Category: Innovation

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.

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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.

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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
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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.

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.

Managing Remote Agile Teams: 7 Strategies

How can teams maintain effective communication when they are separated by location and time zones?

Principles like “software over documentation,” “responding to change over following a plan” and “quality interactions over tools” take on whole new meaning when managing remote teams.

Why Agile prioritizes communication

Agile methodology recognizes face-to-face communication as the most efficient and effective means to share ideas. The benefits of sketching on cards or a whiteboard are two-fold — improving the level of understanding and reducing the time it takes to deliver the core message.

 

Most credit the adoption of Agile thinking as the primary driver to create more open, collaborative office spaces no longer punctuated by rows of cubes and team members appearing every so often. Open spaces led to more drive-by conversations between team members and more feedback collected throughout the development process naturally.

 

Unlike smaller teams who do have the option to co-locate, enterprises managing remote teams often don’t have the luxury of sharing the same physical space each day.

 

Team structure options:

  • The stakeholders and the development team share the same physical space.
  • The business is physically separated from the development team with the stakeholders in one office and the development team in another, often offshore or nearshore.
  • The stakeholders and the development team are separated by distance and time. Additionally, the development team itself is distributed across cities or countries.

 

Distributed teams must actively work to avoid falling into communication traps that shift the project process away from Agile development to a decidedly waterfall one. But, the world is a small place even for distributed teams — made smaller by the available communication platforms from Microsoft Teams, Trello, Slack, Jira, or Skype. Promoting the same close communication expectations is the key to supporting the Agile process on distributed teams.

7 Communication strategies for managing remote agile teams

Foster a culture of continuous integration while builds are regularly reviewed and planned.

 

Creating a culture where continuous integration is the norm is especially valuable on projects with extended timelines or while managing remote teams. In this structure, it’s easy to opt for dividing work for teams along technical boundaries. These technical boundaries may be divided by frontend/backend work or even database and services layer/frontend. Team bandwidth or security might drive the boundaries. Additionally, some businesses may be cautious of releasing intellectual property into a cloud-based platform like GitHub.

 

This usually results in the maintenance of two source code repositories with a commitment to merge them later. Resist this. The technical debt that results from this fractured code is more time-consuming to overcome than if the teams had increased the communication necessary to manage just one code repository in the first place. Overcoming any communication barriers to work on the same code base is worth it in every way.

 

The team manages successfully at leading remote teams and achieving this culture will begin to see evidence manifest in the daily communication and behavior of team members:

  • All members actively strive not to break the build.
  • They will provide visibility to broken builds.
  • All will react with a sense of urgency to adjust build issues.
Commit to frequent builds, so you don’t prioritize upholding the plan over agility.

 

It’s easy to produce a giant spec instead of communicating daily with the remote development team or let distance become a reason to stay the course and avoid developing the solution when challenges or barriers arise.

 

Building on a weekly schedule is good, daily is even better. Hold your team accountable to submit a change set to the source code control each time. Then, take advantage of your compiler as a stand-in team member to ensure your source code has reached or exceeded quality expectations. Adding smoke tests can propel this even further.

 

Welcome the human process of developing custom software.

 

Most people assume custom software development is a purely technical process. While it’s true the process is highly technical requiring years of training and experience to run successfully, software development is a human process first and relies on trust between individuals.

 

Promote knowledge sharing on every team. This is less about documenting processes in a Wiki and more about nurturing this behavior in daily stand-ups or any time team members give updates.

 

Support your team to share beyond what concerns to that day’s work. If a team member expects something they are working on may impact another role the next day, call that out. Once team members master the habit of sharing important, forward-looking insights, that’s when true knowledge sharing has been reached.

 

Foster communication between UX designers and business analysts to accelerate throughput by a factor of two.

 

Fostering close collaboration between designers and business analysts, urging extra attention to the graphical interface. This mean additional time is spent creating visual artifacts for the technical team to complement related user stories. The prize? Less questions related to aesthetics and less iterations created as a result of the mismatched expectations.

