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Finding Value in Agile Software Development

Posted on November 27th, 2012

Agile Software DevelopmentAsk someone the most effective method to develop software and you’ll likely get a wide range of answers. There really is no right or wrong way. It’s really just a matter of using what is most effective for your team.

Two of the most popular methods, Waterfall and Agile, both have their place in software development but in contrasting scenarios. Waterfall uses clear requirements gathered before the development starts. Agile uses incremental development in the form of short “sprints”.

Our development team has always found the Agile software development method to work best and we highlight the reasons below.

Waterfall vs. Agile

As mentioned earlier, the waterfall method is built around all the requirements being gathered before any development occurs. Detailed documentation of how the new software is supposed to look and act are agreed upon by the customer and development team ahead of time.

The software development process then goes through a number of stages from design all the way down to installation and maintenance. The reason it is called the waterfall method is that each stage follows from the previous one when it has been completed, cascading down like a waterfall.

This makes the waterfall approach somewhat inflexible. Customers are often unclear about their requirements initially and waterfall makes it difficult to change the requirements later on. Such changes require more time, and therefore, project cost increases.

On the other hand, Agile software development is based on incremental development. This means that you create deliverables early and refine them through several iterations with the customer. Requirements and solutions evolve through collaboration among customers and development teams.

Less time is invested upfront for documenting requirements when the development process uses Agile. Instead, successful delivery is in part dependent on customer feedback regarding new releases of the software. Customers often gain a better idea of their requirements as the software development progresses. This approach makes it much easier for customer requirement changes to be made on the fly.

Benefits of Agile Development

So what’s the benefit with using Agile? In the world of software development, the benefits are plentiful.

Reduces Risk

What business doesn’t want to reduce risk?

The Agile approach provides a far better opportunity to mitigate risks as they arise.  Being responsive to change instead of following a plan as with waterfall, risks can be addressed before spinning out of control.

This is accomplished by breaking down the development process into “sprints” or short, iterative time frames of development. At the end of each sprint, a working release of the software is provided to the customer. Sprints allow the development team to adapt quickly to changing needs during each individual sprint. This prevents the team from having to practically start over from the beginning to work any new requirements in.

Accommodate Change in Development

Changes in needs and scope have always been primary sources of trouble for a software development project. It often leads to late delivery, missed schedules, and unsatisfied customers. But the iterative approach takes changing requirements into account from the beginning.

Users are going to change their minds as the software is developed—it’s inevitable. And they have every right to do it. As they learn more about the technology, their own business needs, and see working releases of the software, new ideas and requirements are created. Forcing users to accept the system as originally imagined is not just unrealistic, but detrimental to the success of their business.

Higher Quality Software

With an iterative approach, flaws are detected and corrected earlier in the software development lifecycle. Performance and functionality issues discovered early can be reduced, as opposed to being discovered at project delivery. QA testing through each sprint, as opposed to executing toward the end of the project, results in a more thoroughly tested product. Since all these critical functions are tested time and again over several iterations, the result is higher quality software when handed off to the customer.

All these benefits combine to achieve what all businesses want – saved time and money. Each provides a small piece of the puzzle in speeding up project delivery times and thus, reducing cost. The benefit of having flexibility in a project, especially software development, allows a business to find higher project success rates.

Has your business adopted the Agile methodology? Tell us why or why not.

For more information on our software development services, please contact us.

Giving Thanks in the Software World

Posted on November 19th, 2012

It’s that time of year again – turkey and all the fixings, pumpkin pie, and the whole family in one household. It’s also a time to reflect and give thanks for things big and small in our lives.

The software developmenSoftware for Thanksgivingt industry is no different. There are several things to be thankful for that have made everyone’s lives easier. Advances in technology have brought us from the IBM punch cards to user interfaces that can almost do the programming for you.

So after the big dinner is over and you’re trying to avoid falling into the “food coma”, here are a few things to give thanks for in the software world.

Open source software tools

Developer tools have benefited more from the open source software revolution than any other category of software. Gone are the days where you actually had to purchase an integrated compiler, editor, debugger, and linker system. No more spending thousands on developer tools for commercial Unix systems.

