Inexpensive Electronic Tools to Enhance your Meeting Organization

Quick, we need to jump into a meeting. What’s the first thing that jumps into your head? If you’re like 47% of the respondents in a recent Igloo survey, you’re thinking things like “boring”, “necessary”, “tedious”, “useless”, “pointless”, “long”, etc. It seems that there is a lot of distain for meetings, which isn’t entirely unfounded.

Meetings are often seen as a necessary evil. When effective, they can help teams collaborate and stay on track, but if not well executed, they can lack productivity or get viewed as a waste of time. A recent study conducted by Verizon Business found that 89% of individuals thought that their meetings could be improved with better technology. So today, we are going to explore a few new technologies to get you some productive meeting time back in your day.

Tools for Scheduling meetings

CoreUM – Full Disclosure, our team built this software, but there are free plans available and we think it’s the best thing for meeting coordination.

The frustrations typically begin with one of the most difficult parts of the meeting process; the actual coordination of the meeting! If you’ve never been on the receiving end of a reply all email or mass communication thread, it typically goes something like this:

John – “Is everyone free Wednesday at 7:30pm?” 
Bill – “Not at 7:30, but I can do at 6.” 
Suzy – “Tuesday works better for me, I’ve got softball on Wednesday nights.” 
Jen – “Can we do Saturday instead? But only before 2:30.”

Using a meeting scheduling app like CoreUM allows users to simply poll and coordinate available meeting times with invitees.

Step One – Provide meeting details (name, location, etc.) and propose a handful of dates and times. 

Step Two – Select your invitees. 

 

CoreUM takes care of the rest to gain consensus.  

Your invitees select the times they’re available, allowing you to select the option with the most availability.  

CoreUM is the only system on the market to include CORPORATE BRANDING, QUORUM and GROUP MANAGEMENT. Whether you are using CoreUM for organizing your next committee lunch, gathering the best dates and times for your annual golf trip, or planning your next corporate outing, CoreUM may become your favourite productivity application and revolutionize the way you organize meetings. 

CoreUM is free to try the VIP subscription for 30 days. If you like CoreUM, use coupon code “muniserv” at checkout when upgrading to a corporate membership to receive 20% off of your first year of corporate membership.

 

 

OK it’s meeting time.

For hosting meetings

We love GoToMeeting. It’s a staple, been around forever, and almost everyone has some familiarity with the user interface. Simply create your meeting and send an invite link and you can instantly share your screen, have a video call, chat forum, record your call, and see who is engaged and paying attention. Yes, you are able to see when individuals click away from the tab that you are showing them. GoToMeeting isn’t free. You’re paying at least $26 per month in order to use the software.

Other options include Skype for Business (free if you use Microsoft Office 365), ON24 and Adobe Connect.

For keeping track of your ideas

Now that you have coordinated meeting times with CoreUM and began your GoToMeeting, which tool can you use during your meeting to keep track of your awesome ideas? We have a lot of experience with this area as we’ve tried a lot of different software packages. There are a couple of great options:

1.   1. Evernote – Evernote allows you to post lists, images, and ideas while also collaborating with your meeting attendees. The best part is it’s free to use, but in order to sync across multiple devices, you will have to purchase a paid membership ($46.99 to $120 per year). Their mobile app and search features are big sellers here. I personally store all of the PDF of important documents and manuals in Evernote so I can easily come back and reference them. They also have a handy chrome app that allows you to clip webpages and save them directly to Evernote. We did run into some issues with syncing when multiple individuals were editing the same note.

2.   2. Google Docs – If you want everyone to be able to edit your notes as you work, Google docs has you covered. Many individuals can contribute new ideas and edit documents in real time. Sometimes this can cause the “too many cooks in the kitchen” challenge. The best part is that the Google suite of products is free to use and corporate membership is only $50 per user per year. You don’t need to have a Gmail account.

3.   3. Basecamp – We love basecamp. Basecamp is more of a project management tool but If you need to collaborate on a project with internal and external individuals, it works amazingly well. There is a group chat (they call it campfire), a message board, schedules, tasks, to do lists, storage for documents and files, etc. they even have automated reminders. Project participants can get notification of progress and updates on the status of changes to the action items and to do’s in the projects. The reason it’s not number one on the list is because the cost is $99.

