When you need new software, what do you do? Does your company have in-house IT? Do you take care of things on your own? Call the tech-savvy gamer kid down the street? Whatever it is you need, companies feel enormous pressure for full digital implementation now.

The decision of whether to build or buy is generally a question asked by companies that have in-house IT or are already partnered with an external firm. Either way, you’ll need programming expertise to make the solution fit the need.

Here we will go over the difference between bespoke, out-of-the-box, and internally developed software. We will talk about different situations and the solutions that work best for them.

The first question to ask is:

  • What am I looking to change, implement, or build?

Do I want to:

  • Add functionality to software that already exists?
  • Replace my entire legacy system?
  • Create an entirely new offering or service to be used in-house or by customers?

Other things to consider:

  • How large is the project?
  • How complex is the project?
  • How specific does the result need to be?

We all know the speed of technological developments moves exponentially. It is easy not to realize how outdated your systems are and how many other options are available to you. First thing first, in this decision-making process, it is important to remove biases. Next, decide who will be responsible for choosing and where responsibility will lie when it comes to implementation.

If you have a sneaking suspicion that parts of your team are married to particular products or they are stuck in the stone age, consider consulting. Hiring a consulting firm can be expensive, but it may be well worth the dollars compared to the expense of having to “fix” things later.

Now that we’ve aired that out, let’s focus on solutions.

Build vs. Bespoke Basics

In a black and white world, the answer to this question is simple. If you are looking for niche software and are a leader in your industry, you build. If you are looking for a system widely used among different types of companies, you buy.

What happens when you have constraints to manage?

If you own R-Fuel, a used plastic processing plant that turns plastics into recycled fuels, and you are looking for an HR system, you buy something like PeopleSoft. If you are the same small to medium cap company and are looking to update a process for higher efficiency you build it yourself.

R-Fuel is a medium-sized company with an in-house IT team and the money to have software developed externally. An engineer developed a new process that will save them millions of dollars a year. They already have the equipment to implement the new process, but the software to run and analyze it does not yet exist.

R-Fuel’s IT team is just large enough to keep up with maintenance and the operation’s daily needs. They do not have dedicated R&D technology experts. R-Fuel will not find an off-the-shelf solution for what they need, so we will disregard that choice for now.

The company has three basic choices:

  • Temporarily or permanently hire developers specific to R&D needs.
  • Temporarily or permanently hire IT staff and dedicate current staff to take care of the problem.
  • Hire a team outside of the company to develop the new software.

R-Fuel should first identify if they will continually need developers to be working on new processing implementations. They should also consider:

  • How long will it take to train new people to develop this software for them?
  • How long will it take to get new IT staff up to speed with IT’s current responsibilities?
  • Will the IT team be able to integrate software developed outside of the company?

The nuts and bolts of making the decision.

Cost of Building

The upfront costs of building will be high. The company requires resources to get the job done. They will need to hire temporary IT staff to fill their day-to-day needs and educate the staff they plan to dedicate to the job.

R-Fuel also risks paying an opportunity cost because new software development will slow operations for a time.

Cost of Buying

The cost of paying a third party will be much less than building it in-house. Once the software is integrated into the systems they have in place, new hires would not be necessary. This saves the company money in terms of taking on new people and opens them up to the possibility of gaining technology they had not been using or using correctly.

Time

Time is not so much a factor here; newly dedicated employees should be able to turn out a product just as fast as a team outside of the company. R-Fuel risks being hit with opportunity costs from both ends. The new process will allow them to save money, but they will need to shuffle people around and could be missing valuable insight from a group that understands new technology in the space.

Upkeep and Long-Term Costs

Maintenance of the new system, as well as data acquisition and analysis, will be similar to processes that are already in place. If R-Fuel fully purchases the software rights from a developer and keeps the systems they already have in place. R-Fuel would save money in the long run by paying a third party to develop the software for them.

For a company in R-Fuel’s position, buying a prototype and working it into their system makes a lot of sense. This is an example where buying and building are required to fully meet the needs of the company.

This is just one speck in the large spectrum of the “build it or buy it” scenario. Let’s look at a company with outdated technology looking to move into the digital age.

Dinosaur Legacies

Elder Health, an elderly care facility, recently had a group of doctoral students running an experiment for a publication they were working on. The residents and others that visited the facility loved what the students had done and petitioned the facility to make an app that would monitor residents of the facility and outpatients in the same way the students had.

The IT team at Elder Health claimed that they could create the app in a couple of weeks. They created the app, and it would not integrate well with the legacy system they had in place. Elder Health has run into a major problem. Their legacy system is out of date and cannot handle new technology.

This is a problem many large organizations run into. They need new technology to be integrated, but the structure they have in place is simply unable to support it. Rather than overhaul the entire system, companies patch things together until they finally break.

Much of the time, this has been done to save money upfront, but in the long run, it can be costly. With many companies forced to finally see the digital light, issues with legacy systems have been brought to the forefront.

Elder Health has some decisions to make. They want to keep long-term costs down but are willing to pay upfront to modernize.

As things currently stand:

  • All data is stored in-house.
  • They do not use cloud computing.
  • The IT team is large enough to take care of daily operations.
  • Most of the in-house equipment has not been updated in over 15 years.
  • Their data is siloed and not always easy to access from every application that uses it.

We can conclude that Elder Health needs some serious help. Should they build a new system on their own, or have it done by a third party? They already have a new application ready for it when it’s up and running.

Benefits to Building the System on Their Own?

It can be tailored exactly the way they want it.

  • This is not to say that a third party would be unable to deliver what is needed. In fact, much of the system will contain software that has already been developed and widely tested. Elder Health will be able to build and scale it in real-time while being sure that the system meets its needs.

Full Authority Over the Solution

  • Elder Health will have total control over any implementations created by the IT team and can do whatever they please with them. If they stumble on a new solution that can be used in the healthcare industry, they will have the right to distribute the software. This could give them a competitive edge.

Disadvantages to Building the System on Their Own

Cost

  • Having the IT team build an entire legacy system on their own will cost a lot of money. Additionally, they must be sure that the team understands what products will work best for the organization. A poorly informed team could end up costing a lot more than the time and equipment to create a new system.

Time

  • It will undoubtedly take more time for the team in place to design and implement a new system than a third party that specializes in modernizing legacy systems.

Benefits of a Bespoke Product

Cost

  • The labor and opportunity costs will be lower if Elder Health finds a firm specializing in modernizing systems. The organization could offload some on the day-to-day IT work and future maintenance by using a firm that will host and manage the bulk of the system. Doing this could help them save money in the future.

Time

  • Offloading the work to another company specializing in what Elder Health needs will ensure the speedy delivery of the final product.

Maintenance

  • Using a product supported by someone else ensures that you are not responsible when things break down. The supported product will also be updated as new software hits the market.

Disadvantages of a Bespoke Product

Control

  • The organization will have less control over updating and changing features within the software.

Cost

  • The longer-term costs could increase with contract renewals and additional subscriptions.

Compatibility

  • New products or solutions will have to be configured to run on the new system.

What is a good game plan for Elder Health?

Elder Health my benefit the most from buying and building. They need a new solution now, and they have the resources to service it themselves once it is running. A business in this situation with some money and a knowledgeable IT team would benefit the most from consultation and initial implementation from a third party.

This way, Elder Health gets the solution they need fast, and they are able to retain control of their systems over the long run. In this case, it would be best to consider intermittent consulting from IT professionals in the space. This will help ensure their technology is always up to date, and they will not run into problems like this again.

Here is an example of a small company with no IT team but the money to hire one if needed.

Technologically Stunted

After a decade of retail-only distribution, the CEO of million-dollar Bow-Wow Chow realized that direct-to-consumer would be a much better fit for his brand. He came up with a great new idea for an application connected to a smart dog dish that will let the owner know when his puppies need to be fed and how much. The dish comes with an attachment that will also feed the dogs for the owner if desired. The company employs about 20 people and interacts with distributors and vendors of all sorts.

He has a grand vision for a flagship store displaying his amazing new dog dish. Currently, Bow-Wow chow has no IT, and R&D is limited to Mr. Bow-Wow and his dog. With no IT team, this company needs to decide if they want to take on that expense at this point.

Right off the bat, Mr. Bow-Wow’s dream of worldwide distribution of his Hungry Puppy app and dishes become almost unreachable. He can barely keep up with his QuickBooks entries to stay on top of the accounting, let alone learn how to make a smartphone application to integrate with his dog dish.

Mr. Bow-Wow would greatly benefit from utilizing a third-party IT and development team. The benefits in this situation are clear. Mr. Bow-Wow can have his application built and managed by a third party.

If the application becomes hugely popular, Mr. Bow-Wow plans to make an arrangement where he will have all the rights to the software and can hire an IT team to service the product. As long as he retains his rights, using a third party to develop his app is the cheapest way for him to test it out on the world’s hungry puppies.

Breakdown

From the three examples above, there are great reasons to build in-house and purchase bespoke software. Here are the benefits and drawbacks of building in-house and buying.

Benefits of Building

Control

When you build, you will have complete control of what goes into the software and how it functions. Any design implementations that you wish to make can be made the moment you envision them. Not only that, but you have full ownership of what has been created and can do anything you please.

Design

You have 100% control of the design. You can customize the software to any end. You will also be able to add new functions and features when and how you want. You will also ensure that future implementations and designs will be compatible with what you have developed.

Leg-Up

By developing your highly customized software, you could be giving yourself an edge over your competitors. If your competitors are utilizing off-the-shelf solutions that provide less efficiency, you will be putting yourself at an advantage.

Drawbacks of Building

Costs

When building your own systems or software, you must dedicate employees to the task. This could take away from them being able to perform their daily duties or cause you to need additional help. It will be important to weigh these costs along with the cost of maintenance and upkeep you could incur by hiring a third party.

Opportunity Cost

Depending on what your business is primarily focused on, the cost of building software solutions could be seen in lost revenues. This will happen when employee attention is focused on building solutions rather than products. Oher opportunity costs arise when IT teams are not fully educated in the solutions you are looking to implement. If your team is good at what they do but doesn’t know a whole lot about developing your solution, you could lose money by developing something that is inefficient.

Time

If the software you need is a pain point for customers, then you need a solution now. Understanding the workflow and designing a new solution in-house could be much more time-consuming than if you hire a dedicated team to do it for you.

Benefits of Bespoke Solutions

Cost

Your upfront costs will be lower using a third party. A third party with experience in your industry will already have modern solutions they can personalize and provide to you.

Time

A dedicated third party will be able to develop your solution rapidly. They should also be able to tailor it to your needs depending on what that solution is.

