Outsourcing the IT Service Desk

ITIL defines Service Desk as

A single point of contact (SPOC), which meets the communication needs of both users and IT employees, but also satisfies both customers and IT provider objectives.

IT Service Desk

With the introduction of the PC in 1981, the IT support center industry has grown. In the mid-’80s Help Desk was known as the “helpless desk” due to the poorly trained employees who had access to none of the tools that a twenty-first-century service desk now enjoys.

 

In reaction to the immature state of IT, The Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) was developed by the UK government. This set of best practices introduced the concept of an integrated service desk that is the single point of contact for all IT-related customer inquiries.

 

Research shows that the most frequent technical service at a service desk is ‘password changes’ and ‘user generation’. More and more institutions have automated those processes, but they still consume substantial manpower sources. 

 

Most Service Desks try to increase the first-time fix rate. There are two main reasons for this. Firstly, the faster the incident is fixed, the quicker workers can start being productive again. This saves the organization time and money. It has been shown that customer satisfaction is related to the first-time fix rate. Secondly, first-time fixes also save the Service Desk money within the constraints of their budget. If the incident can be fixed at the first level and not escalated, there is no use of second or third line resources.

 

This means that the Service Desk has to provide the training and development that all staff performing jobs needs to acquire and maintain the skills and knowledge required for their positions.

Towa Service Desk

 

Now more than ever, cost pressures on the business are driving the need to migrate support to lower-cost channels and nearshore delivery locations. The IT Services organization must continue to minimize the cost of downtime to the business by providing clients with a Single Point of Contact (SPOC) for all technology incidents and requests, maximizing resolution on first contact through great troubleshooting capability, and managing all escalated incidents and problems through to resolution.

 

If you are a business owner you must have considered Technical Support and Service Desk outsourcing for your company. Although there are some benefits to having in-house staffing to field the types of phone calls and emails that come through to the Service Desk, there are several advantages to Technical Support and Service Desk outsourcing that you cannot afford to ignore.

 

Over the past ten to twenty years there has been a move to outsource the Technical Support and Service Desk function, and it appears that recently there is a move to bring the function back in-house, why is this?

 

I would like to propose two main reasons that organizations are unhappy with their outsourcing arrangements, and why there is a trend to reverse the situation.

 

Firstly, many of these outsourcing arrangements have been offshore – out of the USA, taking advantage of low labor costs in India and Eastern Europe. To the customer of your IT Services, when they call the Service Desk, for help with some sort of technical issue they should feel they are calling someone next door. Whether they are transferred to Bangalore or Ukraine it should be completely transparent. However, that has not been the case.

 

The Service Desk agents in these offshore locations are technically well trained; they are even given English names and receive elocution lessons. However, outsourcing the Service desk to an offshore location may yield cost savings, but customer satisfaction is not great. Generally, customer satisfaction with these offshore facilities has been low.

 

For the IT Services organization, the Service Desk is the window through which their customers build their perception of the value of both the IT Services department and the people who run it. So if Customers are not satisfied with the service they receive at the Service Desk, it will have a negative effect on the overall organization.

Gartner identified four factors as the main contributors to customer dissatisfaction with the offshore Service Desk and the drive to bring them back in-house:

Client knowledge: When a Service Desk is in-house, whether or not it is run and managed by the host company’s employees or an external provider, these people have access to internal communications which enable them to clearly understand the business and, therefore support end-users more knowledgeably. When the Service Desk is offshore, a good service provider may try to capture the information into a knowledge database, but the information is not always kept up to date or easily understood.

High turnover: A recent Gartner survey for all IT services showed that the worldwide dropout rate was 14.7 percent and offshore it was 22.1 percent. Although this can be a problem anywhere in the world, it can be extremely prevalent in low labor-cost countries where many IT job opportunities exist and many IT Service Desk agents will switch jobs for a small salary increase.

Cultural differences: If a client has a problem, he or she will relate the problem over the phone, but because of cultural differences, the Service Desk agent may not interpret the problem and react in the most appropriate manner. For example, a client employee may have a problem on a PC and want to know how to fix it. Instead of explaining how to fix the problem, the offshore agent may take control of the employee’s PC and fix it without explaining how this was accomplished because the agent doesn’t want to bother the client. However, the client employee may be dissatisfied because he or she doesn’t know how to fix the problem resulting in another need to call the help desk again in the future.

 

Cultural issues and dialect were the factors rated highest when discussing dissatisfaction with offshore Service Desk facilities

 

All this doesn’t mean that offshore facilities are all necessarily bad. Mexico and Central America for example have been receiving some fantastic reviews and increase demand. Mexico share 3 time zones with the USA, it is culturally more aligned, English is the ‘second language and the accent is very similar, and labor costs are super competitive.

The second reason for bringing the Service Desk back in-house is that the providers are based in technology solutions, and not a customer service focus, and this shows itself in their approach to market offering and results in negative perception for both the IT Services organization and the people running it.

Do you relate to this business case?

 

One company recently asked Towa to provide a Service Desk Analyst to work with their main Service Desk provider – as a pilot to test our approach. We had been selling to the organization that our approach of delivery Service Desk from a Customer design-centric focus, backed up by robust ITIL processes, so they invited us to do a 3-month trial. The main provider had been supplying IT infrastructure to the organization for many years, and a few years ago the organization asked if they could provide them with Service Desk. Of course, the answer was yes. But shortly after the contract had begun, complaints started to come in. This situation became more of an issue and eventually raise concerns about the CIO’s performance, and the overall value of the IT organization was being questioned. The main provider had a background in technical IT solutions. The people on the desk were good, technically very good engineers, but had no sense of customer service and satisfaction.

 

In a quick period our CSR (Customer Satisfaction Rate) started to show a trend, the company increases our team to 10 staff and more results started to be reported, better satisfaction, first-time fixes, and consistent friendly support for level 1 employees. Then fast forward 10 months later, the organization grew our team to provide more staffing for level 1 and level 2 Service Desk services. 

 

Many companies get more focus on technical skills than actual customer-centric mindset.

outsource service desk analyst

Outsourcing your Service Desk to a Customer-centric provider 

 

The right partner for your company will depend on many factors, like culture, language, time zone, size, and many others. Outsourcing is a good option with the right partner.  

 

Service Desk and Technical Support outsourcing is an efficient way to reduce costs and increasing customer satisfaction – which can ultimately increase the profitability of your company.

 

The main benefits of outsourcing the Service Desk and IT Technical Support are as follows:

  • Better financial leverage.
  • That is because it can lower fixed costs and at the same time bolster return-on-investment.
  • A known fixed cost.
  • Improved Net Income Per Employee.
  • No Training costs – your company would not have to spend money on training its staff to learn and master the use of new software or even hire more professionals to do so.
  • No recruitment costs, and the inherent management time involved in the recruitment process.
  • If the facility is off-site, savings on office space and consumables can be made.
  • Management Issues.
  • Frees up time to spend on key competencies and applications, and focus more on the Customer – leaving the provider to deal with office support, operating systems, and other non-core tasks/functions.
  • No need to worry about the constant ‘churn’ of employees.
  • No worries about being able to provide career progression – the provider will take care of this.
  • No worries about cover for sickness and holidays.
  • You will be able to create a better customer experience – this is the business of an outsourcer with Customer-Centric designed services.

Increased positive perception of the value of IT Services and the people who run it.

A company can move its help desk outside for many reasons. Help desk outsourcing can be a strategy in itself. On its own, it can help a business achieve specific and numerous targets or goals. But logically, the practice you have to manage the partner relationship.

 

For the ‘cons’, Service Desk outsourcing can make a company lose its control over training, although the contract would stipulate what skills and competencies are required – it is up to the provider to ensure its employees have the required skills. It would also have to turn over specific parts of its operations to an external vendor, which can raise issues in terms of privacy and trading secrets, but with the right contract, this should be taken care of.

 

Some companies express their worry that Service Desk outsourcing employees may lack concern for the customers. This logically is a serious concern because most clients are sensitive over Customer Satisfaction ratings. If Service Desk representatives of the outsourcing provider are not professional and educated, it can reflect not on the outsourcing firm but on the company that pays for the service.

 

Finally, in a Service Desk outsourcing the setup is off-site, the company would have to get used to having remote personal. The provider can be operating in another country. As described above, there can be cultural differences that may show in the service. Businesses that prefer to keep their staff socially and culturally intact will also have inevitable issues with offshore outsourcing.