 

Consider even non-functional requirements.

 

For teams who are co-located, it’s easy to address questions around performance and scalability as they arise. Imagining and documenting requirements with the appropriate level of detail serves as the link between the business and technical teams.

 

For distributed teams, understanding non-functional requirement feature plays an even bigger role. Without specific directions documented for the technical team, it might result in the production of an architecture that makes assumptions about the non-functional requirements resulting in increased rework, and time waste later.

 

Managing a distributed team may mean documenting more.

 

While all Agile teams strive to write “just enough” requirements, managing a distributed team means accepting “just enough” may still mean documenting more than would be created for a co-located team.

 

Distributed team members can’t quickly sketch on a whiteboard to work through a complex concept. Rather than leaving your development and testing teams left guessing on the nuances that would otherwise be delivered verbally, document them and “give the answers” before the test.

 

By augmenting user stories with test or acceptance criteria you can set the technical team up for success without drastically expanding the narrative.

 

Choose a set of communication tools for your team that allows for the usual escalation of communication needs.

 

When teams are co-located, the level of communication needed escalates naturally. It might begin with co-workers speaking one-to-one in the breakroom. If clarifying details are needed, additional subject matter experts may be pulled into the conversation. Then, the conversation shifts from many-to-one or many-to-many, depending on the context. Maintaining this escalation process is essential to create outlets for quick answers or more in-depth conversations despite any distance that may exist between team members.

 

Types of Communication

  • Chat 1–1
  • Chat many-to-1
  • Voice call
  • Visual call
  • Screen share
  • Collaborative Board

 

The ability to ask quick clarifying questions is inherent in how most teams work. In the past, this could be accomplished with face-to-face drive-bys in the office. But, increasingly even teams who are co-located are relying on instant messenger or video calls to accomplish this.

 

Instant messaging is a powerful tool for managing remote teams that include non-native English speakers. The tool allows them the space to craft replies without the pressure of discussing directly (and quickly) with a native English speaker. That said, tools like Microsoft Teams or Slack allow for escalation from messaging to voice and video calls and even screen sharing if needed.

 

While the importance of instant messaging cannot be over-emphasized for distributed teams, watching body language and physical reactions to comments or questions are also critically important, especially when discussing challenges or questions to estimate feasibility or understanding.

What does it take to win with distributed Agile software teams?

No digital tool or communication strategy can replace the determination of the leaders needed to achieve the Team highest potential.

 

Co-Innovate with us.

 

Towa SoftwareBoosting Digital Transformation with best ROI – Remote Tech Teams. 300 strong.

 

Tips for distributed agile teams

“Agile development isn’t any longer considered to work for collocated teams only. Also, teams, projects, and organizations that are distributed are asked to focus on delivering value. Yet, with Agile’s emphasis on -among other things- face-to-face communication, this seems like a contradiction. So the question arises, how to adhere to the Agile principles when applying them in a distributed environment.”

H

ere you will learn about the key success factors for distributed teams. Readers will understand that also distributed teams can benefit from a value system and from principles that are beneficial for small teams. In fact, the two trends – distribution in terms of globalization and Agility – can even complement each other.

Many organizations find themselves faced with the challenge of making distributed agile work. Mergers and market consolidation, geographic expansion, and offshoring have made multi-site development the norm rather than the exception. Companies with sites in competitive labor markets can find distributed team members as an alternative when they can’t recruit locally.

Agile can work in a distributed environment, but it requires work; more effort than you’d expect if you’ve never done it before. Here are eight hacks that can make it easier.

Why distributing the team might make sense

You might not be able to get all the people with the right skills in the same location, but the world is filled with talented, motivated people, and being open to working in a distributed way opens up your options.

Besides, today’s technical professionals have more choices about where they live and work. They may like where they live and not want to move. In short, the people you need may not all live in the same location.

