The Transition to a Click-and-Mortar Business

Transition to a Click-and-Mortar Business

Brick and mortar stores are being pushed to make their presence felt in the online space due to falling in-store sales, increased consumer engagement online, and the convenience offered to the buyers in terms of home delivery, product variety and better deals. Such was the case with Company ABC, a prolific retailer of nutraceuticals and essential oils based in Surrey, Canada. Alex, the owner of the store, sensed the need as well as the opportunity. He took the plunge to foray into the eCommerce space. “Perhaps we could adopt Click-and-Mortar strategy and have an online solution – a website to help our customers order online as well, and have their products delivered at their doorsteps. It will increase my profits too!,” he thought. With the help of a local organisation, he created an eCommerce website for his store, and hoped to get more business. He even began stocking his store anticipating high demand. He was very optimistic about his business prospects. But contrary to what he thought would happen; extra business from the website didn’t come. He was concerned and confused wondering what had gone wrong till he received a call from his friend Luis.

Problem Identification:

“Hey Al, I’m trying to find this brain tonic, but I’m getting all sorts of other products in the search results.”

“Hi Luis! Really?! I’ll take a look.”

“Also, the site’s really slow. Yesterday I saw this Biotin supplement on discount, and I had a coupon too, which I applied. But it took forever to checkout. I gave up eventually. They’re probably still there in my cart.”

“I’m sorry to hear that Luis. Although, it’s unusual that it was slow. I’m NOT getting much traffic for it traffic for it to be slow. Also, it’s strange that you mentioned you could apply a discount coupon to an ALREADY discounted product.”

“Yeah I found that strange too. Anyway, I thought I should let you know.”

“Thanks Luis, I appreciate it.”

So, what happened?

The intention of creating a website was noble, but the execution was sub-optimal. It resulted in a glitch-riddled website that put off ABC’s customers. They were faced with a situation wherein they ran the risk of losing market share and becoming irrelevant, unless they took a dramatic decision.

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What was needed?

What ABC needed was an intuitive interface which offered provision for searching products effectively, enable faster transaction times, possess the ability to handle high traffic, along with cross/up-sell functionality. Additionally, it needed to maintain efficiency in order and inventory management with provision for automatic updates of product details. Most importantly, the website needed to be glitch-free, with low server downtime.

Upon determining these issues, Alex understood he needed to do something about it quickly. He decided to call his friend again for help.

“Hi Luis! Those problems that you told me about, we’ll need a professional eCommerce website development company with Healthcare and Retail domain knowledge to sort it out.”

“Hey Alex, don’t worry! We know an agency that can help you with this. We have worked with them in the past, we were completely satisfied with the output.

I’ll send you their contact details.”

“Thanks Luis! You’re a lifesaver!”

How did it happen?

Alex roped in an agency that his friend Luis had suggested – us. The next few weeks were spent revamping the eCommerce site. The search function within the site was optimized, and more emphasis was placed on customer experience. Features such as auto-filling of details, improved page listings, and faster load times were introduced.

From ABC’s perspective, the backend system was also improved with multi-channel integration, and efficient inventory management. Analytics tools were put in place to enhance product stocking. Self-designed banners could be uploaded by ABC itself on the site to further their topical business interest.

Upon implementing these solutions, we realized that ABC’s blog was underutilized.

“Mr. Alex, why don’t you integrate the ABC blog on to the site? It’s got great content. A lot of people are reading it. If it’s on the site, you might get more conversions, and it’ll definitely create better engagement with your customers.”

“Sure! That sounds like a great idea!”


Mindfire Solutions is a 18+ years old company specialising in offshore small team software development work. At Mindfire, we have been helping people small startups, Small Business owners and entrepreneurs like Alex to grow. We help our esteemed clients to develop custom applications tailored for their needs and also provide strategies for existing application modernization.

Laravel vs CodeIgniter: A Brief Comparison

laravel vs codeigniter

The features provided by PHP frameworks help developers to create custom web applications rapidly according to varying business needs. The web developers can further use open source PHP frameworks to curtail development time significantly without increasing project overheads. But the choice of web framework differs from one developer to another. The usage statistics posted on several websites depict that both Laravel and CodeIgniter are hugely popular among PHP programmers. Thats why Laravel vs CodeIgniter has been one of the favourite discussion topics for  PHP developers and enthusiasts.

According to the annual framework popularity survey conducted by SitePoint, Laravel is more popular than CodeIgniter.  But the popularity and market share of a web framework do not depict its functionality, performance, and usability accurately. The smart web developers always compare the features, functionalities and performance of various PHP frameworks according to precise needs of each project. Hence, the developers need to understand the important points of distinction between Laravel and CodeIgniter.

Understanding Important Differences between Laravel vs CodeIgniter

Support for PHP 7

As a major release of the server-side programming language, PHP 7 comes with several new features and enhancements. The new features enable programmers to enhance the performance of web applications and reduce memory consumption. Both Laravel and CodeIgniter support version 7 of PHP. But many programmers have highlighted the issues faced by them while developing and testing CodeIgniter applications on PHP 7.

Built-in Modules

Most developers divide large and complex web applications into a number of small modules to simplify and speedup development process. Laravel is designed with built-in modularity features. It enables developers to divide a project into small modules through bundle. They can further reuse the modules across multiple projects. But CodeIgniter is not designed with built-in modularity features. It requires CodeIgniter developers to create and maintain modules by using Modular Extension additionally.