 

When looking for a Service Desk or Help Desk provider is a far better option to consider a neighboring country like Mexico, with lots of well-ranked Universities, proximity, cultural affinity, English as a second language, competitive and fair rates, same time zones, are a good value proposition.

Towa Software has over 20 years of experience to guarantee technical skills and outstanding customer support. 

 

Starting small and build trust with your provider before scaling. 

 

We outsource Service Desk services for companies in the USA for more than 10 years now.

 

You can contact us at support@towasoftware.com or give us a call via (+1) 210-787-4525 for more information.

 

You can Book a 15-min call call with one of our Customer Success Managers for a conversation.

Contract Tips: In Software Outsourcing Agreements

All company sizes, any business can potentially benefit from outsourcing talent. Instead of taking an in-house approach for a team of developers, outsourcing top talent and management skills can save enormously in the software development budget.

It’s a win-win, you will have more time to focus on your core business strategy. And you will hire a dedicated team of skillful engineers to carry on the heavy work of development and launching software products. 

Keep in mind that any contract for software development is different for each type of company. It will be good to have a lawyer to tailor and structure the core areas such as fees, expenses, the scope of services, and costs from time to time.

Why software development agreement is important?

By signing a software development contract, you can protect your business from some downfalls. If not carefully doing it right, you can time-draining legal dispute. Don’t worry. The contract is your best protection against inevitable conflicts over things like:

 

  • Specifications. This is one of the most important elements of the contract. A well-written scope of work (requirement specifications) defines out exactly what the finished product will be like.
  • Payment. What payment terms are agreeable to both parties and when.
  • Work phases. Determine how much work needs to be completed at each stage of the project.
  • Intellectual property rights. Ver important, who owns the software, source code and technology.
  • Copyrighted material. Who owns the copyrighted material that goes into software development.

 

At Towa Software, we have more than 20 years of business experience. When developing a new project for our clients, we will outline the specific requirements like audience research, deadlines for particular areas, prototyping, UI/UX design, coding, testing, DevOps, and many other activities that are needed. The software development contract helps many clients ensure that the software outsourcing company and the client are on the same page, clearly stating development services, timelines, payments and more.

What you should take into consideration when hiring an Outsourcing company?

Watch for contract loopholes in an IT outsourcing contract. There are dozens of common mistakes you can make.

Before the master contract is signed, ready carefully.

Let’s learn what to watch in contract loopholes in software outsourcing, from personal experience. 

Most Popular Types Of Outsourcing Contracts

First, you should be clear about what types of software development contracts are available.

When outsourcing a development team, it is hard to have full control over the work process. Before the project begins, the most important thing you can do is to clarify all the requirements of the contract in detail, most importante is the scope of work.

What costs are involved? Is there any hidden cost? What price rates will be agreed upon? 

Let’s find out the features of each contract for outsourcing services, most commonly used.

Towa Software Agile Remote Teams in Mexico

Fixed Price Contract

A fixed-price contract determines the price of a certain scope of work, regardless of the actual time of end-to-end implementation. Moreover, this type of IT outsourcing model can provide financial incentives for achieving specific project milestones and reach goals.

  • A good option for short-term projects
  • Client and Outsourcing provider agree on a ‘fixed price’ for the service
  • The price is estimated by outsourcing company based on the well-defined scope of work (requirements)
  • The downside is little or non-flexibility under this type of contract for adding or changing the scope of work

Time & Materials Contract

Different from the fixed price project, the T&M model does not need a detailed estimate of all the features and requirements. The client pay for the hours spent on the development of a determined scope of work. Ideal for long-term collaboration: 

  • The Client pays the outsourcing company for work time and used materials monthly.
  • In contrast, to Fix price, T&M allows a great level of flexibility in development, to change requirements, and to allocate resources according to business needs. 
  • Ideal for long-term cooperation.

Dedicated Team Contract

This software development contract model will fit better for all kinds of development tasks. A dedicated team will only focus and work with your software project to achieve results and become a high-performer team in little time.

At Towa Software, we have been proving this model of contract for some time now and believe it is the best way to consolidate an outstanding team, with top talent, dedicated only to your product.

  • More for a long-term project with flexibility and potential to scale
  • The whole team is in one place or remote, same time zones and cost savings
  • The team is managed by senior experts and specialists to guarantee results
  • Highly motivated team members quickly react to any issues and changes
  • The whole team is dedicated to your success

Now that we have discussed in general terms the most used models of contracting with a Software firm, it is time to bring some light to the most common mistakes people suffer when hiring a team of engineers, watch for these loopholes.

How To Avoid Contract Loopholes In Software Outsourcing?

It’s usually the client’s choice to select between Fixed price, Time & Materials, and Dedicated Team for hiring a software development company.

All types of outsourcing models have their risks and opportunities. Even with all things being considered, we strongly recommend watching for these key points to reduce the risk of contract loopholes.

Define Development Specifications

Specifications are the main part of any software development contract. If you don’t clarify what the final product looks like, how it will look, or what customers expect, it’s hard for the development team to build a product that meets your need.

 

Your contract should clearly define:

  • All the functions integrating with your product.
  • Write down the details of the project, be as specific as possible.

 

Also, the contract should describe the development services that you expect your partner to provide. It also shows the procedure of making changes to the scope. Ideally, we recommend stating any changes proposed by each party as following:

  • How many times you can change a request.
  • A description of the change.
  • What is the result of the change has on the project cost and time.

Project Timeline

Every project should have a defined plan. The project should state the hourly rates, development phases, milestones, and deadlines. Defining each stage also helps you and your software provider. Just make sure all supplementary documents are signed by both parties.

 

There are project management tools that help you to manage an effective timeline such as Asana, Smartsheet, Trello, Monday, there are many tools for tracking these activities.

Payment Time

As we mentioned before, the most common forms of payment agreement are:

  • Fixed-price means the price is paid for an entire project. It can be helpful for you to know upfront what the project will cost. This type is less flexible for changes but gives more certainty on how long it will take to develop.
  • In Time and Materials, you have to pay for the time spent and the cost of materials. Time and materials contract is easier to kick off. Because it requires less preparation and planning. Besides, the development team has more flexibility to maintain the high quality of the project.

 

Your contract should detail a schedule of payments including:

  • The date that each payment must be made.
  • How payments will be made.
  • Additional fees that may be incurred.

 

Planning payments ahead of time is always a better practice, know your cash flows and payment due dates in advance.

Cost Estimate 

Cost savings is arguably the major reason to outsource services and staffing. However, one of the common contract loopholes in IT outsourcing is also about the cost.

It’s easy to fall into the temptation of selecting the least expensive providers to save money. Unfortunately, sometimes the lowest bid comes with poor quality.

Nobody wants to provide a negative experience for a customer. So you and your software outsourcing provider should be made clear what are the communication channels, deadlines for payments, and if there is flexibility.

To avoid mistakes in your contract, you have to set all the rules for payment and service.

User Acceptance Testing

In general, acceptance testing is done at the end of each development phase or Sprint. If your provider has a specific QA process that should form part of the testing, it should be documented. The agreement should also note the time assigned for testing, fixing bugs, and warranty time after launch for proving support for any defects or incidents. 

 

For Testing, you should note the following

  • Who does the testing?
  • How long does it take?
  • What is the warranty for bug fixing?

Measure KPIs

Your outsourcing contract should specify the key performance indicators of the project. When the contract clauses are misaligned with the business objectives, problems arise

 

You should consider SLA, service hours, and service elements, human resources as well as technical resources required. This allows you to prevent contract clauses and have a flexible approach to describing the service.

Duration of Contract

When you signed an outsourcing contract, it means the provider is the right one at that moment. However, things can change with time and business strategy. Maybe, you wish to transfer an outsourced service to another vendor or bring it back in-house development. Contract loopholes relating to exit management should be clear, but they are often ignored. 

 

Therefore, from the establishment of the contract, the exit option must be integrated. What are the elements that will be transferred back to the customer? What are the knowledge transfers that will be provided in case of not outsourcing anymore? When and why could you decided to end the services provided must be stated in the contract. 

Security on Top

Many of the most commonly outsourced processes require the transfer of data. Therefore, it can carry significant contract loopholes with data protection.

First of all, to ensure data protection, there are questions that should be asked:

  • Are the outsourcing company’s services compliant with good data protection?
  • What are the security measures in place to prevent abuse of data?

Outsourcing agreements should cover key data protection issues. Then, the provider has to compliant with the legislation.

