Manage process, not people

It’s all about the process

I might be a captain obvious here, but supporting a process for an analyst / pm is a more important, than micromanaging tasks amongst developer pool.

When a new team member steps in, who’s responsibility is to manage development processes, she needs to find how to make business processes inside a company better.

Business processes are evaluated from various points of view, but in a nutshell, aside from developer professionalism, she needs to make sure there’s no room for slowdowns and uncertanties when product passes different stages across different teams. Whether there are delays in communication, or delays of resources for the project, or sick-days, – there should be a correct process to tackle such cases, in order to minimize negative outcome.

There’s always a temptation to micromanage issues, no matter how big the project is and how little time you have. But project manager’s job is to create a process that allows to handle various situations. Once the process has been established – keep an eye on the workflow, so that it doesn’t jump over the fence of how the process should work.

Fencing is the key idea. Micromanagement is bad, if you don’t have a clear process: it’s time consuming, it’s inefficient on a project scale (of course there are exceptions), and most important – micromanagement doesn’t cope with scaling.

So the typical steps to establish a working mechanism is to:

  1. Create the process
  2. Adjust it to keep all needed operations inside that process fence
  3. Make sure operations can connect to each other via unified inputs and outputs
  4. Optimize the process to allow painless scaling
  5. Do not pay too much attention to micromanagement 🙂

How to accurately estimate external projects. Part 1 – Delays caused by communication

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This is a first article from “How to accurately estimate incoming projects” series, aimed to help you see the possible future pitfalls. This includes both outsourcing projects and the ones where different teams around the world are involved.IT industry is dynamic. Companies change APIs, IDEs, upgrade hosting servers software, raise new compatibility issues. Of course improvements are welcome, but there is no way you will have a perfect product once and forever – it needs to be re-iterated. Don’t forget about hundreds of different environments that the system should work on. And people.

1. Client Interaction Time

It’s not a big deal when we are talking about local business (and even in such close distance email response delay time could be significant and expensive), but when you’re dealing with international clients and partners, this becomes a more significant issue.

There are several simple rules that are wise to follow in order to keep up with the deadlines:

  • Don’t underestimate time needed for interaction;
  • Client won’t run and read your email instantly, he has work to do;
  • Response time could vary, but prepare for the worst.

Let’s look at an example: you are building an ecommerce website. The catalogues structure is a bit tricky so you need to clarify where a product recommendation slider leads.

  1. You send the request;
  2. Client reads it in 2 hours;
  3. Gets back to you with some questions in order provide proper answer;
  4. When you answer him – you are already off from work;
  5. You read the final response the next day only.

Of course it’s not what may happen every time, but you need to take such issues into account before they happen. Here is what could cause “lags” on the client side as well:

  • Clarification from a third party (could be a hosting provider, lawyers, content providers, etc);
  • Interaction between departments;
  • Approval of department manager and other bureaucratic procedures.

In addition to that, there’s been quite a few times, when our clients from other countries needed to clarify detailed info with a a third-party with no people on that side speaking English at all.
The main point of this section is to make you understand how heavily client interaction lag can affect the entire project. It’s worth mentioning because these things rather frequently fall out of scope of attention.

How to avoid possible adverse effects? A checklist or a roadmap will be helpful to manage handling tasks in advance. In Codebranch, we prepare a project roadmap with Freeze dates, which are the last dates that a certain part of team-client interaction is due. For instance, there are:

  • Design Freeze Date – this is when the client takes a final approval and signoff to the proposed design, all the amendments and improvements to the design have to go before that date.
  • Functionality Freeze Date – the milestone by which the final application functionality should be agreed upon.
  • Content Delivery Date – this is when the content provided by client is due, so the client would know the timing in advance and have enough time to gather the content.
  • Hosting or CDN accounts purchase dates, domain name registration deadline – when, and no later, the accounts need to be available to the development team in order to set the environment up and deploy on time.

These dates are elaborated together with the client, basing on the delivery timelines that the client suggests, and adjusted accoring to the internal development milestones. This approach helps both the team and the client meet the responsibilities in working on a web project, and contributes into building a good working relationship.

October is for Launch. Huge announcements from Microsoft, Apple and Google: Mobile Platforms News Overview

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There were so many announcements this month, that the tech press kept whining about the jetlags and whole difficulty of travelling around the globe. And we’re not talking about the small announcements and launches – all of the three IT giants had something new for the ever growing personal computing market. October was huge for us as mobile developers, because we are the ones who will bring to life our future projects for these platforms.

This column is not about the reviews and mobile platforms news, it’s about catching up and telling about interesting events on the IT landscape.

  • Windows 8 and Windows RT launch
  • Apple event: iMac, Pros, MacMini, new iPads
  • Google Nexus event

Windows 8 / RT launch

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We really like Microsoft’s latest design language (#dontsaymetro), and we’ve been trying windows 8 out for almost 2 months now. There are UX details that many of the users might find questionable, but once you got used to Win8, it’s suddenly a pretty good operating system.