Maintenance

If you are replacing a legacy system or looking for external IT services, your maintenance and updates will be taken care of. If this is a solution that the third party provides industry-wide, you will receive updates and service for as long as you hold a contract with the firm.

Drawbacks of Bespoke

Long-Term Costs

Contract maintenance costs can change from contract to contract. You could also be charged for updates, and if you expand in any way, you can expect to pay more.

Control

Or lack thereof. Depending on how you have organized the agreement. You could have less control over your new software’s functionality and what can be done with it in the future.

What Do I Choose?

There are many situations where the answer is easy. There are many more situations where it is not as clear. Evaluate the scope of your project. Are you looking to add one or two new features, or are you looking to overhaul your system entirely? Then consider the following questions:

  • Are you going to want the rights to the finished product?
  • Will you need an external company to service the software or system in the future?

If you have the money and employees to build, consider looking outside of the organization for inspiration in new methods and technology. Then take what they give you and build from that. Remember to, search out a firm that is willing to work with your specific needs.

Making the decision is not always easy, use this guide and the examples above as a tool to visualize your situation and options.

Choosing the best software development partner is important no matter what your project is. But when you’re dealing with healthcare software, it’s essential that you decide on a partner who understands your unique needs. The last thing you want is a “finished” project that puts your patients and business at risk. Below, we go over the criteria to consider when choosing a healthcare software development partner.

General Criteria for Choosing a Software Development Partner

Before we get into the specifics of healthcare software, let’s first discuss how to choose a software development company in general. Here are 8 important questions to ask your software development partner, regardless of what field your project is in:

  1. Have you worked on similar projects previously?
  2. What is the structure of the team, and who does it consist of?
  3. Who will be my point of contact?
  4. How will we communicate about the project?
  5. What does your approach to software development look like?
  6. Can you estimate a timeline for completion?
  7. What support will you offer post-delivery?
  8. Why should I choose your company?

The information you collect with these 8 questions should help guide the decision-making process, and you should keep these tips in mind even if you’re building a specialized project.

Specific Criteria for Healthcare Software Development Partners

Healthcare software development comes with additional needs specific to the healthcare industry. Let’s now consider the criteria for choosing a healthcare software development partner.

Familiar with Health Information Regulations

Perhaps the most important stipulation when choosing a healthcare software development partner is that they have a foundational understanding of the information regulations surrounding healthcare data. You shouldn’t expect your partner to be an expert on everything healthcare-related, but an understanding of PHI is necessary in order to develop a healthcare software project that is HIPAA compliant. Here are the primary requirements in order for software development to be HIPAA compliant:

  • HIPAA Rules: Adhere to all aspects of HIPAA rules, which are the Privacy Rule, Security Rule, HITECH, and the Omnibus Rule.
  • Security Safeguards: Abide by the administrative, physical, and technical safeguards described in the Security Rule.
  • Transport Encryption: All ePHI (electronic health information) must be encrypted before it is transported or shared electronically.
  • Backup: Back up all ePHI in case it must be recovered or restored.
  • Authorization: Only authorized personnel should be granted access to ePHI, so restrictions must be in place.
  • Storage Encryption: ePHI must also be encrypted during storage, not just during transport.
  • Integrity: ePHI must not be subject to unauthorized changes, improper destruction, or other prohibited interference.
  • Disposal: Once the ePHI is no longer needed, it should be destroyed safely and permanently.
  • Business Associate Agreement: Software companies that store or transport PHI must sign business associate agreements with the entities for which they will be working. These agreements must be stored on secure servers.

Has Strong Information Risk Management

With an understanding of PHI and the requirement for HIPAA compliance, your healthcare software development partner must have developed procedures for information security, otherwise known as infosec. Infosec refers to the practice of mitigating information risks in order to protect sensitive electronic information. PHI is arguably the most sensitive information transported and stored electronically, so it must be protected with top-of-line infosec practices. When choosing a software development partner, be sure to assess their approach to information risk management.

Has Proper Policies and Procedures in Place

In order to achieve a quality end-product, you should ascertain that your healthcare software development partner operates with regulated policies and procedures. An excellent way to be sure that your partner will be capable of delivering a project that meets your standards, as well as the standards in place regarding PHI, is to ask if the development firm is ISO certified. An ISO certification indicates that the team meets global standards for software development created by experts in the field. It’s also important that your software development partner meticulously follows secure coding practices, especially when dealing with PHI and the healthcare industry. Secure coding practices require software developers to eliminate security risks at every level of development. Teams that are committed to implementing secure coding practices don’t simply assess risks for information theft once a project is complete, but they remain constantly vigilant for security risks throughout the entirety of the project.

Understands Interoperability

Software created for the healthcare industry must have interoperable capabilities when it comes to electronic health records (EHR). If you’re unfamiliar, interoperability refers to the electronic sharing of PHI among separate EHR systems and healthcare providers. It enables data and information to be accessed, shared, and used collaboratively so as to optimize health for individuals and the public. Your healthcare software development partner must understand interoperability and be capable of successfully producing software that is interoperable with EHR. What’s more, your software development partner must also understand HL7 standards, which regulate and facilitate interoperability among health information systems. It guarantees that all information maintains consistency across all EHR systems, regardless of whether or not the systems are operated by separate organizations. FHIR, the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource, is a specific HL7 standard aimed at identifying and regulating patient information. A successful healthcare software development partner will not only be familiar with these standards for interoperability but be prepared to uphold them.

Experienced in Healthcare Software Development

The best way to ensure that your development partner is capable of meeting the strict and specific needs of healthcare software development is to choose a team that has experience developing projects for the healthcare industry. Healthcare software development demands mature and experienced teams that can mitigate security risks and meet regimented standards.

Taazaa as Your Healthcare Software Development Partner

Taazaa has been trusted to develop multiple projects for the healthcare industry, ranging from electronic medical records system development to telehealth and remote patient monitoring software development. We understand the standards for safe and successful healthcare software, and we are prepared to fulfill your software development needs. Get in touch today to learn more about our company and our willingness to create high-quality healthcare software.

Perhaps the central issue when beginning a software development project is deciding to insource or to outsource. This decision factors in questions of cost, time, and quality of work. It is often the difference between a successful project and a waste of time and resources.

Insourcing is what is traditionally known as in-house recruitment. When a company decides to insource their software development, it requires that they hire a team of employees to build their project. With this approach, the company directly manages the team of developers, rather than it being a third-party organization.

Outsourcing, on the other hand, is when a company uses an outside software firm to develop its project. In recent years, we’ve seen more and more companies choose to outsource their development projects in an attempt to cut down on in-house numbers and save time and money. According to Stratistics MRC, the global IT outsourcing market is expected to reach $481.37 billion by 2022. It’s a big business.

So how do you choose? Below, we compare issues of cost, time, and quality for insourcing and outsourcing. We also discuss the common pitfalls associated with choosing the wrong software development option. To expand on this, we consider use cases of both options, offering a better understanding of both development approaches. Finally, we break down the decision-making process of choosing between insourcing and outsourcing, as well as consider a hybrid option. By the end, you will be fully equipped to make the best decision for your software development project.

Primary Considerations of Insourcing vs. Outsourcing

When deciding to insource or to outsource, there are a few primary issues to consider. Namely, how much will it cost, how much time will it take, and what quality of work will be provided. These considerations will likely be the deciding factors when choosing a development approach.

Cost

At the end of the day, you’re only able to do what your budget allows. As such, the cost of software development will determine how you approach your project.

Because insourcing requires that you hire employees, you will have to pay them accordingly. This means a gross salary, benefits, pension contributions, and taxes. You will also have to consider the expense of office space and equipment, as well as additional IT costs. Additionally, there may be recruiting and training costs for new employees.

When you outsource your development project, you and the contracted team will agree on a fixed hourly or team rate for the duration of the contract. The firm or individuals that you work with will be responsible for the office space, software, and other financial requirements needed for the project. They also handle all of the recruitment and training costs necessary to build out a successful development team.

Bottom Line

The question of which will be the more cost-efficient option is typically dependent on the timeline of the project. If it will be an on-going project that will take years to build and maintain, it could be cheaper to take on all of the costs associated with insourcing. If it’s a short-term project that is mostly a one-and-done deal, then it will likely be cheaper to outsource the work.

Time

Insourcing tends to be a time-consuming process. When you decide to hire a new team of employees, you have to market the positions, interview applicants, decide on team members, get them acclimated to the office, and train them for the work you need to be completed. After all of that, you can finally begin the project.

All in all, the insourcing process can take months. What’s more, recruiting software developers is quite competitive. It’s difficult to find experienced and talented developers who are available within your local market. Recruiting high-quality developers often demands competitive wages and limits you geographically.

Outsourcing software development grants you access to the global market. Because geography is no longer an issue, outsourcing allows you to tap into talent from anywhere in the world. As a result, you have exponentially more options when it comes to available development teams. And because you don’t have to assemble and train the team yourself, all you have to do is find a team that fits your needs and can work with your budget. In the end, it can take as little as two weeks to begin your project.

Bottom Line

The added time associated with insourcing can be worth it for long-term projects. Investing the extra time to create your internal team can be beneficial if your project demands years of work. For shorter projects, however, it just doesn’t make sense to waste so much time starting your project. Outsourcing is your friend when it comes to short-term software development.

Quality

The last thing you want is to put time and money into a project just for it to leave you wanting more. Unfortunately, the question of quality of work with insourcing vs. outsourcing isn’t as cut and dry as the issues of cost and time.

With insourcing, the quality of work you receive will be entirely dependent on the team you assemble. Because you’re more limited on the developers you’ll be able to recruit, you may not have access to the same levels of talent and experience that you would have with outsourcing.

On the other hand, insourcing gives you more control over your team of developers. This makes it less likely that you’ll run into unexpected problems once the work is delivered. And if issues do arise, they can be addressed immediately. You’re able to groom your team to meet the needs of your project as they evolve

Because outsourcing grants you access to more developers with diverse abilities, there is a greater chance that you will be able to find niche developers with experience doing the work that your project demands. With developers who already have the knowledge and training that your project needs, there isn’t as much of a need for grooming and direction. Outside teams are often elastic and capable of expanding in short bursts when additional skills or expertise is required. With a good development team, outsourcing can produce quality work with few hiccups.

Bottom Line

At the end of the day, the quality of your software depends on the quality of the team building it. If you’re able to hire a team of developers who have the skills that your project requires, insourcing will likely produce higher quality work. The advanced collaboration that is facilitated by insourcing software development just can’t be beaten. If your project demands more niche developers, however, outsourcing could be the better option because it grants you access to a wider range of experienced developers.