The contract needs to cover the extraction and removal of your data.

It’s also highly recommended you take advantage of how the transfer back to your systems can be made securely.

Conclusion

 

When starting outsourcing with a new outsourcing partner, many companies tend to sign the contract without having the resources to manage the agreement. As an Owner, CEO, CIO, or CTO you should know how to follow up on a detailed outsourcing contract. But we highly suggest that you write a simple contract through a clear and structured model of cooperation. Both client and software outsourcing providers should consider including timeline, the scope of work, payment terms, data security, clarify service description, ending clause, and notice periods.

 

Towa Software has over 20 years of experience to guarantee the quality of every line of code, we are proud of our products and services delivered. We recommend starting small and build trust with your provider before scaling. 

 

We have expert Project Managers and Innovation Consultants along with top talented teams who have delivered awesome products to customers in U.S.A, Canada, Mexico, London, and Australia.

 

As a leading software development outsourcing company in the USA and Mexico, we have extensive experience in many fields including fintech, banking, payments gateways, e-commerce, retail, marketplaces, health care, Omnichannel, and many more.

 

You can contact us at support@towasoftware.com or give us a call via (+1) 210-787-4525 for more information.

 

You can Book a 15-min call call with one of our Customer Success Managers for a conversation.

How to Build an Online Marketplace

How to Build an Online Marketplace: Custom Development with Marketplace Software

Got an idea for a marketplace you want to implement?

Here you will learn how to build it, the options you have and important considerations for creating an online marketplace.

 

Two main options to build your own marketplace: 

  • Custom development
  • Off-the-shelf solutions
Custom development of your online marketplaces

Custom development means building software for a client from scratch, all new or with API services. In this case a custom marketplace software. You can hire an in-house team of developers or outsource your marketplace development.

 

Custom development is a good choice to:

  • Commit to build a long-term project
  • Raise investment and solve a specific pain
  • Have greater flexibility
  • Add more features and specific customization 
  • Have control of your project
  • Integrate with any external APIs and services
  • Have a scalable solution
  • Build a custom UI/UX
Pros of custom marketplace development
  • Compatibility: your marketplace can be made compatible with different devices, technologies, external API services and other tools.
  • Personalization: you can build the marketplace to your specific business needs and requirements.
  • Scalability: a custom marketplace can handle any number of listings and users, no limit in growth.
  • Security: custom development allows more tools for securing your marketplace against fraud and malicious activity.
Cons of custom marketplace development
  • Time: to build something great requires time and commitment from a team, finding the right partner and dedicated team is essential. 
  • Cost: custom development requires bigger investment. The bets practice is to build an MVP to gain traction, find investors to raise money for further product development.

With consumers consuming content and making purchases through many touchpoints traditional eCommerce platforms are in need to accelerate innovation.

 

Marketplace solutions

 

Off-the-shelf software is a ready-made solution. They can be a good quick start for validation of the business. 

Off-the-shelf solutions are best suitable for

  • Validation of business idea
  • Easy to implement solution
  • Use out of the box features 
  • Less investment

Types of marketplace software builder:

  1. SaaS – Software as a Service
  2. CMS – Content Management System
  3. Vendor-hosted
  4. Self-hosted (open-source or closed-source)
  5. Headless API – Application Programming Interface
  6. Marketplace Builder with SDK
  7. Marketplace with a basic front-end template
  8. PaaS – Platform as a Service
1. SaaS – Software as a Service

SaaS is a software model where software is as subscription, rather than bought and owned, and is centrally hosted.  

The Saas marketplace platform could be the most suitable for marketplaces with a relatively simple business idea, or a niche & non-technical team. 

One of the most common pricing models for such services is a monthly and yearly subscription fee. The exact price may depend on the number of transactions made through your marketplace, the number of listings (published goods or services), or the total number of users that have been registered on your platform.

 

Pros of SaaS for marketplaces
  • Little or no technical effort to start from the founder’s perspective
  • Experienced technical support from SaaS provider

 

Cons of SaaS for  marketplaces
  • Low flexibility in terms of both functionality and UI
  • High price after reaching some number of users, listings etc.

Hosted version:  

  • The provider takes care of servers and tech support.
  • You get regular updates of version and latest features
  • Some payment gateways are available
  • Little technical knowledge is need
  • Little or no customization the backend
  • Limited customization frontend (CSS, HTML, and JavaScript)

Self-hosted version:

  • You are responsible for installation
  • You are responsible for the technical skills
  • The level of support depends on many factors
  • Some code can be re-written
  • Requires bigger investment

 

Best choice Vendor: Arcadier Marketplace Builder – Scale version 

2. Content Management System (CMS)

СMS is a software used to create and manage digital content. Marketplace CMS gives more flexibility than custom SaaS in terms of logic and UI customization. The developers for the marketplace team have more control over the code base and can create pages and transaction flows with more complexity. To build the marketplace you must hire a team of developers who have experience with this specific CMS or tech stack on which it is built.

 

Pros of CMS
  • Flexibility for UI and business logic customization
  • Can access a pool of vendors 

 

Cons of CMS
  • Need to find the right developers with a particular CMS tech to customize it (if a vendor doesn’t offer any customization support)
  • Additional development cost, if it doesn’t feature public API or integration with external APIs.

 

Vendor-hosted

  • Vendor offers hosting and deployment services. 
  • Vendor provides backups and updates for your marketplace
  • Access a team of dedicated developers through the vendor to customize it according to your needs.

 

Self-hosted

  • open-source marketplace CMS or it can be a commercial lifetime license
  • You control deployment, scale and customizations to meet your needs
  • You are also responsible for technical support.
3. Headless API

Marketplace Headless API (or so-called API as a service) is the evolution of SaaS marketplace technology. An API is a set of requests and methods between a server and a client.

 

All the vendors of Headless Marketplace APIs provide great flexibility for customization to build your marketplace idea. A great solution can be built with APIs. They are also great to customize the UI and logic.

 

Some vendors offer an SDK marketplace library (or set of libraries for different programming languages) that wraps low-level calls to your API from marketplace front-end over HTTP or GraphQL, this can accelerate your development. 

Some marketplace API providers offer a frontend template that uses their marketplace API (+ SDK). A particular marketplace developer may use it as a starting point and customize or even rewrite it from scratch later if needed.

 

Pros of Headless API
  • Totally customizable UI and maximum business logic flexibility (with the API endpoints)
  • Easy to integrate Headless API into existing website or e-commerce sites (Some API vendors offer connector scripts for some target e-commerce platforms)
  • Full flexibility for marketplace builders in terms of API support, QA and DevOps

 

Cons of Headless API
  • The UI and UX for the marketplace need to be created from scratch or based on a frontend bespoke template. 
  • Some vendors manage hosting, deployment, and backups of the front-end. 
  • Need for a dedicated team of engineers to build your marketplace

 

Top Vendor: Arcadier Marketplace – Enterprise version 

4. Platform as a Service (PaaS)

“Platform as a Service” or “Marketplace Platform” is the new enterprise type of a marketplace tech approach. PaaS is a digital platform that allows people to build marketplaces and services by using the API services.

 

Paas is a great toolkit for a marketplace builder, means more flexibility for the UI/UX and logic are APIs, the deployment and administration are done through the platform portal interface. It is a mix of open-source, API as a Service and Infrastructure. 

 

Here you gain much more flexibility for customization. Here you have access to the frontend and backend. The downside is that you’re tied to the platform’s grid of deployment and scaling servers. For some, you need your vendor to provide DevOps and support. Other vendors will help to provide Tier 1 services for scaling at a cost. 

 

Pros of PaaS Marketplace Builder
  • All pros of the Headless API
  • Plus some Vendors provide support and consulting for both front-end and back-end parts of a marketplace

 

Cons of PaaS Marketplace Builder
  • There is some Vendor dependency in terms of long-term commitment 

 

Best Vendor: Arcadier Marketplace Builder

What to consider when deciding to develop a marketplace?

 

Budget

Is your capital under USD $25,000? An off-the-shelf solution could be an option of low-budget to start with limited functionality. Another option available to you is starting with a discovery phase and building PoC, if you plan to pitch your idea to investors to raise money.

Do you have USD $25,000+? We suggest building something with a Saas, Paas, with Headless API to customize your Marketplace. 

 

Deadlines

Want to launch a marketplace MVP in less than three months? Your options are SaaS Of-the-shelf. 

