The Benefits of a Website Built with Responsive Web Design

Responsive web design is a relatively new approach to web design that seeks to optimize the web browsing experience for multiple devices. With the rise of smartphone and tablet usage over the last decade, the importance of having a website that displays beautifully on any medium is not only an opportunity for increased revenue, but is crucial for surviving as a company over the next decade.

With responsive web design, as a screen size increases or decreases, images and text on a website scale to fit the to the user’s web browser, ensuring that the all web content is displayed in its best form. So whether you’re accessing the web via a smartphone, tablet, desktop computer and so on, responsive web design provides you with a seamless and fluid browsing experience.

Here are the top 5 advantages to having a website built with responsive web design:

CoreSolutions Devices with Responsive Web Design
    1. Website and Web Application Adaptability

Responsive web design offers a browsing environment that can accommodate any mobile product, along with the traditional desktop computer. With respect to mobile devices, responsive web design provides a web browsing experience with minimal pinching and resizing, as web content almost naturally fits with the shape and size of the screen size. The bottom line is that responsive frameworks dynamically adjust to the device that is being used to access the web application.

In today’s global market, characterized by a variety of mobile options and with that varying mobile device screen sizes, having a website or web application that is mobile-friendly and provides the best overall user experience, is crucial to generating new revenue for your business. Since responsive web design functions to optimize web browsing from any browsing device, there is no need to build dedicated websites and web applications for each web browsing demographic. Rather, a solution built on responsive web design will effectively and efficiently handle both desktop and mobile web browsing.

    1. Mobile Usability and a Lower Bounce Rate

With mobile web browsing set to overtake desktop web browsing in the not too distant future as the number 1 method for browsing the internet, it’s imperative that organizations upgrade their websites so that they’re mobile-friendly. Responsive web design is tailored for the mobile web browsing experience and as a result, will provide you with a lower bounce rate due to the ease-of-use navigating the internet on mobile devices. Compare this with the bounce rate for non-responsive web design based websites accessed via mobile devices and the difference is astounding. If your website is not optimized for this mobile web browsing demographic, then you risk increasing your bounce rate. By providing mobile users with a seamless and fluid browsing experience, responsive web design will keep visitors on your website for extended periods of time, thereby assisting in lowering your website bounce rate.

Lady with piggy bank
    1. Long Term Savings on Development Costs

Although the upfront development hours and costs are greater, the long term return on investment for websites and web applications built on responsive web design is abundantly clear – you will save time and money by avoiding the cumbersome process of managing and updating a mobile version and a desktop version of the same application. With responsive web design, organizations can make updates in one location that will accommodate for both desktop and mobile web browsing experiences.

    1. Maintain and Potentially Increase Google Rankings

On April 21st 2015, Google released its mobile-friendly algorithm update, also known as the “Google Mice Update” or “Mobilegeddon,”with the goal of increasing the visibility of mobile-friendly websites, while simultaneously, pushing mobile-friendly websites to the top of google search results from mobile devices. It’s abundantly clear that Google’s mandate in this update is to assist with shifting web-browsing into a mobile dominated world. With a mobile-friendly website, there’s also the opportunity to snag new mobile business from a competitor whose website is not up to mobile standards.

So what’s Google’s number one suggestion for adhering to this new mobile-friendly standard? It’s having a website built on responsive web design! Technically-speaking, on its own, complying with Google’s new mobile-friendly standard won’t directly increase your Google search rankings on mobile devices – on the contrary, it will allow you to maintain your position and you won’t be penalized – what will allow you to leap-frog the competition in mobile search results is being the first to take the jump to optimize your website or web application so that it’s mobile-friendly.

In addition, responsive web design will assist with increasing your SEO, as Google crawlers will only have to search one website for your information, as opposed to non-responsive web design web applications that force Google crawlers to search separate mobile and desktop websites to index content. This means that you can house and optimize all your metadata for SEO in one area, making life easy on Google crawlers, & as a result, organically driving traffic to your website.

    1. Your Company Will Be Prepared for the Shift into the Mobile Dominated Web Browsing World

With mobile web browsing set to surpass desktop web browsing as the preferred way of surfing the internet, updating your website so that it’s mobile-friendly will not only assist your company in the present, but it will prepare you for the shift into a mobile web browsing dominated world. Responsive web design will put your company in a position where you are ready for this change in demographics.

Why Use Responsive Web Design?

In the end, it can be boiled down to one major organizational advantage: web applications and websites created using responsive web design will, if assembled correctly, save you time and money in the long run. You won’t have to maintain two separate websites for desktop and mobile, meaning that you will only be required to update one application. Your application will also be optimized for all browsing experiences and compliant with Google’s new mobile-friendly standard. And since your website will be mobile-friendly, there is the potential to increase your Google rankings on searches from mobile devices, along with the opportunity to improve your SEO.

Let CoreSolutions develop your next website or web application using responsive web design. With our extensive experience in software development, we’ll take your project from initial concept through to full implementation and beyond. Contact us today at 1-800-650-8882 to learn more about how CoreSolutions can make your next web development project a success!

Share

Strategies to Overcoming Unconscious Bias in the Workplace

Unconscious bias is hitting the news. From Bay Street to Main Street to Starbucks the impact of unspoken bias is real and harmful to the workplace. Bias stands in the way of making correct decisions in hiring and promoting. It also has a vital impact on your staff and the workplace in general. Let’s explore how we can become aware of our own bias and stop it in the workplace?

