Nearshore Americas | The New Axis of Outsourcing » CiandTblog http://www.nearshoreamericas.com Experts in BPO, IT and Software in Latin America and the Caribbean Sun, 26 Apr 2015 03:28:59 +0000 en hourly 1 Choosing an OSCMS: What to Know Before Making the Leap? http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/choosing-open-source-content-management-system-making-leap/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/choosing-open-source-content-management-system-making-leap/#comments Wed, 12 Dec 2012 21:09:03 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=23799 By Felipe Rubim In the past few years, open source content management systems (OSCMS), like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress, have reached a level of quality and time-to-market that have resulted in a larger demand for these solutions by companies beyond the traditional digital startups. These software solutions can now keep up with the pace previously owned by only proprietary or ...

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By Felipe Rubim

In the past few years, open source content management systems (OSCMS), like Drupal, Joomla and WordPress, have reached a level of quality and time-to-market that have resulted in a larger demand for these solutions by companies beyond the traditional digital startups. These software solutions can now keep up with the pace previously owned by only proprietary or in-house solutions, especially for enterprises. As with any software change, making the switch to an OSCMS should be done with full knowledge of the advantages and potential disadvantages.

First, what are some of the advantages that enterprises can experience by using an OSCMS?

  • No licensing fee: Due to the open source nature of the software, the code is available for anyone to use, without a fee.
  • Readily available support: Most open source projects have an army of developers readily available to assist users, and also constantly working to improve the platform.
  • Faster time-to-market: Since an OSCMS project leverages several hundreds of companies using the platform, new implementations are quickly shared with the community. This includes thousands of pre-loaded components created by the community that can be used by enterprises, and the solution allows the flexibility to customize components for specialized use.
  • Flexibility: With open source solutions, an enterprise can integrate the OSCMS with any other solution, without having to consider who created the code. While proprietary software companies often offer similar flexibility, non-open source solutions are typically pre-configured to work better with their whole proprietary software suite, where open source solutions can be integrated with other solutions regardless of vendor.

Now that some advantages have been identified, it’s also important to discuss the areas that organizations must to ensure they get the most out of an OSCMS:

  • Support: While community support is readily available, enterprises must choose the right company with the correct skill set for their needs. There are many options, and choosing the right match requires additional research.
  • Choosing the right updates: The OSCMS community will release new versions and enhancements, but in the end it’s up to the enterprise to plan their own roadmap and strategy so they know which enhancements are best for their use.
  • Training: Since the OSCMS can be customized for individual enterprise use, each company will likely have to train new internal support teams so they know how to best use the solution to meet the organization’s goals.

We have seen OSCMS provide real benefits to our enterprise customers. As with any new project, it’s important to have put a plan in place so the organization can take full advantage of the benefits that an open source solution can provide. It’s also helpful to know that businesses don’t have to jump into this project alone. There are a lot of experts within the community who have worked with OSCMS before and can pull from this experience to provide guidance and best practices to help pick the best tool to meet the company’s unique business needs.


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Bringing SulAmérica into Mobile Health World with New App http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/bringing-sulamrica-mobile-health-world-mobile-app/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/bringing-sulamrica-mobile-health-world-mobile-app/#comments Mon, 22 Oct 2012 15:45:28 +0000 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/?p=22847 As smartphones grow in popularity worldwide, more companies are realizing the power that these devices have in reaching customers. One industry where the use of smartphones is growing is insurance.  Many companies are creating their own mobile apps to reach customers and make their lives easier. We at Ci&T recently had the privilege of working with SulAmérica to design and ...

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As smartphones grow in popularity worldwide, more companies are realizing the power that these devices have in reaching customers. One industry where the use of smartphones is growing is insurance.  Many companies are creating their own mobile apps to reach customers and make their lives easier. We at Ci&T recently had the privilege of working with SulAmérica to design and launch its first mobile app for its health plan customers.

SulAmérica is one of Brazil’s largest independent insurance companies. Ci&T’s high-performance teams were tapped to design and launch its app for the iPhone and Android. The new app offers SulAmérica’s health plan customers digital ID cards, on-the-go access to plan and claims information and a comprehensive list of accredited doctors and pharmacies throughout Brazil, all at their fingertips.

The digital ID cards included in the first version of the app free up members from always carrying actual, and sometimes multiple, ID cards in their wallets. The app also provides claim status updates, detailed information about individual plans, as well as SulAmérica company policies and a searchable database of accredited doctors and pharmacies in Brazil. Users can search by specialty and location and save their favorites for easy future access.

