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Distributed Teams: What You Need to Know

Distributed teams have been commonplace in many industries for years. With the recent uncertainties faced by companies in the face of the coronavirus outbreak, remote work has become a necessary adaptation for even more organizations.

As many teams adapt to a distributed model in the short term, it’s helpful to consider some of the pluses and minuses involved. Fortunately, there’s a lot to learn from teams do distributed work. Here’s what you need to know about distributed teams. 

What is a Distributed team?

A distributed team is a team that works together remotely across any distance. Unlike in traditional office models, they do not share physical office space. People in a distributed team can be located anywhere- they may be in the same city, or all over the world. 

Challenges

One of the most challenging parts about distributed teams is relationship cultivation. Without regular and spontaneous physical interaction like in an office space, it can be hard to develop and maintain rapport as a team. This can have a negative impact on spur of the moment clarifying questions, feedback, and general information sharing. One way to mitigate this is to schedule regular check-ins through a communication channel. A daily or weekly meeting can really help curb unnecessary delays in communication or misunderstandings. 

Another challenge for distributed teams is related to boundaries. When people are working remotely, there is no shared sense of physical space and time. As such, it can be difficult to navigate expectations of when work should occur, where it is occurring, and the like. It can be especially tough to set boundaries between home life and work life for teams, especially if they are working at home. Further, if team members are working across time zones, work overlap can vary drastically. 

It’s important for everyone to discuss time boundaries for working and communication. The relative degree of flexibility or rigidity required for different teams and team members should be explicitly defined up front. When everyone has a clear sense of their role, they can better adapt to challenges as they arise. 

Benefits

Despite the challenges, there are a few notable benefits of distributed teams. For one, if the team is distributed over time zones, around-the-clock work may be reasonable. If planned for properly, this can help lead to extremely efficient work timelines. 

Remote work also allows a large degree of flexibility for teams. Team members may be able to easily work at times they normally wouldn’t in the office. This can lead to both high productivity and the ability to meet challenges on the fly. With the right balance of team overlap and individual flexibility, a team can truly thrive when distributed. 

 As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to build distributed teams. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.

3 Tips For Conducting Remote Job Interviews

Conducting a remote interview can require a bit of an adjustment if you haven’t done one before. There are a few guidelines you can follow that will help you streamline the process and get the most out of your interview. Here are 3 tips for conducting a remote job interview.

Choose the Right Technical Setup

One key part of a successful remote job interview is selecting optimal communication and collaboration channels. It’s important to choose the right setup based on what you want out of the job interview. For example, if you want a face-to-face mode of communication along with the ability to look at specific elements of websites and documents in real time, you might use a tool like Zoom to incorporate video chatting and screen sharing. You would have a much less efficient interview if you tried to coordinate the same activities by phone.

Overcomplicating your interview should be avoided as well. Too many tools that aren’t being used will only cause confusion and create barriers to getting to know job candidates. Overall, you should pick the tools that will best align with your goals for the interview. 

Establish Expectations and Give Directions Ahead of Time

The best way to allow job candidates shine is to give them clear expectations before interviews. This is especially important with remote interviews, where technical setups can add layers of complications. Some of these expectations can be purely practical. You might want to ask candidates to position themselves in a quiet space so you can hear them clearly. Or, if there are multiple steps involved with getting into a virtual meeting space (like in Skype or Zoom), you may want to give detailed instructions for these steps and ask candidates to go through them prior to the interview. This can help avoid issues and delays due to platform updates, device incompatibility, and lack of familiarity with tools. If you want candidates to conduct any work before the interview as part of the process, these same ideas apply. Make sure you give instructions on preferred file types and how to upload or share documents before the interview. 

Prepare for Multiple People in an Interview

If you are conducting an interview with multiple people at the same time, either with your team members or multiple interviewees, this is all even more important to get right. The more people who are involved with the interview, the greater chance there will be a technical difficulty that could hinder progress. It can be helpful to establish a point person on your team to handle any setup and technical difficulties that may arise. Provide their contact information to candidates to help streamline communication. They can also be the go-to person for everyone internally. If you take the time to go through these steps, your interview will be well on its way to success!