Common Pitfalls

The biggest problem associated with choosing the wrong software development approach is typically the result of companies inaccurately assessing the needs of their project. We’ll elaborate on the decision-making process below, but you’ve probably been able to conclude that insourcing is better for long-term projects and outsourcing works best for short-term projects. When a company believes their project will need months or years of building and maintenance, but it only needs a month or two of work, they will likely find that they’ve wasted time, money, and resources insourcing their team of developers.

More issues arise when companies try to force their project through, even though their development team — insourced or outsourced — lacks the knowledge necessary to complete the project. All too often, companies are eager to get started, so they just hold out hope that whatever skills the team lacks will resolve themselves in the end. Unfortunately, this doesn’t usually work out. Companies are then forced to either hire more team members or send the project to be completed by yet another third-party development firm.

What it comes down to is assessing your needs and taking the time to find a team of developers that has the skill and training to complete your project. Trends in software development move quickly, so it’s understandable to want to start as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, rushing into a project will almost always take more time in the end. It’s better to invest more time in the beginning to find or assemble a team that will be able to meet your needs than to pay for it later when your project cannot be completed.

Use Cases of Insourcing

As we’ve discussed, insourcing works best for long-term projects. But how do you know whether or not your project is long-term? Well typically, long-term projects are ones that will require consistent updates and changes to maintain. These are ongoing projects that take three or more years of work and building.

Long-term projects are usually strategic or aimed at providing services. Strategic software development projects affect a company’s organizational structure and offer qualitative results — think coverage, integration, and image. Software projects that result in usable services tend to be user-defined. These can be quantitative — create value for the company — or qualitative — increase the quality of the services provided by the company.

Insourcing can also be a good option if the project does not require niche skills. Because onboarding development employees limits you geographically, you may not be able to find developers with the niche skills required for more unique projects. If you’re building a big project, but one that is relatively run of the mill, insourcing can be a successful development approach.

Use Cases of Outsourcing

Outsourcing works best for short- and mid-term projects. Short-term projects are ones that can be completed in less than a year, and mid-term projects are ones that can be completed in one to three years. Projects like these are generally smaller in scope and are aimed at offering quantitative benefits for the company — think cost, schedule, and performance.

Alternatively, outsourcing can be a successful option for unique projects, regardless of the timeline. If your project demands niche skills and training, outsourcing can be the easiest way to find developers that know how to build it.

How to Decide Between Insourcing vs. Outsourcing?

Deciding to insource or to outsource comes down to assessing your needs. You must first layout all of the necessary components required to complete your project. These include:

  • An end-product conception
  • How much the project will cost
  • The timeline of the project
  • The software needed for the project
  • The hardware needed for the project
  • The number of developers required to complete the project

Once you have a developed understanding of the needs of your project, you can then determine your development approach. If your project has a long-term timeline and is relatively common, insourcing could be a successful development option. If your project is short-term or requires a niche skill-set, outsourcing is likely your best development option.

A Hybrid Solution

A scenario that we have yet to consider is the hybrid solution. Sometimes, the worlds of insourcing and outsourcing fuse together to make a development project work. It’s a little unconventional, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get a project up and running.

Say your insourced team has been working great. They’ve made lots of progress and you can see your idea coming to life. But then they hit a snag in the thread. All of a sudden, progress stops and the project comes to a halt. In this case, outsourcing a portion of your project might just be the thing that gets your project moving again. Typically, software development firms are more than happy to work on part of your project, just to get you from point A to point B, and then hand it back off to your team of insourced developers.

As we said, the hybrid solution is a little less common, but it can be a successful way of developing a software project. There’s no reason to limit yourself — or your project — to the false dichotomy of insourcing vs. outsourcing. Why not have both?

Conclusion

Hopefully, we have provided you with a better grasp of the question of insourcing vs. outsourcing. With a fleshed-out plan and an understanding of your needs, you should now be able to make an informed decision when choosing to insource or to outsource your software development project. And don’t forget — a hybrid solution could be the approach that works best for your project.

The DevOps movement is already over one decade old, with foundations in hundreds of leading companies. But even at those companies, the early stages of software development can be overwhelming. The complexity of modern software projects makes delivering quality results more difficult.

This is due in part to shifting priorities. Software development has evolved to focus more on providing business value, and value for customers. This means boosting collaboration across teams during development; but also, limiting inefficiencies like excessive WIP and unnecessary feature development.

As software requirements grow, inadequate practices can delay or even hurt business and customer value. Fortunately, new strategies are emerging that prioritize, simplify, and accelerate the delivery of value to customers. The following guide highlights three best practices for realizing this goal in a timely and effective way. They include:

  • Prioritizing value by developing only features customers want
  • Implementing organizational techniques that align resource with core DevOps goals
  • Leveraging automation to improve testing processes and outcomes

With these three best practices in place, teams can build more connected environments that deliver lasting, positive changes to software development processes. When teams continuously provide value in these ways, they consistently deliver value for customers and the bottom line as well.

I. Align DevOps with Customer and Business Value

Although DevOps is a “given” at many organizations, it has only gradually begun to align directly with business value. The result is a greater emphasis on features that work to add value for customers over features that might be of interest but ultimately unnecessary. DevOps teams therefore must prioritize business ROI. They must always factor those goals into individual project initiatives.

The YAGNI (“You Ain’t Gonna Need It”) principle in software development is central to this approach. It’s a simple concept—prioritize features you’re going to need and bypass those you won’t. In practice, that means prioritizing only tasks that are part of the “value stream” that leads directly to customers. The result is a greater frequency of releases and a shorter overall timeline for realizing business results.

Starting with YAGNI means first applying new KPIs to development teams. Those KPIs should align with customer value and faster time-to-delivery of critical end-user features. When the DevOps team focuses on what’s important to customers—and collaborate with key departments with those priorities in mind—they ensure they are aligned with the rest of the organization.

II. Adopt Techniques That Put These Goals into Practice

DevOps leaders must design and plan ahead of development to achieve these goals as well. That means revisiting their core techniques and adapting them for individual projects to ensure the right results.

They must make appropriate estimates in terms of costs and resources for individual projects. They must also determine new projects’ feasibility. This way, they avoid wasting those resources on high-risk projects that don’t align with quality results.

Once they identify the right projects, they can begin by aligning resources for individual tasks. Using user story maps and Kanban boards, teams can reduce risk and eliminate extraneous features and tasks that lead to “dead ends” in terms of value. (Team leaders, let alone business leaders, will regret paying for projects that ultimately cannot deliver meaningful end results.)

Here is a closer look at three opportunities for improving DevOps techniques with these goals in mind.

A. Develop Cross-Functional Teams

DevOps leaders can involve the appropriate, customer-oriented employees from other departments with teams developing features that will impact them. This way, they draw on organizational expertise as they enhance essential features or tasks and eliminate unnecessary ones.

Remember, even features that are desirable might ultimately be unnecessary. Interdisciplinary support can help identify these unnecessary features. Aligning teams in this way helps build long-term collaborative capacities for future software development as well.

B. Eliminate Dependencies and Other Unwanted Complexities

Creating unwanted dependencies between features is a classic error in software development. Avoiding these dependencies has grown more important as teams look to eliminate unnecessary features and deliver customer value in more streamlined ways.

Dependencies quickly create development “deadlocks” when the completion of one feature is dependent on another. These can create delays when a supporting feature must be changed or eliminated as well. These dependencies, therefore, reduce organizational as well as DevOps agility.

DevOps leaders can solve these dependency problems and other issues in two ways, each with its own advantages and drawbacks:

  • Using “quick fixes” that create additional technical debt
  • Developing long-term solutions that add to WIP (“works in progress”)

Generally, teams should try to limit WIP as much as possible. Establishing WIP limits reduces the number of projects on which teams must work at any given time, allowing for speedier time-to-value for each individual project. Without WIP limits, teams have fewer opportunities to focus on the overarching goals of projects, to reduce operational inefficiencies, and to commit to other organizational priorities not associated with each individual project.

Unfortunately, limiting WIP often requires the use of “quick fixes.” These are codes that work perfectly well for what they’re meant to address but which sets up roadblocks for future progress (i.e., create technical debt).

C. Take Responsibility for and “Pay Off” Technical Debt

Technical debt is undesirable; however, technical debt can be individually prioritized and incorporated into the normal flow of work. As we stated previously:

“Just as there are times it makes sense to go and take out a bank loan—to buy a house, maybe, or to tide yourself through a lean time— there are times that you may do well to take out technical debt. When you’ve got a looming release date, for instance, and some super quick coding is the only way you’re going to meet it.”

Technical debt is an unavoidable reality, after all. Teams must simply keep track of their technical debt and prioritize “paying it off” as part of normal development.

As DevOps best practices, these three techniques reduce unnecessary work while speeding up time to true business value. As we will find, automating key processes throughout the software development and testing can accelerate these benefits as well.

III. Leverage Automation for Analysis and Testing

Automation reduces the need for human-driven manual processes. Although automation is not new, it has become especially powerful when applied to repetitive and iterative DevOps processes. These include catching bugs, testing code, and providing quality assurance.

Most modern software development processes now include automated testing. It is especially useful as teams look to increase the variety of testing phases before implementation. Automation can also be used to analyze source code and other data about software development. These include records of project schedules and delays, as well as application defects and their fixes.

Automation contributes to faster delivery of value to customers as well. Specifically, it contributes to continuous delivery (CD), or the widely adopted best practice of delivering new code releases to customers as quickly as possible. Here is a closer look at several testing functions to which automation can contribute.

Unit testing automation

Unit testing consists of functional testing of individual components or modules within the new software. These processes are often simple, but there are typically a lot of them. Manual unit testing is therefore especially tedious, making it a great candidate for automation. Automating unit testing is not only affordable, but it can also be executed rapidly and at scale.

Functional testing automation

DevOps teams use functional testing to measure the efficacy of software from a business perspective. Rather than look at individual processes, function testing involves measuring the business value of those processes’ results.

DevOps teams can automate functional testing by defining the parameters for the success of the function based on the companies desired business results. They then need only apply those standards to the machine learning tools driving those testing functions.

User experience testing automation

There is no automated replacement for thorough alpha and beta testing. But automating key aspects of the user experience testing can provide human testers with a better experience during those phases. With fewer glaring problems, testers and developers can refine more nuanced aspects of user experience to make it truly exceptional.

Automating user experience testing might include imitating user typos, providing bad data “by mistake,” or making incorrect commands to see if those errors break the software. In these ways, automated tools attempt to “break” the software so that users cannot.

Automating key aspects of testing also helps to ensure an effective developer experience as well. The less time developers must spend encumbered by rudimentary problems, the more time they can spend on adding value and driving business results.