Support for Databases

Both PHP frameworks support an array of databases including MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft Bi, and MangoDB. But CodeIgniter, unlike Laravel, additionally supports a number of databases including ORACLE, Microsoft SQL Server, IBM DB2, orientdb, and JDBC compatible. Hence, CodeIgniter supports a higher number of databases that Laravel.

Database Scheme Development

Despite supporting many popular databases, CodeIgniter does not provide any specific features to simplify database schema migration. But the database agnostic migrations feature provided by Laravel makes it easier for programmers to modify and share the database schema of the application without writing complex code. The developer can further develop database schema of the application easily by combining the database agnostic migration with the schema builder provided by Laravel.

Eloquent ORM

Unlike CodeIgniter, Laravel enables developers to take advantage of Eloquent ORM. They can use the object reational mapper (ORM) system to work with a variety of databases more efficiently by ActiveRecord implementation. Eloquent ORM further allows users to interact with databases directly through the specific model of individual database tables. They can even use the model to accomplish common tasks like inserting new records and running database queries.

Built-in Template Engine

Laravel comes with a simple but robust template engine like Blade. Blade template engine enables PHP programmers to optimize the performance of the web application by enhancing and manipulating views. But CodeIgniter does not come with a built-in template engine. The developers need to integrate the framework with robust template engines like Smarty to accomplish common tasks and boost the performance of the website.

REST API Development

The RESTful Controllers provided by Laravel enables Laravel developers to build a variety of REST APIs without putting extra time and effort. They can simply set the $restful property as true in the RESTful Controller to build custom REST APIs without writing additional code. But CodeIgniter does not provide any specific features to simplify development of REST APIs. The users have to write additional code to create custom REST APIs while developing web applications with CodeIgniter.

Routing

The routing options provided by both PHP frameworks work identically. But the features provided by Laravel enable developers to route requests in a simple yet efficient way. The programmers can take advantage of the routing feature of Laravel to define most routes for a web application n a single file. Each basic Laravel route further accepts a single URI and closure. However, the users still have option to register a route with the capability to respond to multiple HTTP verbs simultaneously.

HTTPS Support

Most web developers opt for HTTPS protocol to make the application send and receive sensitive information securely. Laravel enables programmers to define custom HTTPs routes. The developers also have option to create a specific URL for each HTTPS route. Laravel further keeps the data transmission secure by adding https:// protocol before the URL automatically. But CodeIgniter does not support HTTPS fully. The programmers have to use URL helpers to keep the data transmission secure by creating pats.

Authentication

The Authentication Class provided by Laravel makes it easier for developers to implement authentication and authorization. The extensible and customizable class further allows users to keep the web application secure by implementing comprehensive user login and keeping the routes secure with filters. But CodeIgniter does not come with such built-in authentication features. The users are required to authenticate and authorize users by writing custom CodeIgniter extensions.

Unit Testing

Laravel scores over other PHP frameworks in the category of unit testing. It enables programmers to check the application code thoroughly and continuously with PHPUnit. In addition to being a widely used unit testing tool, PHPUnit comes with a variety of out-of-box extensions. However, CodeIgniter does not come with any built-in unit testing tools. Hence, programmers have to use additional unit testing tools to assess the quality of application code during the development process.

Learning Curve

Unlike Laravel, CodeIgniter has a small footprint. But Laravel provides more features and tools than CodeIgniter. The additional features make Laravel complex. Hence, the beginners have to put extra time and effort to learn all aspects of Laravel, and use it efficiently. The beginners find it easier for learn and use CodeIgniter within a short amount of time.

Community Support

Both Laravel and CodeIgniter are open source PHP framework. Each framework is also supported by a large community. But many web developers have stated that members of the Laravel community are more active than members of CodeIgniter community. The developers often find it easier to avail online help and prompt solutions while developing web applications with Laravel.

On the whole, the PHP developers can avail a number of additional features by opting for Laravel. But the beginners have to put extra time and effort to learn and use Laravel effectively. The developers still need to evaluate the features of Laravel vs CodeIgniter according to the specific needs of each project to pick the right PHP framework.

What do Android App Developers need to know about Alexa Skills?

What Do Android App Developers need to know about Alexa Skills

Amazon has developed Alexa as an intelligent personal assistant for a variety of devices. Alexa enables users to accomplish a number of tasks – play music, get information, access news, manage shopping lists and operate smart home devices – simply using their voice. At present, Alexa supports several mobile platforms including Android. The users have option to download Alexa app for Android from both Google Play Store and Amazon Appstore. They can even use the Alexa App to manage their devices more efficiently with voice commands.

The latest version of the mobile app further enables users to communicate with their Echo devices by making calls or sending text messages. Amazon currently allows users to choose from over 15000 skills or voice experiences. The users even have option to install specific skills to interact with specific smart appliances or access specific apps, websites, or services. Amazon further allows developers to create and upload new Alexa skills using Alexa Skills Kit (ASK).

The tools, APIs, code snippets, and documentation provided by ASK help programmers to simplify and accelerate Alexa skill development. The Android app developers also have option to develop a variety of skills for Alexa. However, it is important for the Android App Developers to understand various aspects of Alexa skill development.