Since most people rarely leave the house without their smartphones, the goal of the SulAmérica project was to provide customers with valuable information they may need on the go. The current app is the first step in bringing the company into the world of mobile healthcare, and we are already working with the SulAmérica team to make the second version of the app more robust, by adding additional services to meet their customer’s evolving needs.

Our team utilized the Google App Engine cloud environment to build the app. We have been working with this cloud environment on many successful projects, and joined the Google Cloud Platform Partner Program this summer. On our projects, including this one for SulAmérica, we have experienced the secure and robust integration with backend IT systems that Google App Engine allows. While most apps are developed with standard platforms such as Java and .NET, we are proud to lead the trend of leveraging the cloud for application development and provide our customers with the benefits of its speed, cost-savings, reliability and security.

As SulAmérica continues their mobile journey, we hope that other companies in healthcare and additional industries will learn from their example and start creating mobile apps of their own to benefit customers. In today’s world, success is in providing information to your customers where and when they need it. We are helping SulAmérica achieve this goal, and look forward to the next steps in the project’s evolution.


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Cloud Predictions for 2013: PaaS, Big Data & Much More http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/cloud-predictions-2013-paas-big-data/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/cloud-predictions-2013-paas-big-data/#comments Thu, 04 Oct 2012 15:51:29 +0000 http://nearshoreamericas.com/?p=22497 By Daniel Viveiros As we enter the final quarter of 2012, now is the time to consider what has happened this year, but more importantly, what is to come in 2013. 2012 has been a big one in terms of cloud computing, especially to the team at Ci&T. We joined the Google Cloud Platform Partner Program as a Services Partner ...

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By Daniel Viveiros

As we enter the final quarter of 2012, now is the time to consider what has happened this year, but more importantly, what is to come in 2013.

2012 has been a big one in terms of cloud computing, especially to the team at Ci&T. We joined the Google Cloud Platform Partner Program as a Services Partner this summer and also kicked off our relationship with one of Brazil’s largest independent insurance companies to migrate its electronic sales system to the cloud.

I’m certain our cloud momentum will continue in 2013 and I predict that businesses as a whole will do the same. Based on the cloud’s growth in popularity this year and what we’re hearing about customers’ future plans, I’d like to make some educated guesses about the major cloud computing trends for 2013:

· Platform-as-a-Service in the Enterprise: While Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) has been used in gaming and websites for years, IT innovators have also identified that it is an enterprise-ready technology. In 2013, I strongly believe that growing numbers of large, multinational organizations will be adopting the architecture due to its highly reliable and scalable qualities. With its high availability and developer-friendly features, Platform-as-a-Service will allow organizations to move forward with cloud migrations quickly, economically and with minimal changes to existing IT infrastructure.

· A Match Made in IT Heaven – Big Data and the Cloud: Companies all around the globe are drowning in Big Data right now, but the high volume is only half of the problem. The other half is figuring out how to actually derive meaning from it. While traditional business intelligence (BI) can do this, it is often limited to specific point of views and too-complex-to-process amounts of data. In the next year, the cloud will take enterprise data analysis to the next level. With unlimited computational resources, companies will create and process huge datasets quickly and easily. In addition, since companies will only pay for the computational power they use, the cloud offers a significantly lower investment than a traditional BI approach.
· IaaS and PaaS – Best of Both Worlds: Increasingly organizations have been mixing Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and PaaS, to create a synergy that maximizes the benefits of both. I anticipate this will gain even more momentum in 2013 as major cloud vendors have made moves to ensure that their IaaS and PaaS offerings are complementary. Due to this, more and more software architects will be able to design the absolute best architectures for their organizations, using the ideal and most-needed features from each service.
· The Cloud and Application Development – Perfect Together: In case you didn’t realize already, I believe cloud is the most promising new advancement in software development to come along in years. Today, progressive organizations are leveraging the cloud in application development due to its speed, cost-savings and increasing reliability and security. I predict that in 2013 and 2014, the standard Java and .NET hosted, on-premise infrastructures will lose market share, and that new architectures will arrive that use these languages blended with cloud components and platforms. This will be especially popular for new development projects, as enterprises seek to take advantage of cloud infrastructures.

We’ll have to wait and see what 2013 brings us for the cloud and other technologies, but the reality is that cloud popularity is growing as its benefits – and subsequent risks – are better understood than ever before. Enterprises need to keep pace and embrace how the cloud can help their business before they are left behind!


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Leaping Over Technical Debt Roadblocks in Software Development http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/leaping-technical-debt-roadblocks-software-development/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/leaping-technical-debt-roadblocks-software-development/#comments Thu, 20 Sep 2012 12:35:51 +0000 http://nearshoreamericas.com/?p=22213 By Felipe Rubim  With similar characteristics to financial debt, the term technical debt was created to explain how those “not so great but necessary” architectural and design decisions that are made during the software development process ultimately become a loan against a project. Similar to a bank loan, these project loans incur interest over the project’s lifetime and are potentially ...