Have more than three months? Go custom, build something with a Headless API option, create our unique ecommerce experience. 

 

Investments

Have limited funds? Go with a pre-build Saas or Paas, with litte customization.

Are you willing to fundraise further? Custom development is better to innovate, using a Headless API vendor will be the best way to go. Hire a dedicated team of experts. 

 

Size of your marketplace

Less than 100,000 users in your marketplace? SaaS or PaaS are a perfect fit. Find if the vendor is able to scale when needed.

Planning to have more than 100,000 users? A Headless API with scalability or custom development with a Team of experts are the best approach for scalability. 

 

Technical Skills

Not Tech founders? You can hire a Team of eCommerce experts to build a custom marketplace with SaaS or PaaS. The top value of custom development is personalization. By building a marketplace with the right tools, you will be able to design it exactly the way you want it to be. 

Want to hire a dedicated team of eCommerce experts? We might be able to help you, depending on the stage of your eBusiness we can jump in, build a team of experts, to provide the right mix of tech skills, innovation and business sense.

custom maketplace with towa

Summary

When planning to build an online marketplace you have two options: custom development or an off-the-shelf solution. 

 

Off-the-shelf software for marketplaces comes in four different shapes: SaaS, CMS, Headless API and PaaS.

 

While deciding what is most convenient for you business, remember these questions:

  • What is your budget?
  • When are your deadlines?
  • Do you plan to fundraise?
  • What is the desired size of your marketplace?
  • Do you have the technical skills?

 

If what you need is a fast and less expensive option? 

Then an off-the-shelf solution is the way, we are the right partner to help you build your MVP with best time-to-market and with little investment. (SaaS, PaaS, Headless API) 

 

But if you want to build a marketplace to your specific needs, scalable, more secure, hyper-personalized?

Then custom development is what you need. Here at Towa Software, we build custom marketplaces with highest-standards of quality, best rates in North America and with an expert team of developers, ecommerce consultants, innovation manager, UI/UX designer, QAs testers and Scrum Masters.

 

Book a 15-min video call with us. 

The Future of eCommerce: Headless API

The world is changing and eCommerce is developing faster than ever.

With consumers consuming content and making purchases through many touchpoints traditional eCommerce platforms are in need to accelerate innovation.

 

There are new purchase buttons on many devices, from tablets to IoT in the kitchen and laundry rooms. You can even by with voice commands with Alexa and Google Home, read reviews, and place orders. The new consumer is adapting to the new IoT era, even if most retailers are not yet.

 

eCommerce companies who are moving with this trend are gaining market share, while others are facing challenges to move ahead. One of the major challenges is how to create these new channels, how to build these solutions?

The answer is API Headless eCommerce.

What is headless API ecommerce?

Is an eCommerce Solution that stores, manages, monitor, delivers any product or service without a default front-end delivery channel. Meaning you can build your own customer experiences with it.

 

With a headless eCommerce platform, the front-end (or the “head”), which can be a template, theme, or any desire storefront, is decoupled and can be changed, removed, or added to innovate your unique customer experience and consume the same backend.

 

Developers can use APIs to deliver things like products, quantity in stock, customer reviews, or top-selling items to any screen or device, while the front-end developers can build in any framework, channel, or device.

 

Basically, all functional elements (such as forms, blogs, banners, products, etc.) of the system can be programmatically managed. This includes the creation and management of the content components.

In other words, headless eCommerce architecture is built for the new age (mobility, IoT, hyper-personalization)

In contrast, traditional eCommerce platforms have their heads define and locked. They have a predefined front-end that is tightly coupled with the back-end, so even if there are plenty of customization features and unrestricted access to code, the platform is only designed to deliver content in the form of websites and maybe native mobile apps.

 

A headless API eCommerce architecture delivers a platform via a RESTful API that has a back-end data model and a cloud-based infrastructure. Since the platform is not coupled with the back-end, new eCommerce brands can build and deliver anything to satisfy customer needs.

 

Now new eCommerce players can build products, services, and payment gateways on top of smartwatches, kiosk screens, Alexa devices, and everything you can imagine.

How headless API eCommerce works

An eCommerce platform or software as a service works by communicating between the presentation or front-end channel and application layers through web services or application programming interface (API) calls.

So for example, when a user clicks a “Buy Now” button on their smartphone, the presentation layer of the headless eCommerce platform sends an API call to the application layer to process the order. The application layer responds with another API call to the front-end layer to show the customer the status of their order.

Headless API ecommerce vs traditional ecommerce

Here are three main differences between traditional ecommerce platforms and API headless ecommerce services:

1. You build your own front-end

 

Traditional eCommerce

Front-end developers working on a traditional commerce system encounter several constraints when it comes to design and the overall process. Any changes made would require a great deal of time to edit the database, the code, and the front-end platform as well. Developers are also limited to what can be updated and/or edited without the risk of voiding a warranty or preventing any future upgrades.

 

API Headless eCommerce

With the removal of the default front-end layer, headless eCommerce enables front-end developers to create a user experience from zero which fits perfectly with their target market needs. Front-end developers don’t need to worry about modifying databases in the backend as all they have to do is make a simple API call. In other words, front-end developers are given all possible tools to craft personalized customer experiences.

Here you can work with product managers, innovation managers, and marketers, to define what is the best experience for your company.

An API headless solution is far better than a based template

2. Full customization & personalization

 

Traditional eCommerce

Traditional platforms offer a predefined experience for both your customer and for the administrative user. But these platforms do provide not much flexibility for customization or personalization. If you are satisfied with the experience provided by these traditional platforms, that experience is the default for all customers.

 

API Headless eCommerce

Traditional eCommerce platforms constrain developers and users to what they define as the correct user experience. With API headless platforms, since there is no front-end, developers can create their own user experience from zero. You have more control over the look and feel of your eCommerce platform and you also have control over the user experience for both your customer/merchants and your admin users.

3. More flexibility and adaptability

 

Traditional eCommerce

In traditional solutions, the front-end is tightly coupled with the back-end coding and infrastructure. This leaves little or no room for flexibility to make any desired customizations. To make single customization, developers need to edit multiple layers of coding between the front-end right through to the database layer that is defaulted in the back-end.

 

API Headless eCommerce

Since headless eCommerce has already decoupled the front-end and the back-end, this creates endless possibilities for customization when required. To make any changes, you simply need to have a front-end user experience developer. You can make changes either big or small, from implementing a custom checkout flow to adding a new field to a customer account — both are very straightforward to execute with an API headless eCommerce architecture.

API Headless ecommerce: Advantages

The biggest retailers are switching to API headless ecommerce; there are many reasons why your Brand needs to do it too.

 

1. Omnichannel

A headless content management system will help publish your content anywhere. For an eCommerce site, that means showing and selling your products, discounts, or customer reviews to any channel you want to.
You can sell through Alexa, your mobile app, progressive web apps, and even through refrigerators with screens.

With a natively headless API eCommerce platform — like Arcadier — you don’t have to re-architect your platform to publish across channels. It’s made from architecture to be decoupled from the original user template, it is made to facilitate building your own customer experiences.

 

2. Keep your competitiveness

A headless API eCommerce platform enables you to deploy constant updates without impacting your back-end system or other services like Purchase History, Checkout process, onboarding process, you can completely customize your marketplace experience. So you can easily make any changes to your front-end to match consumer needs and market trends.

Major eCommerce brands using traditional platforms usually roll out an update every few weeks. In comparison to market leaders whom they deploy updates every day or every week, with less service interruption.
With a decoupled system, you don’t have to roll out an update to the entire system, only part of the system. You can update and deliver what your consumers want faster, with less impact on the overall system and keep your competitiveness.

 

3. Agile Marketing

A headless API eCommerce system can encourage new technology adoption with ease. This is perfect when designing new customer experiences. The system architecture helps marketing and business teams deploy multiple sites across different brands, divisions, and portfolios.

Finally, thanks to the flexibility provided by a headless API eCommerce platform, marketing teams deploy a new site in days instead of months, your brand can reduce the time-to-market when launching a campaign from a few weeks to a few days.

 

4. More personal and consistent customer experience

The customer experience must be consistent within your brand and stores, even though customer needs may change over time, they should receive a consistent customer experience across all devices and channels.

Customers want to buy from eCommerce brands that understand their needs across all channels. The eCommerce company already knows what a consumer has bought some items. It uses this data to power the personalization of eCommerce, mobile apps, and social channels.