 

First, let’s define it. “Unconscious bias refers to a bias that we are unaware of, and which happens outside of our control. It is a bias that happens automatically and is triggered by our brain making quick judgments and assessments of people and situations, influenced by our background, cultural environment and personal experiences. (ECU: 2013 Unconscious bias in higher education) 

 

We all have a bias. The question is, do we identify it and then what do we do about it? In addressing one of the most crucial training issues facing the workplace today, unconscious bias, employers can assist in creating an inclusive, civil and respectful workplace. 

 

Research indicates that unconscious biases are prejudices we have, yet are uninformed of. They are “mental shortcuts based on social norms and stereotypes.” (Guynn, 2015). Biases can be based on skin colour, gender, age, height, weight, introversion versus extroversion, marital and parental status, disability status (for example, the use of a wheelchair or a cane), foreign accents, where someone went to college, and more (Wilkie, 2014). If you can name it, there is probably an unconscious bias for it.

 

Hence if we think we are unbiased, we may have unconscious adverse thoughts about people who are outside our own group. If we spend more time with people from other groups, we are less likely to feel prejudice against them.

 

This universal tendency toward unconscious bias exists because bias is rooted in our brain. Research shows that our brain has evolved to mentally put things together to make sense to us. The brain sorts all the information it is blasted with and labels that information with universal descriptions that it may rapidly access. When we categorize these labels as either good or bad, we tend to apply the rationale to the whole group. Many of the conclusions are taken from previous experiences and learnings.  

In an article, “The Real Effects of Unconscious Bias in the Workplace”, a few of the known unconscious biases that directly impact the workplace include:

  • Affinity bias is the tendency to warm up to people like ourselves.
  • Halo effect is the tendency to think everything about a person is good because you like that person.
  • Perception bias which is the inclination to form stereotypes and assumptions about specific groups that make it awkward to make an objective judgement about members of those groups. 
  • Confirmation bias is the openness for us to pursue evidence that sanctions our pre-existing beliefs or experiences. 
  • Group think is a bias which occurs when people attempt to fit into a specific crowd by mirroring others or holding back opinions and views. This results in individuals losing part of their characteristics and causes workplaces to miss out on originality and creativity.

Horace McCormick’s research found more than 150 identified unconscious biases, making the task of rooting them out and addressing them daunting. For many organizations, however, identifying as many as possible and eliminating them has become a high priority.  

 

You can address discrimination issues by increasing your awareness of your unconscious biases, and by developing strategies that make the most of the talents and abilities of your team members. 

Unconscious behaviour is not just individual; it influences organizational culture as well. This explains why so often our best attempts at creating corporate culture change with diversity efforts seem to fall frustratingly short; to not deliver on the promise they intended.

 

What you can do: 

  • Be aware consciously of your bias 
  • Focus more on the people, on their strengths
  • Increase Exposure to Biases
  • Make small changes 
  • Be pragmatic 
  • Challenge stereotypes and counter-stereotypical information 
  • Use context to explain a situation 
  • Change your perception and relationship with out-group members 
  • Be an active bystander 
  • Improve processes, policies & procedures  

Also, managers can play a crucial role in unearthing these hidden biases by declaring their intentions to be non-biased. They can also provide transparent performance appraisals that emphasis on the employee’s exceptional abilities and skills, and grow a stronger mindfulness of their own unconscious principles.

 

Share

Strategic Planning for Organizational Success

Let us take you through the process of developing a strategic plan that will bring to life, your organization’s vision and strategic imperatives.

 

In today’s environment, if you are standing still, you are falling behind.  Making the right decisions at the right time is critical.  Following through on those decisions is challenging.  In a survey of a broad section of CEOs, the Malcolm Baldrige Foundation learned that CEOs believed deploying strategy is three times more difficult than developing strategy.

 

The executive team’s strategic planning process must address, both the development of your key strategic imperatives and the successful execution of these strategies.  The process starts by identifying your organization’s vision and mission.  Your organization’s vision and mission should outline the development of your future direction, the key influences on how you operate and the key challenges you currently face.  Through an understanding of your organization’s operating environment and your key relationships with your customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders, you will then be able to describe your organization’s competitive environment, ensuring that your key strategic imperatives maintain your benchmarked position.  However, the process of developing this Strategic Plan seems onerous to many and of little value to others.  In our experience, we have found that the fault lies not in the concept of Strategic Planning but rather in the process of developing the plan itself.  Let us take you through the process of developing a strategic plan that will bring to life, your vision and strategic imperatives.

 

I.               Develop a Future Vision for the Organization

 

The first step in the strategic planning process is for the President/CEO and the executive team to work together and create a compelling vision.  Creating this vision and developing the strategies to achieve it is one of the most difficult challenges for many organizations.  In this complex and fast-changing world, anticipating the future can be very difficult.  The vision is more than just a dream.  It is an ambitious view of the future that everyone in the organization can believe in, one that can realistically be achieved, yet offers a future that is better in important ways than what now exists.  When the vision is clearly articulated, everyday decisions and actions will respond to current problems and challenges in ways that move the organization toward the future vision rather than maintain the status quo.    

 

II.             Develop the Strategic Plan

 

Once the vision is developed, the executive team will follow this process to develop their strategic plan: 

 

1.     Collect customer feedback

 

Dramatic gains in overall organizational performance are very often customer driven.  Customers focus on how the organization’s delivery of products and services produce the results they’re looking for in quality, price, delivery, service, etc.   Your organization’s success depends on your ability to satisfy your customer’s needs.  In turn, this ability depends on how well the organization’s internal processes work to meet this external demand.   Understanding the customer is key to determining some of the requirements for the strategic plan. 