 As an information technology company with many years of experience, we’ve helped hundreds of clients leverage technology to hire remote workers. Interested in learning more? Let’s connect. Send us an email or give us a call and we can get the conversation started.

8 Traits Software Developers Tend To Share

People often wonder what makes a great software engineer. Although there are several opinions on this matter, the most typical qualities that software developers share are the ability to produce maintainable working software, staying on top of the latest technologies, and, most importantly, being a team player.

Here are a few traits software developers tend to share.

8 Traits Software Developers Tend To Share

1. An Analytical Mindset

A software developer must have high system-level thinking skills. At the same time, another essential quality is excellent problem-solving skills. There should be a perfect balance between the ability to think about the big picture while paying attention to smaller details.

2. Inquisitiveness and Curiosity

There may come times when a software developer creates codes that don’t work. In such cases, they mustn’t be afraid to ask questions about why it happened. The best way to move forward is by continuing to dig. Another quality that’s crucial for developers is the ability to ask superiors, clients, and peers questions. This ensures that they fully understand the expectations and requirements for their work.

3. Empathy

It’s crucial to remember that software is all about people. Good developers always make efforts to understand their users. Being able to relate to and empathize with the team and clients is another trait that good software developers share.

4. Flexibility

Regardless of the kind of programming language a developer specializes in, code is always unpredictable. Skilled developers have the ability to switch the scope of a project quickly and return a previous point if required. Adapting and being able to respond to time-sensitive problems as soon as they arise is crucial.

5. Enthusiastic To Learn

When it comes to technology, there’s always something new to learn. Expert software developers always keep abreast of advances in their industry and are eager to expand their knowledge.

6. Pragmatism

Software developers can come across unique problems with their projects. They understand that the best solution and the correct solution aren’t always the same. Sometimes, standard practices work well. Other times, they have to think outside the box. Skilled developers value their own practices and problem-solving abilities more than just relying on a set of rules.

7. Team Player

Besides working on projects alongside other developers, designers, and engineers, software developers have to work as part of a team within a company as well. They can be assigned to work with sales teams, support teams, or even marketing teams. Being a team player is a quality successful software developers pick up early in their careers.

8. Technical Mindset

A developer’s main tool to carry out day-to-day work is a computer. A computer can do what it’s told to do but cannot think for itself. So, software developers need to know the “logic” of computers. Software developers are very adept at working with computers and other devices. They also have the capacity to quickly learn about new technology and apply it in their work.

Another indispensable quality that expert developers have is the ability to communicate technical ideas to non-technical people. Being able to evolve and adapt and look at things positively are key traits for this.

These are just a few of the traits that developers tend to share. Overall, being adaptable and willing to learn are some of the most important abilities. These qualities help them grow as professionals.

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.

An Overview of CES 2020 

CES, or Consumer Electronics Show, happens every year in Las Vegas. CES is a grand exhibition of some of the most cutting edge upcoming technology. More than 4,500 brands showcase their products to over 180,000 attendees, a group made up of tech journalists, bloggers, influencers, and consumers. The event has 250 conference sessions and highlights everything from standard consumer electronics to prototypes of technologically-advanced products. Here’s an overview of what happened at CES 2020.

An Overview of CES 2020 

1. Sony Introduced an Electric Car

Electric cars have been steadily growing in popularity over the years, so it isn’t surprising that different brands have started to develop versions of these vehicles. Despite this, Sony was a surprise entry into the market. They unveiled a sleek, beautifully-designed concept car packed full of Sony tech. The car is a compelling piece of technology, though it isn’t for general consumers and won’t even see a limited edition run.

The car’s expansive dashboard display is its most attractive feature. It includes a media and entertainment center, quad motors, 200kwh battery, and can go from 0 to 60 in around 4.6 seconds.

Sony wasn’t the only brand to showcase its electric car at CES this year. Attendees also caught a glimpse of the Mustang Mach-E, which is available to customers for a starting price of $45,000 and will start shipping next year. Manufacturers also showed off the Rivian RT, which is expected to ship this year.