4.   4. OneNote and Microsoft Office 365. OneNote works similarly to Evernote but it’s the product from Microsoft. This means that it integrates into other Microsoft products. It will easily let you store meeting notes and agenda items as well as share those notes to other individuals in your organization.

All of these examples are inexpensive and can really help organize and structure your meetings. They’ll even let you upload pictures from that awesome brainstorming session.

Bonus tool – Consider not having a meeting using Slack

While I feel the most effective way to have a meeting is face to face, I know some companies are limiting the number of meetings they are having using productivity apps like Slack. Instead of getting together for a daily status meeting (or Scrum, for those in the Agile world), they use simple automatic reminders to ask the team what’s going on. Each person responds with their top priorities, from wherever they are. Managers scan the channel to address any questions, and it saves about 15 minutes of time per employee every day.

The Conclusion

These are just a few of the tools we use to try and make the meeting process easier and is by no means an exhaustive list. This won’t prevent your sales manager’s noisy dog from barking in the background when their working from home or your customer service manager from forgetting to put themselves on mute, but it is a start to make the organization easy.

Thanks for reading

 

CoreSolutions Software.

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Two Methods for Breaking Your Development Project into Parts

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

 

Determine Minimum Viable Product Features

As you build your functional requirements, you must choose the features and functions needed to create a Minimum Viable Product or MVP. A minimum viable product has just those core elements sufficient to deploy the product and no more. Using an MVP style of development encourages feedback from the stakeholders, costs less to develop and is a good strategy to use when developing customer facing apps.

Utilize the MoSCoW Method

Image of the PhoneGap Logo

When developing your MVP, break the requirements for the down into sub-categories. A handy method for this is the MoSCoW Method. With the MoSCoW method, you break each element down into the categories: Must have, should have, could have and won’t have.

I like the MVP and MoSCoW methods because they use standard language and terms that we can understand easily.

Critical to the success of creating a MoSCoW frame is a budget and a time-box or end date. If you had unlimited time and budget, it would allow you to have everything in your product.

Since there are seldom cases where the budget and timeline are unlimited we then employ the MoSCoW Method to determine:

  • Must Have Items: requirements that are critical to the success of the current development time-box.
  • Should Have Items: important but not necessary for the current time-box.
  • Could Have Items: desirable but not necessary for the current time-box.
  • Won’t Have Items: won’t be included in this time-box as agreed upon by the stakeholders.

As an executive, your biggest problem will be the classification of each requirement and to avoid making each one a “Must Have Item”. Facilitate this process with your Project Manager.

Two Methods for Breaking Your Development Project into Parts Conclusion

Your PM may have some tools up their sleeve to facilitate a workshop or meeting but here is a tool that you can use to focus the session and attain a good result. The device is called the Prioritization Matrix. With it, you can easily have a stakeholder meeting and get everyone to agree which requirements are going to have the biggest impact and then the “must have” items for your next sprint.

MoSCoW, MVP, and Agile go together well. Start each sprint with a MoSCoW session, build your MVP and you’re ready to start. Evaluate each successive time-box and apply the MoSCoW method iteratively.

 

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 and project management.

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

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Importance of Testing Throughout the Development Project

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

Develop Testing Strategy & Assign Testing Engineer.

It’s important to have a testing strategy for your project that tests early and often. At the beginning of the project ensure that testers are available from the user community and the development team. You may identify a “testing engineer”; someone that represents the customers’ needs and can engage quickly with the project team.

Don’t fall for the “Testing Phase” approach, where testing occurs at the end of the project. Testing at the end of the project can lead to cost and budget overages. The sooner an issue is isolated, the sooner it can be addressed and fixed.

Make it easy to do testing and to provide feedback. Develop a test plan that the testing engineer can use to run scenarios based on the user story and use cases.

Rotate Developers in the Role of Product Demonstrations & Testing.