Understanding Important Aspects of Alexa Skill Development

Types of Alexa Skills

An Android app developer has option to develop a variety of skills for Alexa – custom skills, smart home skills, flash briefing skills and video skills. A custom skill must have the capability to handle any user request, whereas a smart home skill must enable users to operate/control cloud-enabled smart-home devices. A flash briefing skill needs to provide original content for a user’s flash briefings, while a video skill must enable users to find and access video content without invoking any specific skill.

Specific APIs

Alexa Skills Kit allows developers to choose from a wide range of self-service APIs. The Android app developer needs to use specific APIs according to the type of Alexa skill he wants to develop. For instance, while developing a smart home skill, the developer must use the Smart Home Skill API. The Smart Home Skill API defines the requests to be handled by the skill and the voice commands required to invoke the skills. The Android app developer must use the Video Skill API to develop video skills and the Flash Briefing Skill API to create flash briefing skills.

Voice User Interface

Amazon requires developers to focus extensively on voice user interface (VUI) while developing a new Alexa skill. The VUI creates custom voice experiences and enables users to interact with devices through voice input. While developing a new Alexa skill, the Android app developer must keep in mind the latest trends in VUI development – natural language understanding (NLU), automatic speech recognition (ASR), text to speech (TTS), machine learning, and Internet of Things (IoT). Also, he must refer to the Amazon Alexa Voice Design Guide to create skills that deliver voice experience based on human conversation.

Interaction Model

While developing an Alexa skill, the Android app developers must keep in mind the differences between voice user interface (VUIs) and conventional graphical user interfaces (GUIs). Unlike Android apps, the Alexa skill will require users to make requests using their voice and respond to the user requests by voice. Hence, the Android app developers have to learn how to make the Alexa skill interactive without including buttons, display boxes, and select options. They can use specific APIs to make the skills avail built-in interaction models. But the developers have to define their own interaction models while developing custom skills.

Steps to Create a New Alexa Skill

The Android app developers also need to learn and remember the steps in Alexa skill development. The steps may vary according to the type of Alexa skill. But the developer must follow the steps exactly to accelerate Alexa skill development. For instance, while developing a custom skill, the developers has to follow six important steps – design a VUI, set up the skill in developer portal, build interaction model using the voice design, write and test the source code of the skill, beta test the skill, and submit the skill for certification. The Android app developer must take advantage of the Alexa Skills Kit to follow the most appropriate skill building process.

Recently, Amazon announced its plan to reward skill developers based on the customer usage. It has already started rewarding game skill developers. Hence, the Android app developers can earn money by developing new Alexa skills. They can even measure the customer usage of a skill based on a number of parameters – number of new customers and average minutes of usage.

 

The Ever Changing Landscape of Outsourced Product Development

Outsourced Product Development

 

The users nowadays access software applications on many devices and platforms. A software application needs to deliver optimal user experience across different browsers, platforms, and devices to remain relevant, popular, and profitable in the lone run. Most enterprises lack the in-house infrastructure and talented IT professionals required to build, test, and deploy complex software applications. Most enterprises opt for outsourced product development to build custom software applications in a fast, flexible, and convenient way.

Some enterprises opt for outsourced product development to reduce development cost, whereas others outsource software development to launch a high quality software application. But the landscape of outsourced product development also has been changing consistently. The landscape is also shaped by the existing as well as emerging trends in outsourced product development keep changing from time to time. Many enterprises nowadays look for a reliable outsourcing partner who will develop, test, deploy, maintain, and update the software efficiently. Also, the enterprises emphasises on a number of factors to accelerate outsourced product development.

Trends that Shape the Current Landscape of Outsourced Product Development

Emphasis on Outcome instead of Cost

In the initial years of globalization, many enterprises were opting for offshore software product development to save money. But most enterprises nowadays focus on a number of factors other than development cost while comparing outsourced product developers. The outsourcing strategy of many enterprises focus on improving quality of the software, availing superior scalability, deploy skilled professionals, and enhancing business flexibility. Most enterprises nowadays look for an outsourcing partner who will help them to build, maintain, and update the custom software over a period of time.

New Software Development and Delivery Processes

Many enterprises opt for outsourced product development to keep the software development process fast, flexible, and scalable. Many enterprises nowadays prefer IT companies that implement robust software development and delivery processes like agile and DevOps. While outsourcing software development, many enterprises want to take advantage of agile methodologies to get custom software applications tested throughout the development process. Also, many companies opt for IT companies implementing DevOps to build, test, and deploy the custom software application more efficiently.

Mobile Optimization

As highlighted by several studies, consumers nowadays spend most of their digital time on mobile devices. Hence, most enterprises nowadays opt for outsourced mobile app development to impress and engage modern customers. At the same time, many enterprises also hire offshore IT companies to optimize their existing software applications for varying mobile devices and platforms. Certain enterprises even opt for outsourced software development to extend their existing enterprise application and solutions to mobile devices. But each enterprise requires its outsourcing partner to test the software applications across various browsers, platforms, and devices.