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By Felipe Rubim

 With similar characteristics to financial debt, the term technical debt was created to explain how those “not so great but necessary” architectural and design decisions that are made during the software development process ultimately become a loan against a project. Similar to a bank loan, these project loans incur interest over the project’s lifetime and are potentially harmful to the project outcomes.

An experienced and skilled high-performance team will identify the potential hazards of technical debt, and understand that every situation where the debt is not paid back in full (or not amortized, to continue the comparison) makes the eventual solution more challenging to maintain and evolve – and ultimately the debt more difficult to pay back.

It is imperative that developers fully understand the types of technical debt in order to avoid increased risk.  Companies must also seek out knowledgeable development teams that can ensure successful management of debt during projects.  Let’s talk a little about the different kinds of technical debt.

In general, there are three types:

  • Domain Knowledge: Not knowing the complete business domain at the outset of a project can be detrimental.  As the project continues and more light is shed about the new requirements, there will inevitably be changes to the architecture and design. This lack of domain knowledge directly impacts the project, requiring unnecessary rework.
  • Prudent Design Decisions: Due to various factors (e.g. time), the team may decide to use a framework that is not the best for the solution, but that will suit the purpose at that moment. When this decision is made, the team already knows that an update will be necessary so future enhancements will not be impacted, but even with this knowledge, the framework is still implemented.
  • Sacrificing Best Software Development Practices: For example, not conducting proper design, code review, unit testing and refactoring when necessary.

As you can see, it is inevitable that most projects will incur some form of technical debt, making measuring and monitoring the risks critical. Smart developers must track technical debt and correlate it with the team’s activities and velocity in the upcoming sprints. The greater the technical debt, the harder it will be to change the application and the more slowly the team will perform. As performance slows, risks increase that the team will not be able to deliver the agreed project outcomes and value on time.

A clear example of technical debt in a project is Internet Explorer 6. With its lack of standards and security flaws, IE6 forced website developers to spend much more than time typically spent developing for other browsers.  In addition, an old legacy system that adds functionalities without taking the proper time for refactoring and redesign is likely hampered by debt. At different levels, all major products that are developed have already accrued (or will accrue) technical debt, making it appear seemingly impossible to avoid.

Overall, it’s quite difficult to prevent technical debt from occurring. In software development, decisions must be weighed against several factors, all of which may lead to technical debt. You can alleviate it though, by looking at the playbook of successful high-performance teams who know you can prevent technical debt from growing by tracking it effectively and taking every opportunity to amortize it or pay it back in full.

When selecting a development team for a project, it’s critical for the stakeholders to ask about technical debt: How has the team tackled it in the past? What is their worst-case scenario plan? By understanding a team’s knowledge of and preparedness for technical debt, the client will fully understand if this team is qualified to take on its project and lead it to a successful outcome.

 

 

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The Lean Startup: The First Leg of the Lean Journey – Part Two http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/lean-startup-leg-lean-journey-part-2/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/lean-startup-leg-lean-journey-part-2/#comments Tue, 28 Aug 2012 16:30:41 +0000 http://nearshoreamericas.com/?p=21766 In the first part of  this post, I discussed what it means to be Lean and how continuing with the Lean path is truly fundamental to continuing true company success, though many Lean Startups may not carry this philosophy forward as they grow. In this post, I’ll discuss why and how startups can continue their Lean journey. The Lean philosophy ...

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In the first part of  this post, I discussed what it means to be Lean and how continuing with the Lean path is truly fundamental to continuing true company success, though many Lean Startups may not carry this philosophy forward as they grow. In this post, I’ll discuss why and how startups can continue their Lean journey.

The Lean philosophy emphasizes an endless journey of organizational learning. My advice, as a Lean practitioner and entrepreneur, is that any entrepreneur can learn about the following ideas and tools as soon as his company starts to grow, and adapt them to its specific situation.

Here are some of the tools that can help a Lean Startup become a Lean organization once that are embraced and implemented,:

Value Stream Mapping:  This is a method that creates a big picture of all processes occurring during the various steps of a company’s relationship with its customers. The goal is to map material and information flow through the process and measure both waste and value-added timing. It’s a fundamental tool for identifying bottlenecks and sources of waste.