Flat Image of user with code icon

Assign a different development resource to lead each iteration of testing. Empowering the developers through leadership, broadens their perspective, increases responsibility, improves quality and brings them closer to the customer’s view. By including the development team in the testing processes with the customer, you will integrate testing with development; these are often considered separate processes. An integrated testing/development environment is a healthier system that results in better cost and quality control.

Placing a developer at the center of the testing process reinforces a culture of quality. No one wants to have bug occur during a demo, so visible demonstrations encourage improved quality.

In summary, how you approach testing can make a significant impact on the project. Insist that a testing plan is part of the Project Plan. Include in your plan:

  1. Placing the developers at the center of the testing strategy to improve the quality of the code.
  2. Assigning a testing engineer that represents the needs of the customer.
  3. Provide feedback easily with a testing plan, use case scenarios, user stories, forms, & automation.
  4. Test early and often.

I’d like to add a note for successful implementation of a developer led presentation. Some developers will absolutely cringe at the thought of being the center of attention, presenting software to clients and others will shine. Be considerate and weigh individual skills and strengths and try not to put any of your team into a difficult, nerve wracking situation. Your much better to assign supporting roles to the more introverted members of the team.

 

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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Determine the Best Timing for a Development Project Start

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

Setting a delivery date for your project is the domain of the stakeholders and leaders. But, when is the best time for you to start a project? What variables do you and your project manager need to factor into this critical timing decision? Here are some factors you can reflect upon to help you make a great timing decision.

Project Motivations

Each project in your organization will fall into one or more of the following categories: strategicoperational or regulatory.

  • Strategic: The project is required for the achievement of business goals.
  • Regulatory: A government body has set a deadline you must comply with, i.e. new tax, privacy legislation, etc.
  • Operational: Addressing a non-optimal operational situation would result in business improvement.
Image of the project categories

In almost every circumstance, when evaluating which projects to start, the strategic, or money-making projects, are going to come first. However, a regulatory or operational project can supersede a strategic project. Think about the existing and planned projects for your business and weigh how they impact your project.

Planning Window

What is your planning window: What is your time estimate for development? Once this is known, then set that window of time x 1.5 to provide you with a planning window which can slide along your time scale, known as a sliding planning window.

Inside of this time scale, you can place any critical dates including:

  • Regulatory Deadlines: what regulatory constraints must be me and by what date.
  • Business Deadlines: what business deadlines and product rollouts are planned and on what date.
  • Pre-Existing and Contingent Development Projects: are there existing projects that need to complete before starting your project? Does your proposed system rely on the functionality being developed for another project? Include start and end dates that impact your project.
  • System Upgrades: what system and critical upgrades are occurring during your planning window which either are critical to project success or that could impede project progress. Include planned system upgrades that will impact your project.
  • Infrastructure Expansions or Acquisitions: what infrastructure must be acquired and implemented before deployment of your application. As you evaluate your infrastructure requirements, consider using Cloud-based servers for applications and database and developing web applications instead of traditional apps. Be sure to add these critical dates to your sliding planning window.
  • Team Load: what existing projects are in play and how is your project team impacted by that load? Can you dedicate your resources; will they be required for other projects? Internal resources are finite; will your resources utilized on other projects or unavailable for your project until a future date?

The Impact of the Schedule on the Project Budget

Optimizing your budget during the planning phase is critical and can set the stage for a project that lands and is within its budget. You may also be able to find savings through scheduling that can be ‘banked.’

Using your sliding timescale, reflect on when the most cost-effective time to execute on your project is. Will pushing your project out result in cost savings or will it incur overtime wages to meet business or regulatory deadlines? Will it impact other projects and incur additional costs? What would happen if you outsourced some or all your project?

The Impact of Outsourcing on the Project Start Date

Image of a yes text

Finally, consider what would happen to each constraint if you outsourced your project development. Would it remove many of the variables, resource challenges, hardware requirements, database issues, and would it be easier to fix your budget? The answer is likely a big YES.

To summarize, setting the start date of your project impacts much more than the delivery date. It affects all aspects of the project, resources, budget, system upgrades and updates, the delivery of constrained applications, and of course, the customer; rolling out a tax software application for accountants during tax season would not be a good idea!