 

5. Seamless Integrations

As you may already know, a headless eCommerce solution must have an API, which makes it easier to integrate and communicate with other front-end devices. You can add new devices, expand to new opportunities, and outreach to more customers using the same API. Also, it will take your team weeks to integrate your eCommerce platform with a new device, not months.

Towa customers experienced this first hand, using Arcadier headless API eCommerce platform to integrate with Legacy systems and ERP, an integration that helped streamline their customer journey workflows.

 

6. Better conversion

With a headless API eCommerce platform as a service, you can try and test different templates and approaches. For example, you could experiment with a different back-end search solution while running the same front-end search.

A headless API eCommerce allows you to run continuous tests and optimization cycles which will help you get a better understanding of your customer, while improving your rate of learning faster than others retailers.

 

7. Faster time-to-market

If you plan to build a multi-channel or Omni-channel eCommerce experience with a traditional eCommerce platform, your time-to-market will be slower, moreover scaling will be difficult to achieve.

A headless API eCommerce platform empowers brands to focus on building front-end experiences on different devices and touchpoints, the content and listings are stored centrally and delivered via API to everywhere you want to. Decouple architecture facilitates a faster time-to-market better suited when planning to open new channels, entering new countries, and innovating the market.

API headless ecommerce experience
The shortcomings of headless eCommerce

Headless API eCommerce platforms have a few issues that need addressing.

 

1. Manage costs

A headless eCommerce platform does not provide you with a front-end, developers will be required to build their own. This is great, as it allows developers to build front-ends that are bespoke for each device and touchpoint. On the other hand, building templates and user interfaces from scratch can become time-consuming and costly. Additionally, developers will need to troubleshoot and work their front-end creations, leading to ongoing costs beyond the initial build.

The costs increase even further when you factor in the fact that the marketing team now depends heavily on the IT team to launch landing pages and content on different devices.

2. Marketing efforts

A pure headless API eCommerce platform offers no front-end presentation layer, so marketers will not be able to:

  • Create content in a WYSIWYG editor.
  • Preview pages to see how it will look like on the end user’s device or screen.
  • Immediately prototype, review, create and publish content without relying on the IT department.

Marketers are dependant on the IT team not just to build the front-end presentation layer, but also to update it and populate it with content.

Not a marketer-friendly environment.

Headless API eCommerce supports omnichannel experiences

The concept of “omnichannel” means that a customer can use the same online platforms to shop both online and offline, on any device, at any time. The main objective of headless API eCommerce platforms is to offer a seamless customer experience across channels, these eCommerce platforms are a fundamental component of the omnichannel retail experience.

Customers who used multiple channels to purchase online buy more than those who only used a single channel. Plus, those customers who used multiple online channels purchased more at the brick-and-mortar stores than those who used only an individual channel.

Other headless eCommerce platforms to evaluate

Headless eCommerce is an emerging space, however, there is a variety of eCommerce platforms offering APIs that facilitate a headless or decoupled approach to eCommerce. Here are three software providers to consider in the space:

 

1. Shopify Plus

Shopify Plus users have access to APIs which can expose products and selling options information to third-party systems. Still, a CMS will be needed to handle additional content at scale. Company based in the USA.

2. Magento 2

Magento 2 users can leverage Magento APIs to showcase and sell products but will need to rely on a third-party web CMS to handle large quantities of content at scale. Company acquired by Adobe based in the USA.

3. Arcadier

A full headless API eCommerce platform as a service is an all-in-one headless commerce solution that can power omnichannel eCommerce experiences. Customers such as B2B medical suppliers, B2C homemade foods, and C2C service experiences delivered to your home, and many other different business models have used Arcadier Marketplace builder to power their eCommerce digital experiences. Company HQ in Singapur, with offices worldwide, in all major cities London, Australia, Mexico, Las Vegas.

The future of commerce: decoupled

 

A headless API eCommerce solution resolves many issues (nowadays the emerging technology of wearables and house devices powered with IoT), it also conceives other issues to manage, as discussed earlier.

A decoupled eCommerce platform is similar to a headless system in the sense that both front-end and back-end are decoupled. However, unlike a headless eCommerce, a decoupled eCommerce doesn’t remove the front-end delivery layer from the equation entirely. This architecture gives marketers back their power in the form of content authoring and content previewing, while also giving the brand the same headless freedom needed to deliver content to different devices, applications, and touchpoints through APIs.

You could say a decoupled eCommerce gives you the best of both worlds—and that’s why we foresee the future of eCommerce is decoupled.

A decoupled eCommerce system provides ease-of-use similar to traditional eCommerce software but with the flexibility of a headless system.

It’s the best of both.

 

Talk to us Book a 15-min call to discuss your project.

Build a Self-Managed Tech Team

You can build a technology and innovation self-managed team to boost your organization.

 

What is a high-performing team in software engineering?

 

There are different several ways to define performance.

One way that makes a big difference is how much the team is dependent on its leader. When the leader makes all the decisions, it limits the team’s potential.

You can measure the effectiveness of leaders when they leave either for a short time or permanently. If team performance declines, it’s a sign that the leader didn’t create the conditions for the team to manage themselves.

Why do self-managed teams need a leader?

You can see the top-performing teams in the world, like sports teams, for example.

  • What do they do?
  • What are the conditions?
  • What behaviors do they demonstrate?

Is the coach on the field during the game to make all the decisions? No, coaches do most of their work before and after the game. They give feedback, share insight, give advice, and prepare their players for the next game.

Inexperienced managers often have a desire to make all decisions, even those on the front lines. They get impatient, and take most of the decisions rather than see them learn from doing or coaching them to improve.

The role of leaders is to get the best performance out of the team.

And to make the vision and goals clear for all.

Build Tech Teams from Mexico
What is a self-managed team?

How a team makes decisions? Is the leader approving or making every decision? The role of the leader is to make employees think for themselves.

In a self-managed team, even the most junior employee is empowered to make a meaningful decision that affects the team’s performance.

When working with your team always ask these questions:

  • Is the company/project vision clear?
  • Are the company/project goals clear?
  • Do you understand what we’re trying to accomplish and objectives?

Everybody has to think of these answers to be a winning team.

Set the common ground and start coaching from there.

In software, teams are very common an engineer comes to you and asks, “What should I do? How should this work? Is this the correct way to do it?” You can respond by asking back, “What’s the goal we’re trying to accomplish? Which direction do you think would serve the vision and our goals better?”

Managers often decide for the person because it’s faster. Then the same engineer goes and does what the boss suggested without taking the time to think why?

It is a far better option to make the engineers think through the vision, the goals, and the trade-offs. Once they’ve done it, they can tell what options are better and why.

The coach has to point out potential flaws in their reasoning. Maybe they made an inaccurate assumption, other data, or a different approach.

Managers must teach engineers how to think about complex matters.

Engineers should consider the vision, the goals, and the data, so they can decide on doing some analysis.
When your engineers do this, you can coach them to solve complex problems, instead of solving for them. At that point, a team member can grow.

How to develop a self-managed team?

Every challenge is a learning opportunity; don’t take them away from the team. Ideally, they should be making most of the front-line decisions.

But even after deciding for your team, you can sit down with them and explain the reasoning behind the decision.

It’s worth investing time into because if everybody on the team thinks and analyzes by themselves, they all can move faster.

How do you measure the performance of management?

A manager being overloaded with work may be a warning sign. Managers should delegate more responsibility to their team and let them own it autonomously.

Strategies for leaders to build self-managed teams

 

1. How often do engineers ask the leader to make decisions

 

Watch for these types of questioning:

  • Can I do this?
  • Should I do this?
  • Am I allowed to do this?
  • Do you approve this?

2. Do more coaching

Don’t make decisions for them, unless you have to. Instead try, when they come with questions, ask back, “What would you do in my place?” make them think through the problem. Or try explaining, that you want them to think for themselves, analyze and take decisions, to become a more complete professional.

 

3. Encourage the team to make decisions

 

Growth happens when somebody gives you an opportunity and trusts you to make it happen. You need space and support to deliver a goal.

A good manager can get results. A great manager can get results and grow their people, so they can do the same for others. Most people are open to and grateful for these opportunities. They see this helps them to grow.

Build Tech Teams from Mexico
Communicate purpose to become a self-managed team

Set a clear expectation for them to think for themselves and to make decisions. Ask them to think about it and make a proposal.

Always clarify the vision and the goals first.

Leaders are not the right people to make frontline decisions. They must help the individual collaborators to make the right decisions.