2. Samsung Introduced a New 5K Monitor

Samsung is always practical yet adventurous, and this year is no exception. Their 5K, 49″ monitor is an excellent replacement for a dual-monitor set-up. It has a stunning display and is suitable for gamers, content creators, video editors, digital artists, and other related professionals. The monitor spans a user’s entire view and contains the latest display technology Samsung has to offer.

That’s not all the company had to offer. It also introduced a new 8K TV with some of the thinnest bezels available along with an in-built sensor that helps it rotate with your phone. You can watch vertical videos at full resolution on the television screen.

3. Robosense and Blickfield Featured Autonomous Vehicle Technology

Autonomous vehicles are no longer considered futuristic, but few people consider them reliable. RoboSense introduced new sensors that use LiDAR technology to detect the space around an autonomous car. This combination of lasers and radar is more precise than traditional radio waves, which should mean fewer accidents.

Blickfield is another company that is working with LiDAR to improve autonomous vehicles. They have introduced the Cube and the Cube Range sensors, which detect near-field and distant obstacles. These sensors will make autonomous cars safer for both city streets and long-distance travel.

4. Canon and Nexoptic DoubleTake Showcased Cameras and Binoculars 

Canon showcased its most powerful camera yet to an eager audience. The Canon 1DX MK shoots 5.5K 60fps raw footage. One drawback is that it doesn’t have autofocus for raw modes. The camera is so powerful that autofocus would require some serious processing to handle raw content shot at 60fps.

Nexoptic DoubleTake introduced a pair of next-generation binoculars that use camera technology to help users see everything with peak clarity. The device is also capable of capturing 4K video and has image-enhancing technologies built-in. These binoculars could be a great tool for explorers, but they are quite pricey.

Other technologies introduced at CES 2020 include devices to improve home security, AI-powered displays, transparent car fronts powered by advanced image processing technology, brain-sensing wearable devices, and so much more. There was something new in almost every category this year.

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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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.

  1. 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. 

7 Things About Microsoft You Might Not Know

Microsoft is a tech giant and one of the most influential companies in the market. While competitors like Apple or Google may seem more popular, Microsoft continues to have a strong presence. It is the third-largest tech company in the world, just a couple of steps below Apple and a step over Google’s parent company Alphabet. While Microsoft has been around since 1975, there are still some things most people don’t know about the influential company. Follow along for more details.

  1. It was First Micro-Soft

Before the founders registered its brand name, they used Micro-Soft (a combination of microcomputer and software) in their company communications. Fortunately, they decided to drop the hyphen during registration and settled on an admittedly cooler brand name.

While the name has remained unchanged, the logo has undergone several transformations. Microsoft’s first logo had a stylized ‘O’ called a ‘blibbet’, which was also the name of a burger served in the company’s cafeteria.

  1. Microsoft Made a Lot of People Rich

Microsoft founder Bill Gates was the youngest billionaire of his time and spent a lot of time sitting at the top of the richest people list. But Microsoft’s stellar success didn’t just make Gates rich.  Thousands of millionaires can trace their success back to this technological juggernaut.

People who bought this company’s stock in the 1980s and retained it until the 2000s made a remarkable profit as well. Its stock price has increased by approximately 71,283% over the past three decades.

  1. Microsoft Saved Apple from Bankruptcy

Microsoft and Apple are some of the fiercest rivals in the industry. They have been competing against one another since their very inception. However, when Apple landed in financial trouble back in 1997, its rival stepped up to save it. Microsoft invested around $150 million to get Apple back on its feet. Not surprisingly, many people were not thrilled by this news, but if that support hadn’t come in, Apple may no longer exist.

  1. A Long List of Code Names

Tech companies are notoriously secretive when their products are under development; Microsoft is no exception to this rule. The company always assigns code names to its projects, which keeps competitors from knowing much about it. The code names are also placeholders because developers often come up with a product name after it is fully realized

Some of the more famous names include Chicago (Windows 95), Whistler (Windows XP), Yukon (SQL Server 2005), Longhorn (Windows Vista), and Milan (Surface). The list of codenames is extensive, probably containing dozens of code names.

  1. Microsoft is Serious About Art

The company has one of the most significant corporate art collections in the world, with more than 5,000 pieces from contemporary artists. Its collection includes works from relatively unknown artists as well as industry heavyweights like Takashi Murakami, Chuck Close, and Cindy Sherman. The art is scattered around Microsoft’s 150 campuses and includes paintings, sculptures, photographs, multimedia works, etc.