The leadership team must know:

 

·       Who are the customers?

 

·       How is the quality in product and service delivered to the customer measured?

 

·       How do you obtain your customer feedback?

 

·       What do you do with the information it provides?

 

2.     Collect employee feedback

 

It is essential to involve employees in the planning of strategy and direction for the department and/or organization.  Employee’s input will:

 

·       Provide insight into issues, challenges, concerns, and opportunities which may not have been known.

 

      ·       Ensure their “buy-in” during the Execution Planning Stage which will link the Strategy Development into Action Plans.

 

The leadership team will come to the strategy development session prepared to respond to questions, derived from their staff (in meetings and one-on-one sessions with them).  Questions may include:

 

·       What has been accomplished in their area(s) over the past couple of years?

 

·       What have their customers been saying about their level of service?

 

·       What have been their performance strengths, weaknesses, current goals, structure and ways of operating?

 

·       What do they see as emergent opportunities and threats?

 

·       What Benchmarking information is available and relevant?

 

·       What would staff like to see in the future?

 

·       What are the concerns and issues among staff and what do they see as the opportunities?

 

3.     Conduct Benchmarking research

 

Benchmarking is an integral part of the planning and on-going review process to ensure a focus on the external environment and to strengthen the use of information in developing plans.  Benchmarking is used to improve performance by understanding the methods and practices required to achieving world-class performance levels. 

 

Comparisons to other similar and dissimilar organizations and their departments can yield valuable insights into determining the right strategies to improve overall quality, process, procedures, structure, and so on.

 

4.     Review the current organizational and/or departmental situation

 

Each member of the leadership team will present a summary of what they’ve accomplished in their own area of responsibility over the past year.  As well, they will include any long and short-term problems that they encountered.  Essentially, we are trying to set the stage for understanding the past so that we can overcome the obstacles, which might prevent the organization from meeting it’s vision. 

 

This stage in strategy development engages the leadership team in thinking about their view of their department and areas of responsibilities and related positions.  Reports collected from customer feedback and employee input and involvement will help understand the current situation.  The questions that are raised, discussed and recorded might include:

·       What are our performance strengths & weaknesses?

·       What other strengths & weaknesses do we have?

·       What strategies do we see as necessary to bridge this gap?

·       What do we think are the organization’s current goals, structure & ways of operating?

·       What are the emergent opportunities and threats bearing on the organization from various environmental sectors? (i.e.; from customer feedback, knowledge of  present market, staff feedback)

·       What are we doing to create these opportunities and threats…not looking for blame i.e.; the economy; rather, how are we working around the real issue of the economy. 

 

 5.     Consider your “ideal” future

 

Before leadership can begin developing their future strategies they engage in a general discussion that focuses on questions to get their thinking going; nothing is recorded yet.  This step reviews:

 

  • Staff responses from earlier meetings with them, on their vision of the future, together with customer’s future needs.  As well,
  • Results from all Benchmarking research.

To define the strategic direction and determine the best focus of effort for the organization, this process requires that the leadership team consider several key questions:

 

1.     What is our dream or vision of what we want to be contributing to the organization over the next 1 – 3 years?

2.     What are the key assumptions about external circumstances that will exist in this time frame and what is our best opportunity to provide a unique contribution, based on these assumed circumstances?

3.     How do we translate this dream into action?

4.     What action plans must we develop?

5.     How will we get the financial, human and physical resources to implement our plans?

6.     What performance standards should we use to measure the quality of our effort?

7.     Do we have the commitment of others upon whom we depend?  Do our partners share our vision and performance standards? If not, how will we gain commitment?

8.     How will we measure our success?  How will we measure our contribution to building stakeholder value?

9.     What information should we monitor to alert us to external changes that require changes in our vision?

 

The philosophy behind these questions is:

·       No matter who you are or what roles you occupy in the organization, you can form a vision of what you want to be contributing over the next several years.  This requires making correct assumptions about what the organization will be like, and about your potential for making unique contributions, over the next 2-3 years.

·       Leadership engagement in discussing these issues is essential to the strategy development process because success depends on the understanding & commitment of everyone involved in making the vision a reality.

6.     Develop the Key Strategies

 

The key strategies will aim to close the gap between the present situation and the “ideal future”.  Essentially, these strategies will translate the vision of what the organization is trying to become in the customer’s eyes into reality.   It is the framework, derived from an understanding of the customer’s needs, that describes the goods and services the organization is offering, to satisfy customer needs and expectations.  Ultimately, all employees must be able to understand, accept and adopt these strategies.

 

The development of the strategies requires considerable brainstorming using various creative techniques including Affinity Diagrams, Innovation Processes and Critical Thinking Skills.  Discussions among the leadership team will take time as ideas are thrown out, discussed, weighed and evaluated.  It is important that the leadership team not eliminate any ideas too quickly.  Rather, they should combine all ideas into key strategies and allow the balance of this strategic planning process to assist in the determining which strategies should be included in the short-term plan and which are better suited to a longer-term plan.

7.     Conduct a Risk Assessment

Assessing risk must be a part of looking at the organization’s ideal future.  It includes conducting an analysis of what would prevent the organization from reaching each of the identified key strategies.  This analysis will include identifying the risks and creating mitigation plans to overcome them.  Keep in mind that:

 

·       Risk can be either the most paralyzing or the most empowering force at your disposal.