Help them make decisions, and coach the thinking process and reasoning.

Requisites to become a self-managed team

 

Be patient, building technical self-managed teams takes time. Managers need to observe each team member’s thinking process and select if they are fit to be self-managed.

Some people are not comfortable making decisions. They might be slowing the performance of the overall team.

Take the time to evaluate your team and make sure they’re capable before you expect them to work autonomously. You may have to replace some people, but building a team of leaders empowered to make good decisions makes a lot of difference.

The mindset of critical thinking and growth is required.

Whether it’s possible to turn your team into a self-managed team, depends mostly on the team members.

What should I do now?

 

If you are interested in hiring a self-managed tech team from Mexico, contact us for a free consultation.

Our engineers have deep knowledge of web development and cloud, with many success stories building e-commerce, marketplaces, mobile apps, fintech, payments, banking, and retail.

 

Learn Why Towa Managed Teams is the right fit for your company, book a 15-min call with us now.

Onshore or Nearshore Tech Teams

So we all know about Offshore software development teams, they can be found abroad, usually foreign countries on the other side of the world.

 

Current technology enable collaboration of teams, everyone works remotely now so it is easier to outsource skills and engineers to help you build your product or service faster, at lesser cost than building a tech team locally.

Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Chile all have cities with technology hubs where your company can find the right skills and engineering techniques for your project.

Many companies and startups find that outsourcing software development offers more benefits than hiring developers in-house or locally, mainly because today’s most demanded skills are related to computer sciences and there are certain IT skills that are hard to find, so the costs rise up, and there are no guarantees.

 

When researching a place to outsource, there are basically four types of IT outsourcing to consider: locally, onshore, nearshore or offshore?

 

So, which is the best option for outsourcing tech teams for your business?

Hiring locally, Onshore, Nearshore, etc?

There are pros and cons to all of them. So it’s important to define what are the main differences between them. To determine which options of IT outsourcing is the best for your company.

 

  • Onshore or nearshore means that outsourcing software development is located in the same countryor region and have similar and compatible timezones.
  • Offshore indicates that the company you hired is in another country with a different time zone, maybe 12 hours.
  • Hiring locally can be expensive, and some skills required are hard to find.

The awesome about today’s technology is that. There is no need for an in-house team. Instead, you can find the right partner to help you build and scale a tech team, both onshore or nearshore, outsource in a neighborhood country.

Onshore Tech Teams

 

Onshore is often known as local outsourcing. In this option of software development service, a company has the opportunity to focus on its core business capabilities.

 

While quality is ensured, the required work is still done in a connected manner, with regular or daily meetings.

 

Your dedicated team will speak the same language. Onshore and nearshore outsourcing offers some benefits:

 

  • No language barriers or many cultural similarities.
  • Timezones are the same, or have many compatible 9 am to 5 pm labor hours.
  • Constant communication, daily meetings and same day responses.
  • An onshore development team is easy to nail and scale.
  • Less expensive labor than locally
Top Mexican Engineers for Hire
Nearshore Tech Teams

Nearshore software development is consider to be between onshore and offshore.

 

Nearshoring is when the team is located close to your company headquarters, perhaps in a neighbor country (Canada or Mexico)

 

Nearshore outsourcing has similar benefits to onshore and is far better option than what offshore can offer.

 

Weather you choose a nearshore or onshore partner company to build your tech team, the pool of talent is exponentially larger and labor costs can be reduced.

 

In addition, there are other advantages for nearshore tech teams:

  • Time zone are mostly the same or lightly different.
  • Many Latam countries share cultural or lenguaje similairies.
  • Being more able to travel, if you really need to.

 

Most of the time. it would probably be a little higher cost than offshoring your tech team, but it is many times less riskier and more likely to success when you hire a manage tech team in a neighbor country like Mexico.

Onshore Tech Team: What you need to know?

 

Onshore tech teams are located in Mexico, in cities with the top talent coming from best Universities in the country.

An Onshore tech team can maximize a successful business with quality, engineering and technology at a lower cost.

From Onshoring a Tech Team, both parties benefit from the partnership.

 

Advantages of Onshoring a Tech Team

 

Some potential benefits of an offshore software development team:

 

  • The project accesses a larger pool of talent
  • Hiring a top talent for you team at lower costs
  • Dedicated Tech teams can handle your technology services
  • If you find the right partner to build your Tech Team for your company, they can assure to deliver and meet deadlines
Disadvantages of Onshore a Tech Team

 

There are some risks if you outsource your technology. While planning to hire a dedicated team, you need to consider the following:

 

  • Watch for similar time-zone , the less difference the better.
  • Transfering too much critical activity too fast.
  • Analyize the working culture of the neighbor country
  • Find partners that is located in a 3 to 4 hour flight to visit the production team, even that now almost everyone works remotely from homeoffice.
  • See for cultural values like accountability, hierarchy, scheduling, responsibility.

 

Talk to us to evaluate our company skills to help your business build a successful technology core competency.

As a leading software development in United States and Mexico, we have huge experiences in many fields including e-commerce, marketplace platform, fintech, payments, banking, retail and many more.

 

You can contact us at support@towasoftware.com or via +1 (210) 787 4525 for more information.

 

Don’t hesitate to contact us.

React Native: Building Mobile Products (MVP)

React Native for Building Great Cross Platform Products

 

W

hat is React Native?

 

React Native is a Javascript framework that was built by Facebook and re-licensed for use by third parties in 2017. It allows developers to create apps for both iOS and Android web stores using a single codebase and a single programming language. With React Native, developers have the ability to write one React code that compiles to native applications on both iOS and Android, rather than having to construct parallel codebases in multiple programming languages.

What are the Benefits to React Native Development?

Time and Cost Savings

Prior to the release of React Native a company was required to either find engineers that had experience with both iOS Android programming languages, or to hire separate developers to work on each platform individually.

 

In contrast, React Native allows you to have a single team of developers experienced in one primary programming language who can work on both platforms simultaneously in one single codebase. Depending on the functionalities of your app, at least 90% of the codebase can be shared across both platforms and since all the versions of your software are written in mostly the same code, updating and adding features becomes much faster and easier.

 

Though there are some differences between iOS and Android that need to be accounted for when using React Native, the time and cost savings of having one codebase are a huge benefit.

Open Source Libraries and the React Community

When using React Native you are taking advantage of the wider open source community and ecosystem that exists around React and Javascript.; A tremendous number of libraries exist that can be used for common mobile application features, meaning you won’t have to spend so much time writing code to add extra features to your app- it’s likely that that functionality has already been built and shared with the community.

 

Additionally, the number of engineers employed by Facebook, as well as a big open source community means a continued improvement in the platform over time.

Shared Web App Code

If your mobile app also calls for a web browser/desktop application, React Native can provide some reuse and sharing of code between those platforms. Because React Native is just React and JavaScript code, an experienced development team could get a head start on a web application.

 

Additionally, Electrode Native is an open source tool that will allow you to migrate existing React apps to React Native.

Who Uses React Native?

Because it’s such a reliable and powerful cross platform development tool, React Native is being used by many top companies to develop their mobile apps.

 

Facebook uses React Native for their social media site as well as for Facebook ads manager and Facebook analytics. Instagram was able to share around 85% of code between its Android and iOS apps by using React Native, allowing their team to deliver the app much more quickly than would have been possible using a Native solution. And Tesla’s app, an integral part of its user interface that enables users to remotely monitor and control their Tesla car or Powerwall from their iPhone or Android, was developed using React Native.

 

With React Native, developing and supporting apps for both iOS and Android is less effort it once was. From the ability to develop apps across platforms using one codebase to the benefits of utilizing the open source community, React Native provides an optimal framework for developing awesome cross platform products.

 

Tips for Product Backlog Management

Product Backlog Management

 

A

s a Product Owner, you are responsible for Product Backlog Management, in order to maximize the value of the Product. The Product Backlog is the single source of truth which contains all the work to be done on the Product. As a Product Owner, you will have to make some choices about what to build first and what to build later. But also what to build and what not to build!

 

In this article, we’ll cover tips about Product Backlog Management.