The open source era was born when Linux brought out the Gnu Project. Compilers, editors, debuggers, and linkers that came with Gnu were now available for free. As a result, productivity has skyrocketed among software engineers, in ranges of 200-400%.

Not only has this made an engineers life easier, but the industry as a whole has benefited. These days, students can access the tools needed to quickly learn software development, all for free. Combine software engineering students with endless free learning resources and you have a pretty good outlook for the future.

Desktop virtualization

Where would we be without virtualization?

Coding software is one thing. But we all know that coding software is not complete without quality QA and testing. Virtualization has made QA easier and much faster. It used to be a process of wiping a hard drive and reinstalling the operating system. That headache disappears with the click of a button and creating a new VM with whatever operating system you want.

VMware Workstation is one of those virtualization tools that make the $249 cost worth it. QA teams become much more efficient with it by being able to test on numerous operating systems, browsers, and application platforms. Snapshot management allows you to save configurations through patches, service packs, and upgrades. Run into a problem? Just simply roll back to a previous snapshot.

The benefits a development team can realize long term with a tool like VMware Workstation far outweighs the one time fee.

Advancements in mobile development

Building a mobile app that runs on more than one platform, with minimal code changes, is comparable to landing on Mars in the tech world. The HTML5 stack using CSS and JavaScript is one potential solution. But the mecca is Microsoft’s .NET plus C# to create applications that can run natively on Android and iOS.

The combination of C# and Mono Tools allows a developer to share an application’s code across multiple platforms. Slap a native user interface on top of the code for each platform and you have applications for Droid and iOS.

Applications created with this approach will look and feel native because they’re using the same APIs exposed by the platform. Mono tools can even help clean up the platform APIs and make them easier to work with than those exposed by the native languages.

What’s this mean for you? Developers can now concentrate on satisfying the user requirements rather than having to manage multiple code sets for each new platform. Less time spent developing a new application for every platform means less money and resources spent.

People

New development platforms, open source tools, and virtualization are all great advancements in the industry. But they can’t provide any benefit without the one thing we should all be giving thanks for: the people. Software developers, designers, and QA folks are the ones who make this whole world of software development turn.

There is no magical way to automatically turn a huge document of user requirements into an application. Code just doesn’t type itself into a working online tool or web application. Testing doesn’t take care of itself.

Every application or online tool you use still requires the knowledge, education, and experience of people. Only then can an innovative and sometimes even world changing application be created.

Here at SerpicoDEV, we are truly thankful for our talented team of developers, designers, and QA testers. It’s because of their countless hours and effort that our clients are always happy with the delivery time and quality of their software development. Without our team, none of this would be possible.

So before you sit down and eat, take a short moment to be thankful for what really makes your software function – the people. And if there is anything we missed, leave a comment and let us know. Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

For more information on SerpicoDEV and our services, please contact us.

News Feature – tripchi

Posted on November 16th, 2012

News Feature - tripchitripchi, a leisure app for the business traveler, was recently featured in CNBC’s World’s Most Promising New Companies. SerpicoDEV serves as the software development partner for tripchi and would like to congratulate CEO Chandra Jacobs for this high distinction.

tripchi is a mobile app that helps business travelers find actionable things to do during their down-time. It is explicitly designed for the business traveler–this means it focuses on usability and speed to get to relevant and actionable recommendations. In doing so tripchi removes the fluff that leisure travelers care about but business travelers don’t, and cuts right to the chase to get the business traveler onward to interesting activities.

With tripchi, you can be on your way to something interesting to do in five minutes or less–whether it’s catching a concert, noshing at a local favorite, or getting your culture on, tripchi allows you to have instant gratification. It captures your personality in 3 steps, with adaptive/learning algorithms incorporating your interactions, and analysis of your social media profiles, to cut down the number of questions to answer. The recommendations served up include all the information needed to have you on your way, including pictures, a description, reviews, directions, and purchasing ability.

Chandra is currently based in Boston, where she is gaining momentum for tripchi in the local market as well as nationally as seen by this CNBC feature. You can follow Chandra’s blog about travel, entrepreneurship, and random adventures at therestlessroad.wordpress.com.