·       The situations having the greatest opportunity and high potential are probably also the ones with medium-to-high risks.  

·       These are the ones that are highly unlikely to survive the leap from Strategy Development to the Execution Plan simply because risk becomes a paralyzer. 

·       Low risk strategies, which usually have low potential, are much more likely to be implemented.

 

Become more comfortable with the risk.  You can achieve this by:

·       Insisting on creative problem-solving that focuses on reducing risk without reducing opportunity.

·       Put contingencies in place to ensure an “out” in case the worst possible scenario comes true.

·       Withhold spending in other areas to allow some needed security.

 

The risk assessment process includes:

 

    1)    Analyzing the strategies and determining the risks of either implementing them or not implementing them.  Use a cause and effect analysis and/or pros and cons and/or driving and restraining force-field analysis for examining each risk.

 

2)    Analyzing each strategy in relation to their potential cost in dollars, materials, resources, and so on.  Benchmark this analysis against expected benefits.  This cost-benefit analysis will help determine the strategies that can be completed in the short-term, longer-term and/or eliminated.

 

3)    Completing a SWOT analysis on those strategies that leadership determines to move forward with.  This helps prioritizing the strategies and determining the ones that can be realized in the shorter and longer term. 

 

·       Strengths…continue to do

 

·       Weaknesses…eliminate, change or improve

 

è Strengths and Weaknesses should consider people, money, technology, information, resources, etc.

 

·       Threats…what might prevent continued success

 

·       Opportunities…what can we start doing

 

è Threats and Opportunities should consider outside resources, information, competition, industry changes, global issues, etc.

 

4)    Identifying which strategies should stay in the Strategic Plan and which should be eliminated?  Why?

 

        5)   Identifying which strategies will be short-term (1-2 years) and longer-term strategies?

 

 8.     Create the Execution Plan

 

The Execution Planning process begins with gaining agreement to the Objectives required to meet each of the Strategies and the detailed Action Plan required to meet each Objective.  Then, adding performance measures to ensure that it is clear when each strategy and related objective has been met.  Unless the objectives identified in Execution Plan are translated into Action Plans, it is unlikely they will ever be reached.

 

This Execution Plan will include:

 

·       Who will do it?

·       What will they do?

·       When will they do it?

·       What resources are required?

·       What costs are required?

 

 III.           Summary

 

Developing a strategic plan takes discipline, foresight, and a lot of honesty. Regardless of how well you prepare you’re bound to encounter challenges along the way.  Like most everything in life, you get out of a plan what you put in. If you’re going to take the time to do it, do it right.  This means having the right people involved, analyzing the business environment and setting meaningful priorities that focus on results and making sure that your people contribute to the planning and that they understand and commit to the strategies.

 

About the Author

 

Michael Stanleigh has a reputation for helping businesses get to the root cause of their problems and generating effective solutions.  He has been fortunate to consult and advise some of the most admired organizations in the world to define their strategic direction, manage change, become more innovative, improve the performance of their leadership and manage their projects.  As a Certified Management Consultant (CMC), Certified Speaking Professional (CSP), Certified Scrum Master (CSM) and CEO of Business Improvement Architects, Michael shares his consulting wisdom and secrets for operational success to help organizations to succeed.

 

mstanleigh@bia.ca

www.bia.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

Share

Fully Integrated Software: What it Means to Your Organization

In every business or organization, a variety of systems is required to complete daily tasks. These systems make your life easier and most days, there is no doubt in that. But, have you ever considered having your systems integrated? Having an integrated system not only establishes a future-proof foundation for your business or organization, but it can increase productivity and efficiency, in addition to boosting the morale of your employees or members.

System Integrations = Improved Productivity

Image of a happy and productive team

Your thirst for a system with streamlined data and simple login solutions can be quenched with a properly integrated system. Simplified processes, lower system friction, and streamlined data mean employees are truly using the system – not fighting it.

When systems are integrated, productivity rises. And rumour has it, increased employee productivity is something most businesses and organizations are willing to support.

The Benefits of Software Integrations: Efficiency, Effectiveness, Profitability & So On

Not only will employees be more productive with an integrated system, they will be able to complete their jobs in a more efficient manner. Additionally, data input will no longer be the stressful, tedious task that it once was and the act of logging in to multiple systems will no longer consume the mornings of your staff. And you’ll be happy to hear that your employees will stop cringing and complaining about the systems they use on a daily basis. Instead, they’ll get up and jump for joy every time they use the integrated solution at work (Okay that may be a little presumptuous, but they will absolutely approve of the benefits). A simplified, integrated system can stroke many of those infuriatingly repetitive tasks from your to-do list and save you precious time and money.

System Integrations Lead to Increased Morale

Image of an employee thrilled about a system integration

Having systems that are integrated can definitely increase employee morale. The two concepts may not seem to be related, but hear me out. An integrated system streamlines your data across all platforms for all users and reduces friction that may be caused from manually transferring data. Behind the scenes, integration makes your system more robust. While on the front-end, what your employees see is simplified. When work is simplified, employees are less stressed and morale gets a lift.

Calling on All Integration-ers

Software integrations can be very beneficial for any business or organization. It can create a better environment for your employees and at the same time, it can modernize your processes. Integrating your systems can also boost productivity, increase profitability and lift staff morale, which is always top-of-mind concerns for business owners and managers.