The Future of Successful DevOps is Defining and Aligning with Customer Value

As Forbes describes, “A company cannot become customer-centric if different parts of the organization operate separately from one another.” Considerations for the customer experience must therefore begin at the project planning stages, and extend throughout the lifetime of each project, even after delivery.

Therefore, “customer value” can and must be defined, measured, and translated into iterative processes as part of software development. This is perhaps the most important lesson of modern DevOps. And as customer value becomes more complex, the impetus for eliminating inefficiencies, building cross-departmental collaboration, and automating key processes only becomes stronger.

Fortunately, a new generation of AI-powered tools is enabling software professionals to deliver exceptional end results, even under the most stringent business requirements. Taazaa provides fresh, innovative software solutions of this kind the deliver on evolving digital health, logistics, and IoT-related customer objectives. Contact us today and speak with one of our software engineering experts to learn more.

Investing in custom software is a big step for any company, regardless of size. The process can be filled with risks, particularly for someone who doesn’t have experience overseeing a development project. Protect yourself by identifying your exposure to these common threats and take steps to manage your risk levels, and you’ll avoid serious consequences for the company.

Common Project Risk Factors

Aside from the obvious risks of natural or other disasters, the death of key players in the project, and national lockdowns such as the Covid19 pandemic, three specific issues affect software development projects most frequently. These are cost and time overruns and dissatisfaction with the results.

Cost Overruns

Two-thirds (66%) of enterprise software projects experience cost overruns, according to a study by McKinsey. This happens when unexpected expenses go beyond the initial budget estimate, and it can happen at any time during a project.

Typically, cost overruns are caused by specific factors, so it’s important to understand and address these to contain them. Some of these factors include:

  • Estimation errors: One of the primary causes of higher-than-expected project costs, this often happens unintentionally because inexperienced sponsors and project managers (PMs) are excited to see their ideas come to life. They miscalculate the project’s complexity, the cost of the total development, or make errors as a result of forecasting bias.
  • Scope creep: Having requirements added to a software development project after the budget has been finalized is a huge headache for every project manager. Sometimes it’s inescapable because the business environment is constantly changing. Scope creep means setting new deadlines, revising, activities, and even changing technologies, all of which cause additional expenses.
  • Poor stakeholder communications: Often, company execs who sponsor projects don’t fully understand how the software works, so they don’t communicate requirements properly. This leads to unclear instructions and inaccurate scoping of the project.
  • Bad project design: The project design process needs to include all components of the project, how these are carried out, supervised and completed, and the results they should produce. If a design process is flawed from the outset, problems might only be spotted at an advanced stage in the project. Wasting complete work and redoing tasks and testing all increase the costs and cause overruns.

In an ideal world, you’ll want to prevent cost overruns altogether. At the very least, identifying the risks presented by these common problems can help you to mitigate them and reduce the impact on your company.

Time Overruns

An accurate estimation of the time it takes to complete a software development project is critical to success. In a Harvard Business Review study, almost one-third of 1,400 IT projects reviewed overran their schedules by up to 70%. Time overruns can be compounded by interdependencies, for example when one member of the team takes longer to complete a task, others waiting on the outcome of that task are also delayed.

Estimating a project’s duration depends on the:

  • team’s makeup and experience,
  • project complexity,
  • number of iterations planned for,
  • methodology used, such as Scrum, Waterfall, Kanban or Agile,
  • number of system integrations required, and
  • budget available.

If the circumstances are ideal for all of these factors, the team will have greater velocity and be able to make more progress in a shorter period of time.

Disappointing Results

There can be many reasons why a company’s executive team is disappointed with the results of a project. Some PMs choose developers known for working quickly, who can meet aggressive, unrealistic deadlines. Often, the reasons are technical shortcuts such as inadequate testing, code that’s hard to maintain, and bug fixes that don’t last.

Reduced functionality can occur from trying to avoid time and cost overruns, but whatever the reason the outcome is unsatisfactory. Imagine investing in a software development project aimed at growing your ability to fill orders by 50%, only to have it deliver a 10% increase in fulfillment? We aren’t kidding– on Nov 17, 2020, the Australian stock exchange had to be shut down after defective new software went live. Disappointment is an understatement in this instance.

5 Risk-Reduction Tactics to Consider

So how do you manage these risks in ways that improve the chance of success? Here are some proven tactics to do so.

Tactic #1: Prioritize Investment in Design

“Getting it right the first time” is an age-old mantra for success, because it avoids going back and fixing mistakes, paying people to redo tasks, and wasting precious person-hours you can never get back. To do so, a software development project must be accurately designed from the outset. This is not a task for a beginner, and even if your budget is limited, the design process needs to have the highest investment priority.

Good design starts with identifying the user’s requirements and finding ways to address them, which means understanding the problems and the goals. Most companies have processes that depend on flawed legacy systems. No software, no matter how well-designed, can overcome a bad business process. An experienced software design team asks questions to determine the root of the problem, before trying to come up with a way to resolve it. This can involve analyzing the user’s ideal journey, designing an interface that follows it, and making it error-proof for maximum usability.

The design needs to be tested on users and their feedback incorporated into revisions before any final development work can begin. A good design process that addresses the right problems and delivers the right solutions is time-consuming, and it must be factored into both the budget and the schedule.

Tactic #2: Opt for Agile Methodology

Agile project management is an iterative approach to product delivery, which builds up in increments from the project’s start to completion. It breaks tasks down into smaller pieces of functionality and delivers them in short cycles called sprints or iterations.

By opting for an agile methodology, you benefit from:

  • having everyone involved at each stage of the process, so no important aspects are overlooked
  • early detection of problems, before the development progresses too far to make changes without increasing the cost and time
  • rapid feedback for each cycle or iteration of the software, which the team can use to make immediate improvements
  • an ongoing, iterative learning curve that allows the team to implement feedback immediately
  • the ability to customize applications during development, based on the feedback for each iteration
  • a more predictable performance against budget and timing

The agile approach enables development teams to concentrate on short-term cycles, identify problems and make course corrections quickly, and deliver a higher quality product with fewer glitches.

Tactic #3: Focus on Quality Communications

The success of a software development project depends on how effective communication is. Methods used in planning and execution can be verbal, written, electronic, or in-person interactions, but always involve the flow of information. Every team member needs full information to do their job, and nothing must be misinterpreted or overlooked.

High-quality communication improves productivity and reduces wasted time. It helps prevent confusing or unclear instructions, which are two big productivity killers. Every team member should have a clear picture of their role and responsibility to make the process run smoothly. All team members need to participate in planning, discussions, and feedback, to face challenges and resolve potential issues together. Good communication between stakeholders and developers helps to keep everyone on the same track and to complete each task or project phase in a spirit of collaboration.

Tactic #4: Appoint an Invested Product Owner

The Product Owner (PO) is a member of an agile team who is responsible for the delivery of the final application on time and within budget. To achieve this, s/he oversees and maintains the technical integrity of the product during development. This includes presenting the goals at the start of each sprint and engaging with non-technical stakeholders to make sure the team is developing the right product for their needs.

The PO needs to be fully invested in the project, taking part in daily meetings, defining user stories, and prioritizing backlogs. By conducting frequent sprint reviews and resolving conflicts, the PO keeps their finger on the pulse of the project and delivers on the milestones.

Tactic #5: Use Metrics to Track Progress

Data is the secret sauce when it comes to keeping track. Choosing the right metrics to monitor project progress enables you to identify risks before they can escalate and become serious issues. The team can plan for identified risks from the outset, share them transparently with the project sponsor, and address the risks early using an agile development approach. The right metrics make it possible to stay on top of both the C-Suite and the team’s “temperature.” They help to maintain morale, work ethic, and commitment, keep track of project scope, timeline, and budget.

For more information on how an experienced development team can help you reduce your software development risks, please contact us.

Digital transformation is everywhere these days. Companies that were in the process of making the shift to digital before Covid-19 have found their plans fast-tracked beyond all expectations. Organizations that weren’t yet quite there have realized they need to catch up in the shortest possible time.

Almost every company and organization uses software these days, whether it’s just for simple email communications or complex eCommerce processes, inventory management, or business intelligence. Often, off-the-shelf software doesn’t fulfill business needs, and spending money on a custom software solution is often the only viable option.

Investing in Custom Software

Building custom software is an investment that brings multiple advantages for companies, such as scalability, customization options, increased efficiency and accuracy, optimal security, and specific, advanced functionality.

There are many models to choose from when it comes to developing software, including the most commonly used waterfall and agile methods. The prototyping model is popular, however, because it offers users the chance to get involved ahead of the project implementation. This allows companies to reduce the development time (and costs!) and gives users a more thorough understanding because of their involvement.

How Iterative Prototyping Works?

The principal behind iterative prototyping is to develop a minimally viable product that can be tested, with a view to continuing the development based on feedback as fast as the information is available. This allows users to test out aspects of the design before the entire project is ready for use, which gives developers the opportunity to incorporate user feedback into the process early.

Over the long term, iterative prototyping results in better quality and functionality, more satisfaction among users, and other benefits. Here are 10 reasons why you should consider this model for your custom software project.

10 Ways Iterative Prototyping Is the Best Model

There’s a big difference between using traditional prototyping methods and the newer, iterative prototyping methods. Here’s how these can save you time and money, and why:

#1: Delivers a Faster Time to Market

With traditional prototyping, development teams typically wait until they reach a pre-identified milestone before creating a prototype and testing it out. The design needs to first be finalized, tested, revised, and then start over again with testing of the revision. With an iterative model, they can develop a “working design” and create prototypes based on it much earlier in the process.

In addition, it’s possible for the project team to get multiple iterations of the product tested simultaneously. This speeds up the final time to market noticeably and delivers value to the business faster.

#2: Results in Greater Efficiencies

Iterative prototyping makes better use of companies’ resources, partly because end-users get to test the product earlier in the game. Instead of first going through an internal testing process and only then getting user input, the two can happen simultaneously. Iterative prototyping also works well with parallel development to deliver greater efficiencies.

When the project reaches the final stages, prototypes include all the feedback gathered during the iterative process. This means the last stage of testing uses a more complete product than it would otherwise.

#3: Entails Lower Development Costs

The iterative prototyping model uses a range of technological tools such as:

  • low fidelity wireframes
  • clickable yet codeless digital prototypes for software user testing
  • 3D printers, and
  • computer numerical control (CNC) machines for physical and mechanical devices.

These types of tools make it possible to produce multiple prototypes at the same time, which lowers the cost involved in each one and takes advantage of the resources available. If one prototype doesn’t meet users’ needs another one might, without having to expend labor and resources all over again for the next one. This economy of scale lowers development costs overall in the long term. In companies where resources are scarce, the opportunity to keep costs down while producing an MVP can be a game-changer.

