How to test your software without hiring QA testers

 

QA software testing

 

The importance of QA in software development Is undeniable. There comes a time in each software development life cycle where we have to make sure it works the way we intended to.

A software development project isn’t a “one-man show”. Instead, there most commonly are at least 3-4 developers involved. All of them work on different tasks, so when code gets merged, bugs surely appear. This is where testing plays an important role, making sure bugs get discovered and dealt with.

Overlooking a bug can lead to a lot of dysfunctionalities in the end project and low customer satisfaction. Yet, not all companies can afford hiring a QA tester due to low budgets. We couldn’t, also, but here’s what you can do about it.

 

Project #1

We got our first client. We already had a team of four software developers and one system admin. So, we paused the project we had planned and of course, put our client’s needs first. Time has passed and the product was nearly done. Then, came the time to test it. We hadn’t any QA testers, our software team was mostly focused on development, so we decided to include the rest of our non-developers team-workers in it.

Since our graphic designer and marketing manager had some work gaps and no greater priorities at the time, we decided to include them in the testing phase. We just gave them user login into the system and password to access the application.

When a new pair of eyes was brought into the application, we faced a whole new experience. Within just a single word document, with good text format and print screens inserted for better navigation, we had them notes coming.

App bugs, notes on user experience, interface remarks and much more. Soon afterwards, our product was ready to sell.

So, here’s how they say they approached it:

  • Just start clicking. Not sure what the button over there does? That’s a note for itself. Suggest a better CTA text for it, better design, or a new placement on the display.
  • Edit all the fields you can. Edit text in fields, move objects, insert numbers. Maybe you’ll notice some validation errors e.g. text can be entered in fields that only require numbers and should perform calculations. Maybe the final calculations are all wrong. Maybe you can edit text that should be locked, or fields don’t inherit text from other fields, and they should.
  • Date formats. Beware of them. They are different for each browser. Check them in different browser and see how they look.
  • Does your application generate documents? Compare information in the application and on that document. Maybe some will mis-match, or get lost on it. For example, our application generated PDFs. The application supported adding pictures. But, anytime you clicked save on the application when uploading a picture, a picture from the pdf got removed. Funny, huh?
  • Beware security and privacy info. Check user settings, usernames and passwords. Does the application allow for password change? Is it hidden, or can you read the password entered. Is there a way to change it?
  • User roles. Different users get different permission to access specific information in the document. Test the different ones and see if any of them view more, or less than they should.
  • Tooltips are helpful. Not sure what the button does. The user will probably get confused, too. Suggest adding some tooltips to important functions, buttons, option on the application.
  • A lot of changes happen? There are a lot of save buttons included in the application? Maybe you should add a notification bar whenever that happens to inform the user.
  • Filters are a must. Choosing from a list of filters in a dropdown menu, or entering keywords in search bar. Give users full freedom to search through the information in the application. Make it fast and easy for them to access the ones they find most important at the time. Filters also help grouping information, segmenting what’s on your display, what to see, what to exclude and much more.
  • Take me to the top. Scroll bars are useful, but when an application has a large news feed, getting back to the top only through scroll bar can be exhausting. So, what’s missing here? A back to top button, to reduce time, and energy.

 

Project #2

The second project we are talking about here, was an in-house development project – a software we want to sell as a branded product from the company. Here, we had a different approach.

We kept the entire team posted all the time. All of them – the creative department and the developers, they all were a part of scrum meetings to be up to date with all the software functionalities and even suggest changes in real time. Also, that way, they all new what to look for, when testing afterwards.

For this project we made a google sheets script. Since it was a complex software, each one of the software developers, listed functions of its part and the result it should provide. Therefore, anyone included could go through the list, check if it’s working, or not. The same sheet was also used to insert suggestions on improvement, and even bugs that weren’t predicted on the list.

 

Did you find these helpful? Let us now in the comments below.

What we’ve learned about starting a startup (so far)

 

 

Starting a startup firm is quite the risk and requires a lot of patience, persistence and dedication. We all start as a startup, but not all of us make a success out of it. We prepared some tips and tricks from our own experience and hopefully you could all use it to learn a lesson from it.

 

You need the strongest team on your side.

You need the true believers that can push the project ‘till the very end. The team you choose to start your startup is the most important choice to make. You need highly skilled and talented employees in your team. Startups rise or fail because of how dedicated their teams are to the project. You need a team who can handle challenged and believe in the projects vision and mission. You need hard workers and passionate pursuers.

Yes, that could be hard to achieve, since startups do not have nearly close the resources of big corporations to offer the same benefits. But, that’s an advantage, as much as it is a disadvantage.  Startups may not have the most luxurious office, fitness club carts, or the big name that speaks for itself. Good employees value more than just that. Show them how will their work make a difference, how do they make a great contribution to the final outcome, how you believe in them, how the future of the company depends on them. You can even offer them a part of the future profits of the company, or ownership rights, if and when everything goes well.

 

You need (at least one) experienced employee to lead the team.

Your first thought as a young entrepreneur, or someone who’s new in the business, must be to spare as much money as you can on everything. Therefore, you’re probably thinking about smaller wages, and smaller wages lead to hiring less expensive (read less experienced) yet, talented personnel. Well, not everything works that simple. At least, it didn’t for us.