If integrating software has helped your company with any of these items, then we’d love to hear your story, so please leave us a comment below.

See more technical information on our system/software integration process here.

Share

Ensure a Comfort Level Throughout the Development Project

A wise man once said that the root of all problems is communication or lack thereof. Communication and communicating are at the heart of the Project Manager’s mandate, and project success hinges on it.

Effective communication, real status updates, frequent meetings, and product demonstrations are all part of the communication required for a development project. These processes ensure that the stakeholders have a high level of comfort throughout the project.

Insist On A Project Communications Plan

I suggest that you insist that all your projects include a communications plan that sets the frequency, agenda, day, time and duration of your regularly scheduled project meetings. I call these Traction Meetings. They should happen every week at the same time, same day, same length with the same agenda.

Have Weekly Traction Meetings

The purpose of your weekly traction meeting is progress. Its frequency enforces activity, and it is designed to identify, discuss and develop solutions to issues impeding the progress of your project.

To create additional levels of comfort in the project you may also develop some indicators of success and a to-do list.

Identify Issues and Solve Them With Stakeholders Present

Here’s my agenda format:

Graphic image with news, indicators, to-do items amd issues listed

News: Each person or group can share a news item that affects them, you or the project. Issues identified should be dropped to the issues list. You need to spend a short time on this – approximately five minutes.

Indicators: Are there measurements that you can use to plot the success of the project? Time and budget are two. If you have others that will help you identify issues, then add them to the agenda. Again, you should spend little time on this – about five minutes.

To-Do Items: Solutions to problems are either a 7-day fix, (to-do), a project scope change, plan change, etc. Capture the to-do items as you solve the issues to ensure they become to-dones!

Issues List: Project issues, news items, indicators not met, to-do items not complete, scope changes, scope creep, blown budgets and schedules can all become issues. Sort the project issues from highest priority to lowest then spend most your meeting time discussing and solving the projects’ biggest problems.

 

CoreSolutions of London, Ontario, is a locally acclaimed software development firm with over 25 years of experience.

CoreSolutions’ team of experts, including developers and project managers, build web and mobile applications using the Agile Methodology and tools. CoreSolutions will assist you through all phases of your project including:

  • Brainstorming;
  • Requirements Planning;
  • Project Management.

Connect with CoreSolutions today to start your project with a Free Needs Analysis.

Share

Accurate Project Estimates Reduce Stress

Part Nine in the Series: Software Development Guide for Business Leaders

Business leaders with development projects on the horizon can improve project success, reduce stress and elevate the public relations associated with your project by employing proper estimating and budgeting practices. This in-house exercise lays the groundwork for both external and internal expenditures. Create top-down estimates during project inception and then, once approved, use bottom-up estimating for the additional detail required for project budgeting.

How to Reduce Stress and Improve Public Relations with Project Estimating

Digging into the details from the inception of a project, to develop a project estimate will provide you with the confidence in your “numbers” when approaching your management team with a development project idea.

We’ve heard of software development projects that have grossly exceeded the initial estimate. Easily address estimate inaccuracy through a few simple, upfront project processes that will help you maintain organizational budgets, reduce internal stress and enhance careers.

Why is Project Estimating an Internal Practice?

While external resources could significantly contribute to the estimating and budgeting of your project, you, ultimately are signing the cheques and are responsible for your project’s success. Therefore, the project estimate is owned by you, the project sponsor.

Avoid embarrassing situations with your management team by understanding that the estimate belongs to you while the process for estimating may belong to your team.

What is Top-Down Estimating?

Image of the PhoneGap Logo

Top-down estimating is primarily used at a strategic level to evaluate a project proposal. At this level, the scope isn’t fixed, much of the detail is not defined, and the level of uncertainty is high.

Use a top-down approach to creating your project estimate during the project proposal phase. Develop a top-down estimate by using the experience of your senior team or external experts to break the project down and provide an estimate bolstered by a process referred to as the Delphi Method. Ratios are also often applied to create estimates; for example, “implementation is 2x the cost of development.”

A top-down estimate should have an accuracy range of minus 20% to plus 60%.

What is Bottom-Up Estimating?

Image of the PhoneGap Logo

Bottom-up estimating is performed at the work package level and can be summarized up into larger groups. Once the project is defined then, it makes good sense to engage the experts that can help to create an accurate estimate.

Upon approval, use a bottom-up approach to refine your project estimate. Often a previous project can be a template for your project. With the bottom-up approach to project estimating, derive your numbers and ranges from the lowest level that you can drive to – the work package level. Expect an accuracy of minus 10% to plus 30% in your bottom-up estimate.

A Hybrid Approach to Estimating

Using both top-down and bottom-up approaches to project estimating will provide you with the highest level of confidence in your “numbers.” Start with the top-down approach using experiential evidence, and the Delphi Method, then refine each phase of the project as it’s implemented by starting from the work package and working up.

Conclusion

A good and accurate estimate for your software development project will reduce scope and budget creep, improve relations between you, your team and vendors, and keep you in a favourable light with your management team.

Diligence and detail at the beginning of the project can help your business maintain budgets and expectations. It’s also important to note that good estimates and budgets can protect your team from the uncomfortable situations that can occur when a project goes off the rails financially.

 

CoreSolutions of London, Ontario, is a locally acclaimed software development firm with over 25 years of experience. CoreSolutions’s team of experts, including developers and project managers, build web or mobile applications using the latest technology and tools and will assist you through all phases of the project including brainstorming, requirements planning and project management. Connect with CoreSolutions today to start your project with a Free Business Systems Requirement.