 

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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Advantages of Integrating Your Mobile Workforce

What does integrating your workforce mean?

What will I gain from mobile integration?

Why does mobile integration matter?

These are the important questions that customers are asking more and more. Whether you are a small or medium-size business owner or an IT professional at a large enterprise, you are most likely considering how, what and why mobile integrations have become such a big deal.

Integrating your mobile workforce means your systems and data are relayed to the smart phones or off-site systems of your employees. They receive real-time reporting, customer information, tracking codes – whatever form of data your organization uses can be integrated through mobile.

Mobile Integrations: Here Comes the Boom

HTML5 Logo

With the recent boom of reliance on cloud storage and cloud integration, IT managers and business owners who are not using mobile integration are playing catch up. Yes, your in-house systems may be integrated to some extent, but your business no longer takes place only in-house. At a bare minimum, I am willing to bet your team uses their email from their smartphones (unless there are privacy concerns). The world is more connected than ever, Wi-Fi is available in more places than ever, and smart phones are available to more users than ever. But, your systems and your data are still just in-house?

Mobile integrations are here to stay and the benefits gained are ever the more valuable:

Offers New Revenue Streams

Mobile integration gives salespeople many more opportunities to turn budding prospects into paying customers. With reports and data input information being accessible via a smartphone, the chances of sales opportunities increases simply due to availability of resources.

Empowers Your Mobile Workforce

Mobile employees use integrated systems to receive important documents, company memos, web messaging – if it can be sent to the cloud, it can be sent to your team. This allows your mobile team to be instantaneously informed and engaged with the onsite team.

Reduces Data Conflicts

Users will receive real-time data. The data they see will be the most up to date and the data they enter will be available in-house just as efficiently. Data conflicts will be reduced, stress levels will remain bearable and all parties involved will be more efficient and effective.

Saves Money and Time While Reducing System Complexity

A properly developed mobile integrated system means less cost for hosting an in-house data centre. Maintenance costs, housing costs and installation costs will all be decreased. IT workers will have more time for important tasks and all employees will receive a more seamless software experience.

Even the Farmers Are Getting In On the Technology

Heavyweight agriculture and technology equipment manufacturer, John Deere have dove into this mobile integrations movement (John Deere Press Release) like it’s the local pond. John Deere’s most recent dabble into the big data movement is their implementation of their Operations Centre. The Operations Centre is a suite of farming software that relays data to farmers, but they are now integrating with their mobile workforce via smartphones and in-cab technology. Here is what Senior Product Manager Tyler Hogrefe of the John Deere Intelligent Solutions Group has stated,

“We’re making machine and agronomic information available to users where they want it and when they need it. Users will be able see how their operation is performing, direct and adjust operations in the field, and seamlessly collaborate with trusted partners in order to increase efficiency and profitability.”

John Deere prides themselves on being a leader in not just agriculture and construction equipment industries, but also a leader in information technology and their mobile integration strategy is unlike most other companies. They have used mobile integrations to transform not just how their employees do day-to-day operations, but how their entire business is run and also how their business is perceived.

A large scale mobile integrations strategy like John Deere may not be quite on your radar; however the expanding industry and possibilities of mobile integration should excite you. New solutions are being developed every day and these solutions are changing the way businesses operate and changing how employees work. Large or small, if you need mobile integrations solutions – or just advice – be sure to reach out to CoreSolutions Software.

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Incremental Building Strategy Delivers Large Software Projects

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

For larger development projects, using the Incremental Build Model for software development can improve project success and get useful products into production quicker. By using an incremental build model to develop smaller, fully functional components, you are breaking the project into smaller, more easily digestible chunks. This model leads to greater success, improved client approval, and better functionality.

Why Break the Project into Smaller Increments?

The project management team may break a larger project into smaller pieces when delivering, delighting and getting customer feedback are important. Accomplish this by having the project entirely defined, scoped and then chunked into deliverable components.

