a larger influence in the hiring process. With a wider variety of potential employees up for hire, businesses will begin to look for people to hire who specialize in one, minor – and most likely little known – specialty. Considering potential employees who have the capability to multi-task in the IT environment will no longer happen. On this same note, consumers will no longer expect a “one-size-fits-all” experience when interacting with a website or e-commerce store. These two trends fit hand-in-hand, and customers will receive more specialized experiences as employees become increasingly specialized.

3. Closely Integrated Remote Employees

Outsourcing work is nothing new in the IT world. Companies of all sizes have benefited from the technical talent available through outsourcing over the past several years. Outsourcing complex technical work like software programming is often more efficient and affordable. As the Internet becomes more accessible globally, this trend will only increase. Now with technological advancements, offshore and onshore workers are collaborating more than ever using tools like Google Hangouts® and Skype®. Through 2017 a growing number of businesses will take advantage of the opportunities to more closely integrate remote IT employees and contractors into their existing teams.

4. Ecommerce through Social Media Marketing

Ecommerce through social media was a predicted trend of 2016 and did pick up speed with Facebook releasing the Market Place close to the end of 2016. Pinterest also introduced ecommerce on their platform and this trend will continue to gain momentum throughout 2017. Social media is one of the most influential communication platforms to be created in the last 50 years, and opening the communication platform to ecommerce retailers makes sense as part of the natural progression. The union between social media platforms and ecommerce will become further refined based on data-driven insights.

5. Security

Security will trend even higher than it was predicted to trend in 2016. In 2016, American eyes were opened to the threat of cyber-attacks and the very real capabilities foreign and domestic entities have to spy on American citizens. Edward Snowden brought us insider intelligence on the NSA’s tactics in regard to cyber monitoring and the recent election of Donald Trump has brought further concerns to light around Russia’s potential involvement in U.S. politics, the economy, and media. What does this mean for 2017? Empty privacy policies found in website footers will no longer cut it for many customers. Legal reassurances that companies are protecting consumer data is going to become more important than ever as public concern over cyber privacy and security grows.

6. Automation Is On The Rise

At the heart of technological advancement is the issue of automation – including all of the ways technology can be harnessed to make things easier for people. At this day and age, any brand or business that completely operates in an ‘analogue style’ is falling rapidly behind. Automation in e-mail responses, order confirmations, shipment notifications, and customer service has become the most efficient way to run businesses smoothly and effectively. Continued discoveries that improve customer experiences through automation will continue to take precedence over ‘analogue’ tactics in 2017 and beyond.

7. Clear Conscious Sustainability

As technology grows, the physical world shrinks. Consumers know what is going on globally as they seek out specific products and services. The sweatshop practices of production that were once hidden behind a ‘Made in China’ sticker are now broadcast and vehemently deplored by a growing number of consumers. This increase in transparency is causing companies to change how many products are made and it is inspiring new business models. These businesses use a “give back” approach made famous with companies like TOMS, Pura Vida, and Warby Parker. Through 2017, sustainability will only become a more important factor in consumer’s eyes and companies must be aware that all their practices, whether IT, production, or delivery, should be managed with sustainability in mind, for the ultimate success.

8. On Demand, Independent Work

According to MBO Partners, the number of independent workers in the United States has risen by 12% over the last 5 years. This increase has come from a large shift in the global economy which has forced people to look past the traditional route of getting a college degree and using that to carve a career to becoming “self-made” employees with credible CVs that market their personalized skills and talents. This growing force of independent workers will only help feed the demand for specialized skills. In order to gain velocity, entrepreneurs will likely create planned products and services that offer consumers what they want and need.

9. Drone Technology

Drone technology entered the lives of Americans in 2010 when the Parrot AR Drone was unveiled at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, NV. Since then, drone technology has become increasingly prominent and this trend is expected to continue. In 2015, the FAA was required to include small drones in national airspace, and companies and consumers have adapted accordingly. Used in television, photography, delivery systems, and more – 2017 will see drone technology spread even further and go even farther.