When you build a team of employees with similar backgrounds and little working experience, it’s most likely that they won’t appreciate the authority of the other one, due to that lack of experience.  Our advice is, focus on leadership. Of course, linear business hierarchy is a great thing, but mild forms of authority can work in your favor. If you work in the IT industry, try implementing Scrum methodologies (read Agile), to fill in the gaps. In small team, a Scrum owner and Scrum master are enough of a leadership, to maintain quality of work and also keep communication on a high level. We’ll get back to Scrum many times during this blog post.

 

The luxury of flexibility.

Give your employees all the flexibility you can, in its own boundaries. Provide the possibility to work from home, have flexible work time, remote working. Especially if their work requires a lot of creativity and brain activity.

Moreover, do not stop here. It is a small team, so bureaucracy is set to minimum. Let the employees decide what’s the best for the product. They’re experts in their field, right? Let them be. If you have an IT company, let them programmers experiment and work with the latest technologies in the industry. Once in a month, reserve a Friday for SMART creativity. Let them work an entire day on something they want to, a do a presentation about it, at the end of the day. Let their own inspiration bring the best for the company. They’ll sure appreciate it.

 

The team will change. Eventually.

Workers will come and go. You have to deal with the stress of that. It happens to big corporations, and to startups as well. Especially, if you are in an industry where employee turnover rate is high, like the IT industry. In order to keep your employees, at least the most talented ones which are crucial to the future of the company, you have to take care of many factor in your work environment. Here are some things to think about:

We had problems with clear deadlines. Since we develop software, we tried to keep up with the latest trends in technology. Unfortunately, as much as we wanted to do that, deadlines prolonged up to the point where the best of our employees left, because they didn’t feel and see the end of it coming. So, get the first version out, and modify it afterwards based on user feedback.

Control, in its limits, can be a good thing. Let’s face the truth – all employees are more focused on work, when supervised. Control is connected to measuring results and therefore, feeling accomplished when something is finished. We mentioned Agile before. Use it in your favor.

Clear goals – not all employees are self-initiative. Many of them need great leadership and someone to give them tasks to work on. Either of them, need to work towards a common goal. Make goals, objectives and tasks, clear. Write them down and measure progress.

Wages – employees may not work ONLY for money, but being well paid is a huge plus. Especially, if you put wages below the average in the industry, or if they do not cover employees’ living costs, wages can be a big problem.

Invest in team building. The best teams are built. Build your own. Send them to interactive games. Even bring games in the work office. Take them out. Organize internal events. Take their suggestions and hear what they have to say. Make it comfortable for them to be in each-other’s company.

Invest in training – Talented employees love to invest in themselves e.g. in their professional and personal development. You should invest in it, too. Provide them with the necessary resources to spark as employees. Whether it’s a summit, a workshop, or just a subscription fee to an online course, they’ll really appreciate it.

Corporate identity. The feeling of really belonging somewhere is just as powerful, as all the other factors for retaining talented employees. Improve corporate identity as much as you can. Create a powerful logo, company colors, slogans that represent the vision and communicate the right messages all the time. Build some culture. Since it’s a startup, company culture is yet to be built, employees do not just fit in. Set up some ground rules, but leave them flexible to improvement and adaptation to see what’s working and what’s not.

 

Getting the first client should be on your priority list.

Most startup entrepreneurs think that the first product should be a perfect one. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. One aspect is that, products should be improved continuously, as you receive customer feedback. On the other side, employees validate themselves and their work all the time. Especially if they’re starters in their job, they need to see that what they’re doing, works. Moreover, it will help you get some financial stimulation and profits are what you started this thing in the first place, right?

 

Everyone matters more than you think.

Since you’re a startup, your team must be diverse and small. That’s not a bad thing, quite contrary. Suppose you are an IT company: you maybe one senior programmer, 2 junior programmer, one system admin, one web designer, one marketing manager. The absence of each one of them gets noticed immediately. And each of them will be absent once in a while. Therefore, pick employees that can learn fast and handle cross-functional activities effectively. That way, they can replace each other, or at least cover the smaller gaps when the other one isn’t here. Include everyone in all of the discussions – you have the luxury to afford it, so that way all of them can establish a sense of ownership of the product.

 

Little awards go a long way.

Reward all of the employees included, whenever a good job for a project is finished. Take them to dinner, send them to some workshop over borders, or give their kids a New Year’s gift from Santa. Let them have one more day off because of wedding, child birth and similar important events in their life. They’ll sure appreciate it a lot.

 

Startups are easier to manage than great corporations. Everyone knows everyone really well. But, there are some downsides, also. You will have problems finding the right path. You will be uncertain about  whether you should stop this journey and call everything off. Just keep going.

 

10 things we’ve learned about Google AdWords that nobody told us

 

 

  1. Device targeting isn’t as obvious to setup, as it sounds.

Google has made it quite difficult to manage device targeting. As you make your campaigns, you are no longer allowed with the possibility to set the devices you want your ads to be displayed to. So, in order to exclude, or include specific devices, you have to go to Settings=>Devices, where there is a list of all the devices available out there. You can manage all of them per ad group.

In order to exclude mobile phones, for example, from an ad set, you have to set the bid adjustment to -100%. Or, of you want your mobile ads to show twice as much as on computer, set the bid adjustment to 200%.

Set your bids according to keyword planner, really! Put all your keywords in keyword planner to adjust their bids and do It regularly. No matter if you have a small budget, and keyword cost is high. It most commonly won’t spend that much either way.