#4: Provides Exhaustive Testing Opportunities

No software product can be brought to market without thorough, exhaustive testing, so there’s no escaping the fact that it has to be done. The speed with which all possible prototypes can be tested counts significantly, though, in the overall duration of the project and the final return on investment.

Instead of starting the prototyping process all over from scratch each time, it’s possible to repeat this phase as often as needed in the same period until the design satisfies the users. With iterative prototyping, developers can move forward confidently knowing what functionality works and what doesn’t.

This vastly improves the chances that end-users will like the final product, as well as minimizing the risk of going live with a defective product.

#5: Produces Early Detection of Defects

One of the primary benefits of iterative prototyping is that developers and implementers can get valuable feedback from end-users earlier in the project. Engineers can determine whether the software matches the specifications used in the design and identify any problems and defects early. Updates can also be made iteratively, without having to wait until all feedback is received before fixing any bugs.

#6: Enables Adherence to Budgets

With iterative prototyping, project managers and software developers have ongoing insight into how accurate the initial project estimates were. This helps them to calculate whether deadlines and milestones are likely to be achievable and whether the budget and time allocations are going to be enough.

At the same time, an iterative process allows for more flexibility, because issues that arise can be addressed without impacting the entire project, and project sponsors and managers can easily evaluate development progress.

#7: Reduces User Training Requirements

If potential end-users are involved during prototyping stages, they need less training when the software is finally rolled out to the organization. This improves the likelihood that users will find the end product useful and reduces both the time and costs associated with training and upskilling them to use the tools.

Often, it can be difficult to predict what a user’s pain points will be until they actually begin using a program. With iterative prototyping, issues can be addressed one by one as they occur, without waiting for a major update to take place. Users also end up with a better understanding of the functionality if they have been involved during the prototyping stages.

#8: Necessitates Fewer Redesigns

Having to perform a complete redesign slows a project down considerably, which not only delays the time to value (and ROI!) but also increases the overall project costs. With an iterative process, developers are able to address any serious defects early in the process, instead of waiting until after the prototype is complete. This avoids spending time on designs that may be flawed from the outset and reduces the number of redesigns required over the life of the project.

#9: Delivers Robust User Feedback

User feedback is a major advantage of iterative prototyping because it provides a valuable resource that developers can use. This allows a stronger focus on the value to users, which impacts the customers’ experience. If a company finds users are leaving at a particular point in the journey, user testing and feedback can help to discover why it happens. This ultimately leads to more user-friendly products in the long term.

#10: Provides Valuable Analytics

Software development is an inexact science, so updates and redesigns need to be evidence-based and non-subjective. During an internal testing phase by a limited number of users, particularly if they are tech-savvy, it’s hard to imagine the issues less knowledgeable users will come up against.

With iterative prototyping, developers gather valuable analytics on which they can base redesign decisions. Metrics like overall user satisfaction, the number of usability issues, and the time it takes to complete a task offer important clues to where improvements are needed.

An Obvious Choice

If your company’s mission is to increase revenue, improve customer satisfaction, and boost productivity through custom software, the obvious choice is a product development team that uses iterative prototyping. You’ll reap benefits such as a faster turnaround time, more involvement with the final product, and less wasted time and resources.

For more information please contact us.

Tackling a technical project as a non-technical person can be intimidating. You don’t need to be a software developer to achieve success, but you do need to have some understanding of the technology involved to make sure that the custom software development company you hire fits your needs.

If you hire the wrong software partner, it immediately sets your project up for failure. Working with the wrong team eats into your budget, as well as your timeline for getting the project up and running. It’s also incredibly frustrating to your staff and other stakeholders.

Fortunately, there are a few simple ways you can evaluate a software outsourcing firm, to make sure you’re working with the right team. Sitting down and having an interview in person or over Zoom is a great way to communicate your needs, and evaluate how the software development company responds. By asking pointed questions, you can get a pretty clear sense of how well they understand your needs, and what the process of working with them will look like.

Getting Started with a Software Development Partner Interview Checklist

Coming up with a list of questions to ask your software partner is key to a productive first meeting. If you’re meeting with several companies to hear proposals, make sure to keep the core questions consistent throughout, so you can compare and contrast their answers.

Here are some of the questions we would ask before hiring a software development company.

1. Do you have experience with similar projects?

A good indicator of success is whether the team has worked on something similar in the past. If they have, they’ll be able to use the knowledge they gained to the benefit of your project. It isn’t just technical knowledge that’s helpful in this case – if they have experience working with an organization that’s similar to yours, it should also help streamline communication.

Once they’ve told you about their past experience, you can follow up by asking them to tell you about any actions they took to make these past projects so successful.

2. Who will I be working with, and how is the team structured?

To help facilitate the success of the project, you’ll need to work with your development team closely. To do that, it helps to have a clear understanding of the team’s structure. As you walk away from your initial meeting, you should have a good understanding of who you’ll be working with, as well as how many developers will be dedicated to your project.

3. Who is my contact person?

Every development team, no matter how small, should have a point person whose job is to liaise with clients. If you don’t have a single contact person, it’s easy for critical information to get lost, even within a close-knit development team.

The software or product engineering company you’re working with should understand this, and should be able to identify a point of contact for you to work with throughout the project. If they don’t, it’s a sign that they don’t take communication with clients seriously.

4. How will we communicate?

In addition to identifying a contact person, every software development team you interview should give you details about how they communicate. Do they do weekly video meetings, or do they prefer to pick up the phone? Will they use Trello, Asana, or another tool for tracking tasks and staying on schedule?

There’s no one right answer. The most important thing is that the company has a communication plan, and can add you in seamlessly. By clearly showing how they’ll communicate with you, they demonstrate their willingness to be transparent with clients.

You should also address how often you’ll communicate, and what type of issues or questions will trigger a conversation or meeting. Talking about these situations in advance can help avoid miscommunications in the future.

5. What does your development process look like?

Every software development company has a different process that they use to achieve good results. Even if you don’t have a deep technical understanding of software development, you should still ask each company you interview about their software development process, and why they chose it.

You may not understand words like scrum, agile, or waterfall, but by the end, you should have some insight into the different stages your project will go through before completion.

6. Can you estimate a date for completion?

Even if you’re coming in with a rough idea, a good software development company should be able to offer an estimate for how long it will take to deliver a completed project.

There are a lot of factors that influence the final delivery date of any project, including unclear requirements, scope creep, and technical debt. Each company you interview should be able to tell you how they work to limit these common delays.

7. What happens after delivery?

Every software project, no matter how simple, will require some kind of post-delivery technical support. Whether it’s improvements, debugging, or even just adding new features, you should make sure your software partner will be available to provide support after launch day.

8. Why should I choose your company?

Any company you work with should be able to articulate why they’d be a good match for your project. If they’ve listened to you at all during your conversation, their final pitch will be reflective of the points you’ve brought up – not just a recitation of their organizational achievements.

Choose Taazaa as Your Next Custom Software Development Company

Now that you’ve come up with a list of questions to ask before hiring a software development company, you’ll be much more prepared to begin your next development project.

At Taazaa, we believe that communication and collaboration are critical to executing a project that meets both your business goals and your users’ expectations. Get in touch today to learn more about our company, or to find out more about our approach to software development.

You have a stellar idea for a new app, or you need to upgrade your business’s legacy software with the latest tech. Either way, building software involves far more than just hiring a coder. Doing so can cause problems that even your crystal ball never foresaw.

A developer’s process

  1. Takes your product requirements doc, begins to code according to modules needed
  2. Completes Module 1 portion of code,
  3. Tests it to some extent – single developers don’t have QA teams working with them.
  4. Delivers that module
  5. Your business runs the code, then races back to the developer. “This doesn’t work as we wanted it to! That does something totally unexpected, and the other thing crashed our servers! FIX IT!”
  6. The developer has now hit his ‘back’ button, fixes this, that and the other thing. In the process, he breaks something that used to work.
  7. Repeat #4, #5, and #6.
  8. Repeat Sequence 7 until the budget is exceeded, and the developer demands further funding…

Software development

Somewhere along the way, your financial team decides they’d like additions to that build. You contact that developer with desired changes/additions, resulting in uproarious laughter or “Sorry. You never said anything about adding new features!” People at your business are beginning to make rude remarks about the new cat hanging around your chair. You don’t dare admit it’s only a large pile of hair you’ve pulled out: you’re just glad nobody has donated a litter box.

Best practices for software product builds: Agile methodologies

A great software product requires far more than just coding: a meeting to lay out a Product Requirements doc detailing features best suited to a particular client. A QA team to automate testing every deliverable along the way, a team of developers, each specializing in the best techs for that portion of code, regular meetings to discuss the state of each core build with the client. An experienced software shop uses Agile development methodology for project management. Agile development is a term covering a set of frameworks and practices where the focus is on the people doing the work and how they work together, especially when frequent changes and uncertainties are involved. Solutions progress through collaboration between self-organizing cross-functional teams. Agile development practices include pair programming, test-driven development, stand-ups, planning sessions, and sprints. Frameworks used include Scrum, Extreme Programming or Feature-Driven Development (FDD.) Example: Your company needs an app… You work with a group of doctors who have had a great idea for homebound COVID patients (or those with other illnesses.) Phillips has a new biotech patch out that gathers patient vital signs and critical data, including oxygen levels, respiratory rates, skin temperatures and more:

Wireless Remote Sensing Device

You need a system to monitor the continuous flow of data, triggering alerts when one or more critical events occur such as oxygen levels lowering to a specified range, respiratory rates increasing a certain percentage, the patient’s temp rising, etc.. Alert messages should be sent to a cell phone app for processing. This app can accurately predict whether the patient’s COVID 19 has reached levels critical enough to require a trip to the ER, and a possible ventilator in the near future. You know this app will succeed in keeping patients out of over-loaded hospitals until absolutely necessary, do so without contacting doctors already slammed with work. Greatly relieve the stress of COVID 19 patients at home, not to mention scan their health ceaselessly and take action based on accurate predictions of their COVID 19 needs. If you contact a developer with this new biotech patch in one hand and the rudiments of a tech spec in the other, you’ll likely see him/her do an Olympic quality sprint in the other direction: simply too much work to be done in order to deliver such a product in a timely manner. After due research, you locate a certain shop who has already completed a dedicated web-based Remote Patient Monitoring and Care Management System with HIPAA-compliant patient monitoring, data analysis, and mobile diagnostic platforms. All that’s needed is to incorporate the new biosensor pack, add modules for its messaging and alert functions, and whatever else you and the software shop decide is required. Here is how the entire software build process works. The shop will:

  • Speak to you with a laser focus on your needs, then draw up product requirements including the specific meaning of “Done”
  • Design and architect the entire project
  • Rapidly develop a prototype focusing on the smallest number of vital features
  • Release verifiable code early & often, getting sponsor feedback often as well
  • Implement changes as needed, collaborating with sponsors to minimize the cost of change
  • Declare the project “done” according to everyone!