Sometimes the best plan of attack on any large project is to use a divide and conquer technique. Using this approach helps to deliver good software solutions to the customer quickly. Using this strategy produces customer goodwill, a feedback channel from the client and helps the project team achieve a series of small successes which is great for morale.

We suggest that for any big project you consider breaking it down using the Incremental Build model so you can divide and conquer it and delight and deliver to your customer.

The solution starts to sound like an Agile project, but it has nothing to do with the project management technique employed. It’s a strategy to deliver quickly and get valuable customer feedback.

Use of Incremental on Larger Projects

Image of a circle being divided up into incremental parts

Project managers and clients can decide to break a larger a project into smaller increments. An Incremental Model’s success hinges on a complete scope and requirements. Once detailed and documented, the project can be broken into smaller, deliverable, pieces and delivered in stages throughout the project.

Breaking a larger project into smaller increments can reduce the cost of initial product delivery but may increase the cost of the whole project.

Another benefit of an incremental build is the stream of customer feedback on each increment that can help to identify deficiencies, additional features, and product changes which lead to a better final product.

By breaking the project into smaller increments, then using a traditional waterfall project management technique, the project manager can plan, define, develop and test each increment.

Because few changes are made within any single increment complete regression testing to identify development deficiencies can happen quickly.

How Does the Incremental Build Strategy Improve Success, Client Approval, and Functionality?

Image of a circle being divided up into incremental parts

Your customer, whether an internal department or an external client, wants to get their hands on their applications as soon as they can. When you deliver, using an Incremental Model, you delight them by delivering; then engage them for feedback. The result is a better product and a stronger relationship with your customer.

On your next larger development project, use the Incremental Build Strategy to break it down into smaller chunks to delight your customer, deliver quicker and to develop better projects.

 

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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Stacking the Deck – The Exceptionally Clear Method to Define & Document Your Software Requirements

As a business leader, you may be considering developing a web application for your team, your company or customer use. Congrats! Let’s get your project off to a good start with a clear and concise Software Requirements process.

Throughout this series of Software Development Guide for Business Leaders, we will help you to understand the elements of success in a software development project.

As the leader, (aka project sponsor), your contribution will be paramount in defining the software expectations and your input will be required throughout the project lifecycle to ensure that everything stays on track and there are no surprises at the end of the project.

Finding the Aces – What is a Software Requirement?

Project Managers break software requirements into functional and non-functional components.

Functional requirements are simple documents that outline the inputs, the behavior of the software and the outputs. An example could include a login screen. You will have very specific inputs (typically username and password fields) and actions for different scenarios (login success, login failed, reset password, etc.)

The non-functional requirements include details such as performance requirements, security, or reliability. A good example would include a requirement for role-based security. This would change the features of the system depending on which user level an individual has logged in (administrator, contributor, general users, etc.)

Seems simple, right? It’s critical that we get these software requirements right before we start developing. Product quality, delivery timelines, and budget are all dependent on the quality of requirements. So, what can we do stack the deck in our favour?

Shuffling Methodologies – How to Develop Software Requirements

Image of Agile cycle

There were two studies performed in the 1990’s that help us create better software today. A study by the ESPI in 1995 found that 40 – 60% of all defects discovered in a software project traced back to errors made during the requirements stage. An earlier study in 1994 by the Standish Group helped us understand that 13.1% of projects fail due to incomplete requirements and 8.8% of projects fail due to rapidity changing requirements (Girase, 2012). It may have been a long time ago… but this is largely still true today.

There are two mainstream project development methodologies in existence today. The older Waterfall method that has been around for decades and is still used today by many organizations and the more recent Agile Software Development Model which was established with the publication of the Agile Manifesto in February of 2001.

The Agile Software Development Model made many strides to resolve and improve project requirements gathering, however, our experience is that both Agile and Waterfall have their advantages and disadvantages and they are not for suitable for every situation. Traditional project management models, like Waterfall, still require documentation of a requirement before the coding and testing start while Agile is iterative and requirements are refined as they are built. Agile is flexible and allows for fast feedback and changes as the project unfolds.