 

  1. Put each important keyword in a separate ad group.

Then build all other keywords variations blending them with it. Let’s you have an online shop and sell women’s shoes online. And you want to use AdWords in order to sell more boots for the winter season. Then, your ad groups should look like this, for example:

buy women’s boots
buy womens boots online
womens boots for sale
etc

short womens boots
buy short womens boots
short womens boots for sale
etc.

So do not put general keywords like:

Women’s shoes, or online shop. They may bring a lot of traffic to your website, but they sure won’t bring you much sales. And they’ll cost you much more.

 

  1. There are no general rules onto what works in ad copies, and what doesn’t.

You will read a lot of tips on the Internet, like:

  • Include your brand name in the ad copy (especially if it’s a popular one)
  • Include copyright, registered signs
  • Insert a call to actions
  • Insert numbers/prices
  • Make the location precise

But, from our experience, there is no one rule that fits them all. Sometimes it’s best if there is a price included. Sometimes it’s not. Sometimes brand name works, sometimes It doesn’t. Just experiment as much as you can and see what’s best for you and your shop. But, of course, stick as much as you can to these general rules.

 

  1. Display network only works if customers know you/you already make a lot of sales.

When we’ve started our first campaign 6 months ago, a month after our display campaign was going we weren’t making any sales and the business was new. We’ve started a display campaign, going parallel to the search network. It’s didn’t work out, so eventually, we’ve stopped it.

 

  1. If you get a lot of traffic on the website, and yet no conversions, search for the problem in the landing page.

We had a lack of human resources to design a new landing page, so decided to improvise using our homepage as a landing page. Enough to say it didn’t work out at all. On the homepage, the user could immediately choose the product type, put it in a cart and purchase. But, it also had a lot of oversights. Like, missing a form that visitors can fill in and leave their e-mail. Or, (a request for) pricing information. A lot of contact details to establish trust. And similar.

 

  1. When you have a lot of ad groups, better divide them in different campaigns.

In our first campaign, putting and taking keywords in and out of ad groups became chaotic. So, we decided to stop it, and create it from start. This time, with important keywords, put into different ad groups, too. The number of ad groups went up to 60. As much as they were organized well, it was difficult to manage bids that way. So, in our third version, we separated all of them into 5-6 campaigns. It made it much easier to manage budgets and compare results.

 

  1. Increasing the budget does not necessarily mean greater CTR.

We’ve tried doubling the budget for 3 campaigns that had a very small daily budget. Can’t say we’re surprised that didn’t mean more conversions with a growing progression. The number of conversion just doubled up, as well. So, the CTR was exactly the same.

 

  1. Check out what is your optimal ad positions and rank for it

Go to Ads => Segment => Top vs. Other. See, which is the position for your ad. Is it always being on the first place? Not necessarily. If you’re in a high competitive industry, like software development, you are betting with competitors who spend a huge amount of money on AdWords, so you nearly stand a chance. Therefore, maybe just being on the first page works fine for you. Take your time and develop your next strategy.

 

  1. Use view change history frequently

This option is set at the very right of the search bar, in your campaigns window. It is a very valuable tool, especially if you’re in the early stages of managing your campaign and experiment a lot with your ads. You can track your changes to see what caused a specific result and even correct them if you do not like how those changes performed on your website.

 

  1. You can create customized reports using AWQL

If you’re familiar with SQL, you can get reports using that language. If you do not, and have no intention of working with databases in the future, then AWQL Is the AdWords version of SQL.

 

5 Useful PR Tools To Help You Grow Your Startup

 

Startup PR Tools

 

If you are a startup, then you must be eager to build your media list and boost your media outreach. We made a list of five similar, yet different PR services that can all be useful to help you grow your startup. Check them out.

 

Gorkana

Gorkana is a UK media database that helps PR professionals track, monitor and interact with journalists. The service also provides the features to build and organize analysis and reports as they matter to the user. Moreover, Gorkana can also be used to create and conduct short surveys and receive results within minutes.

The service is mostly criticized cause of the information in the database, itself. Users say that contacts they’re looking for aren’t in the database, local databases are not updated, and outdated information.

 

GetPRcontacts

If you’re looking for a fast, easy and affordable solution to build your media list, check out this online database. GetPRcontacts is an international database that contains contacts of media, governmental and non-governmental organizations and institutions worldwide.

Contacts are organized in a map. After you select regions, or country, you can filter the media by category and type. The database is updated on a weekly basis. The cost per e-mail contact starts from 0.06€.

The cons of GetPRcontacts are that the service isn’t an integrated software solution for all your PR activities, but just a plain database. But, if you want to spare money on unnecessary features and know how to get the best out of your media list, you should definitely try it.

 

Trendkite

With Trendkite, you discover the most powerful people writing about your competitors, industry, and relevant key trends.

TrendKite’s PR software helps brands quantify and amplify the impact of their PR efforts. It gets real-time data fast, so you can easily build interactive reports and go beyond Google Alerts. It also sends information to your inbox. You can set up alerts for daily mentions, breaking news, snapshots for your brand, industry, competitors or anything else that’s important to you.

The downside of this software is that it’s not that much for building media lists, but more for analysis and monitoring. Moreover, customers say that it often misses out some mentions and can work pretty slow, at times.

 

Help a Reporter Out (HARO)

HARO is a publicity service where journalists, writers, and bloggers post daily PR opportunities for anyone to access and respond to. All you have to do is find a question relevant to you and send a great answer. The journalists benefit from being able to connect with “expert” sources, and the “sources” benefit from getting media visibility for their business or projects, in the context of being cited, quoted, or interviewed as an expert. Information comes right to the inbox and you can see what journalists are working on now.