Cloud Computing

The cloud platforms enable enterprises to carry on business activities and trading without creating and maintaining in-house infrastructure. A steady increase is being noted in the number of enterprises switching to cloud computing to reduce cost and improve scalability. Many enterprises even explore ways to build, test, and deploy custom software applications in the cloud. Most enterprises nowadays opt for outsourced software development to take advantage of cloud technologies. In addition to developing, testing, and deploying the software in the cloud, the outsourcing partner also needs to deliver custom cloud applications and solutions according precise needs of each client.

Data Analysis

Each enterprise nowadays explores ways to boost sales by improving and personalizing customer experience. It needs to collect customer data consistently from various sources, and analyze the data to identify the choices and preferences of individual customers. Businesses nowadays require software applications and solution with the capability to collect and analyze large amount of data. Many enterprises opt for outsourced software developers with expertise in creating big data solutions. Also, many businesses want their outsourcing partners to embed data analytics and business intelligence tools into various enterprise solutions to accelerate customer data collection and analysis.

Security

The disruptive cyber attacks recently compelled many large enterprises to take their websites and mobile app temporarily offline. Several studies even show that each web application and mobile is vulnerable to targeted malware attacks. Hence, most enterprises nowadays focus extensively on security while opting for outsourced software development. While evaluating the outsourced software developers, they check how the company is planning to keep the business and customer data secure. The enterprises even require their outsourcing partners to perform elaborate security and penetration testing to identify and eliminate all vulnerabilities in the software during the development process.

Multi Sourcing Technologies

The modern software applications need to interact with various third-party applications and services to deliver rich and personalized user experience. Hence, en enterprise has to integrate a variety of third-party applications and services with its software. The multi-sourcing of technologies make it difficult for enterprises to run and maintain their software. Many enterprises nowadays look for outsourcing partners who will handle emerging issues and challenges related to multi-sourcing technologies promptly. They also require the outsourced software developer to integrate the right services and applications in the software, and test each third-party solution thoroughly. Hence, outsourced product developers nowadays have to support and manage multiple sourcing technologies in addition to developing custom software applications.

Long Term Partnership

A steady increase is being noted in the number of large IT companies renewing their outsourcing contracts. The figure also depict that most enterprises nowadays prefer long-term outsourcing partnerships. Most enterprises want to select an outsourcing partner who will help them to maintain, manage, and update the software in the long run. While renewing outsourcing contracts, many enterprises switch from fixed price models to outcome-based models. The enterprises even expect the outsourcing partner to support and manage the software by deploying dedicated professionals.
However, the trends in outsourced product development keep changing frequently. Each enterprise nowadays looks for companies who build customer software with latest technologies. Also, the businesses perform initial research to choose a company who will build, maintain, and manage the software in the long run. Hence, the emerging technologies and trends will keep changing the landscape of outsourced product development in both short and long runs.

Love Your Work

Love Your Work
Love Your Work

Among all the mysteries that is there in the world, the one that conquers everyone’s mind is the fact that “Why work is always tiring?”. Whether you ask a kid about his homework, or a teacher about his classes, or a plumber, a carpenter, an electrician, a shopkeeper, a judge, an engineer or any HR person, each and everyone will agree to the point that their work is tiring. The level of loving work and getting bored of it varies from person to person.The golden thread that binds a person and his/her work is the love for work. If you love your work, you will nail it.

It is not what path that you take,rather it is the will that you make, decides your love for work.Instead of complaining, love it and live with it! – Neha Ambasta

Going back to the school days you’ll find that drawing classes and PT classes always used to bring smile over our face, they were also classes, but as we loved it, we did well in such classes. Similar is the case of any work in any profession, when you start loving the work, you’ll do it perfectly with all your potential. Of course there always lies a motivation in doing anything. And that motivation and love together pushes a person to accomplish the work without tiredness.

Make it Passion

A senior colleague once told me: Don’t make your career around money, make it around knowledge, money will automatically come with it one day.

He was right and looking at all the prospects, I felt his words were worth changing the path of my career. Generate a passion for the work you have to do and see how time flies completing the work. At the end of the day when you see that your work is completed in time and with perfection, it soothes the brain like spa for the body. That is the greatest satisfaction you can ever obtain from life.

Stop Complaining, do it happily

You have got one life to live, live it either criticizing your work, hereby living a monotonous and complaining life, or you can live your life by loving the work that you have been assigned to do, thereby training yourself for happiness.

You are capable of greatness don’t confuse yourself with “I can’t do.”. You can create a glorious life, if you choose to love your work.Work will be an adventure for you, and when you will go to bed after doing your work happily, you will feel that the pain that body got while doing the work is also refreshing.

Happiness ripple works

Yes, you read right.Happiness is like ripple, it will come to you once you have created the ripple.Make yourself comfortable with the work, you will surely get satisfied after completing it.That happiness will push you towards your work. When I am happy, I do all the stuffs with the cent percent potential. Sometimes I am submerged in my work and still I can’t find myself worried and tired. It mostly happens when I am doing the work I love to do.

Create a motivating environment around you when you embark upon something difficult 

Environment also matters for healthy work. A work place like mine will surely motivate one for work:

Sitting on the blue and black chairs they are working,
working endlessly, rigorously, to learn, to build, to earn,
to earn not only money, but also knowledge and attitude,
knowledge which is power and attitude which is controller of the knowledge.
They are the people of Mindfire.
Environment is the backbone for them,
the coffee, the bean bags, the colleagues, the monthly parties
act as fuel for them.
They try, they fall but the best thing is that
they start over again and then they win!
They are the people of Mindfire.