The 5 S’s: A set of very simple workspace organizational principles that, unfortunately, many companies tend to ignore. They focus on promoting visual order, organization, cleanliness and standardization, and include:

Sort: The first step in making a workspace clean and organized

Set in Order: Organize, identify and arrange everything in a work area

Shine: Regular cleaning and maintenance

Standardize: Make it easy to maintain; simplify and standardize

Sustain: Continue what has been accomplished

Visual Displays & Controls: The use of visual displays for quick recognition of the information being communicated within the organization in order to increase efficiency and clarity. They include:

Andons: Signboards with embedded alerts, crucial to quality control systems.

Kanbans: A visual and physical signaling system that ties together the JIT (just-in-time) production.

Continuous Improvement and Planning: Fundamental processes and rituals are crucial to a Lean organization as they allow the company to create consensus among all stakeholders about optimization needs, solutions and goals. They include:

PDCA (plan-do-check-act): An iterative four-step management method used to control and optimize a process. PDCAs are a great way to formalize the “build-measure-learn” iterations of a Lean Startup.

Kaizen: Practices and rituals designed to involve stakeholders in the discussion of issues, to find solutions and to create changes in the processes to ensure the issues do not occur again.

A3 Management: A simple-to-understand mechanism for fostering deep thinking, thorough analysis, a problem-solving attitude and follow-up action. A3 eases consensus-building and paves the way for the quick and easy implementation of changes. It’s applicable to all areas of the business, including HR, finance, IT, help-desk, production and others.

Hoshin Kanri: A method that helps the organization to focus on a shared goal to communicate the goal to its leaders and involves leaders in planning to achieve the goal and to hold participants accountable for achieving their part of the plan.

Seem daunting? This is just the beginning. There are a host of other processes and tools in the Lean toolkit. But remember – the path to Lean is a journey, not a quick fix. The principles outlined above and others that comprise the Lean arsenal should be implemented methodically in a way that makes sense for each individual company. Take it from someone who’s been there.  Once you start implementing Lean principles in your own company and begin reaping the rewards, you’ll want to continue down the path toward becoming a fully Lean organization.

Make Lean Your Philosophy

The Lean Startup approach is great, but it’s also relatively new as a concept and therefore lacks data to support its effectiveness. For this reason, it has yet to produce a true juggernaut of a success story. As more and more startups using the Lean Startup approach become successful companies, the question of which organizational process is best to employ will become increasingly important. Eric Reis points the way toward embracing additional principles in “The Lean Startup”.

“As a successful startup makes the transition to an established company, it will be well poised to develop the kind of culture of disciplined execution that characterizes the world’s best firms, such as Toyota.”

The word “culture” is key here. Above all, Lean is a philosophy wrapped around a big set of processes and tools. It’s not just a set of guidelines to optimize a company’s operation but a way of thinking that needs to be woven into every aspect of the organization.

By embracing Lean principles and introducing the processes and techniques I’ve listed here, startups can ensure that they continue to deliver value and eliminate waste as they scale into viable, successful companies.

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The Lean Startup: The First Leg of the Lean Journey, Part One http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/lean-startup-leg-lean-journey-part/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/lean-startup-leg-lean-journey-part/#comments Tue, 14 Aug 2012 17:41:56 +0000 http://nearshoreamericas.com/?p=21498 The Lean Startup concept, developed by Eric Reis, has become well entrenched in the mainstream. Heck, Eric’s even gone on to published a book about it. Though I think it’s the best and most consistent framework currently available for entrepreneurs to methodically evaluate their ventures and solidify their growth engines, what happens when you get a product into the market ...

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The Lean Startup concept, developed by Eric Reis, has become well entrenched in the mainstream. Heck, Eric’s even gone on to published a book about it. Though I think it’s the best and most consistent framework currently available for entrepreneurs to methodically evaluate their ventures and solidify their growth engines, what happens when you get a product into the market that customers actually want and, as a result, your business starts to grow? Does the “Lean” focus end there for your business?

In this two part post, I’ll discuss the principles of the Lean Startup model, the meaning of being Lean, and how startups can move beyond the basics to successfully integrate of the Lean philosophy into everyday business.

So far, there isn’t enough data to show what happens next after the Lean Startup achieves success and growth. I would bet that as soon as sales, marketing, HR, IT, help-desk and other areas of the company start to grow, most of the Lean principles that guided the Lean Startup will eventually be diluted, and may even completely vanish.

A Lean Startup should strive to continue following its path and grow into a Lean organization by leveraging its founding DNA and learning how to get there through a Lean culture-building process. By embracing Lean as an organizational-cultural philosophy, and incorporating principles beyond those found in the Lean Startup model, you can ensure continuous delivery of value as you grow beyond the startup mode into a successful business.

I couldn’t agree more, but there’s a big gap between being “well -positioned” and ready. How can a Lean Startup close this gap, and ensure that the new company is built to deliver continuous innovation and value?