But, reporters reported many issues regarding who’s queries get approved. After you sign on as a reporter, you are restricted on many features, because they are only available only in their paid service. And if you put a long deadline on your queries, unless you’re a big name publisher, they won’t post it. Users also complain on a lot of ads.

 

Muck Rack 

Public relations and communications software that helps you find and contact journalists, bloggers and freelancers who cover a specific industry. You can see what reporters have written about and who tweeted a specific article.

With MuckRack you can also get alerts in your inbox whenever journalists are writing and tweeting about your company, campaign, competitors, or any keywords and trending news that affect your brand. You can also monitor the news and generate quantifiable PDF reports, or raw data in Excel.

The downside of MuckRack Is that it is heavily dependent on Twitter and may miss out some important articles on other social media, since many reporters sometimes use Facebook much more than Twitter. It also lacks results for local reporters.

4 Major Impacts Of IT In Healthcare

 

technology in healthcare

 

Technology advances make our lives easier in many ways. Some of the most important ones, are the advances of technology in healthcare. Through the combination of technology and human intervention, processes in medicine are faster and doctors can bring better decisions with less human error.

Changes technology brings to medicine require years of research and development, clinical testing, regulatory approval. They also require long process for implementation, a new operating protocol and staff training.

Here are some examples of how recent advancements in lightweight and heavyweight technology in the medical sector, provide a more personalized doctor-patient approach and improved healthcare services.

 

Mobile apps

We all have a set of mobile apps on our mobile phones. Mobile applications enable people to easily manage their health and wellbeing, by making medical information and test results easily accessible online, at any time. We no longer have to book appointments, or wait days/weeks for results. Moreover, there are a lot of mobile apps that take care for our fitness activities and nutrition, which can improve our health by providing us reports on our lifestyle in no time, free of charge.

 

Data centralization

Medical facilities use a lot of heavyweight technologies to store, manage and access their data. Those centralized systems, provide medical staff with all the necessary data information, provide analysis and data synthesis.

Having all of their data at one place, medical doctors can use systems to automatically identify risk factors by comparing patient data with data from thousands of other patients. Therefore, patients get more accurate treatment, and diseases can be prevented before they cause any damage.

 

Enhanced communication

Telehealth services such as video-conferencing, online discussions, digital meetings, have made it very easy to overcome locational barriers when it comes to medicine. Since Internet is widely used in rural and urban areas, it is a cost-effective solution to complement local health services. Medical specialist from all around can easily communicate and share information with each other, whenever they feel the need to.

Electronic medical records are a great example of that. This heavyweight technology provides a more centralized approach to data and more effective communication. Previously, medical information from visits to different medical specialists were held in separate locations.

Now, with electronic medical records, all patient histories, test results, diagnoses and relevant information are stored centrally in an online location. They bridge geographic and timely gaps. They also synchronize the message, so that various specialists that treat the same patient, can easily understand and share patient records between each other. Electronic medical records collect, organize and analyze patient data, resulting in greater efficiency and reduced human error.

 

Wearables

Wearable technologies come in the form of clothing or accessories. They include sensors to send information to healthcare providers at the first sign of a medical problem. Due to the significant information they send in real-time, wearables could decrease the number of people hospitalized each year, in the long run.

These programs provide a more targeted approach for each patient. They give instant feedback, track patterns and show progress to the health care provider using data generated by the patient himself. Instead of data collected by tests, wearables help patients feel like they’re in control of their own health and allow them to monitor themselves.

With wearable tech, there is potential for a more proactive approach to healthcare. Instead of reacting to health issues, wearables help doctors and patients take preventive action before the event happens. This kind of technology, is especially useful to monitor vulnerable patients from a distance, like vulnerable family members. Wearables can help keep an eye on vulnerable patients while they’re recovering at home, to monitor them and prevent complications.

Moreover, wearables provide benefits for better self-care, also. By keeping an insight into their personal health, people get more motivated for self-improvement. This kind of technology, also has affordable prices, so there is low barrier to entry for many.

Patients get much more informed about their personal health and actively involved in healthier living. They engage in changing unwanted behavior and actively participate in care decisions. Therefore, they’re more compliant with treatment, and enjoy more favorable outcomes.

By using wearables, healthcare providers can deliver better and quicker treatment, with improved quality and savemore patient lives.

How to build a winning business model

 

business model

 

Business model is the conceptualization of how different, independent business activities work together as a whole. It is the way to create, deliver and capture value from your customers. Many companies face problems defining their business models. And this is where tools like business model canvas can help. We’ll explain it in details, later.

How you innovate through your business model innovation is much more important than how innovative your product is. When you innovate a product, you risk the fact that competition will easily replicate it and beat you on the market. But, innovating a business model goes much deeper than that.

 

The need for business model innovation

Globalization of market has increased competition and having much more alternatives, customers constantly raise their expectations from the products they’re getting. Moreover, customers do not want just physical performance, but also delivered value and value can be delivered in many ways: through performance, design, brand, operational efficiency etc. Therefore, in order to survive on the today’s market, a company has to keep up the pace and innovate continuously.

 

Product and business model innovation:

In order to innovate your business model, you do not have to innovate everything from scratch. Innovation also means, recombining existing practices in novel ways. Innovation, isn’t just an entirely new product. Companies can innovate using the following ways:

  • Novelty: adding novel activities to the business, or product;
  • Activity linkage; linking activities that create products, in a novel way;
  • Lock-in: increase customer cost for changing the provider;
  • Efficiency: achieve operational excellence, by making processes more cost-efficient.