Share

How Technology Is Changing the Customer Experience Landscape

In theory, customer experience is simple. When a customer purchases a product or service from a business, the experience they have can either be a good experience or a bad experience, black and white, simple, right? If it were true that customer experience begins and ends at the point-of-sale, then it may be that simple. But, that is not how customer experience happens anymore. Customer experience can begin as early as a simple Google search that ends up on your website. Customer experience can last as long as – well ever. A customer could be completely content with their purchase and then 2 years later call with a complaint. This interaction, though 2 years later, is still part of a customer’s experience with your business.

This extending timeframe for customer experience paired with the light speed advances in technology has forced businesses to revaluate where and when the customer experience begins, when and if ever the customer experience ends and what tools and technologies have changed the way customers and businesses interact.

Big Data and New Era Customer Experience

Image of man with iPad with data on the device

Though some customers may not be aware of how websites personally target them with ads and deals that are created based on their past search or purchase history or geographically target them based on where they are currently sitting, but it happens. And the reason it happens so easily nowadays is because the data that is available, and more importantly accessible, for businesses and search engines.

We live in a day and age where (though slightly concerning) it is not uncommon to be able to find out where someone lives, who they live with, what they do and when they do it. Now, before we go off on a tangent about online security and privacy settings, let’s get back to what this article is about – how has this data affected the customer experience landscape?

With this information in the hands of businesses, customers can receive much more personalized advertising messages, product suggestions, and even vacation ideas. Many do not enjoy their online data being peeped on for the sake of business; however, many do appreciate the personalization aspect and it does work or businesses would not be continuing to use this data for sales purposes.

This data-driven business style, paired with geo-targeting strategies have changed where the customer experience begins. Companies that customers have never heard of may already have a personalized message and product armed and ready before the customer even knows they want the product. Kind of creepy, but really cool from a marketing standpoint.

The Rise of Technology: Infinite Access for Consumers

Image of lady on cellphone

Another aspect of the customer experience landscape that has changed tremendously is the channels to which customers can engage with a business and also the channels in which a customer can find resources.

The first channel is through live help either on a website or direct video link. Technology has been created that allows businesses to live chat with website visitors via instant messaging or video chat. These tools aim to improve the customer experience by taking a time that is usually stressful for the customer and making their experience and simple and stress-free as possible.

The second channel is social media. Whether you reach out to a company via Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Snapchat, Tumblr, Pinterest, YouTube, Instagram, Vine or MySpace (just kidding, probably not MySpace – though they do have a nice rebrand happening), businesses around the world have embraced this social media movement with open arms and have, in turn, created new avenues for sharing content with customers, engaging themselves in the current conversations and also receiving negative feedback. Social media allows customers to like and share the businesses they love, but also personally speak to the businesses they love. This technology has proven that customer experience goes beyond the point-of-sale more than any other channel in decades.

Lastly, the rise in the tech-savviness of consumers and ease of access to company information and FAQs has led to an increase in customers solving their own problems. As long as businesses have important information that is accessible via all sorts of different devices readily available on their website, some consumers will attempt to solve their problems themselves – without engaging with a customer service specialist at all. This could have both positive and negative outcomes. A) Customer does not talk to business; customer finds important information; customer is happy with business; business is happy; win-win situation. Or B) Customer does not talk to business; customer does not find important information; customer is unhappy with business; business loses customer; lose-lose situation. May be extreme, but the accessibility of online information has definitely changed the customer experience landscape.

Customers Have Come To Expect More from Businesses

Image of graph that shows customer expectations increasing

I’ll keep this one short.

The best and worst thing to happen to the customer experience landscape is the increase in customer expectations. Best because businesses are adhering to customer complaints and protests and that leads to customers that are much more consistently satisfied with a much broader range of businesses. Worst because businesses may be seen as inferior if their customer experience protocol does not match the likes of the larger businesses that customers have come to expect.

Bad service should not be tolerated from anyone whom customers are giving their hard-earned money. However, because of the increase in expectations, businesses who in the past may have not needed to invest heavily in customer service may need to now just to stay afloat. Businesses may do their best to have amazing customer experience plans, but if they do not have the resources to offer live help, or 2 hour phone call return guarantees or 24/7 support then certain customers may see that as inferior. Unfortunate, but it is how the business world works. If you aren’t ready to evolve, someone else will fly right by you and your customers may just latch on to them for a ride.

Customer Experience Landscape Conclusion

In today’s article, we have briefly touched on how much the customer experience landscape has drastically evolved in the past decade. With the emergence of new platforms and the increasing uses of mass consumer data, the idea of what a customer experience means has grown from being a business to consumer transactional relationship into an around-the-clock engagement relationship, regardless if a transactional sale is made or not.

The cool thing is that the platforms and technology used by customers and businesses to communicate with each other will always evolve, but the idea of great customer service and successful businesses responding to what their customers want is timeless.

If you have anything to add to the conversation, be sure to leave a comment below. I hoped you had as good of a time reading this as I did writing it.

Share

Downloadable Return on Investment Calculator

Recently, I have been chatting with business owners about their software needs. The consensus seems to be that technology is rapidly advancing and becoming more efficient. Moreover, businesses and organizations are looking into how to most effectively and economically invest in custom software. The needs of today’s businesses are very unique and robust and that is why many of them are investing in custom software.

