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Clutch Supports Small Businesses Like Ours

By OrganizationsNo Comments

When we think of the economy and the firms that drive it forward, too often we think of the mega-corporations, the household names, and the gigantic success stories. What we don’t always think about, though we should, is the small businesses.  

In the United States alone, small businesses account for 99% of all economic activity. They’re all around us, contributing every day to innovation, to the national workforce, and to creating the products that enrich our lives. In other words, if we want a healthy economy, we need to focus on small businesses. 

What makes us so passionate about small businesses? Well, we here at Bytelion are one of them. Though we’ve been around for nearly 10 years, we’ve managed to stay small, gaining expertise in the development industry, maintaining a close-knit team, and perfecting our company culture. We know there’s so many advantages to being a small company, and we’re determined to support our fellow small agencies through this difficult time.

One special way we’ve decided to show our support is by starting within and showcasing some of our own team’s incredible accomplishments over the years. Often, we turn to Clutch, a ratings and reviews platform, to reflect on our past projects. 

Here’s one of our most recent success stories: our team helped a mental health program develop a custom software. Mary Beth Beaudry, Admin Director of the Johns Hopkins Mood Disorders Center was pleased with our team’s performance. “By far Bytelion has been the best company with whom we have worked. Professional, approachable, conscientious, exacting,” she said. “They produced a world-class product all while ensuring our needs and expectations were being met.”

ADAP Clutch Review

We’re appreciative of the kind words and thrilled that we’ve been able to achieve success for our partners. Our years of experience as a small company has helped us to perfect our services and solutions, and we couldn’t be more proud of our team.

It’s great to have a platform like Clutch to reflect on our success, as well as our shortcomings, so we can continue to work hard and improve. We also have a profile on their sister site, The Manifest, another awesome tool that includes business leaders and insights across industries. We’d love it if you checked it out!

If you’re in the market for a development partner who can help you accomplish your goals, don’t hesitate to reach out—you’ll support a small business while you’re at it. We’re excited to hear from you!

 

Enterprise UX Gone Wrong

By Design, Leadership, OrganizationsNo Comments

There are many things that can go wrong when building a web-based platform or application, but the most tragic of offenses comes from a poor UX plan stemming from the very beginning of the development process. A great UX process, accompanied by a team of highly qualified individuals will make a world of difference, from your wallet to the face of the product. The following are symptoms of a poor UX process and how it impacts your product.

 

Your Bottomline Is Suffering

You may not be sinking, but you’re losing money. Perhaps you aren’t hitting your quarterly goals or are starting to see negative trends. It may be a surprise, but design can help solve this problem.

Strategy and Discovery

There is a good chance your business is heading downhill because of poor planning. As in a lot of things, business needs planning, not just financially, but with all that you do. The design is not an exception. The first step to a great User Experience (UX) is to review and understand your business requirements. You could potentially be focusing on one or more of the following business strategic priorities:

  • Reduce costs
  • Increase revenue
  • Increase new business
  • Increase existing business

Having the team and stakeholders on the same page as to what the goals of the company are can pave a clear path for the design and development team for the next steps. No more asking “why are we doing this?”. With business and user requirements determined and explained up front, everyone will know why each aspect of the product is the way it is and more importantly, how to better accomplish the goals of the product. Additionally, planning in advance allows for you and your team to be more knowledgeable and make informed decisions about your product resulting in higher user engagement.

 

Business Strategy is the foundation of the UX process, without this,
you can expect your product to come crashing down.

 

Late Deliveries and ‘Never-ending’ features

Your project is behind schedule, priorities change on a whim, features never seem to get pushed.