Read more about tripchi on our client spotlight, including a behind the scenes look at the development process. Look for the app to be available in the iPhone app store soon.

For more information on SerpicoDEV and our software development services, please contact us.

Online Work Causing a Shift in the Paradigm

Posted on November 12th, 2012

Online Work for BusinessesAs the business world moves into the age of the millennials, one thing is for certain – they want to own their own business.

But a business is about the only thing they actually want to own. An article from The Atlantic calls the millennials a “post-owning” generation or at the very least, a “less-owning” generation. In layman’s terms, millennials want to own less and take advantage of resources only when needed.

With the current state of our economy, millennial business owners and entrepreneurs are moving to a more on-demand way of work. What used to be a process of hiring full-time employees and purchasing equipment and office space has moved to using resources “as-a-service”. Technology resources that have traditionally been in-house have now moved to the cloud, coined by phrases like software-as-a-service, infrastructure-as-a-service, and platform-as-a-service.

Since most start-up businesses are strapped for cash, they need to find a way to be lean and extremely scalable. Cloud services allow for this by offering cheaper resources that can be altered on-demand as business needs dictate.

This trend has also shifted into another part of starting a business that is often the most expensive – employees. Thanks to the growing acceptance and adoption of online work, businesses can increasingly access contract workers on an on-demand basis. Entrepreneurs are using the “human cloud” to realize cost savings, speed up time-to-hire, and access talent worldwide.

With the rise of the millennial entrepreneurs, the trend is expected to increase substantially. Businesses are turning more to hiring online workers to find the talent they need. Not only is it a cost savings, but also allows them to find talent not otherwise available in their local market.

So what’s in store for the future? Elance and oDesk, both leading providers for hiring online workers, help us take a look.

  • Working online will become “the norm” – An Elance study found that 54% of the workforce will be online by the year 2017 and 84% of businesses realize a competitive advantage when hiring online. With more and more businesses realizing the advantage of online workers, it may become “the norm” quicker than expected.
  • Hiring online will become a long-term strategy – Virtual teams are around to stay. A survey by oDesk shows that 84% of businesses see online hiring as a long-term strategy. As budgets continue to shrink, businesses will implement this strategy into their long-range plans as a way to get better production out of fewer dollars.
  • Online software developers will be highly sought after – Elance survey results shows that the Software Developer continues to be the top career hired online. In particular, web development was forecasted to increase 50% in online work for 2013. With most software development done on a project by project basis, businesses will continue to utilize online contract work to complete projects only when needed.

As businesses continue to realize the benefits of the online workplace, they will be more likely to consider it as a long-term option for cutting costs.  By no means will it eliminate the in-house employee, but it does give entrepreneurs and start-up businesses a fighting chance to succeed. And in the state of today’s economy, we need all the new business creation we can get.

For more information on SerpicoDEV and our software development services, please contact us.

Technology Agenda for the Second Term

Posted on November 8th, 2012

Technology Agenda for President ObamaIf you had been paying attention to the debates and campaigns leading up to this week’s election, you may have noticed a key issue missing that directly impacts our economy.

For the most part, technology was absent or only briefly discussed by both candidates. Debate moderators never asked a question about anything technology related and the topic could not be found on either candidate’s websites.

That doesn’t mean it can be swept under the rug.

Many people take technology for granted but as the old saying goes, you don’t know what you got until it’s gone.

Even with the lack of discussion, many experts see 3 areas that will top Obama’s technology agenda.

Technology Infrastructure

Our technology infrastructure serves as virtually the backbone of all communication and financial transactions in this country. Time and resources will have to be contributed to be able to withstand a disaster that could compromise this backbone.

Hurricane Sandy, for example, made that evident when mobile carrier networks quickly became overloaded during the disaster making a call almost impossible.

In addition, with the passage of what both parties now call Obamacare, electronic health records (EHR) and medical IT is becoming a very big thing.

According to IDC Health Insights, 80 percent of the health care market will adopt EHR by 2016.  With our country’s health information eventually being completely stored in the cloud, a reliable infrastructure will be imperative.