Tips for Product Owners:

Keep the Product Backlog manageable

A mistake we see many Product Owners making, is that their Product Backlogs are way too exhaustive. The worst Product Backlog I’ve ever encountered contained about 650 Product Backlog Items. This was hell! It was unmaintainable, it was impossible to manage, it was impossible to create transparency and nobody knew where the Product was heading towards. Typically, everyone understands that a Product Backlog of 650 items is unmanageable and this may have been exceptional. But what isn’t so exceptional is that I meet a lot of Product Owners, who typically have 100 to 300 items on their Product Backlogs. Out of 10 Product Owners, I would say that more than half of them have a Product Backlog containing more than 100 items. As a Product Owner, you will have to make choices! You will have to decide what not to do.

 

Only one Product Backlog

Saying ‘no’ to people is hard, it’s difficult, because we’re often afraid of disappointing people. Saying ‘no’ also feels permanent, definitive. But as discussed in past articles about product value, value may change over time, so something you say no to today, may be something you want to do a few months from today. So, to not forget about these items, we see a lot of Product Owners adding these kinds of items to a ‘separate backlog’. This ‘separate backlog’ operates as a container for all ideas, so that we won’t forget about them. The truth however, is that if something is actually valuable, and people are waiting for it to be delivered, then it will come up again later on. So, if you say no to something today and it’s really valuable, it will come up again a couple of days, weeks or months from now anyway. So, there is no need to keep a separate list! Order, maintain and own one Product Backlog! If you don’t want something on that single source of truth Product Backlog, then just say no! The side-effect of saying ‘I’ll put it on the other list’ is that the ownership of the item is transferred from the stakeholder to you as a Product Owner. It also means that the stakeholder will be expecting you to do something with the item. What I often see happening in these situations, is that stakeholders will eventually start complaining that they never get what they asked for…

 

Share some tasks to the Team

Since the Product Owner is responsible for Product Backlog management, many Product Owners want to do all Product Backlog management activities themselves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, you are allowed to let your Engineering Team support you in managing the Product Backlog! So let them help you! As a Product Owner, you don’t want to describe all the User Stories, acceptance criteria, functional designs, etc. yourself. But, maybe you want to act more as an entrepreneurial Product Owner, therefore more focussing on the vision, the long-term roadmap, the stakeholders, market and business value. So, why not share some of the tasks with them!

 

Not everything is a User Story

We all know the ‘User Story’ a format:

As a <role>,
I want <functionality/what>,
So that <business value/why>.

A User Story is a template which can be used to describe Product Backlog Items. In Scrum, all items on the Product Backlog are called ‘Product Backlog Items’. Some of these Product Backlog Items may written as ‘User Stories’, but others don’t. For bugs or technical debt for example, it often has little or no value to describe such an item as a User Story.

 

Know your Product Backlog

What I see many times in practice, is that Product Owners let pretty much everyone add items to the Product Backlog, resulting in an exhaustive, unmanageable list of wishes. What I used to do as a Product Owner, and worked really well, was that I was fully in control over the Product Backlog. I didn’t have to know all the details of every single item on the Product Backlog, but I did know what items were on it. And I also knew what items I rejected, which ones I didn’t want to do. It is up to you to decide how you want to manage your Product Backlog, but letting everyone add stuff to the Product Backlog often results in reduced transparency, lack of clarity, a wrong ordering and loss of manageability.

 

Reorder continuously

The Product Backlog is a living artifact. It’s something that evolves, changes, grows and shrinks over time. Therefore, you need to reorder the Product Backlog continuously! The ordering of the Product Backlog may change from week to week, so make sure you keep the Product Backlog up-to-date. As a Product Owner, you should make the Product Backlog transparent for all the stakeholders and the Scrum Team. This transparency on the Product Backlog is valuable if and when the Product Backlog is up-to-date. Besides having a transparent and ordered Product Backlog for the stakeholders, you’ll want to have a transparent and ordered Product Backlog for the Development Team. Every Sprint starts with the Sprint Planning and in that meeting you’ll need to have an ordered Product Backlog so that the Development Team can create an actionable plan for the Sprint. Before that Sprint Planning, you’ll probably get some feedback from people during the Sprint Review and you’ll get some actionable improvement actions out of the Sprint Retrospective. So keep ordering and reordering the Product Backlog continuously!

 

 The Product Backlog shouldn’t be complete

A pitfall that a lot of starting Product Owners step into is that they want to create a complete Product Backlog at the start of a new project, especially when they come from more traditional or project oriented environments. They’re used to defining the scope of the project or the team upfront, with all the requirements needed for the project. However, Scrum and Product Ownership aren’t focussed on delivering projects. They’re focussed around products (Value). Product Development is something that never ends, as long as the Product lives, and so, the list of demands, requirements, wishes and more will keep growing and shrinking over time, as long as the Product lives. So don’t try to create something like a ‘complete’ Product Backlog. Create a Product Backlog with the most valuable ideas for the Product and start from there! It will change over time anyway, so don’t try to get it perfect at the start, when you actually know the least!

 

Keep focus on ‘what’ and ‘why’

Another pitfall for a lot of Product Owners is that they are focussed too much on finding and describing ‘solutions’. There are many Product Owners out there that are doing a lot of business analysis, technical analysis and who are creating (functional) designs and descriptions for the Development Team. Although it’s not fundamentally wrong, I have always experienced that nine people have more creative and problem solving power than one person alone. So what I always recommend is that a Product Owner shouldn’t be concerned with the (functional/technical) solution. A Product Owner shouldn’t have to ‘design’ a feature. A Product Owner should be concerned with the problem he or she wants to solve, or the opportunity he or she wants to grasp. For me, a Product Owner should mainly be focussed on the ‘what’ and ‘why’. A Product Owner shouldn’t be concerned so much with the ‘how’. So, use the creative and problem solving power of the team to design the solution!

 

Everyone must see it

As mentioned earlier, the Product Backlog should be transparent for stakeholders and the Development Team. There are many ways of creating more transparency, but one of the most powerful ones is to literally put the Product Backlog on the wall or board! Of course you have to take all kinds of things into account (like a distributed setting or access restrictions), but what typically works great to increase transparency, is to put stuff somewhere on the wall, close to the team, so that when people walk by, they can actually see what the team is working on now, and what they will be working on in the near future.

 

There is more than customer or business value

The final tip for today is that there is more than business or customer value that you need to consider. Of course you want to deliver as much value for customers, users and the organization as possible, but should it be at all costs? Hopefully not! What we’ve seen a lot of Product Owners do, is that they are fully focussed on delivering as much features as possible. But, as a Product Owner, you are not responsible for delivering more features! You are responsible for maximizing value for customers and users! To put it otherwise: You are responsible for the success of the Product. This doesn’t only included deciding on new features or functionalities in the Product. It also means that you should consider resolving bugs, technical debt, improving the Products’ architecture, improving performance and security. It also means you should spend time on test-automation and the deployment/delivery process. If you spend time on automating manual testing and/or manual deployments, you will eventually be able to deliver more value, with higher quality in a shorter period of time!

 

These are the useful tips for Product Owners on the topic of Product Backlog Management! I hope you learned a few things and enjoyed them.

agile innovation design

There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.

Colin Powell

Digitizing Retail Experiences

A Global Perspective
Digitizing Retail Experiences
November 12, 2020 
10 am (EST)
Register now
Retailers have been focused on digital transformation to meet changing consumer expectations for at least a decade. The current uncertainty in the future of consumer confidence and behaviour patterns is both a challenge and an opportunity—and sharing key insights is just one way to meet the problem head-on.
Product enablement consultancy Rangle and leading online marketplace platform Arcadier present this panel on the future of retail experiences. The discussion will focus on digital experiences, both in-store and online, and offer a wealth of insights from retail professionals around the world.
Rangle’s CEO Nick Van Weerdenburg and Arcadier’s Chief Strategy & Partnership Officer June Boo will be joined by Koos Berkhout, Co-founder of The Tecsa Group, and Peter Tonstad, CEO of Placewise, to share their industry expertise as retail consultants and service providers in a one-hour panel format.