Local culture matters. If you’re developing a product that needs to appeal to customers in different countries around the world, you’ll need people who know the local culture and language. There are also political or security reasons for distributing development—from tax advantages for doing work in certain countries, to restrictions on data crossing country borders, to the need for people on the team with particular security clearances.

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons a business would choose to have a distributed team, and whether we like it or not, the number of remote workers is only going to grow. With that in mind, here are eight simple distributed-agile hacks that can set the right tone for a successful remote team.

1. Recruit motivated individuals

It is possible to make distributed development work; open-source projects do it all the time. They have a couple of advantages that other initiatives often lack.

  1. Their team members are often exceptionally self-motivated, at least if they are committers.
  2. They often don’t have to deal with stakeholders or requirements, because they are often building a project for themselves, so they know the problem domain very well.

In more normal situations, having highly motivated team members is really important, and the remote team members are going to have to be exceptionally self-motivated. that’s because they are going to have to work harder to communicate, stay engaged, and stay focused and productive. They won’t have the informal network of co-located team members to fall back on.

The co-located team members are going to have to work harder, too. They are going to have to make a special effort to engage their remote team members.

2. Create self-organizing teams

The worst thing to do when forming any team is to assign people to work on it; it kills motivation and destroys initiative. Since distributed work is even harder than co-located work—because it requires even greater motivation—the distributed team needs to be strong, with members who are committed to the mission, to the way of working, and to each other. That level of commitment doesn’t happen by accident.

Letting people choose to be part of the team—to work with one another—is an important first step. They must want to work in an agile way, and they must want to work with one another. Let people volunteer to join the effort, and then bring them together to establish their norms and working agreements.

3. Co-locate, at the start, to let teams form, storm, and norm

Forming a team usually takes at least a couple of sprints, sometimes longer. You will make your life, and theirs, much harder if you don’t invest in helping them develop into a high-performing team. It takes time and experience working together as a team to develop the trust, commitment, and mutual accountability that they need to perform well together and to be transparent about the state of the work.

Artificial team-building exercises do little to help teams go through the forming-storming-norming-performing process. Bringing teams together for a couple of sprints is really the best way to develop the working relationships that are essential to future performance.

4. If the effort is large, have co-located teams at each site

Let’s say that an organization has sites in multiple locations, as well as multiple teams, each with team members at every location. In this situation, you’re going to end up maximizing the amount of extra work for everyone.

Instead, you should try to form co-located teams at each location and let them figure out how to share the work among themselves, extending Scrum with a scaled agile approach such as SAFe or Nexus. In this approach, multiple teams are working on the same product.

With a scaled Scrum approach such as Nexus, you help multiple Scrum teams simplify cross-team collaboration by resolving and preventing cross-team conflicts and ensuring that they deliver an integrated product increment with every sprint.

Regardless of which framework you use, you should make sure each team has a Scrum Master. Masters will not only help their own team perform better, but they will also help everyone else who needs to collaborate with that team.

5. Co-locate development teams with their product owner

This sounds obvious, but I’ve encountered plenty of strange situations where this is not the case. I’ve seen companies with the development team in one location and the product owner in another. This really hurts collaboration and communication, so don’t do it. Find a different team or a different product owner, move the product owner to the same time zone, or empower a local delegate for the remote product owner if the product owner is co-located with another team.

6. Invest in collaboration, but invest first in teams

Collaboration technology really helps teams be more effective—distributed source-code management, continuous integration, continuous delivery tools, wikis, video conferencing, and chat platforms such as Slack all help high-performance distributed teams be more effective. But they can’t make a low-performance team into a high-performance team. Lack of these tools can decrease the effectiveness of even a high-performance team, however.

7. Share the pain of time-zone separation

When a team has members at multiple sites, they demonstrate mutual respect by sharing the burden of working odd hours. Some teams make the mistake of having the team with the most members set the workday rules, but this sends the message to teams at other sites that their contributions are not valued as much. Making everyone share the burden is not only fairer, but it also creates a sense of empathy with what other team members have to endure.