Cyber Security

Obama has been fairly active in terms of strengthening the nation’s response to cyber attacks in his first term. Look for more of that to continue.

Recent signs from Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta have indicated that the Pentagon is about to release new rules of engagement for cyber security.  These rules would put government on a more proactive approach instead of only being reactive.

A cyber attack on our country’s technology infrastructure would cripple financial institutions and the government itself.  It’s already been predicted that cyberspace will become the world’s next major battleground and as Panetta put it “a possible cyber Pearl Harbor”.

That statement alone should be enough to encourage the White House to continue to make cyber security a priority in the next 4 years.

Technology Education

Obviously, the most pressing issue for the President to address is fixing the economy. Decreasing the unemployment rate and job creation are focal points of economic recovery and was a centerpiece of the presidential election.

The opportunity to increase employment through training for tech jobs in mobility, big data, and cloud computing is huge. Cloud computing expects to be one of the fastest growing sectors of the tech services industry, causing job growth in this field to skyrocket.

We cannot waste this opportunity.

With more and more of our services being moved online every day, we need people who can maintain and support those systems.  Currently, we don’t have those people, driving up the need for technology education even more. Better education and training creates more jobs helping the economy recover quicker.

On a larger scale, technology and innovation is highly dependent on spending and investment.  Without continued economic recovery and growth, the money won’t be available to invest in research and development to spur new technologies. Should growth be stalled and we slip back into recession, the technology sector will go with it.

The agenda for the next four years is already long, but technology considerations need to be a vital part of the government’s to-do list.

For more information on SerpicoDEV and our software development services, please contact us.

Is Online Voting Reliable Enough?

Posted on November 6th, 2012

Online VotingWelcome to election day, 2012. Today, 130 to 140 million people will cast their votes for America’s next president in one of the more anticipated elections in recent history. But not everyone will be heading to the local voting booth to do his or her part. Some states now allow online voting as way to increase voter turnout.

Is online voting secure enough to eventually make it the primary method of voting? Someday it may be. But for now, the consequences are probably just too risky.

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New Jersey implemented an alternative to the voting booth for those displaced by the storm. Residents can now use email (yes I said email) to submit their votes today. Talk about a scary alternative.  Computer-security expert Matt Blaze explains:

“The security implications of voting by e-mail are, under normal conditions, more than sufficient to make any computer security specialist recoil in horror. E-mail, of course, is not at all authenticated, reliable, or confidential, and that by itself opens the door to new forms of election mischief that would be far more difficult in a traditional in-person polling station or with paper absentee ballots.”

The main issue is that officials have no way of accurately verifying all of the votes submitted online and via email.  While New Jersey is not expected to be a close race, this would be a major concern where the vote is only separated by a few.  Case in point: Florida in 2000 between Al Gore and George W. Bush where votes had to be recounted by hand to determine the results.  Who knows what would have happened if these votes were made by email or online and the accuracy could not be double-checked.

Despite these concerns, some states are embracing online voting as a way to counter low voter turnout.

Oregon, for example, allowed disabled persons to vote with iPads during a special election in November 2011 and will continue in 2012.

Oregon is also one of 11 states that currently or will soon let residents register to vote online as long as they have a valid identification card. All other states require voter registration in person or by mail.

This raises a major question – are the online software and communication tools used to vote actually secure enough? It has a number of pros, most importantly increasing voter turnout.

But the implications of potential fraud are frightening. If the wrong person is put into office due to inaccuracy or tampering of online voting, the consequences may be irreversible.

For more information on SerpicoDEV and our services, please contact us.

Client Spotlight: tripchi – The Leisure App for Business Travel

Posted on November 1st, 2012

Our client spotlight this week gives us an inside look at tripchi, an application that assists business travelers in finding activities during their down-time.  Serpico DEV has a great working relationship with tripchi and CEO, Chandra Jacobs, as a software developer of the mobile application.

tripchi - A leisure App for Business Travel

The Product

tripchi is a mobile app that helps business travelers find actionable things to do during their down-time. It is explicitly designed for the business traveler–this means it focuses on usability and speed to get to relevant and actionable recommendations. In doing so tripchi removes the fluff that leisure travelers care about but business travelers don’t, and cuts right to the chase to get the business traveler onward to interesting activities.