Sample Python ML module Now the project is working well with the shop eagerly blasting out module after the debugged module, updating the core app. The techs on your end are learning to use the new features as they become available – and one day you, a highly-educated physician, get curious. This project seems dead simple from your point of view, so you ask the software shop to send over some of the code they’ve written for it – just so you can see what’s involved behind such an app. How complicated can it really be?

Sample code: ML module to determine the state of COVID 19 patient

The software shop is using the NYC COVID 19 Characteristics data-set** which contains data for 7,500 COVID 19 patients including 14 features per patient. They split this data into training and test sets before normalizing and applying a scaler to them as follows:

data_set = datasets.load_COVID_patients()
X=data_set.data
y=data_set.target
X_train,X_test,y_train,y_test=train_test_split(
        X,y,test_size=0.25, random_state=0)
sc=StandardScaler() 
sc.fit(X_train)
X_train_std=sc.transform(X_train)
X_test_std=sc.transform(X_test)

OUT:

Data fields data set:
['mean oxygen level' mean respiration rate' 'mean BP' 'mean temp'
 'oxygen level error' ' respiration rate error' 'BP error' 'temp error'
'worst oxygen level' 'worst respiration rate' 'worst BP' 'worst temp'
]
Classification outcomes:
['urgentCareNeeded' 'stable']

# Run logistic regression model to predict outcomes for home-bound COVID 19 patients

from sklearn.linear_model import LogisticRegression lr=LogisticRegression(C=100,random_state=0) lr.fit(X_train_std,y_train) y_pred=lr.predict(X_test_std)

**Caveat: we are NOT doctors; we only play them in geek blogs.

You, Dr. Fixit, read our perfectly-simple Python code; we watch your eyes cross as you mutter something about remaining a doctor. We, of course, will remain coders.

Building a software product means a lot more than developer selection

Agile development methodologies

Building great software products requires excellent QA to ensure that bugs don’t crop up. Communication between clients and developers during builds is vital. A solid contract, a workable timeline, and thorough product requirements are equally as vital.

With these things in place and a bit of imagination from a client, a well-built app can mean saving lives.

Should you need a new app, or update for a legacy system, contact us.

In today’s work environment, you need more from an employee than just strong technical skills. Sure, software engineers need to be familiar with the appropriate programming language. Similarly, data analysts need to know their way around a spreadsheet. However, these things alone won’t make them more useful. They need to know of thinking outside the box to become more innovative.

Businesses that welcome ideas from all employees have better growth prospects.

Great Place To Work,’ an analytics institute, surveyed 500,000 employees in 800 companies. It surveyed employees on how frequently management allows their involvement in strategic decisions. Whether the management shows interest in their ideas? If they are invited to try new approaches to their work?

The survey findings concluded that where people’s ideas were valued, yielded revenue growth and productivity. Companies topping those metrics generated 5x the revenue growth of companies at the bottom. High-scoring companies ranged from smaller start-ups to large multinationals. They were in an array of industries, from finance to health care. Researchers found that many had set up a unique culture to encourage employees to brainstorm.

Fostering a culture of innovation can set you ahead of your competitors. It should not come as exceptions but should be the new normal.

As a leader, you are the role model for your whole team. By following the path of inherited work-culture, don’t expect the employees to do the contrary.

The most prolific notions require imagining out of the box. Sometimes, motivating greetings at a critical moment could also work wonders! If you are a leader, then consider these thirteen tips for deriving higher levels of innovation out of your team.

1. Chart Out Time Separately For Innovation

Successful organizations, chart-out separate research and innovation timings in their working schedules. As an example, in Google, that leisure period is called ‘20% time’. This 20% of employees’ time led to the inception of Google Earth and Gmail. The Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing Company also reserved 15% of the employees’ working hours for innovations.

2. Encourage And Increase Dialogue

While innovation usually happens in isolation, the possibility increases multi-fold with team-cooperation. When it comes to fostering innovation, some essential patterns of communication are a boon. Leaders can build hubs where workers can hang-out and share ideas freely. With more approaches around, better become the chances of hitting the moon.

3. Friendly Collaboration

To achieve goals such as a product release contest among employees could prove helpful. However, you have to be cautious about creating an extremely aggressive work environment. Employees might be reluctant to speak up, assuming that their idea might get stolen. Instead, promote the value of teamwork. Say, during a project launch, asking employees to come with ideas on components might help.

4. Lessen The Workload

Innovation cannot evolve if employees are burdened with their everyday tasks for long hours. The most creative phase is when people are busy but not overburdened. Ensure that your business is staffed sufficiently. It is a must for employees to have positive energy and mental space to be innovative.

5. Be Available

Do you hold-up in the corner with other managers quite often? If so, then use that time to interact with your team. For the team to genuinely co-operate, they require your collaboration, counsel, and engagement. Ensure that you’re approachable and friendly. Take a step farther and give words of encouragement. Tell them that you are happy and always available to your team.

6. Maximize Diversity

The more is diversity in points-of-views, the more innovative your work experience becomes. You can introduce employees to new concepts and novel ways of thinking with job rotation. Ensure that the team interacts and coordinates with people from different backgrounds and generations. Hiring new employees, having different backgrounds, would help. Maximize diversity, and you shall be able to maximize innovation.

7. Implement Innovation Reward System

When you promote creativity, it comes under the notice of other employees. They get encouraged to do something innovative and emulate their behavior. It is essential to recognize individuals in your team that exhibit innovation readily. You can also implement a reward system to show you appreciate the innovative ideas. It shall help in making the workplace a more creative place.

8. Calm The Opposition

The reason why employees don’t provide suggestions is that they are worried about the reaction. Nobody likes his thoughts shot down instantly or becoming a butt of jokes. Create an environment that makes people confident about brainstorming actively. Even if an employee says an obvious thing, appreciate him for putting in effort. Employees should have a channel to put their suggestions in writing. It is for those who are hesitant to discuss within a group. The entire team should know that inputs in any form are welcome.

9. Get Them In Front Of Your Customers

Customer service doesn’t end with your final invoice. It would help if you let your team face clients to know about their evolving journeys. How does your product fit in their own lives? How its experience can be improved further? What other issues they have? What innovative stuff they should do to make their life easier and more flexible? Let your team interact with your customers with open questions. Let them think of ways adding value to the money of your customer. You shall soon be having a plethora of new ideas.

10. Asking The Team Their Choice Of Learning

It is one of the most effective ways to engage the team, asking them what they would like to learn. Consider this case; let us say anyone asks, “videography.” Then you should chart a videography course helping to delve deep into their current projects. It should allow them to research the competitors and bring their ideas. It should be helpful in the conception of a feedback system and learning by doing.

11. Have Respect for Failings

Failure is an indispensable part of the entire learning process. It will help if you move forward with the assumption that every idea cannot be successful. Innovation takes up numerous experiments for the creation of new solutions and products. Only those organizations would be able to taste the fruit of innovation, where there is an appetite for failures. Where employees live with a fear of failure, they won’t bring new ideas. They would instead work with traditional assessed methods.

Return and risk are two sides of a coin. For getting higher returns on investments, companies have to follow a culture of risk-taking. To decrement the chances of failing, companies might start with lesser and calculated risks. It is not just about taking risks; it is also about the numerosity of experiments. There are many examples, such as Steve Jobs and Thomas Edison, who succeeded after failings.

12. Try To Build An Environment Which Is Free From Blames

Building an environment free from blames brings creativity and innovation. Employees like to go with traditional approaches and mechanizations. It is because they feel that going to uncharted territories might lead to highly visible errors. So, the blame goes to the person who has made that decision. It becomes a necessity that your employees don’t have to face the heat. It doesn’t mean doing away with repercussions for safety violations and conscious ineptitudes.

In some organizations, publicly shaming the employees for their lapses is the norm. Such an environment can cause many hindrances in the path of innovation. Some managers think that fixing the guilty might stop other employees from committing mistakes. What happens is just the opposite. Here the employees start misreporting and hiding their mistakes. Such hidden errors amplify at a later stage because their existence was denied in the first stage.

13. Lead By The Example

It is challenging for many leaders, but if they lead by their examples, the message will go along very far. Leaders have to start by accepting their own mistakes. It would create a significant trickle-down effect on the whole team. Substantial process improvement and innovation would kickstart on its own. If managers reveal their calculated risk, employees, too, shall emulate the model. Reducing the guilt by one’s example keeps innovation alive.

Wrapping Up

Finally, take a serious note of the skill sets in your group. So, when was the last time you advanced education and training? To think innovatively, you need to empower your employees with new tools and technology. With the ideal directional approach and support, you will enable your team to enhance their ability. Also, it would make your company an innovative workplace.

Project management is a very important business process. All organizations that have over 10 employees need to be able to organize themselves as best as possible to streamline all projects and make sure that everyone does their share so that all deadlines are met. Apart from having managers that take care of such processes, companies also need technical solutions that will allow them to do this in a better way.

This is why a project management tool is an absolute essential for managing projects in modern organizations, especially when you understand that digital solutions are effective and simple, compared to older techniques. These are advanced solutions that can handle various types of projects and allow companies to organize themselves flawlessly.

One of the features of project management tools is that they can be used for creating project templates. These templates can be quite useful if an organization constantly has similar projects that have the same structure and task list. Instead of always having to create new tasks and lists, you can simply create a template that can be used for every new project.

How to save time with project templates?

If a business organization has large projects, project templates can save a lot of valuable time because of the simple fact that they won’t have to create brand new plans for each project. The project manager won’t have to do the same job over and over again and spend valuable time.

Instead, he or she will just have to find the right template and fill it in with appropriate information. Even though it might take some time for the manager to find the appropriate template, or several of them, when they are located, it’s smooth sailing, as they say.

The manager can then consider the project at hand and see what kind of values need to be set. Rather than having to do a lot of planning and paperwork, the project manager will only have to fill in all of the forms in the template and prepare the project.

How you can save money with project templates?

When you start using project templates for creating project plans in your project management tool, you will soon realize that not only will you save time, but you will also save money. When you work with your project management tool, over time, you will realize patterns and trends in projects and, when you create a template that suits the pattern, you won’t have any additional costs.

When a project manager creates a couple of templates using the project management tool, he or she will gain experience and knowledge, which will allow that person to choose adequate templates in the future without having to spend any money. An experienced manager that is in charge of many products can easily create templates that will always be useful and this doesn’t cost a thing.

