Top 4 Considerations to Save Money When Improving Citizen Services

By checking your own internal bias you stand a better chance of Finding the best solution

We all want to better our citizens’ services but, when pursuing this goal, what can we do to ensure we are spending the right amount of money on the right plan?  The only way is to look at your citizens, your goals and what you currently have to achieve the right balance between spend and results.

Here are four areas you should consider to make sure you are getting the most for your money.

1.       Understand first. 

·         When creating any plan, the first action should be to understand the needs and wants of your target.  Not all people will have the same issues as you. The only way to know is to ask your citizens, listen intently and believe them. This is particularly true when you think you have solved certain issues already.

·         In modern agile technology development, the practice is to rely on the” voice of the customer”. This is to ensure when the product is complete it meets the needs expressed by the potential buyer.  The same is true in finding the best solution for your citizens.

·         Remind yourself that you are not the citizen. Assume that you do not really know anything about your citizens’ needs. This way you will not try to prove your bias right or dismiss some expressed citizen needs as “not important” or “already solved”.

2.       Look at what you have today.

·         Look at the processes you have today that are at the heart of any of the issues identified by your citizens (e.g. a citizen is not notified when an issue is fixed – perhaps because a work order is lost after a job is completed so there is no record of it being closed).  Ask yourself what vehicles, tools, and processes you are using to meet your “citizen service goals”.

·         Are you using your website to get information out?  Do you have posters in community gathering spaces? Do you have a section every week in the local paper? Do you have a CiRM or a spreadsheet to track issues?  Do you have a written policy that helps all staff to address citizen issues quickly?  Do any of these create or solve the issue expressed by your citizens? These types of questions are key to success.

 

3.       List all potential solutions.

·         Improving citizen services may not require buying new hardware or software and spending a bundle on installation and configuration.  A successful solution, regardless of how great it is, may very well need to be coupled with bettering an internal process. Or maybe it is a simple matter of increasing the awareness of your website or creating posters to inform citizens about how you do things and why.  It might also be possible to improve services by repurposing technologies that you already have in hand (e.g. using your CRM in a unique way or changing access permissions so more people can answer the questions posed by citizens).

·         Listing solutions should not be an excuse to try to make current software do things it was not meant to do. Look at the process you want to have first then find the solution that best fits it.

·         Do not be afraid to look at human resource factors.  Maybe the answer is to better train staff in citizen resolution or conflict management (customer service skills). Maybe you need to ensure that all staff members know your policies and how they should be implemented.

4.       Consider technology solutions by task, not product name.

·         List your “service goals” and rate the importance of each of one. The best way is to break down your list into the following columns: “must have”, “good to have” and “nice to have”.

·         If you think that technology might solve some of the issues, list only the “service goals” you want your software to address, i.e. not what features or what brand will be the best solution.

·         Remember the technology may not need to be citizen facing to increase satisfaction. It might just enable an improvement in your processes to offer better, faster and more reliable citizen services.

If you consider these four areas, you will likely find a solution with that best fits your budget, and that will have the largest impact on your citizens.  By checking your own internal bias, you stand a better chance of making sure the right process, tracking and communication methods (internal or external) are part of your change, and the costs may well be less than you thought.

At AccessE11 we understand that paper systems and endless email chains are not productive when it comes to citizen services and support. There are too many opportunities for an issue to fall through the cracks, or for delays in responses to issues.

We promote instilling processes that make sense and that are easy to adopt so that everyone in the municipality can become a citizen support expert.  Please visit us at www.accesse11.com to find out more.

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Legacy Systems; The Old Rebuild or Reuse Software Conundrum

Why the Rebuild Route Makes Sense

Text image that reads Rebuild vs Reuse

Typically, in the short term, the rebuild will cost more, but over time, will cost less, provide better ROI and create potentially happier and more efficient employees.

We have created a handy ROI calculator that we use when discussing the true value of saving time and having more efficient workers. This calculator and the logic with it can be downloaded here: Software ROI Calculator.

Rebuild vs Reuse: Things to Think About

With any rebuild of a legacy solution the following areas must be addressed:

    • Mobility: Employees need to access data from different handheld devices. Be it iPhone, Android or Blackberry. Today technology exists to make a solution device agnostic.
    • Web (Remote) Access: Using a browser to access the data provides the most cost-efficient way for users to access data; whether it is internal users or external users. Mobile users can access the web browser to use, interact or access the new system.
    • Future-Proof Workflow: By rebuilding a solution, potential technology traps can be avoided. Ideally, any system built should scope out and last for 6 to 8 years before workflow modifications are required.
    • Collaboration: Gone are the days of a static web page. Companies, big and small, want some form of customer integration with their web page. Rebuilding a solution using a custom web technology will allow a web page to bolt on and be used by both employees, customers, and prospects.