What it Means to be Lean

The Lean Startup model shares some conceptual tenets with the Lean philosophy adopted by Toyota in its manufacturing operations, and which has been employed in software application development to a great extent. The focus on adding value, simplifying processes, working in small batches, removing waste, the build/measure/learn concept, and asking the “five whys” are shared with the Lean manufacturing model.  However, for the most part, that’s where the similarities end.

The Lean approach used by Toyota encompasses far more than these basic – and fundamental – concepts, and many of its principles can be extended throughout the startup’s life and woven into its cultural and organizational fabric. In Eric’s “Lean Startup” book, he states that:

“Lean Startups, when they grow up, are well positioned to develop operational excellence based on lean principles.”

I couldn’t agree more, but there’s a big gap between being “well -positioned” and ready. How can a Lean Startup close this gap, and ensure that the new company is built to deliver continuous innovation and value?

In the second part of this post, I’ll discuss how a startup can move to the next step, go beyond the basics of Lean, and integrate it as a philosophy that permeates the growing business.

 

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Creating Peak Experiences for Customers with an Anti-Factory Model: Part 3 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/creating-peak-experiences-customers-antifactory-model-part-3/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/creating-peak-experiences-customers-antifactory-model-part-3/#comments Wed, 25 Jul 2012 14:08:34 +0000 http://nearshoreamericas.com/?p=21196 In the first two parts of this series, I discussed the evolution of the software factory and the need for companies to move beyond this identity. In this final post, I’ll share how Ci&T became one of those progressive companies providing peak experiences – by committing first and foremost to our employees. So how do we do it? Of course ...

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In the first two parts of this series, I discussed the evolution of the software factory and the need for companies to move beyond this identity. In this final post, I’ll share how Ci&T became one of those progressive companies providing peak experiences – by committing first and foremost to our employees.

So how do we do it? Of course you can only create peak experiences (those moments when one is “in the zone”) for your customers if your employees also enjoy them. If your employees are still mostly concerned with “Survival” needs (i.e. money), they won’t be able to move up the pyramid to help your clients in the “Success” or “Transformation” layers. However, if you create an environment where employees (or “collaborators,” as we say at Ci&T) look beyond survival and find recognition and meaning, you will have a team capable of aspiring to self-actualization. And that creates the inspiration needed to surprise and awe the client.

Where’s the Inspiration?

Unfortunately, it appears that within the “software factory” paradigm, IT professionals all over the world have accepted working at the “Survival” level too easily. I’m not saying that IT professionals do not earn money enough to work on the upper levels – not at all – but with the emphasis on “cold” processes, tools and prescriptive specifications, the motivation, more often than not, is just money. Take inspiration out of the equation and you get boredom. So, when all jobs look the same, individuals jump to the company that offers a dime more. All of a sudden, the only places that are fun and exciting to work at are Google, Facebook, and Apple (or some start-up where you may not even receive a paycheck in return for your work).

But it doesn’t need to be like that and I believe we’re proving that with Ci&T’s high-performance teams. Looking from a distance, by just reading the services portfolio provided on our website, we might just look like any other company – hardly an admirable outlier. But if you dig a little deeper, and take a closer look at the relationship between our collaborators and clients, you will see people enjoying peak experiences – finding “magic” in outsourcing.

Some Key Ingredients

At Ci&T, we believe that the keys to creating these high-performance teams are:

-          Recruiting and retaining the best talent

-          Building intrinsically motivated teams

-          Developing and sustaining a Lean mindset across the company, from front-line to upper management (reference to the book “The Toyota Way,” Jeffrey K. Liker, 2003)

The first item above is pretty obvious. The second has a lot to do with autonomy, mastery, purpose (reference to the book “Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us,” Daniel H. Pink, 2009) and finding meaning in our work. The third refers to the foundation of principles upon which these teams will continuously improve: dealing with problems in a structured and scientific way, eliminating waste, and learning about what brings value to customers.

The truth is that software development is similar to all of the metaphors mentioned above: designing a car, building a house or painting a canvas. In order to be successful, we need processes, project management and high-performance teams. But you can’t stop at the “Survival” level – or, paradoxically, you may be going straight to death.

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Creating Peak Experiences with an Anti-Factory Model: Part 2 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/creating-peak-experiences-antifactory-model-part-2/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/creating-peak-experiences-antifactory-model-part-2/#comments Thu, 05 Jul 2012 23:12:50 +0000 http://nearshoreamericas.com/?p=21008 By Leonardo Mattiazzi, VP International Business, Ci&T In the first part of this series of posts, I discussed how the software development process became more standardized over time, creating the idea of the “software factory.” As development became more standardized, individual IT demands became more personalized. In this post, I will discuss how software development shops can steer away from ...

