Posts

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.

 

What the Fastest Growing Companies Have in Common

Starting or running a business is a complicated process. It requires commitment, dedication, planning, and a bit of luck. Many businesses fail within the first one or two years, which can cause severe financial loss along with emotional distress. All entrepreneurs dream of having a thriving company, and many reach this goal. Here’s a look at six common characteristics that all fast-growing companies share for some inspiration:

  1. Product/Market Fit

Entrepreneurs are always hardworking and driven, but they need a strong product to succeed. Thriving start-ups always have a revolutionary product that fills a vacuum, providing exactly what customers need. They provide must-have products or experience to clients. Sometimes the niche already exists, while at others, a product can create a need. For example, social media giants like Facebook and Twitter existed, but LinkedIn created a niche by being a network for professionals.

  1. Focusing on the Niche

Start-ups must be laser-focused on a niche for success and growth. They don’t have the manpower or resources to tackle a large market. Focusing on a niche allows companies to specialize in a specific category and fine-tune their products or services. For example, a web development company for small businesses can use a highly customized approach after comprehensive research. This might keep their customer pool small, but it helps companies develop a distinctive identity.

Specializing in a niche has long-term benefits as you generate enough funds for expansion later. The cosmetics company Huda Beauty is a good example of this. It started out selling high-quality fake lashes and established such a strong niche presence that their products set a standard for everyone else. Today, this company has expanded, including other cosmetic items like eye shadows, foundations, lipsticks, etc.

  1. Don’t Disregard Processes that Aren’t Scalable

Modern entrepreneurs can get advice from multiple sources. One of the most common bits of advice is, “keep things scalable.” While this is sound advice, you still need to focus on specific processes that may not be scalable as companies sometimes need to invest in these too. It helps establish a strong presence while having a lasting impression on a customer’s mind.

For example, some start-ups will coddle customers at first with a lot of personal attention. They will offer one-on-one consultations, discounts, accelerated project timelines, etc. None of this is scalable, but it can help companies develop a reputation for excellent customer care. You can roll back these processes slowly while maintaining sound basic customer care systems for long-term benefits.

  1. Constant Focus on Growth – Timely Growth

It isn’t surprising that fast-growing companies are focused on growth, but not all of it can cause large-scale disruption. Most successful start-ups have a meticulous process in place for expansion. These companies plan a slow, relentless march towards growth until it becomes almost inevitable.

For example, Uber has a precise expansion plan for opening up in new cities. They send feelers out, get to know the new market, connect with drivers as well as customers, before developing a unique plan for new markets. They make sure it is primed for Uber’s network before launching operations. This constant, unrelenting march drives long-term success.

  1. Do Things Differently

Sometimes fast-growing companies succeed by shunning traditional practices. They don’t do this arbitrarily but put some thought and research behind it. They look at established practices carefully, identifying their weaknesses before finding more efficient alternatives.

For example, Yelp is such a success because it stayed away from paid reviews or expert testimonies. It relied on 100% community feedback, which worked spectacularly. Yelp became more trustworthy than any other review platform just a few years after its launch.

Establishing a fast-growing company isn’t easy, but it can be done. Just maintain focus and ensure you have the right product.

  1. Don’t Be Afraid to Outsource

Fast growing companies tend to have a clear sense of their core competencies. Knowing their strengths and weaknesses gives them an edge to take advantage of outsourcing options while they grow.

There are many business functions that may be better handled by a third party, especially during the early phase of a company’s growth. For example, accounting, billing, software development and IT support are all common functions that fast growing company’s may choose to outsource to free up time and resources so they can best focus on the priorities at hand.

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.

 

6 Common Traits Shared By Successful Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneurs are some of the most dedicated and determined people around. They have innovative business ideas and are committed to seeing their ideas succeed. Different entrepreneurs have different approaches, but everyone has something to teach newcomers. Many effective people share specific characteristics and habits. Developing these qualities may help on your journey towards success. Follow along for a look at some common traits shared by entrepreneurs who are successful.

  1. Have a Clear Set of Goals and the Determination to Achieve Them

How can you find success without knowing what you’re chasing? Clear goals give people direction and a destination. It helps business owners create a tangible roadmap. There’s a difference between “I want to be an entrepreneur” and “I want to start a marketing company in two years.” One is a vague, undefined dream, while the other is a definite goal with a timeline.

Of course, just setting a goal isn’t enough; you must also follow it through. Create a plan, consult with other experts, get a mentor, do some research, etc. Work towards your goal with determination, as that’s what helps entrepreneurs flourish.

  1. Don’t Shy Away From Risks

Leaving a secure 9-5 job for a shot at entrepreneurship isn’t easy, but that’s not even close to the most significant risks business owners take. Establishing a new venture requires a lot of risks, commitment, and courage. People invest their entire life savings, work tirelessly for years, put their life on hold, make innumerable personal sacrifices, etc., on the path to success.