 

Defining Scope

Why is this happening? Simple: Your project scope is out of whack. Either you never defined the project scope with the team, or your scope is starting to go off the designated path, leading to unfinished, late work. Scope definition benefits the team and product in many ways. It allows everyone to be on the same page about what can be done in a specific time frame and how it will be done. It is best to know your user and business requirements before trying to define your project scope. Once you know your goals you can begin to prioritize the next steps based on the requirements set in place, Prioritizing can be, and in many cases is, the leading problem in most production. A lack of prioritization is largely caused by stakeholder disputes which in turn cause uncertainty among the team and ultimately leads to nothing ever getting completed in a timely fashion, if at all. Stakeholders will be able to see, with abundant transparency, the project timeline, and feature prioritization. This also saves the development team from stakeholders who want to start changing and adapting the project scope mid-project. Defining the scope allows you to build products that are useful for your users and meets their needs.

 

Your project scope should not be defined by opinions and ideas, but rather on the user and business needs and requirements.

 

Engagement is down

You’re losing users, they aren’t spending much time using the site or app, customer purchases are low, or you can’t get users to onboard. Users don’t seem to be catching on to your product, so what gives?

Structure and Ideation

Users like pretty, fun, unique things, but they also like what they know. They don’t want to think, guess, or wonder while they’re using your product. In order to successfully build a product that users will not only enjoy using but keep coming back to, you need to know what your users want out of your product. Engagement is 100% related to your business and user requirements. If you have not written out and made it clear what your purpose as a business is, as well as what your users need from your product, you cannot successfully build a product that is created for your users. Understanding what your customers need and want is key to providing a service or product that meets those needs.

 

For example, imagine a user has just ordered an item from your website and wants to know about your return policy, but can’t find any information regarding this on the purchase confirmation page, they will have to start searching the site to see if they can find the information they need. Not giving the user the information they need when and where they want it or expect it can lead to frustration and an overall bad experience. Users will have a better experience when they have to think less, and know more.

 

Your users are the core of your product. Understanding how they think and why they use your product will help you build the right structure.

 

Massive Project overhauls

You’ve had re-designs, feature recall, structure changes, the list goes on. You thought you got it right from the start, but things keep needing to be adapted, changed or removed altogether.

 

Skeleton and Prototyping Phase

Lots of changes and modifications to a site either prior to or shortly after launch can most usually be linked back to the failure to draw out, wireframe, and iterate on the initial design layout. This step is crucial to the future of the product as it allows you to identify holes in the plan, points of user error, and feature issues. By foregoing this creative and iterative process you go straight from a features list to finalized design without much thought in-between. Iteration is crucial to the success of a design, but not less or more important than asking the right questions and listening to your users. A major player in project overhauls is a team’s inability to read user data correctly, interpreting what the data says to meet their needs or opinions. Cross-vertical collaboration needs to occur when discussing user input to make sure discussions involving technical capabilities, financial constraints, and design aspects are considered when solving issues or implementing new features. A product’s ease-of-use is directly related to your team’s ability to collaborate, understand user data, and adapt and iterate when given new information.

 

Iterative design produces the best result. Your first is never your best.

 

Brand Experience isn’t right

The colors are off, the logo is confusing, the imagery is tacky, it looks dated. Maybe your site looks nice but isn’t a good representation of your brand. Whatever it is, you know it’s got to change.

Surface and design

Your product’s look and feel isn’t matching the look and feel you had in mind or isn’t looking good at all. This is all due to the UI (User Interface) design. The UI is the ‘surface’ of a product and conveys to users the meaning, use, and connotation associated with the business and product itself. The UI covers everything from colors and fonts to animation and transitions. A good UI will take into account who your users are, how they should feel using your product,  and your business’ brand. A common occurrence that can cause the UI to not have the right feel is when the design does not line up with the target market. This can happen for a number of reasons, possibly because you do not know your target market, you are making assumptions about your target market, your team has not spent the time to get to know your target market, or most commonly someone on the team, typically the product manager or a stakeholder views the product as their baby and does not want to listen to any views other than their own even when those views are backed up by data. You can help to avoid these types of mistakes by clearly laying out who this is for and why the choices being made make sense for that groups of persons. The overall feeling about the brand/product should be good or your Brand Experience is NOT good.