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By Leonardo Mattiazzi, VP International Business, Ci&T

In the first part of this series of posts, I discussed how the software development process became more standardized over time, creating the idea of the “software factory.” As development became more standardized, individual IT demands became more personalized. In this post, I will discuss how software development shops can steer away from the factory approach to respond to customer demands.

If the factory model does not appear to be compatible with the current IT needs, why is it still the predominant option? Looking at this prevalent situation, with the industry marching towards mass-production, and users clamoring for individualization, it comes as no surprise that a recent Gartner Research report appoints the lack of innovation as the single biggest disappointment of CEOs in regards to outsourcing engagements.

Of course, not everything that IT does must be innovative. In fact, the largest portion of IT budgets is destined for maintenance and of course the more you can reduce those costs the better. So, let’s try to examine this from a broader perspective.

If we look at the customer’s (in this case, an enterprise) needs (in this context, IT services) with Abraham Maslow’s lenses, we could see it as a pyramid, with “Survival” at the bottom, “Success” in the middle, and “Transformation” at the top (reference to the book “Peak: How Great Companies Get Their Mojo from Maslow,” Chip Conley, 2007).

At the “Survival” level, all that a provider needs to do in order to be successful is to meet the customer’s basic expectations. At this level, the IT organization is seen as a cost center, and its main goal is to reduce costs.

And soon, when the industry becomes even more crowded and we enter the third stage, only the most imaginative providers fit the bill and come out on top by meeting those unrecognized needs at the “Transformation” peak of the pyramid.

At the “Success” level, a successful provider must address the customer’s desires, which go beyond the basic expectations, but can still be understood from explicitly asking the customer: “What would you like to have?” or “What would you like me to do for you?”

At the “Transformation” level of the pyramid, a successful provider addresses unrecognized needs. In other words, one must “surprise” the customer, pretty much like Chef Remy surprised the food critic Anton Ego in the movie Ratatouille. At this level, IT is seen as a source for growth. Working at this level means seeking self-actualization – as a company, and as individuals.

However, it’s not only the customer – the industry also has a maturity curve. When the industry is new, as IT was in the not-so-distant past, there are fewer competitors, and meeting acceptable standards (basic expectations at the “Survival” level) can yield good results.

But after some time the industry reaches its next phase.  The market becomes increasingly crowded with many companies providing the same services, and differentiation becomes the word of the day. We can see a direct parallel between differentiation and meeting customer desires at the “Success” level.

And soon, when the industry becomes even more crowded and we enter the third stage, only the most imaginative providers fit the bill and come out on top by meeting those unrecognized needs at the “Transformation” peak of the pyramid. This parallel helps us understand why so many providers are still trying to meet expectations or explicit desires, while so many customers are requiring transformative innovation.

Interestingly, Jeffrey Hammond, principal analyst at Forrester Research, establishes three archetypes of software development shops:

  • Solid Utility: The “Software Factory,” with process and tools over people (ITIL, heavy and standard tools), individuals are interchangeable (thus, these companies see high turn-over). It works well with shrinking budgets where IT is seen as no more than a cost center – but this is bad for speed and growth/value generation.
  • Trusted Supplier: The “General Contractor,” where project management alone will solve the problem. There are also functional silos (PMO, QA, EA…), and CMMi certification. This works well in large development shops, but it may slow down response to new technology and still considers individuals as interchangeable. If the metaphor for the solid utility was making cars, for the trusted supplier the metaphor is building a house or a city.
  • Partner Player: Part of the business, as opposed to serving the business. These shops can be known as a “Craft shop,” consisting of high-performance teams, and creative individuals where results matter more than process.

It’s not difficult to see how these archetypes relate to the customer pyramid. Throughout our 17-year history, we at Ci&T have to admit that we have been all three levels at some point. However, we have been fortunate enough to create an environment that had the desire (and the foresight) to aspire for more, despite enjoying success while at both the Survival and Success levels, while so many other companies got caught in the success trap – unable to see that working at the “Survival” level is not enough anymore.

Today we are at a point where we enjoy long-term, collaborative and creative relationships with our clients, providing peak experiences through high-performance development teams – which puts us in the Partner Player box. How can we say that we are providing peak experiences? Because we hear things like “You guys are magicians;” “I don’t know how you do it;” “You’re coming with ideas and challenging our thinking.” Is this too much to expect from an outsourcing provider? We don’t think so, and that’s what drives us.

In the last part of this series, I will discuss how we reached the Transformation level and began creating these peak experiences for our customers.