Internal development teams should get more value from Agile as they have easy access to stakeholders who are very engaged in the software development process. Not every organization has the resources or bandwidth to be engaged through the entire process and most stakeholders will want to have the clear start and end dates (and project budget) before starting a development project.

We have used both Agile and Waterfall and while they both have their benefits, we feel that we’ve found a sweet spot in between the two methodologies. We approach our development through a hybrid model that utilizes the best from both models and focuses on a visual representation of requirements and the design of a functional prototype before any coding starts. To bring our clients software visions to life, our Milestone development process borrows the parts we like from Agile (The iterative nature of the project, and the fast feedback) and from more traditional development like waterfall (having a planned finish date). This ensures that our stakeholders are active participants in the design and functionality of the system on an ongoing basis. Through this process, we eliminate surprises at the end of the project.

The Final Cut – Defining and Documenting Your Software Requirements

So, you have developed spectacular objectives, your project is guaranteed to be a smashing success now, right? Well, no. Simply having clear and well-defined objectives isn’t necessarily enough. One of the biggest challenges in software development (or any other longer-term project) is that we have to capture and document the requirements specifically enough to limit how open they are to interpretation. Clear direction is essential, or your development team may come back to you to clarify, or worse, deliver what they “thought you wanted”. Have you ever had someone come back to you and ask you to clarify an objective or thought only to realize that they were on the wrong track?

 

So where do you capture requirements? Well if you’re like the vast majority, you’re probably capturing requirements in simple Excel files. However, there are much better solutions available that offer so much more. At CoreSolutions, we really focus on capturing and bringing your vision to life. Capturing requirements in a visual way is a key component to clarifying expectations and limiting revisions. We document the requirements through a software system called iRise. This allows us to develop an interactive prototype before a single line of code is written. The actual development coding is the most expensive part of any software development process so, by developing a working prototype of the system before we start development, we can more accurately estimate the development cost and stay on budget. While this is more upfront work, it does lead to greater project success and overall experience. Let’s face it, the requirements need to be captured at some point during the project so why not do that work upfront so you have a better grasp of scope, timeline, and budget. It just makes sense.

 

Screenshot of iRise

 

The figure above is an example of a screen that’s part of a prototype in iRise.

 

As we outlined throughout this article, with so much riding on effective requirements planning, it’s critically important to define and document goals and deliverables. Whichever project methodology you decide to use, capturing requirements means a lot of upfront work, but it’s worth it to ensure the success of your project. By using an effective project methodology, and really understanding and documenting your system requirements upfront, you will effectively be stacking the deck for your project’s success. If you want to stack the deck even more and need help planning out your next software project, reach out to us. We love helping prepare software visions and have been great at it for over 25 years.

 

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

·         Brainstorming;

·         Requirements Planning & Gathering;

·         Prototype Design;

·         Project Management.

 

Connect with CoreSolutions today to start your project by completing a Project Profile.

Works Cited

Girase, N. M. (2012, May). airccse.org. Retrieved 12 10, 2016, from http://airccse.org/journal/ijsea/papers/3312ijsea05.pdf

Mitre. (n.d.). Eliciting, Collecting, and Developing Requirements. Retrieved 12 12, 2016, from www.mitre.org: https://www.mitre.org/publications/systems-engineering-guide/se-lifecycle-building-blocks/requirements-engineering/eliciting-collecting-and-developing-requirements

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Planning a Software Development Project? You need to read this!

What can you do to ensure your software development projects are successful and avoid costly redesigns.

Part One in the Series: Software Development Guide for Business Leader.

When you do as much custom development as we do, we hear a lot about future-proofing in development. The average expected lifetime of software that our customers expect is between 5 and 7 years. When a system is designed to last that long, a considerable amount of effort should be invested into planning. For a business that plans on developing a custom application, it’s important to future-proof your project to avoid costly application redesigns and to improve application longevity. Future-proof through planning, honest reviews of your in-house skills and capabilities, striking a balance of in-house support and outsourced development, and by avoiding proprietary tools and frameworks.