The business trends of 2017 will continue to evolve, while driven in part by ways people adapt to technological developments. We’ll continue to track and report on these changes at Number8 so stay in touch for more information including updates about the latest business trends.

 

Why Handling Change Is Important for Software Development Teams and 13 Famous Quotes About It

Effectively navigating change is at the heart of success for software development teams. The most effective teams not only handle change well but even welcome the opportunity, knowing that it will likely yield a better end result. Read this article for some inspiring quotes about change from some of the world’s greatest thinkers.

High functioning software development teams tend to share certain traits. These include flexibility, dependability and organization. Team members also need to have a good understanding of how to handle change. During team projects, when disagreements, problems or issues arise, these can become project blockers. But for a high functioning team, a problem or disagreement often becomes a new opportunity to refine and improve.

An effective software development team should be able to roll with new advancements, shifts in direction and ultimately, with change. While change can be a frightening experience, it’s an inevitable part of business. And like most things, you will never know the benefits of embracing change until you give it a chance.

Whether your team is seasoned to effectively handle change, or it could use a little warming up to the idea, here are some famous quotes about this important topic. These might just give you and your team the confidence they need to welcome change as part of any project.

  1. “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Mahatma GandhiHigh Functioning Teams
  2. “One cannot manage change, one can only be ahead of it.” – Peter Drucker
  3. “Great changes are easier than small ones.” – Francis Bacon
  4. Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy
  5. “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela
  6. “People don’t resist change, they resist being changed.” – Peter Scholtes
  7. “If you always do what you’ve done, you will always get what you’ve always got.”- Ed Foreman
  8. “The only completely consistent people are dead.” – Aldous Huxley
  9. “When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one that has opened for us.” – Alexander Graham Bell
  10. “The world hates change yet it is the only thing that has brought progress.” – Charles Kettering
  11. “Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay.” – Simone De Beauvoir
  12. “Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.” – George Bernard Shaw
  13. People wish to be settled. It is only as far as they are unsettled that there is any hope for them. -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Great leaders, writers and inventors have shared their thoughts about change. And it’s overwhelmingly clear that with change comes success. It is necessary to take the opportunity change presents and make it a positive experience. Your software development team must acknowledge and embrace change in order to produce a great end result!

 

Project Management: From Good to Great

Project Management for Software DevelopmentProject management refers to the active process of planning, organizing, motivating and controlling resources to complete a unique task that aims to achieve a specific goal. Sometimes a company will outsource software development needs to an outside company. In order for software development work to be completed in a timely and effective manner, project management is a key part of this effort.  The ideal outsourcing partner will deliver the best product available afforded by time, talent and resources. The end results depends largely on how an outsourcing firm manages the project from start to finish.

When it comes to project management, it isn’t a process that is set in stone to which a standard protocol is easily implemented. Instead, project management is a strategic an dynamic application of knowledge, skills, techniques and experience. Effective project managers allow a company to tie project results to business goals, which enables better competitive positioning in the market.

7 Ways to go from Good to Great Project Management

Although there is more than one successful way to implement successful project management, there are certain common factors that tend to be present in most approaches.  Follow along to learn seven ways for project managers to take a project from good to great:

  1. Planning – Most deficiencies in a project may be the result of a poor or improper planning process from the get go. When planning a project, it’s vital to determine the project definition, the project work plan, and the project management procedures.  Having a clear illustration of these three planning criteria will facilitate a more fluid operation of the project from start to finish.
  2. Identify Risks in Advance – During the planning process, it’s important to identify all possible risk that will occur at some point in the project and asses the level of immediacy they will need in order to be fixed. Risk may be defined as high, medium, or low.  Being aware of the potential problems that may arise throughout the project can ultimately save valuable time and money if they are recognized early in the planning process.
  3. Scheduling – Throughout the project, monitoring the work plan to identify what task have been completed and what tasks need to be done will help keep team members up-to-date on the process. Monitoring the work plan schedule will help determine whether the project is and will stay on the determined time budget and allow any necessary changes to be made.
  4. Budget – Similar to the work plan schedule, it’s vital to monitor the budget of the project to determine how much money the project has consumed, and to make sure more than the original cost has not been spent. Keeping track of the budget throughout the project will help foresee any financial issues that may occur and allow the proper adjustments to be implemented to make sure the project stays on budget.
  5. Scope Management – During the process of the project, a stakeholder may request minor or major deliverables to be added that were not part of the original project definition. Being flexible and knowing how to correctly document and categorize the change needed in the project is imperative to overall success.  It’s also important that a manager recognize the smallest scope changes so they do not pile up over time and compromise the project through a phenomenon often referred to as “scope creep.”
  6. Urgent Resolutions – Even when risks and issues are identified early in the planning stages of the project, the product development team may be faced with unseen problems. Issues may become a big problem to the project if they are not taken care of in a timely manner. It does a great service to the entire project if issues are addressed with a sense of urgency to keep the flow of the project as smooth as possible.
  7. Communication – Poor communication may lead to a number of problems throughout a project. Some team members may have different expectations, may not fully know where the project stands, and may not be working on what they need to be. Communication between managers, team members, and stakeholders needs to be at the highest level possible to ensure that everyone on the project is on the same page in all steps along the way. This may be particularly important if some team members are located offshore.

Producing a great end product for a development project should be the main objective of any software firm. And implementing effective project management may be the difference between delivering a good or great end result.  For a company to remain competitive in its respective market, hiring a firm software development firm that uses best practices in project management will ultimately be a smart decision.

What is Scope Creep and How to Avoid It?

avoiding scope creep“Scope creep” is a term that is commonly used in the world of software development.  It describes an unfortunate phenomenon that sometimes happens during a project. When changes to a project are continually requested, significantly altering the original project plan, scope creep is likely occurring.

While scope creep can happen with one major change request to a project, more often it happens quite subtly with many small change requests. Over the course of time, what appeared to be minor changes begin to accumulate into more significant shifts in design and plan. Not only does this often change the project time frame, but it also typically affects the budget, too. With added resources needed in order to make changes and adjustments, it is no wonder that scope creep is sometimes considered a project manager’s worst nightmare.

Avoiding Scope Creep – 4 Helpful Tips

Since scope creep can wreak havoc on any software development project, it is helpful to think about ways to minimize or even avoid it before it ever happens.  Here are a few things a project manager can do to reduce the risk of scope creep.

  1. Make sure your project is clearly defined. Projects that are not clearly defined are sitting ducks for scope creep. Before you begin any software development project, make sure you clearly articulate the necessary objectives and goals of the project. This includes clarifying exactly what is and is not included in the project. Stakeholders, managers, team members, and anyone else involved in the project should have a clear understanding of the project scope.
  2. Clarify your deliverables with as much detail as possible. It is helpful to create a document that clearly details what will be created, who will create it, and when it is expected to be complete. Adding a more detailed description to individual deliverables is beneficial.
  3. Have a clear process to acknowledge completion of deliverables. Sometimes referred to as a “baseline,” it is helpful to have a clear way to determine when a deliverable is complete. Without this important benchmark, it is easy to unknowingly fall victim to scope creep.
  4. Implement a clear change request process. Scope creep is much less likely to happen when a clear change request process is in place. A change request, which includes documentation of the need for change, provides a way to document times when a shift in project scope occurs.

While it may not be possible to completely avoid scope creep on every software development project, it is possible to do things to reduce the risk of it occurring. Scope creep is not only a problem for the software developers working on a project, but it is also a source of great frustration for project stakeholders, managers, and others.  In the end it can lead to wasted time, money and other resources, while also generating considerable frustration.

Striving to limit the risk of scope creep is an ongoing yet worthy effort for the entire software development team.  Having clear and detailed project goals, deliverables, and a process for requesting changes, is the first step to avoiding scope creep. Working with experienced project managers who are understand all the facets of project planning and management is also beneficial. In the words of Basil S. Walsh, a banking and insurance executive during the 1930s: “If you don’t know where you are going. How can you expect to get there?”