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Creating Peak Experiences for Customers with an Anti-Factory Model: Part 1 http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/software-factory-standardization-customization-dichotomy/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/software-factory-standardization-customization-dichotomy/#comments Thu, 21 Jun 2012 12:40:53 +0000 http://nearshoreamericas.com/?p=20841 By Leonardo Mattiazzi, VP International Business, Ci&T Over the past few decades, software development has gone through an “industrialization” process, evolving from craftsmanship to a process-oriented culture. Just as the assembly line and other mass production techniques in the first half of the 20th century transformed manufacturing, the introduction of software engineering practices and an ever-growing number of increasingly sophisticated ...

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By Leonardo Mattiazzi, VP International Business, Ci&T

Over the past few decades, software development has gone through an “industrialization” process, evolving from craftsmanship to a process-oriented culture. Just as the assembly line and other mass production techniques in the first half of the 20th century transformed manufacturing, the introduction of software engineering practices and an ever-growing number of increasingly sophisticated tools transformed the way we build software. The transformation was so great that a very common metaphor became the “software factory” as we could build software similar to the way we build cars.

In this three part post I will discuss how the software factory came to be, why the evolution of customers’ IT preferences followed a different path, and how forward thinking organizations have moved away from the software factory by using high-performance teams to create peak experiences for their customers.

The idea behind the “software factory” was that with firmly established processes, we could specify the product, design it, code it, test it, fix it and deploy it. With good specifications would come good design, with good design would come good code, and with good code would come a good final product. With well-defined processes, the successes would be repeatable – hence the explosion of RUP adoption, ISO standards, CMM and later CMMi. It was indeed a great evolution from the previous ad-hoc model, where results were totally unpredictable. The criteria for success in this software-industrialization era were “delivery on time, within budget and with high quality” (all of which are just facets of predictability).

How did this nascent industry regard people? Well, people seemed to be virtually dispensable.  The mentality was, “once we have the right process and methodology, anyone with appropriate training could do the job.” With the “software factory” concept, people were the “necessary evil” until we could have robots doing the job. I clearly remember a company, just 10 years ago, whose mission was “to eliminate the need for software development (by automating code generation).” That company went under, and I wonder why…

Building software is obviously not like making a car (or any other manufactured good in a production line for that matter), as anyone with minimum comprehension of both activities can attest.  The fact that the very term “software factory” has been so widely accepted by the industry is puzzling itself. When building software you’re creating a one-of-a-kind product each time, not millions of units of it.  To continue the metaphor, it would be like modifying the parts of each car, bending the hood at a different angle, adding a trailer, cutting a moon-roof, etc. all while on the production line. Instead, software development is more closely related to designing the car and building a first prototype.

At the same time, IT usage followed a very different path – from standardization in the early days to individualization today. In the beginning, users had to be content with the standard solutions provided, because that was the best anyone could get. Only the lucky ones had access to technology, so it was viewed as a gift – not as a given. Today almost everyone has some access to technology – at home, at work, and on-the-go.

The user does not follow a single stereotype – rather there are thousands of different personas. People from different countries with different behaviors and different devices. People who use technology to shop, to play games with friends, to share their lives, to find a soul mate, and to express their identity. People who update their personal tech assets very, very often. No matter how much IT wants to standardize, users continue to make their personal choices. Power has shifted to the individual technology consumer. With a plethora of devices and operating systems and a multitude of consumer behaviors, IT organizations have no choice but to cope with that as best they can.

So we have the dichotomy of an industry that moved towards a “software-factory” model as closely as it could, and we have users that progressed towards individualization of choices. Are these two things compatible? In my next post, I will discuss how these two diverging paths can come together for future project success.

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The Fixed-Price Project Delusion and the Benefits of a Continuous Delivery Model http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/fixedprice-project-delusion-benefits-continuous-delivery-model/ http://www.nearshoreamericas.com/fixedprice-project-delusion-benefits-continuous-delivery-model/#comments Tue, 15 May 2012 20:20:42 +0000 http://nearshoreamericas.com/?p=20071 By Leonardo Mattiazzi Agile has been largely regarded as an ideal fit for today’s business challenges (for a reference, check the Forrester Research Feb. 2012 report, “Determine The Business And IT Impact Of Agile Development”). And, from our experience, the business benefit of using Agile is magnified when it is coupled with the application of Lean principles, such as establishing ...

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By Leonardo Mattiazzi

Agile has been largely regarded as an ideal fit for today’s business challenges (for a reference, check the Forrester Research Feb. 2012 report, “Determine The Business And IT Impact Of Agile Development”).