8. Minimize wait times

Different time zones increase wait times. When a person at one site must wait for a team member at another to start the day to resolve a blocking issue, the rest of the day is lost. These delays add up. The daily stand-up can help uncover these problems, but the team will have to look not only at today’s work but potentially at tomorrow’s as well to know what issues might block them. It won’t be perfect, however, and some additional delay is inevitable.

Flattening roles and refining the product backlog to spot potential conflicts earlier can help. With dependencies reduced, and with teams having members who potentially can work on any product backlog item, blocking issues and slow hand-offs will be less frequent. But the issues can’t be eliminated.

No shortcuts to great teams

Distributed agile development is harder than co-located agile development. Time zone differences make collaboration more challenging. However, teams with members working at the same site but in different buildings will find collaboration more challenging as well. Being agile requires transparency, which doesn’t exist unless team members trust one another, and developing trust requires time spent working together.

Organizations make a big mistake when they think of teams as simply a group of individuals. A great team is far more than the sum of its members’ contributions. Being part of a great team is motivating—it challenges people to do their best, and it rewards them with a sense of shared accomplishment that individual accomplishment cannot. Great teams take time and investment to build, and they are worth preserving when they come together.

“When distributing work, for whatever reason, focus on forming great teams at the beginning. These teams can be formed with distributed individuals if they are motivated and supported, but it does take more practice on everyone’s part.”

Risk Management Banking Industry Trends

Fintechs and nonbanks now have a substantial influence in the banking industry. They are highly agile, innovative, and aim at exceeding the demands of modern customers in banking services and experiences. Established retail banks need to compete and often play catch-up. Still, they acknowledge the need to change, and change fast.

 

 

 

Agile culture for remote teams

Distributed teams or remote teams are more important now than ever, the new normal requires teams and individuals to work from home or in different locations to deliver products and services. How can we use it to thrive agile culture?

 

Agile development was originally conceived for clustered teams, or teams physically located together in the same room. In keeping with the idea that “the most efficient and effective method of communicating information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation”, early agile teams were meant to work together in proximity.

 

But today most businesses have a few–or many–distributed teams. This isn’t just a trend; it makes good sense. Distributed teams can work on projects around the clock, and strong talent can be found in less competitive markets. (Not to mention, talent is easily retained by not requiring an undesired relocation.) But the benefits of distributed teams aren’t without some trade-offs. For many distributed teams, it’s difficult to adopt the agile practice of face-to-face interactions.

 

Other challenges that emerge for distributed software teams:

  • Coordinating across time zones
  • Building rapport when everyone is not in the same office
  • Collaborating among different development cultures
  • Scheduling meetings or informal conversations when both teams are online at the same time for only a few hours (or less)

These are real problems. But not impossible ones. Let’s walk through some strategies to help bridge the distance gap between local and remote teams, and ideas to help mitigate other potential issues as well.

 

How to structure cross-border teams

Good software architecture dictates modular design, so structure your teams the same way. Every team should be self-sufficient in developing a single piece of technology, which minimizes the amount of collaboration required with teams in other offices/locations and makes them generally autonomous. When a project does require teams in different locations to pitch in, they can focus on their integration points and APIs.

 

Code reviews also play an important role. Since people are online at different times, distributing knowledge of the code between teams makes support and maintenance much easier. If a production issue emerges when the team is not online, another team can easily step in to support and resolve the issue, thanks to the know-how they gained from cross-team or cross-location code reviews.

 

Building rapport and co-worker affinity

It’s important in any team, especially in agile projects to have solid rapport across the team. Personal connection builds trust, minimizes missed expectations, eases self-organization, and boosts morale. Within your office, take the time to get to know everyone on your team. And, as much as possible, do the same with the people you work within remote teams. Personal connections are important. The stronger they become, the greater the chance of seeing these colleagues as any other, rather than distant coworkers from unfamiliar places without good relationships.