  1. Microsoft Entered the Smartphone Game First

Apple launched its first smartphone in 2007, but Microsoft had been in the industry since 2000. Unfortunately, they didn’t find much success and their software performance on smaller hand-held devices wasn’t stellar. Apple’s technologically sophisticated product revolutionized the industry.

  1. The Company Has Pet Rabbits

A few years ago, someone abandoned a few rabbits on the Microsoft campus grounds. This small group of rabbits bred at a rapid pace and grew in size; before long, the campus was swamped with these adorable but fast-breeding pests. To this day, they still have a thriving population.

These are just a few of the many unknown facts about Microsoft. There are several fascinating stories associated with this company that you can explore in your spare time.

5 Principles of UX Design Everyone In Tech Should Know

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.

 

An Overview of AI – 2020 & Beyond

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is no longer a futuristic concept; it is a current reality. People use it every day to find information, automate processes, run complex calculations, and do much more. Because AI has such a significant influence on everyone’s life, it is a good idea to keep an eye on its progress. We’re expecting many exciting developments in the world of AI in the months and years ahead. Here’s a brief overview of AI and what can you expect from 2020 onward:

Where Can We Find AI Today?

AI is more prevalent than many people realize, so much so that even people with little to no interaction with smart technology use it. Some of the most common uses of artificial intelligence include:

  • Google Maps AI-powered predictions recommend the fastest routes for any desired destination while also offering other route alternatives and live traffic data.
  • Ride sharing apps actively calculate pricing for different routes based on factors like distance, demand, traffic, etc.
  • Commercial airlines have been very early adopters of AI. This technology has powered airline autopilot systems for decades now. Modern day pilots fly a plane for only seven minutes on average, on a flight of any duration. The rest is handled by sophisticated autopilot systems.
  • Google uses AI technology to categorize emails automatically. All messages are sorted into spam, primary, social, or promotional folders without any user input. Google’s AI is extremely precise; it filters 99.9% of all spam emails.
  • Many banks use AI and machine learning technology that let customers deposit checks through their mobile phone. AI recognizes handwriting, converts it to text, authenticates information before approving a deposit.
  • Smart assistants like Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Cortana, etc., are powered by AI and Machine Learning.
  • Online shopping platforms like Amazon use AI in search and to offer tailored product recommendations.

AI is also used in traffic control systems, communication, human resource management, credit management, and much more.

What Can We Expect from AI in the Future?

While people have long anticipated the development of AI, there have still been surprises along the way. Most assumed we’d have AI robots or machines, but this technology has taken a more indirect route. Based on current developments, experts believe we can expect the innovations mentioned below in the not so distant future:

1. Blockchain, IoT, and AI Coming Together

Blockchain, IoT, and AI are also disruptive technologies that have changed several industries. IoT can interact directly with hardware while collecting data for AI, and Artificial intelligence can analyze data before making decisions. Blockchain can ensure the system is secure, scalable, and protected from fraud.

2. Increased Penetration in Creative Industries

So far, AI hasn’t gone far into the creative industries. This technology is mostly limited to writing generic content for news media websites. However, that may change soon as AI starts delving into production, scriptwriting, story development, and even acting. CG technology has developed significantly in recent years. Movies use advanced graphics, de-aging technologies, and even AI for some imagery.

3. Workplace Automation

Many companies have already adopted automation for their regular tasks, but we will see increased penetration of technology in the future. According to Gartner, workplace automation will eliminate around 1.8 million jobs while creating about 2.3 million new jobs. This change may lead to people working on more engaging tasks for higher compensation.

4. Influence of Biased Data

AI and ML systems rely on data to provide solutions. If the historical data provided is biased, it can influence a system’s decisions. Unfortunately, using AI for hiring, credit scoring, or other such functions may negatively impact historically disadvantaged target demographics like women, POC, or people of different races.

We’ll see increased penetration of AI and ML in fields like digital marketing, customer service, personal shopping services, etc. This technology is still in its early development stages. Who knows how far it will go?

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.