Also, in order to innovate, a company has to have the company culture for it. That means, employees motivated to think critically, use their creativity and all their know-how and skills to develop a product the market hasn’t seen before. They also have to possess the right leadership to lead employees through the process of change.

 

How to create a winning business model:

Customer profile: Segment your market and get to know your customers. What are their characteristics? What makes the purchase?

Products/services: Get high understanding of your products and services. How are you creating them? Which customer problem are they solving? Which customer need are they satisfying.

Processes: How do you deliver the products and services to your customers? Which channels are you using?

Value: How do you create a unique value for your customers? Why should they purchase from you and not your customers?

 

Different types of business models:

There are many types of business models. We can make endless distinctions between how they generate revenues, how they innovate, how they serve their customers etc. we’ll make a general distinction between 4 business models:

Product Innovation: by product innovation, we’ll also refer to service innovation and innovation in infrastructure. The main goal of product innovation is to create unique value for the customer by ensuring operational excellence, product leadership, or customer intimacy.

Niche innovation: this stands for companies offering a large number of niche products, or a small number of trendy products in large volumes.

Multiplatform: Companies like Google, integrate their models using different kinds of mediums (AdSense, AdWords). That way, they exchange value through one another, the more users the platform has, the more valuable it is to other platforms. This network effect Is mostly used by advertisers, who target large network databases to generate their ads to.

Free: These business models are freebies, or they offer products and service for free to all the customers, but charge prices for premium version of the product, or service. The logic behind it is that, the price charged to those customers, will be enough to cover the costs for all the ones, that use both, the premium and the basic version.

 

Business model canvas

The business model canvas is a pattern for businesses who want to create a successful and revenue generating business model. The concept consists of 9 parameters. We’ll explain them further in the text.

A lot of successful companies use the business model canvas to explain their business model too operational and technical people. It shows the overall picture of how value is generated and captured to and from customers.

Customer segments: Divide your market in different customer segments. Those are people with similar characteristics organized into groups, so that value is customized to their specific needs.

Value propositions: This is the reason why customers should buy from you and not your competitors. It is a statement, for each of your customer segments, describing the unique value your product provides to them.

Channels: Channels are the media you will use to deliver value propositions to your customers. they can be direct, or indirect channels, or the combination of both.

Customer relationships: This quadrant represents how you maintain your customer loyalty throughout the process. A successful business model doesn’t make one-time, but recurring transactions. This is how you will make your customers come back.

Key partners: These are the partners you couldn’t deliver value without. They represent expertise from outside, or from inside the company, an affiliate business, or your employees, themselves.

Key activities: These activities enable you to create value, in terms of marketing, logistics, screening etc.

Key resources: These resources enable you to build value for your customers. whether it is infrastructure, know-how, people, or the combination of all of them.

Cost structure: What will it cost to generate value for your customers? where will you make the greatest cost, buying supplies, giving wages to your personnel, or..?

Revenue model: The most favorite part of them all. How will you capture value? Will it be through one-time payment, subscription, licenses, premium versions..?

How to structure a software development team

 

software development team

 

The software development team is a unity of creative individuals working together to satisfy user needs. Traditionally, software developers worked in silo environment, worrying only about the technical part of the development process. But, user needs change rapidly, which is why most software development companies rely on agile methodologies to keep up the pace. That’s why, nowadays firms try to work in a cross-functional environment, where duties overlap and IT professionals of complementary fields join their knowledge to get the accent on the human side of the systems.

Even though software systems are a technical solution, they are meant to be used by people. Therefore, characteristics like being user friendly and have an interface that optimizes user experience.  Here are the minds behind every successful software solution.

 

Software Developers

Software developers are the IT professionals doing the coding of software application. They use different development technologies and languages to build the technical solution. in cross-functional teams, they also provide their expertise on why and how a one technical solution is better than the other one. They think the logic behind the application functionalities, which is why they need analytical, logical and math skills.

 

System analysts

A systems analyst is a person with a set of technical and operational skills, combined. This is the person who investigates user needs, by using fact-finding and elicitation techniques, like interviews, user surveys, reviews documentation etc. After he collects the information, the system analyst develops a functioning process model that shows the data and processes with a graphical representation. This model, is given to developers who then have to code the application. Therefore, the system analyst is in direct contact with users and developers, all the time. Analysts help translate business requirements into IT projects.

Nowadays, this role is overlapping with the business analyst product manager, or a project manager role. When assigned to a systems development team, an analyst might help document business profiles, review business processes, select hardware and software packages, design information systems, train users. He plans projects, develops schedules, and estimates costs. To keep managers and users informed, an analyst conducts meetings, delivers presentations, and writes memos, reports, and documentation.

 

Database administrators

Database administration involves database design, management, security, backup, and user access. The administrator, often uses specialized software to store and manage data. Therefore, they need to know how to use structured query language (SQL) and database management systems (DBMS). In many organizations, database administration is one more responsibility for the software developers. However, in large companies, this is a separate role, with dedicated IT professionals set to it.

 

Web designer

A web designer is the person who takes care of how the system works and feels to the user. He is the one who selects not only the colors displayed on the screen, but also actively participates in how the elements on the website are organizes, to ensure a better experience for the user. Web designer is the person who works with software developers, and the marketing team, to make the system look and work more user friendly, so the user will do its tasks more easily, and use the system functionality. A web designer You don’t always need qualifications to become a web designer, but you’ll usually need to show that you’ve got skills in: visual design, UX (user experience), coding software like HTML and CSS, design software like Photoshop and Illustrator.