And, from our experience, the business benefit of using Agile is magnified when it is coupled with the application of Lean principles, such as establishing a continuous flow of constant throughput. This principle, known as heijunka in the Lean vernacular, when applied to software development means creating a continuous delivery model, with a fixed-size team that undertakes several different projects one after another (of course, using Agile methods in each one of them). By doing so, we are able to eliminate several different sources of waste, and significantly decrease the actual cost of these projects (in our estimates, by at least 25% in the long run), as well as the total project timeframe from “Hello” to the application go-live.

Moreover, the ability to adapt during the course of a project (as well as in real life) is a critical part of success. Lean/Agile methods not only accept, but also embrace change. On the other hand, in a fixed-price engagement, the only way to fix price is to also fix the scope, so change becomes an evil enemy. That’s why Agile and fixed-price are intrinsically incompatible.

Still, even when companies are trying to adopt Agile, often times we are faced with an established procurement process that requires a fixed-price, project-by-project model – a model that is directly counter to the flexibility of Agile development and the benefits of a high-performance team working in accord to Lean principles. The irony is that the fixed-price model was designed to generate cost savings (through competition) and predictability, when in reality it only destroys value by creating several sources of waste. If you have been through this situation (or may face it in the future), and feel you need some help on clarifying why your company should break with the status quo and abandon those practices, you may find the following compilation of sources of waste quite useful:

Ramp-ups and ramp-downs

There’s always a learning curve at the beginning of any project. The development team needs to learn about and setup the technical environment, learn the basics of the business and get acquainted with the client’s team. In our experience, the third sprint of a new project has approximately 20 percent higher productivity rate than that of the first sprint. By going through this process every time a new project starts (as opposed to keeping the same team for a flow of projects), the only guarantee is that everything that was learned is thrown in the garbage – making the project more expensive and lengthier.

In addition, during the final phases of a “traditional” or waterfall project, there is a ramp-down, as not all members of the team are needed until the end. And with that ramp-down, resources are assigned to other engagements, so accessibility to valuable knowledge becomes limited. Of course, the remaining team members will eventually figure it out, but only after valuable time and budget have been drained.

Fixed-price embedded risk

In a fixed-price engagement, any provider that wants to maintain a profitable business will embed risk into the project plan. Rather than share goals and risks, the client pushes the financial risk to the provider by requesting a fixed-price, and provider pushes risk back to the client by embedding it into the budget. In these types of engagements, we are already off to a bad start, and the relationship then focuses on risk management rather than driving towards business goals, resulting in mediocre results at a much higher cost.

Management overhead

Due to this risk management behavior, too much time and energy is spent on project management. A project’s price can only be fixed if the scope of work is also fixed. So it then becomes the job of the project manager on the provider’s side to make sure the scope doesn’t change, or if it does, to justify a price alteration by proving that the scope was not clear in the beginning. The client-side project manager is then tasked with making sure the scope is very clear, so the provider cannot later claim otherwise. Time and energy are wasted detailing the scope and formalizing agreements, turning the project into a bureaucratic nightmare. Dollars are, of course, added to the project cost without generating any value.

So with one project manager defending the cost, and the other defending the scope, often they are at odds with one another. If there is a change, no matter how legitimate the business need is, it will create a stressful situation, a negotiation that may distract them from the overall project goal and often times drain their energy to the point of burn-out.

Defensive attitudes

As client and provider project managers have opposite goals, naturally, they become defensive. Instead of moving aggressively toward shared goals, every decision is made from a cost perspective, ignoring value generation. Agility is lost when every decision must be analyzed and then approved. With this defensive attitude, it is virtually impossible to complete a fixed-price project on time and on budget.

Sales and account management overheads

When every project is negotiated on a case-by-case basis, more work is created for the account management team as well. Proposals are lengthened to appear well thought-out and sales reps and account managers are ingrained to look for every opportunity to up-sell. These may not be direct costs to the client or provider, but you can bet they are often returned to the client in the form of higher prices. The time required to start a project also increases dramatically, as a lot of formalization is required. By contrast, in the continuous flow mode, a quick intake is needed for project estimates, which are either approved or not approved by the client, and the project may start just a couple of weeks after the first intake meeting, as the team is already in place.

Legal paperwork

As if commercial paperwork was not enough, there’s also the legal paperwork. Due to the defensive attitude previously described, lawyers from both sides tend to have a more prevalent role than is truly necessary. If nothing else, the timing of the project will be impacted by the multiple rounds of legal changes and approvals required before the project can begin. One can only hope that this doesn’t happen in the middle of the project too!

Of course, no development project will be perfect, but by utilizing Agile methodologies and a Lean, continuous delivery model, we understand how to avoid the waste associated with fixed-price projects. As more clients learn to identify areas of waste that lead to higher prices and lengthier projects, we predict that the continuous delivery model will become the preferred method for contracting and running projects.

 

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