When such environment is not available, create them and motivate yourself for working.

Scribble positive affirmations

Affirmation which I make to generate love for the work:

  • It is my responsibility to do it and I will learn a lot from this, which will help me building a better future.
  • Complete this, you will get a better work after this.
  • Work hard now, don’t leave anything for regret!
  • Will travel to a good place after sometime. (promises :p)

Take a choice, be a better one. Compare yourself with the you who “was” and the one who you “are”. And take an action for the person who you “will be”. Compete with yourself!

Love your work!

Software Product Development: 10 Steps to Find the Right Partner

Software Product Development

A groundbreaking idea is all you need, but is it truly so? There are way too many technical and time-related challenges that befall the way. Then there are tighter operating budgets & the dreadful smart competitors. What if you do not have an in-house team for Software Product Development to bring your ideas to life? Or if you would like to get a product developed by professionals who are experts in both domain and technology – would it cost a fortune? Wouldn’t it be a dream come true if companies could materialize all the ideas they had all by themselves?

In today’s fast-paced world driven by technology, having a product development partner is the best bet for businesses. Not only does it allow existing internal teams to focus on the core business and products but also allows parallel innovation, brings in external benchmarked processes, ideas into the development process itself, helping your product get refined.

Borrow from Flashapply.com what you can afford to pay: Check your current debt-to-income ratio and take a loan accordingly. Ideally, the total EMIs of your debts shouldn’t be more than 40 percent of your income.

But how do you decide if your software product development is in the right hands? What are pros and cons of having an external partner? How far can you trust them, what are the questions you should ask them and more importantly, what are the questions you could ask yourself before you get started! In this white paper, we discuss the freakiest challenges of business owners and a step by step approach to effectively research, evaluate and join hands with a product development partner best suited to their business.

The Core Challenges Persist

Choosing a software product development partner can be intimidating at times, primarily because of the difficulties and challenges you can face in finding them and getting to trust their capabilities and delivery capacities. These challenges can be categorised into 3 major buckets -Strategic, Operational and Technical.

Strategic Challenges

An ideal product development partner starts the ground work with you, and that ideal-ness is not very common. Launching a new product or service to your audience requires a lot of planning and careful calculation of things that may go wrong. Businesses tend to ignore the strategic approach and get straight to execution and most product developers would want to get engaged straight into the revenue generation cycle.

The most common strategic roadblocks that enterprises face are –
• Lack of visionary guidance on the development partner’s end
• Unawareness of best practices and domain expertise
• Minimal of or no agreement policies regarding involvement of customer teams
• Limited or ignored post development support

Operational Challenges

In a perfect world, a software product development partner should be able to unravel their grasp on the SDLC (Software Development Lifecycle). Businesses tend to plunge into costs and deadlines too soon totally ignoring the collaborative approach, time mapping, circumstance analysis that is crucial to draw project outlines.

Some of those notable operational negligence factors are-
• Unclear nature of contacts
• No proper disaster consideration
• Shallow SLAs and IPR policies
• Not gathering enough proof of operational excellence
• Not thinking scalability through

Technical Challenges

Even after clearing all of these scrutiny levels discussed above, another challenge can be that the product development vendors favour the technologies they have strong expertise on and push the clients into believing that those technologies are the best fit for the product being developed. This is not just scary but unethical as well. The right infrastructure decides the fate of a product development project in an instant. There’s no validation for the said partner’s team size, claimed certifications and infrastructure. The only way to find that out is nosing every little detail they provide and losing valuable time.

Technical challenges can be of various kinds-
• Lack of claimed agility and availability
• Retention issues despite larger team capabilities and size
• Outdated technology (licenses, hardware)

Having laid out the challenges let’s discuss a step by step procedure of how businesses evaluate a product development vendor to eventually partner with them.

Choosing the Right Software Product Development Partner:

1. Answering Crucial Questions First

Time
Urgency is good, haste is not. The vaguest assumption made frequently while outsourcing software product development is the correct assessment of estimated time. Everyone one talks about it, but no one means it. Everyone takes delays and shifting of deadlines as a normal occurrence. Despite the norm, a vendor who establishes realistic and un-compromised deadlines shows early signs of a perfect partner for product development.
Decision makers must look out for time-related seriousness while evaluating various vendors. Asking questions about delivery deadlines and putting those deadlines on paper gives the idea owner a stronghold. Furthermore, time can be translated into a monetary asset to create a solid foundation for subletting your development projects.

Cost
Price is always a deciding factor in any purchasing decision. While searching for a product development partner, the pricing might get very competitive among industry players. It’s been truly said – Pay Peanuts, Get Monkeys. Even though budget needs to be controlled, businesses should be a little liberal and not look at pricing alone as the key factor while selecting their vendor. In software development projects, the prices provided are almost ballpark ones with an expected deviation of about 15%.
Laying out the end to end scope of work beforehand with reasonable buffers can save additional estimates and unruly demands of a vendor mid-project. Another important factor while finalizing a product development partner is fixing the percentage of inflation. The best way to keep costs under your control is clearly communicating about an open pricing model and a detailed discussion on costs that might appear post signing the contract.

