You need a software application that does (blank), you meet with the developers, and a few months later you have your new software. Easy, right?  If only it were that simple.

Most people agree, creating customized software is generally a complex process. It requires a great deal of planning, collaboration, teamwork and management. And the stakes are high. A poorly implemented software release paints a negative image of the development team as well as the organization that hired them.  That’s why the software development lifecycle requires some type of methodology to oversee the development operation.

There are two primary methodologies you should be aware of – Waterfall and Agile.  A quick web search will garner numerous links in which these two approaches duke it out as to which one is better.  However, to say one is better than the other is like saying that owning a truck is better than owning a compact car. If you need to haul a lot of stuff, a truck is better.  If you live in a very dense, urban area where parking is at a minimum, a compact car is better. The approach you choose depends on the situation at hand. Not sure which approach is best for your project? Read through the descriptions of each below to understand each one. Still have questions – feel free to reach out to us and we’ll help you decide.

Waterfall

First off, waterfall may seem like a strange name for a project management process – but it’s a common term in IT;  and many refer to it as “traditional.”  One possible way to explain the name is that just like a waterfall, water can’t go back up after it cascades downward. A waterfall project is comprised of various stages and each one must be completed and signed off on before being passed on to the subsequent stage.  Each successive stage has its own personnel team and relies on information forwarded from the previous stage. Waterfall is ideally suited for instances in which there is a defined vision by the customer of what they want. To use an antiquated example, think of Henry Ford and the Model T.  The car moves along the assembly line as teams of employees complete their assigned tasks. What starts out as a simple frame in the beginning, drives out of the factory a completed car, ready to hand off to the dealer. Using a waterfall approach, the car moves along from start to finish in order.

In terms of a software development project, the successive phases are usually broken down into these basic stages:

Research – Analysis – Design – Construction – Testing – Implementation

A waterfall-oriented development team usually consists of four roles that include a project manager, business analyst, developer and tester.  Compared to agile, waterfall puts more emphasis on planning on the front-end. Progress is easy to measure and end results are more predictable thanks to detailed planning and design in the early stages.  You could say that waterfall sticks to the script as the plan is conceived at the beginning and everyone follows the plan in proper order.

Agile

As its name implies, this methodology is about agility and flexibility.  It’s highly suited for software development due to software’s elastic nature. Unlike, waterfall, there is a more loosely defined vision that guides the process. There are no defined stages.  Agile is a continuous deployment practice made up of “sprints.” A sprint is a short span (2-3 weeks per sprint is very standard) in which products are planned, developed, reviewed and released.  But the definition of “product” can vary from project to project. Agile isn’t designed around a single release, but multiple releases, that may in fact induce further releases.

For instance, the sprint at hand may be to create a button that the stakeholders of the application have decided is now needed.  Once completed, this sprint may then be followed by another sprint that centers around the release of a new application feature. This perpetual cycle can go on for years as the software evolves.  Each sprint is loosely defined by a storyteller who creates a story of what the product at hand should accomplish based upon the input of the stakeholders. Because there is no highly defined plan at the beginning, each day begins with a daily standup, a fifteen-minute meeting in which contributors and managers discuss what was completed the previous day and agree on what needs to be done on that day.

Although the agile approach may sound chaotic, it is actually a very orderly process that allows for constant customization and refinement.  While the end product may be far different than its vision, the customer and other stakeholders are continuously involved throughout the agile process.  One of the goals of Agile is to get something of value in the hands of the customer as soon as possible. In the case of a new application, the aim of the agile team is to get a basic working application delivered as soon as possible.  Continuous sprints then take place to add new features, many of which may have never been conceived at the outset. Unlike waterfall where testing is done at the finale, testing is continuous, sometimes operating in parallel to the code development.

Summary

As you can see, each approach is very different.  While Agile is definitely the newer methodology of the two, it is readily gaining acceptance in the software community.  Both approaches have their advantages and disadvantages. As stated, there is no overall better way, only a way that is better suited to the needs of your project and organization.  Before you begin a project, be sure to find out which approach your development team utilizes.

What is QA (Quality Assurance) Automation and what are the benefits?

Remember all of the papers you had to write in school and how your teacher always told you to proof your work?  Chances are you considered it a chore taking the time to review your homework with scrutinous attention. Or maybe you were one of those that never bothered to proof it. Proofing isn’t fun for most people. Most of us enjoy creating something far more than anatomizing it for mistakes and oversights.

The same is true for writing software.  Creating code is much more satisfying than testing it in most cases.  Unfortunately, just as the failure to proof a scholarly paper rarely resulted in a top grade, creating software without ample testing throughout the coding process usually results in software that is prone to errors and bugs.  That is why quality testing is so important. The problem is that manual testing is cumbersome and time consuming. As a result, it often isn’t implemented as often as it is required. Fortunately, there is a better, easier and efficient solution available today to take the arduous task of testing off your hands.

 

QA Automation – What is it?

Many developer teams are turning to automated testing tools to perform repetitive, on-demand testing of the code they create.  Rather than depend on manual testing that is executed by scripts that are also manually created, QA Automation executes the full gamut of tests you need, when you need them. And it’s done using AI (artificial intelligence) technology.  It also reports the outcomes and comparative results versus previous assessments. QA automation allows for demand-driven testing that is consistent and reliable in an efficient cost savings manner. All browsers and user environments can be simulated with QA Automation, allowing you to test each action step throughout the program in your web-based or desktop application.  Finally, QA Automation offers a high degree of flexibility. It can be utilized as your primary testing mechanism or utilized to supplement manual testing procedures.