Entrepreneurs that make it typically take many risks along the way. Failed business owners face bankruptcy, loss of reputation, loss of credibility, and so much more. Overcoming these fears isn’t easy, but every entrepreneur must do it to move forward.

  1. High Level of Confidence and Decisiveness

Many people struggle to make concrete decisions. They dwell over small points, try to find perfect solutions, worry about making wrong choices, etc. All of this indecision may be a sign of low confidence. Mistakes are common, but the fear of making mistakes is more common.  Effective entrepreneurs tend to be decisive and confident. They look at facts, and consider solutions for a short time before making snap decisions and moving forward towards their goals.

There’s a difference between being decisive and being overconfident. A successful entrepreneur strikes the right balance, which helps them reach higher.

  1. Desire to Learn

This sounds like a cliché, but most successful entrepreneurs are avid readers. High-flying individuals never stop trying to learn. Many read books, take up new sports activities, learn new skills, and keep their minds engaged.

A desire for learning serves two purposes; it helps business owners expand their skills and helps keep monotony at bay. Daily work can become boring after a while, even for a self-employed business person. Learning new skills can help keep things interesting while stimulating your mind.

  1. Ability to Accept Failure

Failure is a natural part of life. You will likely face it every day while running a business. A sales pitch might not go through; a client may leave a negative review; a new product launch may go awry, etc. Successful entrepreneurs don’t spend time lamenting over failures. They collect data, look for causes of failure, and then find ways to prevent it from happening again.

This ability to accept a setback separates entrepreneurs who eventually accomplish their goals from those who will ultimately burn out.

  1. Smart with Money

Successful entrepreneurs are smart with money. They are careful when spending, tracking all expenses down to the last cent. Business owners are good at getting financial aid from venture capitalists or investors. They know how to deliver an impressive sales pitch, which gets people interested in investing in their venture.

Being smart with money is essential for entrepreneurial achievement, especially during the early stages of a business. Many ventures go bankrupt even before they have a chance at success.

Fortunately, it is possible to cultivate all of these skills over time and increase your chances of success, as well.  Personal growth is always valuable, regardless of your field. These characteristics can help whether you’re an entrepreneur, student, artist, teacher, or a corporate executive.

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.

1 out of 5 New Businesses Don’t Make it Past 12 Months – Why?

Failure is a part of being an entrepreneur. People try new business ideas and experiment with different strategies. Sometimes plans pan out, leading to a successful business that can stand the test of time. Other plans fail, and the startup fizzles out within a year of launch. According to statistics, one in five new businesses is unable to survive a year.

The Small Business Association says that around 30% of businesses fail within two years. While these statistics may seem discouraging, don’t let them bring you down. Here are some common reasons why some businesses don’t make it very long:

  1. Little Demand for the Product

A product is only successful if there’s some legitimate demand for it, and the market conditions are suitable. According to a recent survey, around 42% of startups fail simply because there just isn’t enough demand in the market. When you come up with an idea, it is important to spend some time thinking about whether it fills a vacuum.

For example, when Uber was launched, people were frustrated by taxis denying rides or overcharging. There was a market opportunity, which provided a fruitful environment for companies like Uber and Lyft. That’s why these apps became such a notable success.

Think about how a product might impact your target market, conduct comprehensive market research, and surveys. The data will help you determine whether a product idea is worth your time or investment.

  1. Less Integrated Team

Startups typically don’t function like traditional, more established companies. They usually have smaller teams and limited resources, which means every team member wears many hats. Unfortunately, some people have a difficult time taking on a variety of roles. CEOs may stay in one lane, only focused on leading their company. CMOs may consider marketing their responsibility but they may not contribute anywhere else.

Startups have a more organic environment that requires a lot more collaboration. It’s common for CEOs to get their hands dirty on basic tasks just to get the job done. CMOs sometimes take over customer care or human resources as well. A successful startup is an excellent example of how collaboration can yield beneficial results.

  1. Burning Through Resources Quickly

New businesses have limited resources, even if they manage to get significant funding early on. Unless a business venture generates substantial, self-sustaining income, it is vulnerable to failure. Many startups fail because they burn through these initial funds quickly, often because they hire more staff than they need.

New companies must be conservative in their spending, making sure they invest every penny wisely. Sometimes ventures expand a little too rapidly, which spreads the resources thin. Make sure you have a solid foundation, a robust and streamlined team, and reasonable revenue before you focus on expanding. Let a business settle by getting its roots deep in the market first. That’s how business entities stick around for years and even decades or more.