This means no big investments to talk to outside consultants that will be in charge of creating reliable documentation that will further help a certain project run smoothly. It might take some time and resources to develop templates, but once this is done, you will always be able to start new projects.

Be extra careful when developing your templates

In order for your templates to be effective and beneficial to your business, you must make sure that your development approach should be in the right way so that they can truly shine. It’s important that you work hard through trial and error during that process, and even before that.

The creator of the template needs experience in project management and working on projects that are specific to your business. This is how this person will know all the difficulties, specifics, ins and outs. He or she will be able to create a template that meets all the necessary demands.

Create a template from your current projects

If your business works on the same kind of projects constantly, and you create marketing campaigns, work with purchase orders, develop products, etc. you won’t have to create a project management template from scratch. Instead of doing this, the best way to create templates for similar projects that you know you will work on in the future is to simply copy your current projects.

When I say “copy”, I don’t mean literally, but most project management tools give you the “save as template” option or similar features that allow you to quickly use your current project to create a template that you can use in the future. Name this template appropriately so that you know for which kind of project you can use it.

Additionally, all project management tools allow you to perform edits on these templates and, if needed, you can change small things that are still very important so that there are no mistakes or confusion in the future.

Project templates are valuable time-savers that can make starting new projects a piece of cake. Even if you get larger projects than you regularly do, a template with the right structure can be expanded in no time and adapted for larger jobs. These documents can make the life of project managers much easier and allow them to start off projects on the right foot and in less time. A business that uses project management tools to create templates improves its overall productivity.

Author Bio: David is a technical writer currently associated with ProProfs project. Owing to his keen insight, he enjoys writing about emerging trends and associated learning in the project management domain. He lives in Detroit, Michigan with his wife. In his spare time, David loves exploring the city, listening to Metal music and riding.

In today’s day and age, there are thousands and thousands of apps out there for people to use. These apps can do a ton of different things, and several have become so successful that they have made their founders and creators billionaires. So how do these apps get so successful? Well, tracking metrics was a large part of it.

Tracking metrics is all about seeing what is working for your app, what isn’t working, and how you can fix what isn’t. With that in mind, this article is going to look at some of the most important metrics that you should be monitoring within your app.

App Downloads

Of course, the amount of app downloads you are getting is incredibly useful to keep track of. This should be the very first indication of how your app is doing. If you are getting lots of downloads, great, but if you are not, then you need to look at why. It could be your description, could be your marketing or even your icon/screenshots.

The number of downloads isn’t the only thing important, so is noticing how they trend over time. If you are having a hard time getting downloads, maybe it’s time to increase your marketing efforts. Also, it is important to know that there is no set amount of downloads that you should be looking to get, as it will differ from app to app.

Active Users

Tracking the number of users is also a metric you want to keep updated. However, not just the overall users you’ve had, but the active users. These active users are those who regularly use your app. You can also segment active users into daily active users and monthly active users. The ultimate goal is to have everyone turn into a daily active user, someone who uses your app each day.

However, with 20% of apps only being used literally once after downloading, retaining users isn’t always an easy thing. You need to offer in-app updates frequently to address concerns and don’t be afraid to send push notifications to remind your users to revisit your app.

Screenflow

Measuring and tracking screen flow is essentially following along where a user goes throughout your app and the path they take. This is useful as it will not only show you where most users are going but how they are getting there. This will also help to illustrate which pages need to be improved (as they don’t get much traffic) and tracking can also show which page people are at when they leave your app.

By knowing which paths are most used by your user base, you will be able to make them even more efficient to give a better performance and hopefully attract new users.

Average Visit Time

Tracking this metric will show you the average duration of each user session in your app. This is very useful as it can show just how engaged with your app your users are. If a user just checks the app for a minute and then turns it off, that is not as valuable as if a user is on it for a half hour or more each session.

If your users only interact with your app for a short period, you should look at adding more things to do to engage them and keep them using the app longer. If your users already spend a lot of time on your app, it is all about making that experience as great as possible for them.

In-App Feedback

Of course, no app is perfect, so you need to offer somewhere for your users to give you some feedback. This could be in the form of a survey, a contact form, or other method of delivering communication. By offering this option, you will allow users to let you know what they like, what they don’t like and anything they think needs to be addressed further.

In addition to helping you fix problems and right wrongs, giving this option to users (and keeping track of it) will make the users feel as if their voices are being heard and that they have an active part in helping your app become successful. This will make them feel more connected to the app and thus, more likely to continue using it.

Thankfully, there are tools out there that can help you track and monitor not only these metrics but also the overall performance of your app, which is also important to do to prevent downtime, that can cost companies tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

If you are interested in checking one out or learning more about what they can offer, be sure to check out https://stackify.com/what-is-apm/.

ASP.NET MVC is Microsoft’s latest web application development technology based on the principle of the separation of concerns. MVC stands for Models, Views, and Controllers, respectively. Prior to the MVC pattern, Web Forms was the prime Microsoft technology for web application development. However, Web Forms lacked the flexibility of development and loose coupling. MVC addressed these concerns. This article presents a brief overview of the top three features offered by ASP.NET MVC 5, which is the 5th version of the Microsoft MVC technology.

1- Attribute Routing

The major difference in ASP.NET MVC and ASP.NET web forms is the way incoming requests are handled.

In Web Forms, incoming requests map to a file or resource on the webserver. For instance, the requested URL can be of the form of www.abcd.com/xyz.aspx. Here, the URL refers to an ASP.NET Web Form named xyz.aspx, located at the root directory. There is a one-to-one mapping between the URL and the page that is accessed, which must physically reside on the server.

On the other hand, MVC routing pattern maps URLs with action methods, resulting in cleaner and more SEO-friendly URLs (for instance, www.abcd.com/xyz/buy). This URL refers to the action method “buy” of the controller “xyz” on the domain “abcd”.

To see where these routes are configured, go to the solution explorer of your ASP.NET MVC application and find App_Start folder and find the RouteConfig.cs file. It contains a method named RegisterRoutes which takes a collection of type RouteCollection as a parameter. Inside this method are routes that are to be ignored; routes that are to be added can be defined. This is shown in the following code snippet:

public static void RegisterRoutes(RouteCollection routes){
routes.IgnoreRoute("{resource}.axd/{*pathInfo}");
routes.MapRoute(
name: "Default",
url: "{controller}/{action}/{id}",
defaults: new { controller = "Home", action = "Index", id = UrlParameter.Option }
);
}

Apart from defining routes in the RouteConfig.cs file, ASP.NET MVC 5 has introduced a new feature known as attribute routing which allows developers to specify a route as an attribute of the action method. To enable attribute-based routing, you need to modify the RegisterRoutes method of RouteConfig.cs file as follows:

public static void RegisterRoutes(RouteCollection routes){
routes.MapMvcAttributeRoutes();
}

To add a route on any action method, you simple have to add an attribute named Route and pass the route as parameter to it. For instance:

[Route("Products/Sports/{id}")]
public ActionResult GetSportsItems(string id){
ViewBag.Id = id;
return View();
}

2- Default MVC Template replaced by Bootstrap

ASP.NET MVC 5 replaced the default MVC template with a much more flexible and standardize CSS library called Bootstrap. With the integration of Bootstrap in MVC 5, developers have got a myriad of styling options right out of the box.

3- Improved Identity Management and third party Authentications

ASP.NET MVC 5 has introduced a more robust, secure, and at the same time, a flexible identity management mechanism. Now with MVC 5, developers need not explicitly manage identity and authentication of the application users. Rather, these features come built-in with the framework and can be easily tweaked to achieve the desired identity and authentication operations. Also, MVC 5 provides authentication and logic features via third-party applications such as Facebook, Google, and Twitter, all of them right out of the box.

Let’s face it. We live in a digital world. The real estate industry is no stranger to digital technologies, and 72% of people now say that they use a mobile site or application to make their home search easier. The easy access to real-time data and updated, accurate information that apps provide allow people to really harness the power of technology and efficiently improve their real estate experience, whether buying or selling.

Increasing Access to Real-Time Information

Access to the latest property listings and top real estate agents is crucial in getting the best deal on a home or other type of property. Mobile apps are quickly changing the game in this aspect as they send push notifications straight to your phone and allow you to stay informed without really having to do much of anything. Buyers and renters alike are relying on apps to enter their specific search criteria and receive daily, or hourly, updates on hot new listings, changes in prices and even general real estate news that is related to their search. Redfin, for example, has an app with a database of more than 70 million properties and refreshes itself after every 15 minutes. Long gone are the days when you had to wait for your real estate agent to gather a list of properties to then present to you in person or over the phone, which is a benefit to both buyers, sellers, and agents. A win-win-win is really revolutionary, especially in the real estate industry.

Updating Old Systems

If you wanted to sell your house in the older days, you had to get it appraised and wait for a lengthy amount of time for them to get back to you with an answer. If you wanted to buy a home, you likely had to go through many financial and legal hoops, and maybe even visit a tax assessor. Now, you can do all of that with the click of a button on your smartphone and a handy real estate software & app. Homesnap, for example, allows you to take and upload photos of a home and receive an estimate of its value. While this is great for both buyers and sellers, Houzz is focusing more on catering to anybody looking to sell their home with an app that identifies areas that might need an upgrade to raise the value of their home. The high-resolution virtual remodel function allows users to find ways to increase their home’s value while also testing out what it might look like. Other apps exist that cater more to the financial side of real estate and will allow you to make sense of your options with regards to mortgages, calculating loans, and even accessing financial planning services.

Improving Lead Management

Apps aren’t just revolutionizing the way people buy and sell homes, but they’re catering to the middleman as well. Real estate agents can now take advantage of technology in order to grow their client base, manage their leads, and improve their customer service process. OpenHomePro allows agents to capture leads and sends personalized follow-up e-mails on their behalf while Premier Agent is explicitly designed to gain insights into consumer behavior, facilitate easier closings and integrate leads from other sources all to one platform.

The Future of Apps in Real Estate

Where there’s a need, an app would certainly be there. As more individuals in the real estate industry, including buyers and sellers, begin to find and identify specific pain points in their process, more and more developers will continue to invest in the development of technologies and applications that can make the process easier and more efficient. As technology advances, these apps will increase in the efficiency and functions that they offer to users.

E-learning is a phenomenal development in the learning sector. As opposed to the belief that education could be imparted only by conventional means, this new technology has rewritten many rules. This form of learning has undoubtedly taken the world by storm and is for sure to stay.

The revolution brought about by e-learning is benefiting students, professionals, homemakers, senior citizens alike. The most convenient medium for e-learning is the mobile phone. Most of the developed world population has access to a mobile phone, and this has encouraged the developers of both the smartphones and the phone applications to inculcate more and more educative applications into the phone Play Store or an Apple Store.

