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Manage Remote Project Teams? Spotlight People & Project Manager Can Help

Spotlight Software will launch Spotlight People & Project Manager, a cloud-based application that merges Agile project management with social network communications to enhance collaboration among remote project teams. SerpicoDEV is proud to be the software developer for Spotlight People & Project Manager. Below is their press release.

Spotlight Software Boosts Communication and Makes Remote Project Teams More Effective with Launch of Cloud-Based Spotlight People & Project Manager

Project management has gone social. The launch of Spotlight People & Project Manager at spotlightppm.com solves the communication and collaboration issues that face remote project teams today. Spotlight merges the efficiency of Agile project management with the power of social networking to create a cloud-based project collaboration platform that increases productivity and decreases time to market for projects driven by remote teams.

Spotlight People & Project Manager

Remote teams are now able to communicate more effectively with the launch of Spotlight People & Project Manager, a SaaS solution that combines the efficiency of Agile project management with the power of social network communications. All remote project teams face the challenge of fragmented communication, which can result in a project failure rate of up to 50% (Source: Aberdeen Group). Instead of focusing solely on tasks like other project management tools, Spotlight takes the added step of focusing on communication among the team through a social network interface on top of a lean, agile task management system. Launched by Vincent Serpico, founder and CEO, Spotlight was born from a need to effectively manage his own remote development teams for his software development services company, SerpicoDEV.

Spotlight ingeniously addresses the currently troublesome communication problem through a dashboard of “Status Cards” that each team member calls their own. Built on the analogs of Facebook-like wall posts and Twitter-like Tweets, the Status Card keeps the project manager, client, and fellow team members apprised, real-time, of what each person is working on at any given moment via Spotlight’s exclusive free-form status and availability update. The Status Card empowers team members to chat with other team members and/or request status updates.

Because of Spotlight’s multi-channel communication focus, project managers also have the power to quickly initiate a phone or conference call directly from Spotlight if needed. The Status Card can be conveniently “flipped over” to reveal quick links and information for contacting the team member via Skype or their mobile phone; including immediate geo-location of the team member through a Google map. To enable leaders to see the path of activity and decision making, Spotlight also features a history of all status updates by every team member.

The social network-like interface is combined with an enhanced task management system that goes beyond other project management tools currently available. Team members update their status with the tasks they are assigned and the system tracks time spent on each task. Via Spotlight’s robust reporting engine, reports can be created that show the progress of a project, its estimated delivery date, and the progress of each team member.

Spotlight also has a mobile application for the iPhone and Android for those managers and clients constantly on the go. The mobile versions offer the same functionality as the web application and allow project managers to monitor their team from anywhere in the world at any moment. Team member status updates, availability, tasks, and project progress can all be accessed from the mobile application.

The combination of these features results in a product that allows remote teams to communicate and collaborate via the best of social networking, while tracking task management using the proven lean, agile method. Spotlight is true cloud-based, social project management that helps remote teams deliver their projects faster and more efficiently. Visit Spotlight People & Project Manager and sign up for one of our packages starting at $29.

Posted: December 7th, 2012
Categories: General
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Making Remote Teams Successful With Agile

Agile Remote Team SuccessElance recently celebrated its two millionth freelancer. What does this mean for the software development industry? Remote development and design teams are sticking around for the long haul. With access to lower cost talent worldwide at their fingertips, businesses will start incorporating the practice into their long-term strategy.

The recent rise of agile software development raises some questions about implementing it with remote teams. Communication, cultural challenges, and time zone differences all combine to make it sound like it’s more work than it’s worth.

But those who made it work have reaped some major benefits. Projects can be delivered faster while still maintaining high quality. Costs can be cut dramatically. The key to making this combination successful? Efficient teamwork driven by communication.

Good communication just doesn’t happen overnight with remote project teams. Several things in the Agile approach contribute to making the communication platform more effective, resulting in better teamwork. It’s sort of a chain reaction – maintain good scrum practices to ensure quality communication that improves teamwork.

Below are some tips that help a remote agile team be more effective. It may take some sweat and tears, but making it work will benefit project stakeholders at every level.

Teamwork Depends on the Agile Team

The abundance of low cost talent available remotely doesn’t mean you should just pick the lowest cost team with the best resumes. Pick people who fit your organization. Sure, you still must consider experience and education but also see that they fit the company culture and there aren’t huge language barriers.

Also, take into account the team members enthusiasm and readiness to collaborate. Good spirits and open conversations during daily scrums can motivate team members tremendously. It may also help relieve some of the pressure to contribute for those that are a little quieter.