 

You’ll learn: 

  • How digital experiences can enhance bricks-and-mortar retail
  • How the future of the mall is changing with online marketplace experiences
  • How the global pandemic is speeding innovation and digital transformation for retailers around the world
Speakers
Moderator:
Nick Van Weerdenburg
CEO, Rangle.io
Nick is the founder and CEO of Rangle, a product enablement consultancy that partners with enterprise retailers to solve their most complex digital challenges. Nick has evolved Rangle from a startup providing modern JavaScript solutions to a company that consults for the Fortune 500. Prior to founding Rangle, he worked in consulting, architecting and delivering global product development and supply chain solutions, as well as optimizing their multi-channel global marketing operations.
Nick panel talk image
Panelist: June Boo 
Chief Strategy & Partnership Officer 
Arcadier
June has been working with companies, internally or as a consulting professional, to develop go-to-market, business development and growth strategies. Her expertise resides in strategy, digital marketing, mergers and acquisitions, corporate planning, performance and project management. She has helped many companies solve business issues and realize new growth expansion opportunities. As a corporate leader, June has served in executive roles at InterContinental Hotels Group, including Head of Channels and Head of Strategy for the Asia, Middle East & Africa region. She has also spent more than ten years in business consultancy with Boston Consulting Group Greater China, PricewaterhouseCoopers Singapore and New York, and BearingPoint.
June Boo image

 

About Towa

 

www.towasoftware.com

Towa was founded in 2002, by Gerardo Lopez with the vision of using the most advanced engineering disciplines to develop a new concept in the delivery of software products. Towa has devoted over a decade to the research, development and application of engineering processes around the analysis and development of information systems. Towa’s Value Proposition to the clients is to deliver Software Projects with Certainty, delivery without defects, which fulfil all of the requirements efficiently. Our goal is to become an agile co-innovation strategic partner with our customers.

 

 

About Arcadier

https://www.arcadier.com

Arcadier is the world’s fastest-growing online marketplace builder and is the recognized global leader of multi-vendor ecommerce marketplace technology with users from more than 170 countries. Founded in 2013 in Singapore by senior PayPal executives, it has offices in 5 countries including Singapore(HQ), Australia, Philippines and most recently the United States and the United Kingdom. Arcadier enables Enterprises, SMBs, Governments and Start-Ups to build their own white-labelled marketplaces efficiently and cost effectively. Arcadier’s platform supports various eCommerce models including B2B, B2C, P2P, Service & Rental, across industry verticals such as retails, consumer goods, commodities, wholesale, manufacturing and services.

Recently Arcadier also launched Arcadier Enterprise to target needs of large corporations and multi-brand retail companies for their marketplace development needs.

To see more Arcadier Expert Partners, visit:
https://api.arcadier.com/expert-partner

 

Towa Software Media Contact

To learn more about Towa Software – Engineering Culture of High Performance Teams or to speak to Towa Software VP, contact support@towasoftware.com, or visit the website at www.towasoftware.com

towa

TOWA SOFTWARE INC.

MSc. Adrian Lopez
Customer Success Manager
+1 (512) 487-7734
adrian.lopez@towasoftware.com

 

Plus! Get a promo code for Arcadier’s Marketplace Platform when you register
Receive25% OFF a 3-month subscriptions of Arcadier Basic, Growth & Scale Packages
OR
30% OFF semi-annual & annual subscriptions of Arcadier Basic, Growth & Scale Packages
Panelist: Peter Tonstad 
CEO, Placewise
Peter has been working with digital transformation since 1996 within finance, media, music industry and retail. His experience includes 5 years of management experience from Tidal/WiMP/Aspiro, having served as CEO, CFO and CCO. Aspiro/TIDAL was acquired by Jay Z and 15 other world-renowned artists at the beginning of 2015. He has been CEO of the consultancy firm Tarantell, International Director of Edda Media/Mecom Ltd., CEO of the media monitoring company Opoint, Director of Business Development at Dagens Næringsliv Nye Medier/NHST, Head of Northern European Sales for Thomson Financial Intelligence Data and Head of Sales for Web Solutions at Reuters. Peter holds a bachelor’s degree from The Norwegian Business School (BI) and has completed a Master of Management program in Corporate Finance.
Peter Tonstad
Panelist: Koos Berkhout
Co-founder, The Tecsa Group
Koos Berkhout is the co-founder of the Tecsa Group, a customer engagement consultantcy that uses data to augment the customer-retailer relationship. Koos holds board positions with Rakuten Kobo and StylePoints, and in his international career in loyalty and analytics, spanning more than 20 years, has served as a CMO, Director of Client Insights and Head of Business Insights. He has hands-on experience in the development, launch and management of some of the world’s best-known loyalty brands, including Nectar, Air Miles, Rakuten and yuu Rewards.
Koos Berkhout image

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The right eCommerce solution

Which is the right eCommerce solution for my business?

 

Finding the right Partner for your E-commerce Business The new trend is to build a Marketplace using SaaS, and extend functionality with a plugins development.

Ecommerce in numbers

In 2019, retail e-commerce marketplace sales worldwide amounted to US$3.46 trillion, and e-retail revenues are projected to grow to a dizzying US$6.54 trillion in 2022 and will continue to drive the future of e-commerce forward. B2B (business-to-business) marketplace sales transactions are set to boom and will account for an estimated 30% of all worldwide online sales by 2024.

 

Combined, both B2B and B2C (business-to-consumer) marketplaces are expected to grow web sales worldwide to an estimated $7.1 trillion while peer-to-peer marketplaces including eBay and Airbnb will reach $240 billion in combined sales by 2024. However, the area with the fastest-growing global marketplaces will be in B2B.

 

Currently, only a small percentage of the annual worth of online B2B sales are made via marketplaces however, businesses are starting to realize the benefits of trading with partners via marketplace platforms. In this regard, as more businesses trade online, global sales will continue to grow which will include a wide range of industries and vertical markets.

Should I build around a SaaS?

SaaS, or otherwise known as Software-as-a-Service, is a software distribution model in which a service provider hosts applications via the internet for customers. SaaS falls under the form of cloud computing. Usage is subscription-based charging businesses either monthly, bi-annually, or annually to use the service. These online subscriptions come with their respective technical support and periodic upgrades, SaaS companies deliver usability without bogging down customers with details. You access content through a web browser interface and your content is hosted in either a cloud or shared server. There are a variety of businesses that provide this service for marketplace development such as Arcadier, CS-Cart, Dokan, and Sharetribe.

How can I customize the SaaS?

 

A plugin is a software add-on that is installed on a program, enhancing its capabilities. It is a form of integration of a separate application to the main platform, either by the platform owners themselves or by other third parties. For instance, you like to add an email marketing tool to your eCommerce business and you are using Shopify or Woocommerce to build your eCommerce, you can utilize the Quickbooks plugin that seamlessly works with your Shopify Store or your book-keeping or LiveChat plugin to create your customer support chat capability. A number of online store platforms offer a plugin that can turn your single merchant shopping cart into a multi-vendor shopping cart experience. Most of these were developed by third-party developers using their respective APIs and Webhooks, and these developers charge a fee for its use.

What option best suits my business model? 

This is the first question that goes through the minds of people who are trying to start their first eCommerce marketplace. Go with a SaaS provider such as Arcadier, CS-Cart, Dokan or Sharetribe, or via a plugin alternative that augments your platform to become a marketplace for online store platforms such as Shopify, Magento, or Woocommerce? It is key to understand the comparisons of their respective software delivery models.

 

The answer to this question will be dependent on three factors: User preference, costs involved, and feasibility associated with plugin systems.

 

Using standalone plugins is a great option, but it does have its limitations. For example, the plugin builder will still have to work within the confines of the eCommerce platform to change a user experience that is not natural to the main use case of the eCommerce platform. Dedicated Marketplace SaaS products have been built for the purpose of the marketplace experience in mind, so the user experience is designed from the ground up for a multi-vendor experience.

Build a team for your eCommerce business

 

Marketplace SaaS solutions are not significantly more expensive than what most plugin developers are charging for the download and use of their plugin. However, the risk of failure that the augmentation using a plug-in to a platform not developed to be a marketplace makes a dedicated marketplace SaaS solution a safer bet. The features provided by SaaS also enable businesses to efficiently create their own marketplace because a lot of the heavy lifting is already done for you, plug-and-play extensions, themes for your front-end, site optimization, dedicated support, analytics, and bug fixes are such examples.

 

The SaaS option is built-for-purpose but that does not necessarily mean the plugin alternative option should be ruled out, it is still a good option for building a marketplace, however, there lies the problem that all the plugin components on your platform of choice may not necessarily be able to properly shake hands with each other especially on more mature platforms.

Build fast and iterate 

 

SaaS vs Open-Source eCommerce solutions has their similarities, benefits, differences, and challenges. Both have their own niche market and success stories. A lot of people have built excellent marketplaces around both solutions.

 

The main factors to consider when choosing an eCommerce solution are budget, technical proficiency, and knowledge, and how serious are your plans to scale your business.

 

The more niche or more mature your marketplace is, the more customization will require.