  1. Low Finances

You need money to start a business. Begin looking for financial aid even before starting a business. Make sure you have a pool that will last until you have a steady cashflow. Cut corners and save wherever you can at first as stretching every dollar can help a business last longer.

If a venture can get through financially challenging times in the early months, it has a better chance of surviving.

  1. Bad Location and Internet Presence

Location and internet presence are some of the most influential aspects of most businesses. A shop located in the wrong place isn’t going to attract a lot of traffic. Companies must conduct a thorough location analysis to find a suitable location. They also need a robust online presence with well-developed websites, online reputations, and social media accounts, since a negative online reputation can break a business entirely.

These are some of the most common problems that challenge new businesses. It’s advisable to create strategies to avoid them and stay wary of falling into common traps. This can help improve your chances of success, especially in the early months of starting a business.

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

 

5 Stakeholder Questions To Ask Before Starting the Software Development Process

Software development is an intricate process that requires skill, planning and team effort. There are several stakeholders involved in the project, from company executives to various departments within the company.

It isn’t possible to satisfy all of them completely, but you can take their concerns into account before working on the project by asking the right questions. Doing so can help you understand their priorities and plan the development process accordingly. Here’s a list of 5 questions to ask before starting a software development process:

  1. What is the Product?

Projects tend to get out of hand if you don’t have a clear vision in mind. Software developers need to understand what the end product should look like before they even start planning for it. For example, does the company want an app that will help users find the best online deals? Does it want a software program for its HR department?

Stakeholders can provide a list of features or ideas for the end product to make things easier for a development team. If there’s any dispute about the final product, this will be the best time to resolve it. Make sure everyone is on the same page before proceeding.

  1. What is Not a Part of the Product?

Developers can sometimes go overboard and add features or elements that aren’t necessary. That happens if they don’t know what should be excluded from the final product. For example, if a website is only delivering to the US, there’s no need to include a feature to convert prices to other currencies. In many cases, stakeholders assume their development team is going to deliver something, but the latter is unaware of it. It is essential to establish what you will and won’t deliver.

  1. What is a Successful Product?

Software programs are tools designed to achieve a specific goal or purpose. A company creates a website if they want to establish a presence online. They design an app if they want to build a robust and long-term customer base. They develop a software application to make daily processes easier. If the product fulfills these goals, it is considered successful.

The end goal isn’t to deliver a good product; it is to provide a product that succeeds in the market. There’s a clear difference between these two goals. For example, a website can be beautiful and functional but still not provide all the services the target audience needs. Stakeholders should define what a successful product means to them at the start of the project.

  1. Do We Have a Single Point of Communication?

This is one of the most challenging aspects of project management. The project starts with one team and one client, but eventually, a large number of people start becoming part of the process. The IT guy must approve one aspect of the design, the other should please the marketing expert, and so on.

If these people start offering suggestions or requesting changes, the project can quickly get out of control. It is crucial to establish a single point of communication between stakeholders, clients, and development teams. You can maintain a smooth flow of information while keeping track of numerous requests.

  1. What are the Potential Roadblocks or Problems?

No one likes to discuss problems before they work on a project, but you need to address it. Gather all stakeholders together and ask them about possible hurdles. Can the project run out of money? What happens if some temporary contractors don’t live up to expectations? What if the client changes their mind in the middle of the project? If you know about possible hurdles, you can develop systems to counteract them.

These questions will help a team start their project on a firm foundation. Don’t hesitate to ask questions to stakeholders; the answers will help improve the quality of your end product.

At Number8, our philosophy is to empower our clients to produce better software, faster. We are experts in augmenting scrum teams with senior consultants that can help increase team velocity immediately. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page.

 

Outsourcing IT? What to Look For in an IT Outsourcing Agency

Outsourcing is a great way to get things done at an affordable cost and avoid the hassle of adding more people to your staff. For example, you can delegate all of your IT maintenance requirements to an external IT firm instead of creating a new department for it in-house.

There are two opinions on outsourcing; some people believe it’s a great way to get the job done while others worry that outsourcing compromises quality and security. The quality of service depends on the competence of the firm you hire. Here are some things you should look for in an IT outsourcing agency:

  1. Substantial Industry Experience

Look at the amount of experience the company has before hiring them. Experienced establishments know how to interact with customers, understand priorities, and have a proven system in place. They are better equipped to deal with emergencies, unexpected delays, and last-minute changes. You can ask the company about their experience directly or look at the information provided on their website.

  1. Good Company Culture

IT companies often struggle to maintain a good company culture or work ethic, which can compromise the quality of service provided. Do some research into the company’s background to understand if their culture aligns with yours. This can be especially beneficial if you intend to maintain a long-term relationship with the outsourcing partner.