Future-Proofing Checklist

  • What is the life expectancy of your final product?
  • Have you assigned a Project Manager?
  • Have you set realistic project goals, budgets and timelines?
  • Have you done an assessment of your in-house resources?
  • Does the project rely on proprietary tools?
  • Have you assigned a Project Manager?
  • Is your outsourced partner large enough
  • Do you have a software update plan?

The key issues this post addresses include:

  1. How to avoid painting your development project into a corner by using proprietary frameworks and tools.
  2. How to be in control of your application development, regardless of your in-house development skills.
  3. How to ensure long-term support for your application when resources fail, are replaced or become incapacitated.
  4. How to handle post development support and why it is crucially important – The work continues even after initial development is complete.
  5. How to create the ideal mix of outsourcing and internal support.

Future-Proofing a Project During the Planning Process

Future-proofing your project starts just after it’s been envisioned and is typically the domain of the Project Manager (PM). The PM will use planning tools and methods and determine what is best for the business and the project long before any development occurs. PM techniques and processes help avoid uncomfortable situations where developers are vying for the work based on their skills and capabilities.

The PM uses tools and processes along with their knowledge of organizational assets and history, resource capabilities and strengths, and weighs this information to determine the right mix of in-house work and outsourcing.

Without thinking about future-proofing during the planning process you may end up with a short-lived web-application with higher than expected costs to the business. This is why dedicated pre-development planning is so crucially important.

Avoiding Costly Application Redesigns

Your company can avoid costly application redesigns and redevelopments if you critically review internal resources at the beginning of the project and if you avoid, as much as possible, the use of proprietary technology.

Also, an effective way to prevent costly redesigns is to:

  • Use Project Management techniques and tools, (use a Project Manager).
  • Complete project scope and business requirements documentation at the beginning of the project.
  • Have sufficient budget to do the project right the first time.
  • Setting a realistic timeframe and make sure not to cut corners.

The Importance of Assessing In-house Skills and Capabilities

An evaluation of your in-house capabilities is critical to the success of your business and crucial to your application development’s longevity. Your PM should execute a Capabilities Matrix to understand where your organization’s weaknesses are. A great place to start is the TOGAF Architecture Skills Framework for processes and layouts of an IT Capabilities Matrix.

Be honest about the real capabilities of your organization. Do you have the capacity, knowledge, and resources in place to make this project a success? An honest assessment will help avoid any problems and mitigate risks in the future.

Avoiding Proprietary Tools and Frameworks

To effectively future-proof your development project, PM’s and development leaders should avoid proprietary tools and frameworks sourced from new, or untested sources. The terms, “open source,” “free,” or even low cost, should be approached with extreme caution and diligence during the evaluation and selection processes.

You can achieve some amazing designs and benefits through these programs but never be lenient about accepting unproven technology or partners; especially during the planning phase of your project.

The long-term viability of using development resources from smaller organizations must be evaluated and weighted against other factors. Smaller, less experienced teams may be exciting to work with, but their stability in the long-term may trigger a redesign in the short-term.

When in doubt, go for tried and true solutions, tools and frameworks. You’ll have an easier time finding resources in the IT community to help you and you’ll all but eliminate the risks associated with partnering with an immature organization.

It’s not always as exciting, but it will be significantly less risky, and if something does go wrong, you have more contingency options available.

Keeping Custom Applications Up-to-date

Developing a custom application may incur a significant up-front cost, but the work doesn’t stop when the app goes live. There are ongoing costs and time investments that must be made to maximize the life of your new tools. Just like the operating system on your computer, your application will require upgrades over its useful lifetime.

You will need upgrades on databases, frameworks, tools and operating systems and there will be new features, additions, and business opportunities too.

No matter the cause, it is important to factor the cost of keeping your new application up-to-date in your annual budgeting of time and dollars.

Outsourcing Application Development and Support

Outsourcing is the ultimate future-proofing of your development projects.

When a development project has internal support for infrastructure and project management but uses external resources for the development then greater levels of success can be achieved.

Some of the benefits of outsourcing that I’ve seen include higher levels of technical expertise, excellent project management, and time management to name a few. Others can include tighter budgets, less scope creep and avoidance of the long-term cost of people.