2. Seeking Technical Expertise

Apart from deadlines and price, technical expertise plays a crucial role in determining the right product development partner. Does your prospective partner analyse and benchmark technical best practices? Do they value a sustainable and scalable architecture? Do they quote success stories with a leading technology? If the answer is yes you’ve found the ideal partner.
A product development partner must be technologically sound and equipped to take over critical situations ad gaps. They should have the knowledge of involved tools and mechanisms at their fingertips, and their workforce must have at least a couple of technology translators and demonstrators to answer any query in the discussion phase, helping businesses make a well-informed decision.
A software development service provider must be equipped with a mature talent pool comprising of knowledgeable engineers and sharp team leads and managers. Not every product development partner will have the honesty to declare but businesses must always place keen interest in finding how many projects the vendor is running at a certain point and whether they have the technical capability to provide exclusive attention to your projects. This can only be possible if they dedicate selective technical experts as full-time caretakers of your business’ project.
It is also imperative to figure out the health of the vendor’s infrastructure including but not limited to their server specifications, telecom bandwidth, network security, backup and, disaster preparedness. It is always safer to keep track of these minute technical details and ensuring that their systems are robust enough for optimum delivery.

3. Determining Business Expertise

The biggest most common flaw in the world of technology is that while we select a product development partner we focus on cost, timeline, technology and side-line the most critical element involved, the line of business. It should be of utmost priority for businesses to figure out whether or not the vendor has the familiarity with your business and relevant domain expertise.
Decision makers must invest time gathering information on skillsets and the company’s in the particular niche that the business operates in. Supported customer references, testimonials, and case studies can determine this competence and help businesses qualify the best vendor. While determining the business excellence, it is also advisable to conclude the speed at which the organisation updates itself to adhere to business changes that affect their customer. A vendor that looks for the watering can when the cat’s tail is on fire can’t do well to your business.

“So Far, So Good? The Full Case Study can be downloaded by clicking Here. No Email ID’s/phone numbers required”

4. Foresee & Forecast

There a steep possibility that a product you have in mind already exists or a similar product is being built elsewhere. Competing is healthy but trying to sell a product that’s not one of a kind has its own downsides. Assessing your prospective partner on those lines can do wonders.
Are they adding value? Are they intuitive enough to get into details of the market? Choose a vendor that can reduce time to action when you have the need to ramp up and add additional features, build differentiation for you and is open to feedback and alternatives. At the same time, business owners must analyse the risks that may follow if the project needs to be ramped down.
Developing a product is a long time affair comprising of multiple stages and phases. In every stage, the control must always be with the core business stakeholder – you. Asking questions pertaining to transparency, communication processes and reviews help in preventing problems in the future.
Product development is a long time affair. It contains numerous stages and phases that are required to be managed equally, and therefore, a partner must have a mature process and a competent management that regularly communicates progress and follows sound relationship management that practices transparency. Maintaining a constant comfort zone is important too, ask and understand the processes that suit your business and see if your vendor is comfortable advocating them.
As your business grows or undergoes divestitures, said product development might switch priority levels. Ensuring that the product development partner is able to provide you scalability options right from the beginning can save monetary, time and resource losses to both the customer and vendor. For example, there can be scenarios where your legacy applications are a good fit for new product development and there can be a potential cost saving. If your vendor highlights such avenues voluntarily, they’re most likely to be a great partner.

5. Protecting rights and competitor leaks

Businesses often face situations where an ideal product development partner is also a partner to a competitor organisation or is pitching similar clients. How do you guarantee the protection of your intellectual property and that your ideas are not being exploited by the vendor for gains?
Protecting and respecting your time, monetary and intellectual sources are the pillars of a successful partnership with an ideal product development partner. In popular product development destinations such as India, product development companies refrain from keeping intellectual rights of the products keeping the product immune from the competition.
Signing a non-competing agreement is another critical measure necessary before finalising a product development partner. It should be utmost priority of businesses to sign a clear and strong non-competing agreement. This diminishes the possibility of the partner developing similar product anytime in future, anywhere in the world. It is also advised to backtrack the vendor’s earlier engagements for a sample IPR.

6. Quality Assurance & Benchmarking

Along with technical and domain expertise, safeguard your ownership and rights with the partner you choose to develop with. They must have a healthy quality assurance system in place and they should be able to deliver it with utmost agility.
Quality Assurance can be a very vague phrase with varied meaning. In the matter of technology ask your product development partner the following questions:-
• Can they provide a thorough quality policy statement?
• Do they have the manpower and tool competency for frequent testing?
• What are the projected tests and when will they be performed?
• How much do the teams rely on automation and if there is any human intervention?
Not compromising with quality is a sign that the vendor does not undervalue customer satisfaction. Keeping up with industry quality standards is one thing, taking one step ahead and embedding quality assessments in every step of the product development depicts excellence.
It is preferable to choose a product development partner that can promise strong communication bridges not just with you but also internally. Not seeing QA as an end of lifecycle job but keeping it on the checklist frequently throughout various stages is another great trait of an ideal partner. Testing procedures must be carried out at every stage of the development, this demonstrates transparency, responsibility and an assurance of faster delivery turnaround as testing and quality feature assessment is deep rooted in their processes. The level of detail provided by a vendor during trials can get businesses a glimpse of the level of importance given to quality.
Undertaking code reviews, proper documentation, developing pseudo codes for pre-implementation reviews are some details that can be added to the quality assurance agreement.