 

You think you’re ‘Done’

It doesn’t matter what your business delivers, you are never Done. Your user’s wants, needs, and goals are ever-changing and you need to adjust to make sure you continue to bring a useful, functional, pleasing product.

 

Testing and Evaluation

Design is a key aspect of updates and adjustments to your product since using a UX process can help you determine the best options for your business moving forward. Whether it’s interviewing users or doing A/B testing, the most impactful tool you can utilize is testing. Testing your product through various means will give your team insights into the way your users’ think and how they feel when interacting with your product. Through the evaluation process, unknowns are discovered that allow your company to pivot and adapt quickly and more purposefully, providing greater meaning to your product. An issue you can and most likely will run into through testing and attempting to make changes to the product will be a stakeholder coming forward and disagreeing with decisions because they feel the product is better one way than another purely based off their own opinion. This is referred to as Pride of Authorship. They believe since they started the project that they should have it the way they want it, which you could argue is correct and fair, however, this thinking can damage the product, user engagement, leading to a poor team environment and a hurting the bottom line. Keeping stakeholders aware of the core users’ needs and goals and how new feedback benefits the company and product can allow them to see their version may not be the best holistic option.  

“Usability testing shows you if something is usable. Beta testing shows you if people will actually use it.”
Rachel Decker

The Generational Shift in Staffing–How to Stay Ahead of the Curve

By Leadership, OrganizationsNo Comments

The youngest of the baby boomers are now in their fifties, and the largest population of workers is now comprised of Gen X and Gen Y. The most recent group to the workforce, the millennials, now represent over a third of the US workforce. With this great influx of technology-savvy workers, the days of cubicle farms filled with huge desktops are numbered. Millennials that are entering your workforce are not just looking for a paycheck, they need to be convinced that you are the right fit for their needs. How does your company look in their eyes?

Mobile first and upgrade your Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS)

Reaching millennials will need to be lead by a mobile-first strategy. Mobile devices are here to stay, and job candidates want to use what is in their hand to conduct their lives and their work. All customer-facing interactions need to be on par with the latest technology trends. Your main website has to be mobile responsive, and any recruiting efforts need to have the feel of a native app. Millennials need to feel that you represent what they want, seamless, intuitive communication, and the best current technology. Ask yourself, if they are tempted to apply, is this process an easy one? 

Clunky mobile apps lead to far higher rates of non-submitted applications. How does your site compare to others that millennials may also be looking at? Once they have applied, will your ATS weed out the best or the worst? Have you considered going a step further and introducing an A.I. platform to help find the best candidates? We are now at the point where those organizations using the best tech will gather the best talent to their groups, leaving the rest to apply to organizations with less sophisticated systems.

Maximize your employee referrals.

Current employees often find the best new hires. They sell the company and culture better than any recruiter, ensuring an excellent fit and long-term commitment. How can you assist in this process? Incentive offers buried deep in the HR tab of your intranet are not very helpful. Modernize the effort by bringing attention to recruiting programs on your homepage with a link to open positions, and introduce new ways of connecting their social networks to your recruitment efforts. Have an active, pay-based referral program and pay well for hired referrals. Even consider a repeating annual payment for each hire an employee has brought in. This small annual incentive will keep attention on recruiting efforts.

Engage the applicant

Once interested, how do you get an applicant to commit to your organization? Email is no longer the only way to communicate and is becoming slightly dated. Take advantage of the tools candidates are already using. A quick video call or a Facebook message can provide the necessary interaction to capture the candidate’s focus. Are you capturing their preferences in the application process?

Staffing strategies have to evolve as the candidates evolve, and successful past efforts will not cut it as the needs of the employees change. Staying ahead of the curve means transitioning to methods that get you the best hires. Strong mobile technology, improved ATS, and a turbocharged referral system would find you the most qualified individuals.