Gone are the days of a static web page. Companies, big and small, want some form of customer integration with their web page. Rebuilding a solution using a custom web technology will allow a web page to bolt on and be used by both employees, customers, and prospects.

Whenever I visit a potential new customers site, I am always surprised by the age of some legacy systems. Moreover, I am surprised at how a great return on investment from the past has now turned into a system/process that is inefficient and a detrimental for employees.

If your existing system was built more than 15 years ago and is still working and being used – congratulations! You have certainly received a great ROI from past investments. But now might be the time to think about a rebuild of your solution. Rebuild before access, inefficiencies or age of hardware severely hurt your business’ growth.

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

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Cyber threats and how to protect your municipality

Brad Pinch – Director of Municipal Needs at AccessE11

 

Often, when we hear about securing online systems against cyber-attacks the first thought is to invest time and energy into cybersecurity software. While this is important, and should not be downplayed, did you know that software alone will only defend against a small percentage of cyber-attacks?

Hacker Image

 

The easiest way for someone to breach your security infrastructure is to employ the unsuspecting assistance of your users.

According to PhishMe’s 2017 Enterprise Phishing Resiliency and Defense Report, 91% of all cyber-attacks are a result of people who fall prey to Phishing Attacks. Of the remaining 9% of cyber-attacks, more than 75% are the result of other forms of “human failure” to secure information.

Phishing is an attack that begins with a very targeted email sent to your staff (and perhaps yourself), that often impersonates a service provider, colleague, family member or friend and entices you to click on a link or open a document. This action may include a request for private information that provides the perpetrator with the means to launch a secondary cyber-attack or it may launch an attack directly through the download of malicious software. Attacks can be in the form of spyware, malware, and increasingly ransomware and data theft.

Wombats Security’s – State of the Phish 2018 report– suggests that phishing attack frequency from 2016 to 2017 increased by 48%; phishing is on the rise because it continues to work. Hackers have quickly learned that it requires less energy to trick users into giving them access than it does to circumnavigate the sophisticated security systems deployed today.

6 simple steps that a municipality can do to protect themselves

Here are a few steps a municipality can take to minimize its chances of security breaches and cyber attacks.

  1. Stay Informed and educate your team

Much of the battle against phishing and spear phishing (personalized phishing) attacks is getting users to understanding what this type of attack looks like, so they are less likely to be duped. Phishing relies on basic human conditions:

  1. information overload and shortcuts our brains take to process the information,
  2. a desire to help those we care for and trust of information that (seems to) come from them,
  3. curiosity for new information.

These traits are well known to attackers and are exploited in order to get victims to click on a link or open a document. Emails look like they’re from legitimate sources: Microsoft 365, Google, Dropbox, PayPal, Adobe account, LinkedIn, credit card company and many more.

There is a great infographic called don’t get hooked: how to recognize and avoid phishing attacks from the Digital Guardian. Print it out and post it for all to see.

  1. Keep your software up to date

Malware is being created all the time and is designed to take advantage of newly discovered vulnerabilities in our general use software. Vendors are quick to update their software, but you must update your version in order to be secure. You should regularly, or ideally automatically, update your software:

  1. Browsers (Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc)
  2. Operating Systems (Windows, MacOS)
  3. Office Software (Outlook, Word, Adobe)
  1. Call before you click

Any email from a bank or colleague can usually be responded to directly, rather than via a reply or by clicking on a link. If there is ever any doubt, call your bank on the phone (using published numbers, not one in the email), or log directly into their website directly – not from the link in the email. By not taking the shortcut, fraudulent links can be avoided.

  1. Install anti-virus software and activate the Anti-Phishing toolbar if available

Antivirus software is designed to guard against known vulnerabilities. Even though today’s operating systems are more secure than ever, security tools look for malicious content in real time and provide an extra layer of scrutiny. And make sure you keep it updated as well.

Internet browsers can also be extended with anti-phishing toolbars. Such toolbars run quick checks on any site you visit and compare it a to lists of known phishing sites. If you stumble upon a malicious site, the toolbar will alert you about it. This is just one more layer of protection against phishing scams, and there are many that are completely free.

  1. Implement Secure Password Policies

As hard as it is to believe, the 10 most common passwords in 2017 were:

  • 123456, 123456789, qwerty, 12345678, 111111, 1234567890, 1234567, password123, 123123, 987654321

It won’t take a hacker long to break these codes.

Equally important though – do not use the same password for everything: If you do, and someone gets access to one system, they can often get access to them all. If you struggle to remember passwords (who doesn’t) there are many excellent tools that can assist:

These programs store an encrypted version of your passwords on your computer and conveniently provide them when you need them. This means remembering only one password.