  1. Reputable Past Clients

Looking at the past clients and getting in touch with them can tell you a lot about the company. Ask the outsource partner to provide some referrals so you can discuss the quality of services provided with someone who has already worked with the company. Past clients will offer unbiased and straightforward information about the company. They will point out flaws and habits that you need to be wary of while highlighting the right qualities.

  1. Good Infrastructure and Technology

An IT company should have good infrastructure and technology. For example, you won’t want support from an IT company that still uses outdated technology and software programs. You won’t want to share vital information with an establishment that doesn’t have a robust and current security system in place. Make sure the company uses the best and most current technology so you can get the most consistent results.

  1. Strong Customer Support System

A reliable customer support system is the heart and soul of any outsourcing partner. Look for a company that spends time and effort on their customer support. There are many ways to identify a proper set-up; look for the characteristics mentioned below:

  • The partner offers multiple ways to get in touch. You can call, message, email, live chat, etc.
  • They provide a dedicated expert as your point of communication. You can go to this expert for all of your concerns.
  • They offer 24/7 support for emergencies. For example, IT maintenance and repair service will respond promptly if your system crashes, even if it is on a Sunday.

Good customer support is one of the most important characteristics to look for in an outsourcing partner.

  1. Wide Range of Services

Keeping track of multiple vendors and outsource partners is a drain on resources, which is why you should look for a company that can handle all of your IT needs. They should be able to provide on-site services, remote services, conduct new installations, dispose of old hardware, etc. If you can find a company that does everything you need under one roof without compromising quality, hire them.

At Number8, we help businesses optimize their operations with onshore, nearshore, and offshore outsourcing. Our teams–both foreign and domestic– provide effective communication and service that allow your business to grow at a rate that keeps up with your market. If you’re interested in learning more about Number8 and what we do, give us a call at (502) 890-7665, or check out our information page here!

5 Inspiring Things You Should Know About Elon Musk

Elon Musk is a fascinating person. He is the man behind Tesla, the company that introduced revolutionary electric cars into the market. He’s also the force behind SpaceX, which is a private organization that launches rockets into space and frequently collaborates with NASA.

Recently, Musk created special flamethrowers and sent a Tesla car into space. He’s a man who doesn’t hesitate to experiment and pushes the boundaries of tech innovation fearlessly. Here are some of the most inspiring things you should know about Elon Musk:

  1. He Amassed His Fortune Before the Age of 30

Elon Musk became a millionaire when he sold one of the first companies, an online media-services establishment, to Compaq for $307 million. He was 27 years old at the time and ready to keep moving. He founded X.com, which eventually became the highly successful PayPal. Musk sold that company to eBay for $1.5 billion and earned a profit of around $180 million from that sale. He was already a success story before he established his two most significant projects; Tesla and SpaceX.

  1. Both Tesla and SpaceX Were On The Verge of Failure

SpaceX and Tesla are both successful companies now, but they came close to failure just a few years ago. SpaceX tried to launch its flagship rocket three times and failed. He lost a considerable fortune during those six years and was down to his last $75 million.

It took around $90 million to build a rocket at that time, which means Musk could barely afford another launch. He was the sole owner of the company, so he didn’t have much support. Tesla was also in a rocky boat. Their first product, the $100,000 Roadster, had several quality issues and faced many recalls.

Fortunately, both companies recovered. The fourth SpaceX launch was a success, which impressed NASA enough to give the company a multibillion-dollar contract. Tesla also managed to brave public distrust and launch successful products. The third-generation Tesla cars are a big hit. This goes to show that everyone faces ups and downs and need to be persistent.

  1. Musk Wants to Make Tesla Cars for the Masses

Tesla started with a premium product that most people couldn’t even dream of owning. They launched a fast Roadster with a price tag of $100,000, which put it firmly out of reach for most people. But Musk has a plan to create one luxury line, one mid-range line, and one mass consumption line. In 2016, Musk introduced the third generation Tesla vehicles with one model priced at $35,000.

Tesla has already made an impact on the automobile industry and has been a disruptive influence. Many other manufacturers are trying to follow in their footsteps and release their electric car models.

  1. His Work Ethic Is Not One To Be Rivaled

Musk works hard and has an unbelievably busy schedule. According to an interview, he has only taken two weeks off in almost 12 years. He also has 100-hour workweeks and only sleeps around 6 hours every night.

Of course, not everyone can or should follow this example, but people can get inspired by his commitment to his dreams. Musk has many goals in mind, and his current success is just a starting point.

  1. His Entrepreneurial Spirit Manifested Early

Elon Musk had a mind for business even before he was a teenager. At the age of 12, he developed and sold a game to a computer magazine for $500. That was big money for a child living in Africa back in 1984. It was a simple enough game named Blastar, and it wouldn’t get much attention now, but it shows that it is never too early to start. Ideas can come to you at any age.