 

Scrum.org vs Scrum Alliance: How to Train in Scrum

By Agile, Development, Leadership, Organizations

Introduction

Agile methodologies have gained significant traction since the 2000’s.  Scrum is an Agile methodology that promotes bottom up leadership by utilizing self-organizing teams, not top down direction.  To understand why Agile is such an effective development strategy or how to transition your difficult team to agile, check out our other Blog post: Corporate Agile & How do I Transition my Difficult Team to Agile? 

The big question is you are most likely having is what is the best company to certify with: Scrum.org or ScrumAlliance.org?

History

During the early 1990’s Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland jointly presented a paper at the Business Object Design and Implementation Workshop in Austin, Texas. This gained more publicity in the 2000’s and led to the birth of what we now know as SCRUM. Schwaber and Sutherland formed the Scrum Alliance and the CSM (Certified Scrum Master) certification. In 2009 Schwaber left and created his own certification, PSM (Professional Scrum Master), at Scrum.org.   One of the best articles that we have read is from .  If you haven’t read this article about the fragility of the scrum certification process, you should.  Below is our take on each program.

If only we could settle this with an epic of rap battle between Ken and Jeff.  Sigh… this topic most likely won’t reach the high ERB entertainment threshold,  lets take a quick look at the different ways people can become certified.

Scrum Alliance

The Scrum Alliance alliance offers certification to become proficient in Scrum, whether as a Certified Scrum Master (CSM), Product Owner (Certified Product owner) or even Developer (Certified Scrum Developer). The test’s only requirement is a two day Scrum course (approximately $1,295, depending on the instructor). Once you have completed your training, you can take your test online. The pass acceptance score is 24/35 questions (65%). Obviously, this is not particularly difficult to pass, but it’s not meant to be. You have gone through the rudimentary training, and you understand the basics. To become truly accomplished at Scrum it takes experience. For training courses to receive certification via the Scrum Alliance, you can find a searchable list of available trainers/ courses on the home page of their siteSample of a course

Scrum.org

 

For those who do not have the flexibility for a 2-day course, or for those who have their team spread geographically, Scrum.org has you covered. Scrum.org offers certification straight up with no mandatory training. You will however need to motivated and pull your own training courses together.  Obviously, it is best to train before taking the test as it has an acceptance score of 85%. The courses are named differently than those of the Scrum Alliance (e.g. CSM is PSM (Professional Scrum Master)) but they cover the same material. Scrum.org offers 2/3 levels of certification with varying prices according to the certification. For example, a PSM certification is typically $150 for the first tier, $250 for the second and $500 for the third. A Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) only has two tiers ($200 and $500).  For all of the certifications, you do not need to take the lower tiers. If you feel you are capable, you can go straight to the top!  Don’t worry however, there is a pricey class you can attend as well for $1,495.

Failing the Scrum.org Test

Here is a story about failure and success with the scrum master certification.

Summary

Cert Type Scrum Alliance Scrum.org
Certified Scrum Master/Professional Scrum Master ~ $1000 $150/$250/$500
Certified Scrum Product Owner/Professional Scrum Product Owner  $1200 – $1500 $200/$500
Certified Scrum Developer/Professional Scrum Developer $1800 – $3000 $200

Scrum certification isn’t required, but it is a nice to have.  Because of the pricing and convenience, we enjoy scrum.org’s model thoroughly.

Note: Both sites offer various other forms of Scrum certification which are worth taking a look at, but these are the three core ones.

Additional Resources

The internet provides many free resources for Scrum training. My favorite is the Scrum Training Series by Michael James (shout out to Michael, thank you for your impressive training via your site!!)

Regarding books, if you want a quick page turner you should try ‘Scrum: A Breathtakingly Brief and Agile Introduction‘ by Chris Sims and Hillary Louise Johnson. For a more in depth look into Scrum ‘The Elements of Scrum’ by the same authors will provide you with all you need to know.

If you have any questions feel free to comment below or shoot us an email at info@bytelion.com