There are tons and thousands of informative mobile phone applications just a click away from a user that he can make use of. This entire technological renaissance has led to the development of many apps to benefit the e-learning community. However, the following are the trendiest applications nowadays.

Edx: This is one of the most informative apps. This app offers insights into various courses like programming, designing, psychology, etc. through online and offline video lectures. Unlike many apps, Edx offers courses from actual colleges. Higher education seeking individuals should definitely try his app. The app is free to use, and this makes it a top favourite.

Google Play Books: Regarded as one of the best learning apps, Google play books offers you a wide range of options to choose from. These vary from fiction, non-fiction, guidebooks, educational books, comics, etc. Once you have installed the app on your phone, you may have to pay certain charges for various ebooks. The versatility of content makes this a useful app.

Mind flash: This is an awesome business app. It lets a person train partners, employees, customers all at once. Being a highly user-friendly app, the learners get motivated in the process of learning and at the same time provides an informative database for various businesses.

Amazon Kindle: This app provides the users with the flexibility of buying, downloading, and storing thousands of ebooks, educational books, textbooks, and more. Rated amongst the top e-learning apps, Amazon kindle provides a traditional touch to the learning experience.

Coursera: Anything from online video lecture to well-crafted courses in different fields is the specialty of this app. Having a collection of informative material this is a must-have e-learning app.

Photomath: Those of you who get jitters thinking about mathematics can surely tame your phobias well by installing this wonderful app. It provides all the step by step instructions to solve mathematical questions. It uses a camera and OCR technology to read equations and give back solutions.

Youtube: This is probably the best learning apps. With a stream of videos for a single search, this provides with the best platform for interaction as well. Anything from as simple as learning new recipes to more complex things can be learned in a jiffy. A channel subscription will make sure you remain notified at all times.

Duolingo: This is a recent language app developed in 2014. It is a language learning app and mini-tutorials and games help a user learn a language fast.

Lynda: Established by Lynda Weinman this app helps in learning coding, Web designing, recording, production, etc. It also helps in learning Microsoft Office skills.

Udemy: This trending app focuses on skill-based learning. Many day-to-day activities like public speaking, cooking, tailoring etc. can be mastered in the comfort of your home. It also helps with learning various applications successfully.

Author Bio: Rum Tan, a mastermind, and the founder of Smiletutor – most Effective Way to Excel Academically and one of the significant online tuition provider in Singapore. A passionate learner and loves to write and share the skill to improve the learning and improvement of the education system.

Remember what it was like before project management tools entered the picture? Providing deliverables on time to clients was one of the biggest challenges organizations faced. Technically, it is true even today. But why so? Why did completing planning to execution phases became cumbersome for project teams?

Were tasks not divided correctly among teams? Did lack of communication delay the execution of the project? Or did teams failed to collaborate effectively? Each question may sound bitter. But all these stand true. They are giveaways why projects got delayed.

What outcomes did they entail? There were many. Some include:

  1. Delay in providing project deliverables. This leads to the loss of both stakeholders and organizations. According to Chaos Manifesto, less than a third of projects got delivered successfully on time and on budget.
  2. According to a study, only 33% of the organizations meet the original goals and objectives while completing the project. This happens because teams are not clear about project objectives or lack of business focus. It also leads to project failure.
  3. Relations between the project team and stakeholders were severed. This can result in a bad market reputation and lead to achieving fewer projects for an organization.

The above outcomes can be averted if an organization integrates project management tools into its workspace. No more will they be tangled in the process of sending emails. They can easily overcome the “schedule a meeting” phase and quickly get all the members involved with a project to get on the same page.

Before the tool was devised, project teams also faced communication issues. This is because they didn’t have the means for real-time communication. It often affected team collaboration and project outcomes negatively, especially in the case of remote employees.

Today, with various online project management tools available, the scenario has changed, and so has a cross-team coordination process. Let’s take a look at how an easy project management tool can help teams to collaborate and complete all their projects on time.

Centralized Workspace

With project management software, creating an online centralized workspace is a piece of cake. It gives your team members easy access at any given time. All the information they need will be stored and organized in a single location. This is made available to them 24/7, regardless of the devices they use.

Other than that, all project-related files and documents become accessible across teams. This, in turn, helps:

  1. Both team members and stakeholders the opportunity to complete their respective tasks without glitches.
  2. Project teams significantly save time and the chance to improve team productivity and ROI.

All this is beneficial for cross-functional teams that are spread across different departments. But this has also helped remote team managers. No more do their location and time difference impact the project collaboration process negatively. With a few clicks, their work gets centralized easily.

Better Collaboration

Another feature that makes project management tools a useful integration to the workspace is their built-in collaboration feature. Cross-team coordination has reached a whole new level, thanks to the PM tool. Multiple teams collaborate by sharing files and commenting on every stage. Besides, they can simply view various checklists and reports necessary for successful project completion.

The best thing about utilizing project management software: Every team member gets to see all the updates made to the documents instantly. Without the tool, they could have wasted much time. How? Collecting multiple copies of documents and notes becomes an unmanageable task if done through mails.

However, with the integration of the tool, keeping up with all the changes and completing tasks effectively has become relatively easier. Also, team members are not required to attend numerous meetings to stay updated or on track with relevant changes made by the client.

Effective Communication

According to recent project management statistics, 57% of projects fail due to a breakdown in communication. Bad communication can also make your clients feel frustrated. Luckily, project management tools are here to save the day.

Quite similar to collaboration, project management tools have real-time communication features. This enables different teams to communicate in real-time. In short, it helps cross-functional teams to improve their efforts and make useful contributions to projects and overall organizational success.

Before PM tools came into the picture, email was the number one communication platform. But it never guaranteed whether all stakeholders will receive the necessary information in time or not. This changed with the coming of project management software. Everyone receives relevant information on time. The notification feature plays an important role. It alerts team members about the recently assigned tasks.

Moreover, the tool can be integrated with live chat. This further assists teams to communicate with one another without the need for meetings, phone calls, or video conferences.

Full Transparency

It is said that transparency is crucial to make every project successful. It is true in cases where team members are spread across the globe or different departments in a company. Project management software helps to create a single, centralized and shared workspace. This helps every team member to see all the tasks, along with task dependencies, thereby clearly understanding what needs to be done to reach positive outcomes.

With complete transparency during the planning and execution phase, everyone exactly knows what they are responsible for, and when tasks have to be completed. They can clearly view all the key information, every schedule, objective, deadline, and track the progress hassle-free.

This, especially task dependencies, can save a considerable amount of time and increase the success rate of a project. Besides, it helps cross-functional teams to determine every milestone and the big picture that many fail to see.

Complete transparency is also responsible for helping team members track the impact everyone’s effort has on the project besides their own. This helps to add more suggestions from different teams to further improve the productivity of fellow members.

Real-Time Project Monitoring

Another aspect that makes the relevance of simple project management software important is monitoring the project. Earlier, to monitor the progress of a project, clients had to call in regular meets with the project team. Not only this wasted their time but also further delayed the task completion progress.

However, PM tool integration has made the task easier to manage. It is capable of improving the project monitoring process and that too in real-time. In fact, 21% of the organizations claim that real-time status dashboards have become one of the popular methods to monitor the progress of a project.

With this tool, you can monitor your projects in real-time and clearly see the entire progress as a project unfolds. You can see the status of projects, the time it takes to complete particular tasks and milestones, and how long it takes every team member to finish their work.

That way, you can jump in whenever you feel that you can contribute. Get a full picture of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. You can determine who should be rewarded for their efforts, as well as who may need additional training in order to improve and grow, thereby helping your organization grow.

In the end

Helping your organization to grow and reach the good books of your future clients is an important goal to achieve. This is possible when your team completes projects on time and budget. How to achieve this goal? Try improving cross-team coordination tactics. However, you may lose track of every tactic and come back to square one, if done without integrating an effective tool.

To avoid this outcome, it is essential to implement the use of simple project management software to improve cross-team collaboration. This not only helps to communicate better and save more time but also assists in improving workflow and providing deliverables on time.

So why wait for your competitors to overtake your position in the market? By using the tool, your business can reach a whole new level of success.

Author Bio: David is a technical writer; his works are regularly published in various papers and top-notch portals. His rich experience in the project management domain helps him offer the latest and fresh perspective on improved efficiency in workflows across organizations. His informative works on similar lines can be reached out on ProProfs Project.

We’ve all done it more often then we care to admit: that quick and dirty coding that works perfectly well for what it’s meant to address but which sets up roadblocks for future progress. A hurriedly fudged fix, maybe that solved a sticky problem but locked you into a configuration you might not want to stay in forever. Or, a new feature added on without much attention to what went before and no attention to what will come after.

You’ve bought a little time, but it isn’t free. Just as the interest in financial debts needs to be paid off, month by month, you’ll be paying for your messy code ad infinitum until you go and fix it.

Does that mean you shouldn’t ever accrue technical debt? Yes and no. In an ideal world, you’d want your code to stay perfect always, and you’d want to take the time to write all your solutions with a mind for the future.

However, look, our world isn’t ideal. Just as there are times it makes sense to go and take out a bank loan—to buy a house, maybe, or to tide yourself through a lean time— there are times that you may do well to take out technical debt. When you’ve got a looming release date, for instance, and some super quick coding is the only way you’re going to meet it. When something breaks, and you’ve got exactly three minutes to get it working before the world comes crashing down. Or when you needed that new feature yesterday and every moment counts.

Short term, taking out that ‘extra cash’ makes you feel on top of the world; agile, ready to attack anything. In the long term, it’s likely to slow down maneuvering and provide a drag on future progress.

So here’s a quick checklist to go through before you decide to take the easy way out:

  1. Ask yourself: Do I have to? If time pressure means the non-ideal, expedient solution is your only way out, go on and do it! Tomorrow can always take care of itself. If you’ve got a little potential wiggle room, though, go on to consider….
  2. What is the interest rate? How much of a drag will this put on our future progress, and is the time I’m saving now really worth it when looking at the bigger picture?

If you allow yourself to take out technical debt even once, there’s something you’ve got to remember: every moment of downtime should be payback time. Keep yourself accountable. Make a habit of refactoring on the go; using your low-pressure time blocks to go back through the code and tidy up areas that are less than ideal. For larger technical debts which have added up, you’ll want to schedule time blocks to go in with a sledgehammer and break down the uglies.

It’s not fun. It can be scary sometimes, and it is always singularly unrewarding: at the end of the day, after all, your sweat and hard work, you have nothing new to show anyone. However, if you’ve got good, clean code, your future self will thank you—and your work tomorrow, the next day and the day after that will be that much easier.