Both engadget and the verge stated that despite some unintuitiveness, the OS itself is very compelling once you passed the learning curve.

From the development side, we really like the ability to easily port your Windows 8 solutions to Windows RT and Windows Phone 8, because of the shared kernel. We will aim to write an article about the advantages and flexibility Microsoft gives us with the shared kernel approach, since we have Windows Phone developers in house, but you can already have some examples and tutorials at dev.windows.com

Surface RT announcement

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You probably heard about surface: it’s a tablet from Microsoft and the only product within the recent years that created a giant amount of buzz around itself. Fancy ads, modern music, cool video. The Verge gave it 7.0 out of 10, which seems to be pretty reasonable and even good, since Josh doesn’t like anything windows-realted very much.

Engadget rated the tablet pretty good as well, with less criticism. Overall media reception was pretty good, except NY Times and Gizmodo, who crushed the tablet.

The best review was clearly written by anandtech, these guys always make awesome breakdowns and analysis on the tiniest details.

Apple Announcements

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Apple annouced the updates to the whole bunch of it’s products, from iPad’s successor “iPad 4th gen” and Nexus 7 / Kindle rival “iPad mini” to the new iMac, Mac Mini, and MacBook Pro with Retina 13″.
Retina on 13″ is gorgeous, that’s really great! And the whole lineup was updated. Really massive launch for Apple. The only question is the discontinuation of iPad 3 (aka the New iPad) production, but it’s replaced with the 4th gen iPad, the price is the same. The Verge already reviewd iPad Miniand the new iPad 4th Gen.
What we love the most from the development point of view, is that the iPad mini retains the same resolution the iPad 2 did, so no need to fix / rescale your apps! This is the unification approach by Apple, that is loved by mobile developers.
This year was huge for Apple! The whole-new iPod lineup, 2 iPad revamps, iPad mini, retina laptops, new iMacs and MacMini!

Google announced the next Nexus lineup, along with Jelly Bean 4.2

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LG had became the next Nexus maker (Nexus 4), along with Samsung (Nexus 10 tablet). While both of the devices are very balanced, Nexus 10 impresses with the stunning 2500-1600 display!
Check out the big story on the new Nexus line by the Verge. Clearly, Nexus line truly shows Google’s commitment to improve Android user experience, and how the true Android phones should be done. In the next few iterations we can see an ultimate iPhone rival.
So, clearly the audience got a wide choice of new products  this months – whether you are an Apple fan, an Android geek or all nuts about new Windows 8 style, there are new gadgets to stand in line for!

Codebranch: an external web development team is now active!

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We are Codebranch – an external web development team. For the last couple of months we’ve been preparing the grounds to run – now the website is up, our 3 offices in Finland, Russia and Turkey fully operational, so we’re good to go!

Codebranch Website

We aimed to make our website content-centric, so you won’t find awesome charts and colorful pictures. You can find important information like what we do and how to reach us almost instantly.
The same applies to the whole approach of our company – we work in a transparent, leanand efficient way.

The External Web Development Idea

When we created Codebranch, the idea was simple: we wanted to be team which is not a spare pair of hands, but an extra brain for external development.
So this is what we do:

  • develop stable, reliable solutions;
  • consult on the workflow;
  • aim to point out possible pitfalls.

Our final mission is not just the completed solution, but also complete understanding between developers and client in the course of work.

Our Web Development Team

Each of our developers has between 3+ and 8+ years of experience. We are really proud of our team’s professionalism, but what makes us really great is shared development experience. Our team has been working together for almost 2 years, and we believe that a well-shaped team brings more advantages to the working process.

Our Approach to Development

Everything we do – we execute with care.

  • We ask the right questions to clarify important matters before we start the project. Always.
  • There are usually multiple ways to achieve a goal. We can suggest more flexible solutions.
  • We aim to point out possible pitfalls and think how to avoid them.
  • Clear roadmap, displaying the project stages in dynamics will be given after the contract sign-off.
  • English is a must for everyone in the team.
  • Project Managers are the tech people too. Everyone is very fluent in project’s technical details.

Development Services

We have been developing Web Apps and Websites for a very long time – we live webdev! HTML5 + Canvas, Responsive, Facebook Applications, Complex Frontend and Backend coding – we can help you present yourself in the web, develop an additional module to your website, integrate it with your CRM system.

We can help you with CMS as well!

  • We love the buzz and community around WordPress. In fact, we build our own websites on WordPress as well!
  • In case you are looking for an enterprise solution – here comes our team, ready for some Drupal Develoment.

If you need / use a helpdesk, and Zendesk in particular: we can help you with its customization and integration. That’s something we’ve been working with quite often for the past 2 years.

We build mobile solutions as well. Whether it’s a mobile version of a website, native or a cross-platform app – don’t hesitate to ask a quote on your project.

We will share our thoughts on the industry, as well as development tips and tricks, be sure to visit our blog and leave us a comment =)