 

System support

Systems support and security provides vital protection and maintenance services for system hardware and software. The systems support and security group implements and monitors physical and electronic security hardware, software, and procedures. This group also installs and supports operating systems, as well as ERP systems, database management systems. In addition, systems support and security technicians provide technical assistance to other groups in the IT department. The systems support group often includes a deployment team that installs and configures the workstations. This professional has to possess general knowledge of computer hardware and an understanding of how it integrates with computing systems and databases. Awareness of capabilities, limitations of various configurations, network connectivity, integration and protocols.

 

Web support

Web support specialists are often called webmasters. They maintain and support company’s Internet and intranet operations. Web support involves design and construction of Web pages, monitoring traffic, managing hardware and software, and linking Web-based applications to the company’s existing information systems. Reliable, high-quality Web support is especially critical for companies engaged in e-commerce, since a large amount of traffic goes through the website.

 

QA engineers

Many large IT departments also use a quality assurance (QA) team that reviews and tests all applications and systems changes to verify specifications and software quality standards. The QA team usually is a separate unit that reports directly to IT management. A quality assurance engineer creates tests to find any problems with software before the product is launched. They identify and analyze any bugs found during testing and document them. They also must to pay very close attention to detail and coach their team on managing testing tools, reporting results, and motivating process improvement.

 

Customer service

User support specialists answer questions, troubleshoot problems, and serve as a clearinghouse for user problems and solutions. Traditionally, companies offered user support through phone, but new trends enable more alternatives, like e-mail, live chats, social media. Their primary focus is user productivity and support for user business processes.

Marketing pricing & how to master it

 

marketing pricing

 

The importance of pricing:

Setting the right pricing is a process that depends on may factors. Companies have to play strategically, when setting the price for their products. When determining marketing pricing, they have to put the perceived value of the customers about the product in terms of money. Therefore, pricing should be flexible. Customers value product differently with time.

That is due to the fact, that product rate differently in customers’ minds through their product life-cycle. There are four stages in the product life cycle.

  1. In the introduction phase, the company sets a price that positions the product. The price can be either too low, to attract customers and increase awareness, or to high to position it as a luxury product. We’ll explain these tactics in details further.
  2. In the growth phase, the company most commonly maintains the primary pricing, in order to create brand presence and market share.
  3. In the maturity phase, competitors often start to copy the product. Due to the increased number of substitutes on the market, the price of the product goes lower than before, or is a subject of promotions and lower cost initiatives.
  4. In the decline phase, since the market is saturated, the firm has options, to lower the costs of the product and offer it for prices lower than those of the competition, or to add new features and differentiate it.

 

Where pricing stands in the four P’s

Product – it’s imperative that you have a clear grasp of exactly what your product is and what makes it unique before you can successfully market it.

Promotion – Promotion includes elements like: advertising, public relations, social media marketing, email marketing, search engine marketing, video marketing and more

Place – evaluate what the ideal locations are to convert potential clients into actual clients.

Price – Price is the only element of the fours P’s that brings revenue to the firm. Price determinations impact profit margins, supply, demand and marketing strategy.

 

Factors affecting prices:

The factors affecting the pricing strategy can be either internal, or external. By internal, we’ll refer to those that depend on the company by itself. External are the factors, the company doesn’t regulate. Here’s a quick overview on them.

 

Internal factors:
  • Costs. Companies manage the resources they engage for a certain product by themselves. The lower the costs, the greater the profit.
  • Product. What kind of product is the company selling? Is it a good the mass market cannot go without (food, water), or is it a differentiated product for only one market segment (like software product for businesses)?
  • Marketing mix. What’s the current position of the company? Is it a well-established brand name, like Dropbox, or an “unknown” startup? Consumer react differently to prices depending on the brand.
  • Company vision. What’s the vision of the company? Is it to achieve a quick profit and maximize it, until it burins? Or, is it to maintain a sustainable competitive advantage? The latter takes time, patience, a lot of effort and money.

 

External factors:
  • Competition. Competitors are a significant determinant doe pricing, since they impact the same products, but the same customers, as well. Also, the types of market competition are crucial. Are you entering a market where one company “rules them all”, or a healthy competition?
  • Suppliers. Especially in manufacturing, suppliers are crucial. Are they an exclusive supplier for some luxury goods you need? Or are there many alternative choices? Do you get lower prices when purchasing a great amount of goods, or do you pay each of them by their single price?
  • Customers. They are indirectly connected to all the previous factors. Customers react differently if they have other substitutes that satisfy the same need as that product, if it is good of a choice, or a necessity, and especially if they are loyally attached to some brand.
  • Government. Taxes, pricing standards and market barriers are in the domain of governments, which shapes pricing strategy, as well.

 

Types of pricing:

Promotional pricing: The company sets some percentage of some product at sale. Those product are low quality, therefore the purpose is for the buyers to enter and buy some of the products that aren’t on sale. Customers, on the other hand, feel like they spared money buying a product on sale, which inspires them to purchase some of those that have the standard price.

Price skimming: Sets low prices at the introduction phase of the product life cycle, so that customers will gain awareness of the product. Afterwards, the prices become standard.