7. After- Sale Support and Services

Imagine a scenario where you hire a development partner to build, test and deliver the product and then you have to find a whole other unit for product maintenance and support! Hassles as these can be sorted if enough research and communication goes into the vendor selection process.
It is not only nicer but essential to choose a partner who provides end-to-end product lifecycle management. Multivendor engagement is always a hassle, inconvenient and time-consuming.
No matter how careful you are while selecting a development partner post-delivery disruptions are a common occurrence. No matter how much QA and testing the product has gone under when it faces the real life troubles in the hand of customers there are bound to be problems you may not have expected.
Making sure that your partner is readily available, easily accessible and offers seamless troubleshooting services makes for a win-win situation. Setting up an expert help desk if not assigning a permanent resource to your case is a great practice and demonstrates technical leadership. It is also imperative to keep in mind the occasional maintenance, updates and, upgrades long after delivery.
That’s not the only reason, retaining the development partner comes with other perks. Be it migrations, additional deployments or version upgrades the initial minds that have brought your product life understand it the best.
To assess your partner on these lines evaluates their alliances. Check whether or not they are associated and validated by global leaders, tool vendors, third party influencers and more. These recognitions from leaders not only endorse a prospective product development partner but also assure support from renowned brands.

8. Workforce Management

Any organisation is represented by its people and is as strong as its individuals are. Analysing the team structure of a prospective partner for product development is an important step. The vendor must have an equilibrium between the number of engineers, testers, and developers at various stages of the development life cycle. If the structure of the existing team allows a blend of skills and desired headcount, check whether the partner is open to on demand augmentation if and when needed. This will help you attain a cost optimized model that is aligned with business needs and will save costs incurred by a process that does not allow variable hiring or engagement.

Before beginning any discussion, save yourself time by asking the simplest question first. What is the number of employees at the prospective partner company and always go for a larger headcount number than your estimated requirement?

Conclude the team’s strengths by examining the claimed skills. Interview teams if needed to double check if the people assigned to your project complement your needs and have the required experience. Also request for information on the model of internal training, learning and development programs

Something that might seem like none of my business kind of a situation is the organization’s employee attrition rate? High attrition rates not only hamper continuity but also lead to potential seepage of information. The nature of employment of the team members should also be taken seriously and separate bonds must be designed for contractors.

9. Infrastructure Robustness and Availability

The foundation of any software product development project is the software and hardware infrastructure of the potential partner. Checking licenses, availability of hardware, quality of equipment is a must consider factor before assigning a project.
Operating systems, databases, servers and even table top systems must be in place before engaging the vendor, if not, businesses must probe their capability to arrange those before the project is embarked upon. Understanding the Networking infrastructure and enterprise security is another important part of the deal because that determines remote delivery and offshore operations.
Some other considerable factors to address are integration with other custom or packaged applications, licensing fees and hardware/infrastructure to support your technology choices for the product development. Decision makers should not hesitate before asking for proof of concepts, infrastructure architecture and basic technology tests before making a purchase decision.
You must remember that a robust infrastructure is a key to help ensure an ideal atmosphere for an engineering team to work on and deliver optimum results.

10. Reputation, Location and Others

Like any other business, the reputation of a company thrives on market demand and long-term relationship with the organization with its customers. Talking to existing customers does no harm and gives reliable feedback of a product developer. Testing out products launched by the likely development partner is another testament to their performance and experience.
Where your product development vendor is based is a vital element too. The laws in each country are different and it is important to have regulatory compliance in case you are outsourcing your project to a remote location. India has a huge percentage of overall product development companies in the world because of access to a huge talent pool, experience in software product development for almost three decades and more. Most importantly, India has traditionally been a cost effective market and continues to retain the cost arbitrage.
Most product development projects are contracted out and a common language to communicate plays an important role in the success of a project. And it is not just the literal meanings of the words used in a sentence but also the understanding of the tone of email/conversation which can make a big difference. Ensuring that the location of your dev partner is comfortable and adept in your desired mode and language of communication goes a long way in helping you communicate better.

Conclusion

An ideal Software Product Development partner can translate your precious idea into a success story or a lousy failure. Unhurried precautions and finding developers that don’t pendulum among clients for monetary gains can take your ideal product a long way.
Focus on engagement flexibility rather than lower costs and choose wisely between augmentation and contracting out your project to make informed decisions with carefully calculated risks. Weigh profits against long-term engagement and seek systematic approaches over dramatized timelines.
Finally, look for a development partner who builds business complementing applications along with technical masterpieces and is backed up by rich expertise and success in real life use cases. An ideal partner addresses your customization needs but never compromises on quality compliance and that’s the partner you need to go for.

About Mindfire Solutions

At Mindfire, over the years, we have helped enterprises, ISVs and product owners develop great applications and products leveraging our expertise, partnerships and experience which have been hugely successful. We specialize in software product development and have delivered commercial-grade systems repeatedly. We follow agile methods and believe in collaboration more than documents to get new stuff developed. We are focused on getting it done, together with clients. With over 600 excellent team members we do only one thing – Small Team Software Development – and we do it very well.
Get in touch with us for a free consultation to know how you can leverage our expertise to get your product development right. You can also opt for our limited period Risk-Free Trial Offer.