The challenge is that not many people know the standard ROI (Return on Investment) for software development or how long it will take to make your money back. Because of these conversations I have been having, I have developed this easy to use Free Downloadable Software Development ROI Calculator. This tool is a great starting point for businesses and managers who are looking for a ballpark when it comes to custom software ROI.

Download Software Development Return on Investment Calculator.

Again, this tool is a great starting point, but if you have any more questions or want a free personal software needs analysis for your business, be sure to reach out to CoreSolutions via our Contact Page.

Please enjoy our new ROI Calculator!

Cheers,

Share

The Cost of Not Making a Decision

There is a cost to not making a decision and here’s my story. I was once asked by a potential customer, “Who’s your biggest competitor?”

Man waiting for decision to be made

I thought to myself, was it a local consultant? Was it a specific technology? Could it be Salesforce or Access or even Excel spreadsheets? The answer I realized was none of the above.

The answer I went with was, “The company that does not make a decision and the customer who thinks the status quo is okay for now.” That’s my biggest competitor and the answer surprised the gentleman who asked the question. You see, I had been at his location over 2 years ago, chatting with this same individual about a potential project and in the end, no decision was made. Fast-forward over 730 days and we were still talking about the same project.

Think of it this way: I would not be on site having a meeting if the status quo was all right. Being in sales, you know that you are not going to win every sale. It is a strange logic that goes like this – if I am not going to win the deal, then at least tell me someone else has won the deal and let me know a decision has been made. When I hear silence or worse, the common phrase, “We have not made a decision at this time,” this tells me this company is going to try to ride it out for another year or 2 and stick with the status quo, while at the same time, crossing their fingers that the existing software workflow or hardware does not break down.

What Causes the Status Quo Customer Response?

  • Budget is lacking
  • Workflow is not defined
  • Timeline is too tight
  • Decision makers are unaware of the problem
  • Fear of change from user base
  • Influencers & stakeholders are not involved in the decision-making process

How Technology Companies Help Mitigate the Status Quo from Pushing Back Decisions With Projects

image of a laptop, an ipad and an iphone

Budget is lacking: The budget to any project needs to be defined at the first meeting. When I ask customers about a budget, it is not about trying to build a project to take up all funds. The reason we ask that question is to understand if there is enough funding for all stages of this project – ex. Does this project need to be built in phases & are we the right fit for this customer? Bottom line budget also needs to be defined and if it is not, then how serious can this customer be about fixing the issue(s)?

Workflow is not defined: In order to provide an accurate and complete estimate, a comprehensive understanding of workflow needs to be submitted to the consultant early in the estimate process. If a complete workflow is not finalized, then this can lead to either too high of an estimate due to unknowns or too low of an estimate as not all required functionality is listed.

How do we help with defining workflow? At CoreSolutions, we overcome this workflow challenge by:

  1. Providing a template that helps capture basic workflow, reporting, & layout information in a “Project Discovery Document.”
  2. Offering a service that helps define and build the workflow called the Business Requirements Definition (BRD). This is a billable service that comes in more than one type. For really complicated workflows, we will have a customer go through the BRD process.

Timeline is too tight: Timeline refers to when a project needs to begin or when it needs to reach final completion. The usual answer I hear is, “I need this yesterday.” Sometimes the time to define the workload or build the solution will take too long. Some companies have measurable busy cycles. Implementing a new project during the busiest time of the year will not lead to a successful implementation or adoption rate. In order to get past the timeline being the reason for not making a decision, some companies will work with the developer to determine the best time to have a new application implemented and tested.

Decision makers are unaware of the problem: Decision makers need be on the same page. This is sales 101 – the decision makers need to be in attendance at major meetings. But decision makers need to also understand the timelines involved, such as the commitment of time required by staff to build workflow and to test the different phases of applications. Successful solutions typically have decisions makers in the loop, so that they have an overall understanding of the project scope – including time, workflow and user defined needs.

Fear of change from user base: Change can be scary, especially if it is perceived that this is a change for the sake of change. Generally, to become more efficient, new systems will require different layouts, screens, reports or workflows. Fear by the user base can be overcome in a few ways:

  1. The customer can nominate a few power users of the system who will test, deploy and have input on many of the new functions. In particular, screen layout and report creation.
  2. Through hands-on training that can be provided for users either remotely or onsite.
  3. By creating a User’s Guide with the customer’s guidance.
image of a team making a decision

Influencers and stakeholders are not involved in the decision-making process: Inclusion of stakeholders and influencers is key to a project’s success. The bigger the project, the greater the odds that more than one department, process or manager will be involved. In medium to large scale projects, sometimes it’s only the people inputting data that have issues and want a new process in place. Their own colleagues or superiors may not know that an issue exists. One of the main reasons why defining workflow is so important is that this will determine whose departments will need input in a new application and potential new or modified process(es).

The Pitfalls of Sticking with the Status Quo

Maintaining the status quo isn’t always the best business decision. Oftentimes, it’s an emotional bias for the present set of circumstances (See – Status Quo Bias). Although you may avoid the challenge of having to retrain your staff in the present moment, the fact of the matter is that in the world of software, you’re bound to face the, “It’s time to upgrade your software,” scenario. If you don’t believe me, then you’re likely still running Windows 95 on your machine.