Conclusion

If you plan on developing a custom application, be sure to future-proof it and avoid costly application redesigns while improving its shelf-life.

Future-proof it by using a project manager and project management tools and techniques.

Plan on updates. If secondary systems require updates, they may also need you to update your custom applications. Plan and budget for updates, then perform them; doing so will improve application longevity.

Assess the skills of your in-house team, (if you intend to develop in-house) and use an assessment framework to get the best result. An honest evaluation of resources and skills will help you avoid important operational tools using old thinking and skillsets.

Outsource; the costs associated with in-house development teams are more than dollars. While it is true that your team will know the business better and can react quicker; it’s also true that they will cost you more, get outmoded and limit development to their capabilities and skillsets. Outsourced agencies often have a broader, more modern approach to development.

On your next project try a hybrid approach by deploying an internal PM to oversee and coordinate the project, and an external development team to apply the latest techniques and programming tools.

About CoreSolutions

The CoreSolutions team of experts, including developers, systems analysts and project managers, build web and 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 estimate.

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As Cities Get Smarter, Security Concerns Get Bigger, Trend Micro Research Finds

By: Jessie Bur January 19, 2017 | 11:02 am

More and more cities are employing “smart” technologies to improve communication with the public and reduce the burden on government services, but these technologies also open those cities to security and privacy dangers, according to a Trend Micro article released on Tuesday.

Smart cities are redefining the way we live and work. Blending cutting edge IoT (Internet of Things) technologies with virtualization, big data, cloud and more, they represent an urgent and ongoing attempt to overcome the challenges associated with rapid urbanization,” Ed Cabrera, chief cyber security officer at Trend Micro, wrote in a blog post. “There’s just one problem. These vast, interconnected technology systems also raise serious privacy and security concerns.”

According to Martin Roesler, director of threat research for Trend Micro’s Forward Looking Threat Research team, cities are particularly threatened by future IoT attacks because they pose an attractively visible target for hackers looking for maximum impact.

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The Importance of City Website Design for Economic Development

The Importance of City Website Design for Economic Development

by Rickey Hayes (Retail Attractions, LLC)

 

If you’re reading this, chances are your city is looking to grow by increasing sales tax revenue through economic development. One way to grow your tax base is by recruiting retail development. One of the key components of successful recruitment is your city’s website. Most companies will start their retail site selection research on the internet, and each project will have its own set of unique parameters. It is not enough that your city meets these requirements. For your city to be selected as a possible location, you have to sell your city. Get the information out there and let the potential investors know what you have to offer. Your city’s website will more than likely be your first chance to make a good impression on the potential developer or investor. If your website is out of date or lacking in information critical to investors, your website presents an unorganized city that is not prepared to support growth. Progressive cities are recognizing the need to aggressively market themselves and create economic greenhouses in preparation for growth.

One of the most critical pieces of information for a city’s website is current demographics for your city and trade area. If your city has a unique trade area or unique demographics, site selectors need to be made aware of this information. Take this opportunity to showcase what your city has to offer. If incentives are available to potential developers, your website should provide information on these incentives especially if they are unique to your community. With so many cities competing for the same development projects, your city has to be aggressive in marketing its potential.

The organization and presentation of your city’s information is another key element in making your city attractive to potential developers. Information should be easy to find, up-to-date and thorough. Your website should convey that your city is ready and willing to work with developers on any issue that may arise. Each department should have their own page with direct contact information, and pertinent documents such as permits and standards should be clearly posted. This is your chance to show potential investors that your city is organized and ready to help make their development project a success.

Lastly, let’s discuss the most commonly overlooked element in municipal web design, search engine optimization (SEO). A website that has been optimized for search engine accessibility has content that is highly searchable and easily indexed. Having an optimized website is important when an investor is searching for information on potential sites. Optimizing your cities website will ensure investors find your official city website and the most relevant information when searching for details about your city.

To find out more about website design for your city, contact Retail Attractions.

Rickey Hayes is the principal of Retail Attractions, LLC, a firm dedicated to helping cities and developers successfully find retail sites, close deals and improve the quality of life for our client cities.
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