 

The Benefits of QA Automation

 

QA Automation Increases Efficiency

There are some things that machines do far better than humans, especially when it comes to mundane, routine, repetitive tasks.  Imagine your top programmer testing and retesting the latest code created by the team throughout the day. Is the same attention to detail made at the end of the day as at the beginning?  Machines are ideal for testing code. They can do so a million times without any deviation to routine or neglect of detail. They are the ideal mechanism to test code.

Not only does QA Automation improve the efficiency of your testing processes, it does the same for your code development progression as well.  The perpetual ritual of testing and retesting serves as a constant interruption to the task that your developers do best – write code. Why distract them from what they do best when a machine can perform the testing process more reliably.  Any disruption to the creation process creates a bottleneck. QA automation eliminates those bottlenecks, freeing up your staff to focus on creating rather than proofing.

 

Improved Accuracy and Reliability

The pace of application development today is relentless, and is only increasing with time.  This unremitting pace also increases the necessity for testing. If a machine doesn’t care how many tests it runs, then your developers can increase the test schedule as well, integrating it into their routines so that it becomes a natural component of the build process.  Outcomes and outputs are no longer predicted, but confirmed. Because the recurring testing processes are consistent, greater accuracy is achieved, leading to greater reliability. All of this translates into more success whenever code is released to production. The business is happier when the cycle time to make code live is shorter.

 

QA Automation saves and money

The old cliché, “time is money” rings particularly true, especially when it comes to labor intensive practices such as code development.  QA Automation allows your developers to stay focused on creating code that adds direct value to the business rather than spending valuable time creating manual test scripts.  While you can utilize dedicated software testers, they cannot replicate the inexorable pace of automated testing. Money invested in automated testing is recovered quickly due to the drastic reduction or even possible elimination of manual testing hours.

Technology professionals know all too well that not every test is going to be a success, and with fewer tests runs, the more time it usually takes to remediate the bugs discovered in each manual assessment.  By increasing your test frequency using automation, you shorten the period in between those tests, making remediation necessities more manageable. With QA Automation, test frequency doesn’t directly relate to added costs.

Automating the QA process is a win-win for everyone involved in the software development process.  Your developers can stay focused on the task of creating and updating applications that generate value for your company.  The software they create is more reliable, and consistency means end users enjoy a better experience. All of this translates into lower costs, which makes executives and business leaders happy as well.

 


 

Ready to Talk? Contact Us.

 

 

 

The one constant that we can rely on is change. The marketing world is not an exception – each year, month and day, there is a new marketing trend that is on the horizon. We as marketers should never stop learning (even though some of us said farewell to school many moons ago), because our industry is constantly changing. The material that was learned in textbooks back at school no longer apply, so it is time to re-dedicate ourselves to the world of innovation that brings disruption to entire industries.

Unfortunately, if you do not embrace these trends and learn how to leverage them, your business will get left behind with those yellow taxis. The following are the top 5 marketing and technology trends that we at Xcelacore believe you should embrace and put into your arsenal of business tools for the new year:

1. Marketing Automation: These technology platforms have become a must-have for large enterprises and increasingly important for small and medium enterprises as well. There are plenty of tools available to match the size of company, level of sophistication, and budget. Marketing automation tools will help you manage your marketing across multiple channels (email, social, web). Automation is essential to improving your conversions from leads to sales; automation speeds up the sales cycle and assists in engaging with your prospects in a personal way that matches their buying stage.

2. Analytics: Analytics provides the ability to find out which of your marketing activities are working and which are not. Without analytics, there is no way to understand your targeted reach, website engagement or how many users are converting into customers. Once you have the available data, you can then optimize your customer experience and begin gaining that much needed insight. There are several tools out there that can match your business needs from Google Analytics to Adobe Analytics.

3. Return on Investment (ROI): The ROI is paramount. In the early days of digital, it was all about experimenting with different channels (mobile, social, web) and advertisements to test about how your customers behave and engage. Now it’s time to tie the dollars you are spending on advertisements, and other marketing efforts, to real revenues. The way to do that is to have the right tools in place (such as marketing automation and analytics) to give you a view on your marketing campaigns. For example, if your spending $100/week on Google AdWords, do you know which convert and how much revenue they add? Or, if you are running an email campaign, do you know how many people followed up with a visit to your website, made a purchase or downloaded that Whitepaper?

4. Content is Key: While this was also true in 2015, we think content is important enough that it deserves to be in the top 5. Without quality content, inbound and thought leadership activities won’t get off the ground. You need informative, thought provoking, and educational content that is delivered to the right audience at the right time to be successful!

5. Focus on Mobile: The rise of mobile is increasing. With so many people checking emails, shopping, reading e-books, playing games, etc., it is important to heavily incorporate this new trend into your marketing strategy for 2016. According to mobileSQUARED, 90% of texts are read within 3 minutes of being delivered. An important insight to remember is that we multi-task with mobiles while watching TV, eating and doing other things that shall remain unmentioned – mobiles are always within reach and we feel naked without them.

Keep in mind that the 5 trends mentioned are only a few of the trends that will be seen in the upcoming year. Stay tuned to the Xcelacore blog and we will bring you more of the latest throughout next year. Happy New Year!


Ready to Talk? Contact Us.