So what are the negative repercussions of sticking with the status quo? Well, here are a few:

  • You won’t be future-proofing your organization for forthcoming technological changes
  • Your clients & staff will view your company as a technology dinosaur – who wants their business to be viewed as lagging behind in anything?
  • You’ll have to add new features & additional functionality to your system as the years progress – in terms of development dollars & technical upkeep, this will cost more in the long run
  • Your time & your IT staff’s time spent managing the day-to-day operations of your software will skyrocket

Ready to Move Forward? Need Help Defining Your Project?

Let us assist you! At CoreSolutions, we’re determined to take you Beyond Software™ to make your next project a success! Whether you’re replacing old software or looking to purchase new software, we can help walk you through the process!

The first step is to complete a project profile form on our website & we’ll connect with you to learn more about how we can serve you best.

Share

Why is Software Development so Expensive?

A conversation that many business owners have with their software development team is about the cost of software development and how it can be somewhat startling. Many businesses tend to underestimate the time and financial resources required to build quality, functional software applications. In reality, more goes into software development than you might think. Software requires an in-depth understanding of business processes combined with a variety of skilled individuals working together. Here are a few of the components of a development project.

Business Analysis

The first step to every development project is business analysis. Developers need to understand your specific workflows before they can actually start developing. Every business is different – some businesses have similar workflows, but almost every circumstance has unique requests. The business analysis works as the blueprint for your software and involves a commitment from both yourself and your development team. Every dollar that is spent during the business analysis phase comes back to you during the actual development phase.

Database Development

Next is the information management component. Both internal and external data needs to be managed. If businesses lack modern databases, then those need to be created.

Data Analysis

Developers need to ensure your data is being pulled correctly and transferred into usable results. Data analysis involves advanced mathematical, and in some cases scientific, calculations that drive business processes and decisions.

Image of the PhoneGap Logo

Research

Whenever software is developed, industry analysis must occur. If a software development team has never worked in the medical industry, but need to develop a system for nursing and medical information, then extensive research needs to be completed before they can completely dive in. Every industry has their own jargon, processes, standards and preferences that need to be considered.

UI/UX Design

Once a framework for a software system has been agreed upon, there needs to be time allocated to both user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) design work. It is important that each client has a design that speaks to their business specifically. The design of a system must be both intuitive and visually appealing. The experience must be crisp and simple enough for everyone to utilize the new system without extensive training. This stage usually involves multiple mock-ups and prototypes.

Development Phase

Image of the PhoneGap Logo

Once business processes, information management and UI/UX design have been agreed upon by all involved parties, the “real” development begins. The complexity of your system will determine your total projected development time. Also, you will need to determine which development process your development team uses. Each process has their own pros and cons, can take more or less time, and involve extended or concentrated time commitments from the client.

QA Testing

Testing or Quality Assurance (QA) is critically important during development. QA is the aspirin – they relieve all of your headaches. QA constantly tests your custom software and ensures that everything is working correctly and they offer recommendations on how to make the experience better for your users.

Deployment

Software needs to run in an environment. This may mean your servers host the system or the development team hosts it for you. This system must be accessible and optimized on whichever specific environment fits your specific needs. If deployed on a new environment, tests will need to be run in order to ensure complete compatibility.

Image of the PhoneGap Logo

Training

You are now at the training stage – you are nearing the home stretch. Members of your development team will help train your staff or train your trainers that will in turn train your staff. Training may be a few afternoons over video chat or maybe it is a few days of in-class training. This is completely dependent on your software complexity and the workflows that you have had developed.

Post-Implementation Support

Congratulations, your software has been completed! Moving forward, your client-development team relationship continues. Support is vital for custom software and in building post-implementation relationships with clients. Support is usually phone-based and involves multiple levels of escalation. Post-implementation can be small bug fixes, additional feature development or more staff training. Businesses often overlook post-implementation. Post-implementation is not seen as an additional expense, but an additional investment into your software solution. Custom software is never deployed and then left alone – it is an ongoing process where both parties involved reap the benefits.

Changing Requirements

There may be a handful, but not many development projects stick 100% to their original blueprint. Features or workflows are discovered or uncovered and cause adjusted projections. It is bound to happen, but when it comes to software development, finding new features or bugs is not a bad thing. To mitigate the costs of changing requirements, you should have pre-planned alternate routes or software detours. These routes should have tiered off-ramps that allow you to save money and ensure your key features are included.

Why Software is So Expensive – Conclusion

Image of the PhoneGap Logo

Overall, the costs come from not just the development team, but the efforts of the designers, QA, data analysts and many others. The simple reason that software development is so expensive is because it takes a village to develop good software. For people and organizations that think custom software development is as simple as calling up their local software developers and asking for a system, you have overlooked the importance of the process.

The best software and the happiest customers are not created during the development process, but the planning process. The more an organization gives in terms of communication, the more the software solution will facilitate their specific needs and the more value they will receive. Software development involves research and feedback. It is a give and take relationship that goes much beyond purely transactional. A good development team sits down with their client and finds out what it is exactly that they need. Every business is unique and the processes that they go through on a day-to-day basis are ever-changing. This is why custom software is so expensive.

If this conversation speaks to you, don’t worry – you are not alone. The true benefits and value of custom software are often overlooked. Software development is not just lines of code. Software development is a partnership between a business and a developer that leads to improved processes and overall satisfaction. If a business wants to complete a specific goal, than off-the-shelf is a good choice. However, if your business wants a tailored solution, than custom development is a route you will want to consider.

Every business is unique and so is the software they need. Get your free Personal Needs Analysis today.

Share