In the end, the team members selected should always respect the project goals and do everything they can to reach those goals.

Consider Culture

Always consider the culture of your fellow team members dispersed around the world. Work hours and days, holidays, and religion can all play a major part in a team member’s schedule and availability. Be prepared ahead of time with this knowledge and communicate extensively to minimize the culture gap. This can save you a lot time and confusion.

If you know ahead of time the some cultural challenges are too difficult to overcome, try to work with countries that have traditions close to yours. Difficulties can also arise with already assembled teams. If this is the case, it may be worth it to find a person who better understands the culture and not go through the next few months trying to figure it out.

Keep the Daily Scrum (and other open discussions)

Just because your team isn’t in the same room doesn’t mean you can’t have a successful scrum. Our company does it all the time via Skype and Go To Meeting. Keep the same format with everyone speaking on the tasks they did yesterday, the tasks for today, and the problems they have encountered. But just remember, being remote makes open communication that much more important since facial expressions cannot be seen.

Besides the daily scrum, encourage open communication and discussions throughout the entire day. This can often generate new ideas or find a solution to a bug. After all, open communication is the cornerstone of a successful project.

Divide and Conquer

Divide your project into even smaller iterations and require regular software integration. This will give you more control of the real project progress and help identify where issues may arise.

Working in remote teams does come with an increased chance of misunderstandings. But by breaking the project down into smaller iterations, misunderstandings and problems can be detected much earlier. With clarification of requirements and immediate code fixing, the project can move forward in a timely manner.

Clean and Crisp

Clean, well-shaped source code can prevent headaches down the project road. Part of the agile framework includes constant updating and revising of existing code. Ensuring the code is clean, crisp, and commented can minimize the response time tremendously for requirement changes.

At the end of all agile software development projects, the code has to be handed off to the client in some manner. Well prepared documentation makes this knowledge transfer easy and cost effective. Because at some point, the client will be calling back for help.

The agile method with remote teams can indeed work and work well. There may just be a little more prep work ahead of time to ensure the project goes smoothly. Maintain proper agile practices throughout with wide open communication and you’ll be on the way to success. Borders no longer limit who we can work with so it’s best to get prepared now by embracing the trend.

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

Posted: December 5th, 2012
Categories: General
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Online Work Causing a Shift in the Paradigm

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.

Posted: November 12th, 2012
Categories: General
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Think You’re Too Small for Outsourcing? You May Be Surprised

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.

Posted: October 8th, 2012
Categories: General
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Manage Remote Project Teams? Shine Light into your Project with Spotlight!

For those who manage remote project teams in the software environment, I’m sure you all know the challenges that can rear their ugly head during the process.  Communication issues, time zone differences, task management, and team member availability are a few of the things that have to be properly managed to deliver a successful project.  Ask a project manager what task their individual team members are working on at that exact moment or what the exact status of the project’s delivery is and you will often get a blank stare.  Some project managers are experienced enough to have mastered this art but many would benefit from having a tool to guide them down the project delivery road.  Serpico DEV strongly endorses our client Spotlight Software, who can offer you this guidance with Spotlight – People & Project Manager.

Spotlight PPM offers remote project and team management capability at your fingertips with easy to use web and mobile interfaces.  What once took a series of emails, conference calls, and Skype sessions to find out the status of your project can now be accomplished by simply logging into the Spotlight online dashboard and task manager.  So what are the meat and potatoes?

  • Real-time updates – Track the project team through real-time updates of their current status, whether they are working on a back-end database or out to lunch.
  • Manage your team from anywhere in the world – Mobile and web interfaces give you the ability to be in control from anywhere at any time.  Monitor your project from your desktop computer, laptop, iPad, iPhone, or Android device, whether you are in the comfort of your own home or stuck at the airport.
  • Track the progress of your project – Instantly see your project delivery date and if it’s on time to be delivered.
  • Detailed task management – See a breakdown of the individual tasks required to complete the project from start to finish.  Track the specific tasks individual team members are working on and their progress towards completion.

Imagine the peace of mind Spotlight could provide for those unexpected times your CEO stops you in the hall or you get an impromptu call from a project stakeholder wanting a status update.  But don’t take my word for it, listen to what one developer who is an extensive user had to say:  “Keeping track of your time is effortless.  When you update your status in the app, it’s like leaving small notes on the Project Manager’s Desk.”

So take advantage of the tool that makes everyone’s job easier from the developer to the team manager.  Your project owner will be glad you did.

Sign up for the Spotlight PPM beta to learn more!

Posted: September 28th, 2012
Categories: General
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