 

TIP: At Towa, each new employee posts a “intro blog” on our internal Communication tool, Towa’s content collaboration platform. The blog introduces the new hire professionally as well as personally (hobbies, interests, family, etc.) which really helps bridge the gap between offices. The more we know each other as people, the stronger we are working together as teams.

 

Above all, nothing replaces meeting face to face. Team members in each office will benefit from regular face time, and that includes video conferencing as well as visits to remote offices.

Video conferencing tools like Zoom help bridge the gap between teams, especially for distributed agile teams. However, teams that rely on Zoom should be aware of certain limitations.

 

  • Video conferencing often allows for a very short window of communication, while working in the same office gives significant visibility into another’s world: challenges, successes, and opportunities.
  • Zoom has done well to address network hiccups. Still, there may be times when network issues occur between buildings that can make video and audio choppy or difficult to understand.
  • Most people still think of Zoom video conferencing as scheduled time. Create a culture of using video chat for spontaneous casual conversation. Also, use instant messaging tools like Slack, Whatsapp, or Teams for quick communication.

 

To help mitigate some video conferencing issues, encourage team members to have regular 1:1 video chat sessions. These can be less formal, and help facilitate knowledge sharing in a casual way. Teammates can use these moments to build rapport and work better together.

 

Remember, tone, voice, and posture play a significant part in communication. In-person time helps the team know their remote colleagues in higher fidelity, which, in turn, makes future video conferencing more effective.

 

 

Building a united culture

There are four simple ways teams can make working across offices easier and share a common culture:

  • Over communicate decisions across all teammates
  • Setting up the development environment for easy collaboration
  • Clearly define the definition of Done
  • Create guidelines for filing effective bug reports

 

Let’s talk more about it.

 

First, when moving from a co-located office to a distributed culture, communication becomes significantly harder. The first challenge is training the team to understand that, when decisions are made, they need to be communicated. This may sound obvious, but it’s easy to forget! Oftentimes important decisions are made in hallway conversations, informal local team meetings, or by individuals. Plus, it can be easy to dismiss small decisions as unimportant.

Communicate even minute details until both teams find a healthy groove.

When decisions are made, everyone in each office needs to understand the decision and ideally why it was made. Don’t use email. It’s too easy to lose important information. Use a content management system like a wiki where team members can easily browse for updates across the team (and get notified of updates via email or Slack group chat tool). You can also use Slack to create channels for individuals and teams to communicate and see updates. Delays caused by team members working on outdated information, hitting a roadblock, and then asking a question costs the team significantly more time than proactively sharing information.

Second, consistent development environments across the team make it easier to work together and track down issues. Spend time creating a simple “Getting Started” guide and overcome first-day friction by automating the setup as much as possible.

Third, when working between teams, clear standards around the definition of “complete” makes it easier to manage expectations and build agreement across teams. A firm definition of complete eliminates the ambiguity in the work. For instance, when shipping a release that involves multiple teams, make it clear what it means to be complete: code written, pull request created, code reviewed, tested, and merged into the appropriate branch.

And finally, when problems come up. Having clear guidelines for bug reports and troubleshooting how-tos makes it easier for anyone on the team to track down an issue. Code review and good automated tests also share knowledge about the code base and empower the affected team to make the fix and validate that the change doesn’t have any unexpected side effects. Thus, no team becomes a blocker.

 

Maximize the golden hours

Every photographer knows “the golden hours” – just before and after sunrise and sunset–is one of the most effective times to take great landscape photos. The golden hours for distributed software teams are when the local and remote teams are both in their respective posts at the same time. When all teams are online, this is a great time for stand-ups.

For teams that share work between time zones, stand-up is a great time to pass the baton so the team just coming online can pick up where the other team left off. And holding stand-up via video conference makes it easy to ask questions and get up to speed so everyone is off and running as soon as the meeting is done.