Bundled pricing: It’s the pricing where two, or more product are set as a package, so the customer pays one price for them. Most common practice is to put one “favorite’ product that promotes the other one. The second product may have problems with sales, or maybe it’s new, so this is a part of its promotion.

Premium pricing: When the product differentiates from the other products on the market, then it has a premium pricing. Customers perceive the product as a luxury good and its price represents quality and status.

Economy pricing: The company sells its product for a low price, or lower than the one competitors implement. To have lower prices, the company has to achieve low costs, through low cost resources, lower wages and similar.

Penetration pricing: That’s the tactic where the company maintains costs and profit at the same level, therefore achieving no revenue. This strategy is used when the company wants to create awareness of the product, especially on markets with high competition. It is maintainable on the short term, but it generates no benefits on the long term.

Psychological pricing: This pricing gets to consumers’ psychology. It sets the prices on odd prices, like 99. Therefore, customers get the perception that prices are lower and more precise. It is emotional, rather than rational.

Flexible pricing: Sets the same product, at different prices, depending on their size, for example. The rationale behind it is that more resources are spent for the bigger product. Therefore, anyone can afford it. Think of children toys, for example. A bigger Barbie doll is more expensive than a tiny one.

Captive pricing: This pricing model sells the basic product for a lower price, and complementary products for higher prices. Imagine, for example, the razors and blades. One cannot function without the other.

Geographical pricing: This pricing model sets different prices for different geographical locations. It Is especially practical in international companies. Multinational companies have to know country’s income standard, transportation costs etc.

 

Elasticity as a pricing measure:

Price elasticity of demand is a measure of the relationship between a change in the quantity demanded of a particular good and a change in its price. Businesses evaluate price elasticity of demand for various products to help predict the impact of a pricing on product sales. Typically, businesses charge higher prices if demand for the product is price inelastic. The overriding factor in determining elastcity is the willingness and ability of consumers to postpone immediate consumption decisions concerning the good and to search for substitutes after a price change.

 

Elasticity factors and changes:

Substitute goods: The more the substitutes available, the higher the elasticity, as people can easily switch from one good to another if an even minor price change is made.

Percentage of income: The higher the percentage of the consumer’s income that the product’s price represents, the higher the elasticity, as people can afford the change in prices.

Necessity: The more necessary a good is, the lower the elasticity, as people will attempt to buy it no matter the price.

Duration: The longer a price change holds, the higher the elasticity is likely to be, as more and more consumers find they have the time and inclination to search for substitutes.

Brand loyalty: An attachment to a certain brand can override sensitivity to price changes, leading to inelasticity.

 

How to choose the right software for your business

 

choose the right software for your business

 

The success of how one information system operates in a specific business depends on different factors. There are many types of businesses and information systems. In this article we make a overview on all the factors to consider, in order to choose the right software for your business.

 

Business components

Business profile represents the entire business: its processes, functions, the products and services it provides, the industry it’s in, its competitors, corporate culture and so on.

Business model shows how different business components work together as a whole. The concept consists of four central dimensions:

  • the Who: who is the customer;
  • the What: what products and services the company offers to the customer?;
  • the How: processes and activities that master the products and services;
  • and the Value: revenue model; how to make money from the business;

Company type: contrary to how traditional economies worked, today we’re facing different types of companies, due to the increasing importance of the Internet. Companies distinct for being product-oriented, or service-oriented. They also differ by being dot.com companies, existing only on the Internet space, or just brick and mortar companies, based on physical locations.

 

Information system components (IS)

  • Hardware: all the physical parts, equipment and infrastructure IS needs in order to function, like servers, disks, routers, cables etc.
  • Software: the programs that operate the hardware components. You have to distinct between system software and application software. System software contains all the operational systems that operate the computer (like Windows), security programs (antiviruses), networking programs and similar.
  • Data: this is the raw material that enters the system as an input and goes out as an output. The output of data is called information. Information is data that has a value and has a meaning.
  • Processes: refers to all the business operations, functions and work flow of the company. All of the are affected, shaped, or reinvented with the usage of IS.
  • People: IS concern all the stakeholders and end users of an application. A stakeholder is someone who affects, or is affected by the IS. End users are the people who will be using it. When determining IS functionality, the IT team has to keep them all in mind.

 

Types of companies on the Web

B2B: Those are the companies that use the internet to make business to business transactions. Those transactions can include data, money, sales and other assets.

B2C: Business to customer companies, use the Internet to connect with customers. Think of them as e-commerce companies. Companies, now more often than ever, use the Internet to position and sale their products and services online.

Web based: On the web, applications work a lot different than by creating in-house apps for companies. Developers have to make the application available for a large base of users. Therefore, user interface plays a significant role in the app functionality. A large mass of users, requires strategic organization of the app elements, since all of those users  have different demographic elements and technical background. So, web design is crucial.

 

Software Functionalities:

ERP systems: ERP systems are a set of software applications, that support many organizational functions, and unify data in a shared database. They are designed in modules that can be combined to support unique needs of a company. Aside from supporting functions, ERP systems also include industry best practices, therefore shaping the business model and improving business operations. Read more about ERP here.

Transaction processing systems: These systems help companies process transactions, like customer order processing. They are extremely valuable, since most commonly they hold customer credit card information and other sensitive data, which require an additional set of security and privacy mechanisms.

Business Support systems: These are the systems that support different business operations and functions, like human resource management, for example. These systems are job related. They require a set of extreme security, privacy and user support, to help employees do their job more effectively. Companies use them for user productivity, knowledge management and similar purposes.