  1. Beware the Unknown Storage Devices

It is possible the free USB drive that is received from a tradeshow, or the one you found in the parking lot has a virus on it. Sites that sell marketing USB drives unwittingly provide ones that have viruses installed from the source in China, Russia, India, Korea and other countries (yes including the UK, US, and Canada). These were likely never checked by the company who put their information on the drive to give to you.

If a data storage device is not bought by your company or municipality from a reputable source then it should not be allowed on one of your computers, ever!

These are only a few ideas to help better protect your organization from cyber-attacks. The common element in each remains the same; people and their behavior represent the greatest risk but also provide the best defense against cyber-attacks. Any user can open the door to intruders, so ensuring everyone understands the risk and remains vigilant is critical. Investment in the human factor will pay off quickly and be more cost-effective than any other action.

For More Interesting Articles on Issues that Municipalities are facing please visit us at https://www.accesse11.com

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Everything You Need to Know about Software ROI

While not all projects or organizations are alike, there are many different elements of technology acquisition that have different value propositions and hence, need to be evaluated differently.

Here’s everything you need to know about software ROI… Let’s get to it…

People at office laptops

Software Value Proposition

Software is unique – it can run on almost anything, comes on a disk, CD, DVD, download, Cloud… It can do almost anything – from organize your day, inventory, plant, office, people, customers… you get the idea – it is somewhat ubiquitous – because you can never use that work too much.

Software value proposition aligns directly with the big three ROI elements reviewed in my previous blog:

  • Increased Revenue/Gross Margin
  • Increased Bottom Line/Efficiency
  • Improved Customer Experience

But how do you measure these (without hiring a team of financial specialists and accountants)? Let’s get back to the KISS principle.

Some software has an acquisition cost in either license costs or development costs. This licensing model typically has some form of maintenance or upgrade cost associated – you may also want to incorporate some component for infrastructure costs. Subscription [OK I’ll use the Cloud word] based software has a monthly or annual fee. All of these models can fairly easily allow you to find a long term direct cost of ownership – I would suggest you span this out past 5 years for acquisition licensing model with a 10-year life span or 5 years for the subscription model.

You now have a handle on the long term investment in the solution – sadly that may be the easy part…

In order to measure the returns, it can get a little more complicated. Let’s look at the big 3.

1) Revenue/Gross Margin

If you can you attribute specific revenue increases to the functions the software provides, then it simplifies things. It may not always be so easy. New geographies, increased penetration into existing accounts, cross selling metrics can be functions of many things. Additional revenue from online transactions is easier to quantify. Ultimately, it will be important to quantify these to your best ability. If you can attribute the reduction in direct Cost of Goods to the revenue, this number becomes somewhat obvious.

2) Increased Bottom Line

Generally, this is one of the somewhat easier parts to quantify – If you are in a position where you need to hire additional resources to complete tasks that automation can address, you can offset these net costs directly. Ultimately if you have operational costs that are labour intensive, eliminating the inefficiencies of these tasks through automation will reduce costs through increased production without increased labour and deliver an improved bottom line.

3) Improved Customer Experience

In a world where customers will pay for a premier experience, this may be one of the most important aspects of ROI, but perhaps one of the hardest to quantify. Through an improved experience, your “customers:”

  • Have a higher degree of loyalty
  • Purchase more from you because you are always open or have tools to purchase when they need it (impulse)
  • Have access to information to do their jobs from anywhere without interrupting their jobs
  • Rely on your organization because you are an extension of them

Ultimately the goal here is to attempt to quantify (in real dollars) the gains from these activities.

The rest is just math…

Person typing on a keyboard

A Simple Approach to Calculating ROI/ROI%

(Recognizing there are no factors for NPV for the financially oriented readers)

Calculate all direct costs for the useful life of a project (Development, Licensing, Support):

  • e.g. $ 50k initial development + 5k support annually for 10 years = 100k direct costs

Calculate the increased bottom line contribution through increased revenue, decreased cost:

  • e.g. Reduce hiring requirement of a $60k person, increase revenue by $ 50k annually through efficiencies = ($ 60k + $50k) * 10 = $ 1,100k
  • ROI (months) = 100k/1,100k*120 = 11 Months
  • ROI% = 1,100/100*100 = 1,100% or 110% annually

Chat with CoreSolutions about Delivering Tangible Results

Our rule of thumb for the viability of a project is fairly simple. When you invest in a project, the project should pay for itself within 18-36 months through increased returns. After that period you will receive these increased financial returns for the balance of the software’s useful life. Typically, this results in a 40-80% annualized ROI% – very few financial investments can boast these levels of return.

I would welcome the opportunity to chat with you about how we might assist in optimizing and growing your business and delivering tangible results. So, connect with us via telephone at 1-800-650-8882 or fill out a contact us form on our website.