 

Sometimes teams are so far apart that meetings will cause some form of pain for one team. (Get up at 6 a.m. for stand-up with the other team? Umm… no thanks.) Rotate the meeting time so it’s a shared burden, rather than continually subjecting the foreign team to the odd hours–a sure-fire way to destroy morale. Closely monitor the entire team’s engagement at stand-up. If there is an undue tension, or the team is not getting a lot out of it, team members will begin to disengage and stop listening or sharing. And stand-up doesn’t absolutely have to be a daily meeting. Meet with the remote team a few times a week and use the other days for a local stand-up. Similarly, a stand-up doesn’t have to be a morning routine, either. Whatever time of day is most convenient for everyone involved is the best time of day.

 

Every team is remote

In a distributed organization, the reality is that every team is remote. All teams need to adapt and learn how to share work between locations, communicate effectively, and grow a consistent culture across geographies. The most effective teams don’t just make the remote team adapt to their own culture because they understand that every team can learn something from the others. They seek to find and share successful practices across all locations. They also embrace “we” rather than an “us vs. them” culture.

 

Because the new reality is that most will become distributed. Businesses are working at home, we all need to manage a work/life balance. Teams that embrace both structure and transparency scale more efficiently. When your project scales beyond your location, the culture will be set up to do the right thing.

 

 

 

Android or iOS for retail?

Develop apps for both platforms using cross-platform development tools, like React Native or Flutter 

Many retailers face a difficult decision: should their mobile retail shopping app support Android or iOS? They feel their limited resources cannot be stretched to build and support both platforms, so they often pick just one. Some retailers may have already committed to one platform, but are unsure if they made the right choice. Others have not yet developed on either platform and are exploring options for their first mobile shopping app. With our past experience working with large retailers, we believe that to maximize revenue from mobile, companies need a presence on both Android and iOS in order to avoid losing the opportunities that each platform provides.

This article will explore the options available for retailers with only one app or no native mobile app at all. We will show you why supporting both platforms is the only choice, and how using a cross-platform development tool like React Native or Flutter, provides the resources to support both platforms at 60% of the cost.

Should you have a mobile retail app at all?

Our research shows that any retailer interested in keeping up in the current, competitive omni-channel environment needs a mobile presence. The number of retailer mobile apps actively used by consumers has doubled in 2019, from an average of four apps per phone to eight. According to studies:

  • 72% of consumers use apps for browsing products
  • 60% for accessing discount coupons
  • 57% for making purchases
  • 86% are happy with the customer experience provided by retail mobile native apps.

What about relying on a mobile website instead of a native app? Let’s look at the data:

  • The average time a user spends on their mobile phone: 4 hours, 10 minutes
  • How long a user spends time browsing the mobile web: 32 minutes 
  • How long a user spends time using mobile apps: 3 hours 40 minutes 

Users no longer consider the mobile web as a viable alternative as 90% of mobile usage time is spent on apps. The mobile web does not seem as responsive to user inputs as a native app. For the user, a native app is a much more immersive experience. For the retailer, a native app offers a superior branding opportunity. Clearly, not having a mobile retail presence is a costly mistake for any retailer. Your customer expects the convenience of mobile shopping, and the responsive performance of a native app.

What each platform offers

Both platforms have plenty to offer. Internally, there may be discussions about whether marketers should target heavy spenders among iOS users, or whether they should cater to Android users, who continue to outnumber iOS users 6-1?

The decision will depend on many factors, such as your app category or your target audience. In some regions and demographics, Android dominates, while in other areas, iOS dominates. It is important to prioritize your targets and tactics based on the audience you want to engage.

A case for Android

According to IDC, Android phones have 85% of the global market share as of 2019, while Apple iOS has only 12%. The other 2% is split amongst all other mobile operating systems.

Statistics show that Android users spend slightly more time interacting in the app than iOS users do. In the case of retail shopping apps, Android users spend an average of 7.6 minutes vs. the 6.6 minutes iOS users spend.