With tripchi, you can be on your way to something interesting to do in five minutes or less–whether it’s catching a concert, noshing at a local favorite, or getting your culture on, tripchi allows you to have instant gratification. It captures your personality in 3 steps, with adaptive/learning algorithms incorporating your interactions, and analysis of your social media profiles, to cut down the number of questions to answer. The recommendations served up include all the information needed to have you on your way, including pictures, a description, reviews, directions, and purchasing ability.

The Platform

The tripchi iPhone application was developed utilizing the MonoTouch platform and Objective C programming language. This method provides the highest scalability and offers a primary advantage of sharing code across devices, making it available for Android and future Windows 8 development. The Android version of tripchi is currently in development using MonoAndroid and the native code, which will speed up compilation and application performance.

The Process

A major factor in the delivery of a successful software development project is collaboration between the client and development team. Serpico DEV and tripchi engage in an agile development process driven by constant interaction and communication. Daily scrum meetings and weekly feedback from the tripchi management team ensures the application is developed in accordance with user requirements. Serpico DEV takes pride in this “hands-on” approach as it allows clients to make their vision a reality in the most efficient way. Constant collaboration between clients and development teams help the project be delivered on time and within budget, benefiting everyone involved.

tripchi will launch on the iPhone app store soon.  Visit the website and sign up to be the first to know! And, if you’re a business traveler, you can also take the tripchi survey on business travel habits for market research purposes.

For more information on Serpico DEV’s software development services, please contact us.

Which Mobile Application Development Platform Should You Choose?

Posted on October 24th, 2012

By 2015 mobile application development projects will outnumber native PC projects by a ratio of 4-to-1 (Mobile Business Statistics 2012, Forbes).  If your business depends heavily on generating leads from web traffic, let that stat sink in for a moment. Is your website or application available for mobile use?  If not, then you’re missing out on a huge market opportunity.  Enterprise tablet adoption is on track to grow by almost 50% per year and will soon be more widely used than the traditional PC.

So how do you get started preparing your application or website for mobile use?  There are a number of programming languages available for mobile development but some offer greater advantages than others.  The key is to look at the trade-offs between each and determine what gets you the best bang for your buck.  There are also other questions to consider: What kinds of devices do you want to reach?  How fast will the application run?  What kind of support is offered?   We rank the 5 most popular mobile development platforms on the spreadsheet summary below out of 5 stars.

Mobile Application Development Methods

(Click to enlarge)

Obj-C+iPhone – This platform can be used on all iOS devices and is based on the Objective C programming language.  It is a graphical interface builder application to create a rich user experience for iPhone devices using Cocoa.  It offers several advantages that include fast compiling speeds, a comprehensive API set for iPhone hardware functions, and a strong developer community.  The big disadvantage of course is that other smart devices such as Android are not supported.

Ranking: 3 stars.

Java+Android – Java for Android is based on the XML interface using a library similar to Swing that is specific only to the Android OS.  It is an open source software with a good developer community for tips and tricks.  Several features that can be taken advantage of with this platform include a comprehensive API set for Android device hardware functions, fast compilation, and strong documentation support.  Similar to the Objective C platform disadvantage, this platform is only supported on the Android operating system making the applications one-dimensional.

Ranking: 3 stars

Monotouch/MonoAndroid – Monotouch and MonoAndroid are platforms from Xamarin that allow iOS and Android applications to be built in C#.  Using .NET, Cocoa, and the Android library, the development platform is a graphical interface builder application that offers a scalable user interface design.  The advantages offered are superior to other platforms in that code can be shared across the board, there is easy access to native API’s on all devices, and rich IDE support.  The greatest advantage may be the resources saved through creating an application where the code can be shared across Android, iOS, and soon Windows 8, saving time and money in development.  But as with all things that sound too good to be true, there is one caveat – you have to pay.