 

Additional factors:

Also, a key to successful relationship between an information system and a specific business is how companies implement it. Businesses can face many problems, while implementing an application, like:

User training: The IS can be perfect for the specific business. But, many times,  IT professionals overlook user training. Information systems have different level of complexity. Also, users have different level of technology knowledge. Business analyst have to take those factors in consideration, when planning user training. They have to make sure that users use the system properly, before stating that a system isn’t useful for the business.

Legacy systems: User may be used to the legacy systems of the company. So, they refuse to change their habits. The transition period from the legacy, to the new system, can affect the perception about the system functionality. So, when determining the functionalities of the new system, business analysts have to take a look into the old ones, as well. Those systems can say a lot about what functionalities to implement in the new one, and where users face difficulties.

Interoperability: As a summary, make sure the system works in coordination with the other systems the company uses. Many times, companies make the mistake to purchase a system which isn’t compatible with some crucial component. For example, if you purchase a sales system that cannot operate with your database, you have a problem. So, choose carefully.

Therefore, before building or purchasing an information systems, it’s best if each business makes a SWOT analysis to determine which weaknesses should the system improve, or which strengths should the system optimize.

 

Related articles:

Business software: The Make-or-Buy decision

 

Why lean startup is the right choice

 

lean startup

 

The lean startup approach supports incremental organizational changes, in order to achieve long term company success. Here’s how this concept’s principles can help startups grow their business.

 

Do not chase perfection.

Many entrepreneurs postpone the production date of software products. That’s wrong, and here’s why. Traditional approach says that everything has to turn out great the first time around. That’s right, but not for startups. Well established companies already know which markets they serve. Also, marketing and PR have already done their part in establishing a reputable brand name. Therefore, they already have the information they need to build a nearly perfect product.

Startups, on the other hand, work under extreme uncertainty. They cannot ever be 100% sure that customers will love using their product. They cannot even be sure which market segment they serve. Therefore, they have to learn. And the best way to do that, is to learn by the customers themselves. That’s why lean stands for imperfection. According to lean principles, releasing a minimum valuable product is good, because it gives you more time to learn about your customers. We’ll explain that in details further.

 

Prototype.

You cannot learn what your customers want, unless you give them a product that works. But, here’s the catch. Do not overdo it. For the first release, make sure you have a product that contains the basic features, so you can start learning. Sometimes, prototyping doesn’t include an actual product. It also can be improvised, by using explainer video of how the product is supposed to work. We recommend this option only if you have a very limited budget and cannot afford building the actual product.

When you have a basic product, test it in front of real customers. Testing in product development is very similar to how testing works in science. First, you develop a hypothesis. Afterwards, you do experiments on it. The less time you need for testing, the greater the learning speed.

 

Test it.

Use different kinds of methods to gather information and do your tests. Surveys are okay, but they cannot help you observe the actual user behavior. Therefore, use interviews to gather information, like: What is it that the user struggles with? Are you lacking an important feature? Do you have some features they don’t need? Or, are there some external factors that influence their behavior?

Testing can provide you with a great valuable lesson. You may learn that you need to enhance the network effect. Therefore, users will need approval from their friends’, before they start using the app. The more users adapt it, the greater the value. Users have problems. And testing should provide you with the solution to that problem.

 

Learn fast.

Testing is useless until you use it to learn what customers want. And if you want your startup to grow, you have to learn fast. Use iteration to get acquainted with customer needs. Often, customers don’t even know what they want. Meet their unmet need. Listen to them to unlock the product value.

The main goal of lean is to minimize the waste. The faster you learn, the lower the waste. Testing provides you with real customer data. Use it to excel the next version of your product. Create a product, strong enough for you to start learning. Do not build product improvements, unless you test that your customers want it. Any work that goes beyond the minimum valuable product is a wasted time. Do not work harder. Work smarter.

 

Measure your results.

No startup growth can be evident, unless you measure your progress. Make sure you include the right metrics. Company growth and product growth are two different things. Do not confuse them, or delusion yourself that just because your company earns more profits, your product becomes better. Get to the real root cause and develop a methodology to it.

Five whys. In order for you to get to the real cause of your problem, this is a common technique to use. As the question “Why?” 5 times, when a problem rises. More often than not, the background of a technical problem, is a human problem. Make sure that everyone affected by the problem is in the room and start listening carefully.

 

Get cross-functional.

Cross-functional teams empower creativity, innovation and communication. And that is what lean stands for. A great product requires continuous iteration, with customers and between team members. It also provides a sense of ownership for all functional teams in the organization.

To get the best out of cross-functional teams, it’s preferable if you work in small batches. What does that mean? Go feature by feature. Do not release an entirely new product the next time around. Go step, by step, instead. You want customer feedback to come early in the process. A good practice for big companies is to work in smaller teams. Establish a team for each feature and test them one by one.

 

A common myth: No one would buy a low quality product.

Early releases do not mean low quality product, by default. They use those releases to learn valuable lessons, instead. That’s why lean startups should target the early adopters on the market. Early adopter are the people who are excited about new technology. They do not chase trends, and are likely to cooperate with a useful feedback about the product functionality. Actually, early adopters do not even use products when they become a trend. That is when that product enters the massive market. So, do not fear low(er) quality, when it’s for a greater good.

Lean is all about entrepreneurship. Lean managers have to be great visionaries and risk takers. They also need the right team to establish a company culture that nurtures innovation and creativity. In such an environment, the lean principles, excel.