You can download the  complete White Paper by clicking on the link.

Mindfire Thailand Trip 2016

The Little and The Large

The world is headed towards the unknown. What a great time for vacation! And while we’re at it, why not make it large – an international vacation!

So here we are at the end of 2016 – on the back of a trumping victory, a demonetisation, and random other unexpected events including a noble Dylan. Many of these events are expected to make life tough for IT companies in India. And then there are mega-trends of automation, centralization and simplification impacting work and technology companies. The largest companies have sent out signals of revenue, on-site and hiring slowdown possibility.

Amidst all this, people at Mindfire start out today in staggered batches for a vacation to Thailand – Bangkok and Pattaya! All people, all expenses paid. You heard that right – all people, all expenses paid 🙂

Why and How

Someone asked why. Motivation? Relaxation? Recognition?

The reason is actually boringly un-corporate and un-tion: it’s a fun thing to do!

Another question is how this is possible. Mindfire is a little organization. Compared to behemoths with hundreds of thousands of people, half a thousand work with us. How is this possible.

People work together to create an organization they can be proud of, and the collective effort comes back when possible. While income and profit may be the goal of business, we can intermittently indulge in the pursuit of happiness 😉

A little company can, after all, have a large heart.

Gearing up for an “App”y Shopping

On Monday when I tried to open Myntra on my laptop, I was in for a big surprise. In bold letters it said,

DOWNLOAD THE MYNTRA APP NOW
Your choice. Your taste. Your style.
All on your most personal device.

Obviously, I hadn’t followed up on the news and was oblivious to the fact that Myntra had shut down its website on 15th May 2015 and became an App only platform. It is rumored that Flipkart the parent company of Myntra would also follow suit in almost a year. Buoyed by the fact that almost 95% of the traffic at Myntra takes the mobile route and mobile commerce contributes to 70% of their sales, Myntra is all set for the metamorphosis. Recent proliferation of smartphones and tablets (especially in tier II and III cities) and greater access to the internet via broadband, 3G, 4G etc helped build the foundation of an ever growing online consumer base in India.
According to a recent Morgan Stanley report, ecommerce penetration in India is set to grow from 9% in 2013 to 36% by 2020 and most of it being contributed by mobile users. Indeed, I remember, one of my friends was busy adding items to the shopping on a popular ecommerce site on his iPhone coz he would get X% discount more for shopping via the mobile app. Agreed, most of us are deal hunters and we swim with the current but who wouldn’t like a bit of a personalization. With eCommerce companies encouraging customers to download and use the mobile app, it certainly means that app only culture is in the offing. Only Myntra is the first eCommerce company in the world to implement this bold step.
Needless to say, shopping is a personal experience and Myntra is trying to cash in on this. However, personalizing this experience to a level that it is only available on your personal device could actually make or mar the profits of the company. Not all users are of the same composition. While some would feel irritated of the constant notifications indicated by a beeping handheld device, there would be others who would feel neglected with very few notifications. It all depends upon Myntra now to hold and keep its customers on its mobile because we all know that an app can be deleted with greater ease than what was required to download it. Also, there is a fine line that separates engagement from intrusion.
I have shopped on Myntra a good number of times in the past and I was happy with the experience. I may even download the app for now. But whether I will shop only from Myntra is a matter of “choice”. This is because I cannot change my shopping habit. I love to browse through various eCommerce sites when I look forward to buy something, compare prices, add items to the cart and depending upon the urgency, proceed to check out which could be from a handheld device in case I did not complete the action on my desktop.
What would be the repercussions of app only platform for software developers. Well more work possibly; demand for flawless work undoubtedly, greater attention to incorporate better UI/UX into the app definitely and increasingly better career opportunities for mobile app developers. In fact if this step leads to success, Myntra will have a first mover advantage for sure but there will be many other eCommerce sites and boutique online shops that will follow suit with varying degrees of success.
I keep my fingers crossed. At this point of time I am left to wonder how relevant that small icon on my mobile phone would be in the times to come. Only time will tell…

Winter vacation for the whole company!!

Mindfire
Mindfire Survey

Anything audacious always has an element of shock in it – positive as well as negative. When it comes to coming up with policies which benefits people, Mindfire never runs low on audacity. This year we started for the first time in our company a concept called winter vacation. For a whole week, starting December 29th 2014, office was closed and people were given this time to enjoy with family and friends. Some went on road trips, some went to holiday destinations, some joined Yoga camps, some spent time on learning new technology, some read books and most used this time to reflect on the year gone by and plan for the New Year. We ran an internal survey to capture people feedback on this initiative and an overwhelming majority, 97%, felt that this is an awesome initiative and should be continued every year.   Continue reading Winter vacation for the whole company!!

Are You Becoming What You Do Not Admire?

 

I was reflecting today on the movie “3 Idiots”, arguably the greatest movie hit in India (the Idiots are called so because they do not fit convention, not because they are dull or lazy).

We see one Idiot who grows up over the course of the movie to develop a spine, to get courage and confidence to do the right thing, to be honest and truthful no matter what the stakes. Continue reading Are You Becoming What You Do Not Admire?