Ranking: 4 stars (only because of cost)

Phonegap – This platform is a combination of the HTML5, CSS3, and jQuery languages that is functional on both the iOS and Android OS.  The interface is built in HTML and CSS based on a UI library of a webkit packaged as native applications.  Phonegap offers major advantages for web developers by allowing the creation of a normal webpage and packaging it as a mobile application with minimal changes.  There is no need to learn new API’s or languages and existing tools such as Firebug are still compatible with fast compilation speeds.  The disadvantage is that the applications created with Phonegap do not look native.

Ranking: 3 stars

Titanium – Titanium is based on the HTML and Javascript programming language that can be deployed on both the iOS and Android devices.  Its interface is based on Javascript using Titanium’s API’s and a UI library consisting of those API’s compiled to native applications.  The major advantage of this platform is the use of Javascript to create applications with native widgets.  But because it only uses Titanium based API’s to layout the widgets, existing tools don’t work and the builds are very slow to compile.  Support and documentation on the platform are also difficult to find.

Ranking:  2 stars

While there are still many other features and functionality to consider, Monotouch and MonoDroid from Xamarin can offer the best scalability for creating mobile applications across a wide range of devices.  Being able to use the .NET framework is a key advantage, as any developer who has created Windows applications using the language can create these applications.  While it does present a cost factor, the time and resources saved using this platform offset the cost rather quickly.

Agree or disagree?  Leave us a comment!

For more information on our software development services including mobile applications, contact us.

Communication: The Key to Build Remote Team Trust

Posted on October 17th, 2012

We’ve all heard the saying that trust can take years to build, seconds to break, and forever to repair. But this age old adage doesn’t work for project teams as trust must be established immediately or it can be detrimental to the outcome of the project. Add on the extra challenge of working in a remote project team and establishing a high level of trust is almost impossible, right?

Not necessarily. The first part of the saying above is evident to the fact that trust builds as you grow to know a person more over time. But there are other ways to progress it quickly to the point where remote team members trust the way each other work, communicate, and most importantly, complete the tasks they were assigned. The key factor in the acceleration of trust among remote project teams? Constant and open communication.

Spotlight Software’s web and mobile application Spotlight PPM streamlines the communication process for remote project teams to accelerate the trust among team members. In his recent post on building trust in the virtual workplace, Keith Ferrazzi outlines four key points that help remote teams build trust with one another: Leverage “swift trust”, pro-actively build interpersonal trust, communicate with predictability, and share the power. Spotlight PPM provides features that can facilitate these factors to build and improve trust faster than ever before:

  • Leverage “swift trust” – Initially when a remote project team is formed, team members realize they have to cooperate immediately to get the job done. The feeling of being “all in the same boat” establishes trust from the onset, knowing that the success or failure of the project reflects on the whole team. Spotlight PPM’s Dashboard helps propel this trust further by showing all team members in one centralized, social network-like interface. Team member status updates and current tasks being worked on creates a sense of full disclosure, meaning the team can trust each other in what they are working on and what their availability is.
  • Pro-actively build interpersonal trust – Trust is enhanced between people when they know something about each other’s personal lives. It allows them to find things in common with each other and thus, a way to relate on a deeper level. Spotlight PPM’s team member profiles offers a person the chance to talk about themselves, their interests, and their hobbies. This information is available for all team members to view, offering a way for the team to relate about things outside the project.  Parallel’s in people’s personal lives builds trust quickly and Spotlight PPM offers that opportunity for team members.
  • Communicate with predictability – Predictable communication among the team is crucial so members can develop a sense of dependability with each other. Constant and regular interaction between all team members ensures everyone knows what tasks are being worked on, the availability of all members, and any unforeseen events that pop up. Spotlight PPM offers instant team member status updates in a Twitter like format, agile lean daily updates from project managers, and private and instant messaging to produce predictable communication that enhances trust and eliminates some of the need for constant emails and frequent meetings.
  • Share the power – Project teams, especially in the software development world are proven to be more successful when team members feel trusted to share their opinions and suggestions. Spotlight PPM helps facilitate the sharing of power by providing an open communication forum in a Facebook like format for all team members to offer suggestions for improvement.  Should you be using an agile approach, project leaders can then guide their team through Spotlight PPM’s centralized interaction platform to reach the best decision available through input from all team members.