So, given the high lead in market share, Android seems like the logical choice for your first app, right? Not so fast…

A case for iOS

It is generally accepted that iOS users are more profitable for retailers than Android users. Figures released by Google and compiled by Benedict Evans provide some hard data on just how big that gap is.

“Google Android users in total are spending around half as much on apps on more than twice the user base, and hence app ARPU (Average revenue per user) on Android is roughly a quarter of iOS.”

A study in 2014 shows that the median iPhone app user earns $85,000 per year, which is 40% more than the median Android phone user, with an annual income of $61,000. Even though Android has far more downloads than iOS, iPhone users spend twice as much on their phone than their Android counterparts. Another study of small retail purchases found that on average, Android users spent $11.54 per transaction. iPhone users, on the other hand, spent $32.94. Independent research indicates that the perception that iOS users are the “Big Spender” platform is more than a stereotype — It’s an observation supported by facts.

Impressive engagement rates suggest that iOS users offer better value for money than their Android counterparts. So obviously iOS development is more cost-effective than Android, right? Well, there is still more to consider…

Regional differences

The physical location of your target audience can make a large difference in the type of platform used. Note that iOS is favored in regions with large amounts of disposable income. Android sees high usage in lower-income areas of developed markets. In emerging markets, Android extends its lead even further.

The demographics and income profiles of the target region can also have a significant impact on the choice of the platform the retailer chooses to concentrate on. User age, gender, education, and other factors not covered here may also impact the platform choice. The decision process can become quite complex with no conclusive answer.

The cost of developing for both platforms

To maximize revenue from mobile, companies need a presence on both Android and iOS to avoid losing the opportunities that each platform provides. We have seen that Android downloads far exceed iOS downloads. We have also seen that the iOS purchase value exceeds that of Android. To further complicate matters, target regions, and other demographics matter. Even the type of purchase may favor one platform over the other, so the most ideal solution is to develop apps for both platforms.

Recall that the reason we were forced to choose between the two platforms in the first place was to control development and support costs. Two apps, one for each platform, will cost twice as much as developing one app, says conventional thinking. We are glad to report that this is no longer the case. Cross-platform development tools, like Facebook’s React Native or Google’s Flutter, have come to save us.

Buy one, get one free

Both React Native and Flutter are an excellent cross-platform development framework. The initial investment in app development using these frameworks will yield applications for both platforms with native app performance.

They offer strong support and backing of the biggest technology companies with a highly-attractive UI and excellent native performance. Once the developer is up-to-speed using the programming environment, development time is faster than any alternatives.

To learn more about React Native and its advantages over other cross-platform development tools like Iconic or Flutter, check out our blog post Why React Native should be your next mobile development framework.

If you do not have any app neither Android nor iOS

Developing in React Native or Flutter will yield an app for both platforms with the same resource cost as building for a single platform. We estimate that it is 60% cheaper to use React Native or Flutter as your development platform than using Swift and Kotlin. The code is only written once for both apps. Also, from our experience developing in native and cross-platform applications, we estimate developing with React Native or Flutter is about 15% more resource-efficient than the native languages.

If you already have an app on one platform

Already have one platform app developed? Using a cross-platform tool still makes sense. Using React Native or Flutter for developing your second app will incur the same development resources as developing using a native language, possibly slightly less. However, both applications will now use common code, saving future costs for maintenance and upgrades. Consistency of look and feel between the two apps will also have a positive effect on corporate branding.

Conclusion – You can afford to have mobile apps on both platforms

The days of choosing between Android or iOS have long past. It is now a requirement to support both platforms. Ignoring either platform has direct negative consequences on your revenue stream. Fortunately, the days of having to choose platforms based on development costs are behind us. Both React Native or Flutter development tools can build a cross-platform application for both Android and iOS with the same performance as development based on native application language for the same cost as a single platform. The cost savings extend to app maintenance as well. Contact Towa Software for further information or a quote for us to build out or update your mobile application portfolio.