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Advantages of Progressive Web Applications

Progressive web apps are causing a paradigm shift for software development. Traditionally, the development of an app meant knowledge of native languages such as (but not limited to) Java, Objective-C or Swift. It also meant jumping through the hoops and hurdles of getting yourself listed on those pesky Apple and Android App Stores. Now however, the development of apps can be made accessible to us lowly HTML, CSS and JavaScript coders. Before we continue on about the benefits of progressive web apps, it may be beneficial to explore their predecessor: Traditional Web Apps.

Traditional Web Apps

Traditional web apps differ from native apps because rather than an app icon on your screen; they are made accessible through a web browser. They are beneficial because unlike native apps, they are easier to maintain due to their common code across various platforms. Most importantly however, they don’t require visiting an app store for download.

However, web apps are not without their own shortcomings; as they are not installed directly on your mobile device—without internet connectivity, a web app is relatively useless. Hybridizing mobile and traditional web apps however create a new entity, one that takes advantages of the strengths in both native mobile and web applications: Progressive Web Apps.

Progressive Web Apps

Progressive web apps are a hybridization between native, and traditional web apps. Progressive web apps are progressive because they work in old and new browsers, although they benefit from the use of modern browsers and features. They also deliver a more app-like user experience. Like native applications, PWA’s can have icons placed either on your desktop, or in your toolbar, providing easy application accessibility. By combining the native and traditional web applications, PWA’s are able to achieve the benefits of each, while mitigating their shortcomings. In fact, Pinterest – a popular image sharing site – experienced a 40% increase in time spent on their site, and 44% higher user generated ad revenue after implementing their new progressive web app.

Benefits

A major advantage to using progressive web apps is the avoidance of app stores, and their strict regulations. Another important benefit not to be overlooked, is the growing presence of “app fatigue”. The 2017 U.S. Mobile App Report revealed an astonishing 50% of smartphone users in the US download NO apps per month. By focusing more on the user experience, PWA’s can provide more value to your customers, and your organization.

Arguably one of the most important features of a progressive web app is its flexibility, although originally intended for mobile use, PWA’s function just as well on desktop, television, and tablet screens. Offline mode is also of benefit, as information a user has accessed previously is available for use and viewing without the need of an internet connection; something native apps have yet to accomplish.

In terms of maintenance, progressive web apps also boast simplicity over their app-store-distributed counterparts. Rather than having to submit an update packaged file to the app-store, PWA’s can simply be updated directly through the server.

Limitations

So far you might be thinking – “why would anybody choose native over progressive web apps?”. However, there are a few shortcomings associated with obtaining your own web app. The main downfall is the lack of support on iOS devices, limiting your applications reach. Secondly, unlike native apps downloaded directly onto your phone, these web applications are unable to sync with your phones functionalities. Things like GPS location, calendars, contacts, or any other features native apps typically interface with, are unavailable to PWA’s.

Conclusion

Progressive web apps are changing the face of software development. Not only do they experience a variety of user benefits, but they also improve performance overall—see Pinterest’s Progressive Web App Performance Case Study. Increased time spent on site, increased ad revenue, as well as conversions are just a few of the benefits you can expect from replacing your native application with a web application.

Overall, PWA’s are:

  • Easier to develop
  • More useful for users
  • Easier to install, maintain, and keep secure
  • Easier to grow as your company grows
  • Can be run on any type of device (desktop, mobile, tablet)

Let’s discuss your next web-based application. Contact us directly at 1-800-650-8882 or fill out a contact us form on our website and we’ll help you determine how to make your next progressive web app a massive success!

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Implementation of an Enterprise-wide Common Street Address Database for the City of Hamilton

Problem

The City of Hamilton has many service delivery applications utilizing and storing resident addresses. For example, street addresses are solicited from the resident in a free form method and are never validated against a common address database.  Thus, the City has numerous instances of address databases that are not accurate or consistent, which are used on a daily basis to communicate to the residents. In many cases, these address databases are misused and often invalid addresses cause breakdown of communications.  This has led to embarrassment for the City, anger by the residents and in some cases legal action.

Challenge

The challenge is to establish a single authoritative address database which all service delivery applications can valid against.  Establishing which is most correct and then comparing others to get the best of breed is the greatest challenge.  Other challenges are the adoption of a single authoritative database, “clean up” existing databases and encourage application stewards to use the single authoritative database as truth.

Resolution

The City engaged a subject matter expert to help collect business requirements, design a solution and implement this solution. The technical solution consisted of a consolidated database model, application database cleanup, address maintenance tool, redlining tool for identifying address issues and a method to deliver addresses to other service delivery applications.

Also a sustainability model to ensure that addresses were maintained accurately and on a timely basis by identified stewards. The address model would ensure that new or updated addresses would be available to other service delivery applications.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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?

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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.

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