It’s often difficult to gauge the level of trust that is established within a remote project team.  But there has to be some type of trust among members or the team will not be able to function well enough to deliver the project.  However, trust can be accelerated and improved among a remote team and Spotlight PPM offers a centralized interface for the key factor to establish team trust: quality communication.

Try out Spotlight PPM by signing up for the beta.  For more information on Serpico DEV, please contact us.

Think You’re Too Small for Outsourcing? You May Be Surprised

Posted on October 8th, 2012

Business Outsourcing

Appointment-Plus CIO Stephen Booze provides his insights on outsourcing in the technology industry.  Serpico DEV maintains a great working relationship with Appointment-Plus as a software development provider for their online scheduling application.

While the term “outsourcing” is permanently etched in the business lexicon, there is still an overriding sense of uncertainty that flows throughout a company at the prospect of moving in that direction: CIO’s worrying about intellectual property, project managers refilling their ulcer prescriptions, and developers updating their LinkedIn profiles. While this is clearly tinged with a bit of sarcasm, the belief is that many companies feel that outsourcing is only a viable option for larger organizations. However, that is far from the truth, and any anxiety can oftentimes be tempered once the true cost-benefit analysis is performed.

The horrors and triumphs of IT Outsourcing (ITO) are well-known. Everyone knows someone who knows someone whose company went down the outsourcing road, only to have things go dreadfully wrong or incredibly well. Gartner, a leader in providing technology research, shows ITO service spending has grown from 247 billion in 2011 to 251 billion in 2012, which makes it clear that the positives are outweighing the negatives for many companies. While the number obviously is comprised of many large organizations, I have experienced many small businesses getting the same, if not more, benefit from choosing the outsource model.

Typically with small businesses, if there is any outsourcing, it is done on the front end, e.g. a prototype or proof-of-concept, and is almost solely with software developers on a time and material basis. While there is value in this approach, it is often shortsighted. If the product or service is proven to be a success, there will be ongoing development and maintenance needs. Yet, the developers contracted are usually off to another project for another company, and the business is left with either sub-par developers or spending time, effort and money ramping up a new contracting team.

To counter this result, more outsourcing companies are focusing on full-time, long-term placements. This is an obvious benefit to the outsourcing firm in regards to predicable revenue, but it is also a plus to the small business, as they are able to have the same resources allocated solely to them at a lower cost than standard contracting and at a fraction of the cost of a full-time employee. Additionally, there is value in training these individuals, as the knowledge won’t be lost, and the risk of losing control of proprietary processes goes down.

When considering what to outsource, ITO always comes to mind. However, some of the more progressive near-shore and off-shore firms also offer resources for Business Process (BPO), Knowledge Process (KPO) and Legal Process (LPO) — all of which can extend the small business dollar while introducing a high level of expertise. Even within ITO, other areas such as cloud computing make solutions such as Data Centers (DCO) and Application (AO) outsourcing significantly less expensive with the added benefit of almost immediate cost savings and greater system availability, scalability and security.

Besides the benefit of costs savings by outsourcing, there is also another significant value for the small business — focus. Utilizing individuals to take on the items that are lower level in nature will allow your permanent team members to spend their time and energy on providing more substantial impact to the business by focusing on the higher value strategic initiatives. Not only could this positively impact revenue, it could also increase motivation and morale for those permanent resources.

Getting started is relatively simple and similar to entering into any other partnership. Complete the regular due diligence, looking for firms that are in line with your business size and needs and that will let you “dip your toes in the water.” If your need is on the resource side, select a smaller project with a predictable outcome and a realistic set of expectations. If it is more solution/services-oriented, choose a component of your business you are comfortable placing outside of your walls (e.g. data storage, customer relationship management, etc.). And always keep in mind that the true benefit of outsourcing is not in replacing internal resources or hires, but rather lessening their daily burden so that they can be fully utilized for their talents and skills.

For more information on our outsource business model or software development services, please contact Serpico DEV.