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News for January 2013

5 Advantages for Startups Using Virtual Employees

By Seth Weedin

Startup Virtual EmployeesEntrepreneurs are always looking for a way to cut costs; many times it’s the only way to survive. So what is one way to increase productivity at very low cost? Consider hiring virtual employees.

Some entrepreneurs and startups already take advantage of this opportunity but for the most part, it’s not widely known. Virtual employees are available right now on Elance and oDesk in a variety of fields. And most of them are very talented.

If you are trying to get your business off the ground, what advantages can hiring virtual employees offer? Let’s take a look at some in more detail to see if it fits your business model.

Cost Effective

Oftentimes, entrepreneurs or startups can find virtual employees at a lower cost online than traditional employees. As mentioned earlier, Elance and oDesk have millions of freelance contractors available at a lower cost right now.

Hiring full or even part-time employees can often quickly drain a budget and this is a cheap alternative.

Building a business with virtual employees also alleviates the cost of office space. Here at , we work entirely virtual with employees located all over the western hemisphere. This eliminates almost all basic infrastructure expenditures. It also reduces some of the risk in starting a business where you don’t have long-term rent or employee agreements to honor should the business struggle.

Combining the savings in these two scenarios alone is enough to keep your business up and running for a long period of time.

Virtual Employees Work Anytime, Anywhere

Entrepreneurs are constantly on the go. They travel constantly, meet with clients and investors at various times and locations, and are hardly ever in the same spot. Working with virtual employees offers them the flexibility to do this easily. They can constantly keep in contact with their virtual employees from anywhere.

A virtual office also removes some of the restrictions you would often in a physical office. Where most employees would not have access to work resources again after 5 pm hit, virtual employees have all their work available immediately in their home office. Entrepreneurs will often find increased productivity in this environment.

Talent From Anywhere

Online marketplaces give you the opportunity to hire great talent from anywhere in the world. Gone are the restrictions of hiring employees only within a 50-mile radius of your business.

Not only does this give an entrepreneur access to great talent, but allows them to find employees that match the business mission and values. Basically, you can be a lot pickier when hiring and find those people that are enthusiastic and willing to put the time in to achieve the business goals.

Manageability

Entrepreneurs will find that virtual employees are just easier to manage from an administrative (and again, cost) standpoint. Most employees found online work as contractors on a project basis. This allows you to avoid the burdens of healthcare, insurance, and other similar expenditures that full-time employees require.

The virtual office employees are also not entitled to annual or medical leave as they work independently. They typically have flexible schedules where they can take time off as they please, but without having to be managed by the entrepreneur as paid leave.

Work/Life Balance

Last but certainly not least, using virtual employees offers great flexibility. The technology to connect virtual teams from all over the world would allow you to attend your children’s sporting events while still being connected to your team.

Basically, anywhere you can find an Internet connection (which is about everywhere) allows you to be working on at least “available”. This gives an entrepreneur the ability to leave the country with his or her family and still be in contact with the virtual employees.

Conclusion

The advantages of hiring virtual employees in the early stages of a new business are abundant. It presents a cost effective strategy while not sacrificing productivity. Eventually full-time traditional employees will be hired, but this strategy gets you started towards that point.

Spotlight offers the ability to manage your virtual employees from anywhere in the world. Take a tour of our website and try it free for 30 days to see where you can reap these benefits as an entrepreneur.

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.


How to be a Great Teammate on a Virtual Agile Team

We have all heard the saying that a team is only as strong as its weakest link. An Agile team is no different; all members must be ready to work collaboratively towards the goal at hand. If one team member does not do their part to contribute to the whole, the entire team suffers.

Productive Agile teams require individuals who can adapt quickly to changing requirements. This fast paced nature of the Agile environment requires people who are highly collaborative and can work well in a team atmosphere. It’s even more important in a virtual team scenario where quality communication is a challenge to start and sustain.

So what makes a great Agile team member in a virtual setting? Lots of communication and collaboration are huge, but let’s look at some more specific traits of a great Agile teammate.

Virtual Agile TeamWork Your Tail Off

This seems pretty obvious but sometimes a good reminder is needed. Hard work by the team members is what gets the project accomplished in a quick, high-quality manner. If you aren’t putting 110% into your workday, you will fall behind. It’s a domino effect – individual team members falling behind causes the whole team to fall behind and eventually, the entire project.

In a virtual team setting, show your hard work by communicating frequently with team members on your progress. This lets the team know that you are putting in the time and also encourages other members to keep working hard. A daily progress report at the end of each day lets your team know how hard you’ve been working.

Constant Interaction

Engage with your teammates on a consistent basis throughout the day. Let them know what tasks you are working on, any issues you are having, and your schedule for the day. This is even more important for an Agile team in a virtual setting where a lot of time can be wasted trying to figure out where everyone is at or what they are working on.

Constant collaboration with your fellow teammates can lead to new ideas, faster resolution to bugs, and quicker identification of potential issues.  A new synergy is created when team members are communicating and working as one, efficient unit.

Get to Know Your Teammates

Every team member is going to come from a different background with his or her own unique features. This is especially true in a virtual team setting where people come together from all over the world. Learn to appreciate everyone’s abilities, tendencies, and work habits. This helps build trust between team members, leading to a highly collaborative work environment.

Embrace Newcomers

If you work in a software development company on a project basis, chances are you constantly have new team members joining with specific skill sets. This is one of the beauties of using virtual developers; you can blend a very specific and unique set of skills to create almost a super team of sorts.

As an already established member of an Agile team, embrace the newcomers and make them feel welcome. By immediately establishing an open channel of communication and making them feel comfortable, new teammates will feel like they can freely ask questions and seek help anytime they run into a problem. This turns them into a productive contributor from the start.

Take Time for Fun

In a virtual environment, you will be spending lots of time in conference calls and web conferences with your fellow teammates so remember to mix some fun in with your hard work. No one wants to work with someone who takes everything too seriously. Share a personal story or two with your team (if you’re comfortable) that gets some laughs and lets them get to know you. Having fun talking about things outside the project can be a good refresher during those long workdays or nights.

Being a great teammate to everyone on an Agile team, including managers and outside stakeholders, is imperative to its success. This carries straight over into the virtual world where good relationships may be even more important since quality communication is a little more difficult to establish. A tool like Spotlight can help a virtual project team collaborate better, resulting in everyone being a better teammate. It takes the effort of every individual member of the team to establish a good relationship with others to create that highly functioning unit driving project success.

Have any other suggestions on being a great Agile teammate? Leave a comment and let us know!

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.


Friday Findings: 2013 PM Trends & Virtual Team Success

By Seth Weedin

Every Friday Spotlight will publish a blog article with links to articles and news relevant to managing remote project teams, the overall globalization of the world’s workforce, and some entrepreneurship mixed in. We hope you find some quality information and maybe even learn a thing or two to get a discussion started with your colleagues.

Happy Friday! Today we look at lessons for virtual team success, project management trends, and in the spirit of the Super Bowl, a first look at the ads.

The Findings

  • IT Business Edge gives an outlook into the top 10 project management trends for 2013. A common finding is that leadership in all facets of project management is somewhat lacking.
  • While Agile development is usually associated with terms like “velocity”, creating the user experience interface from design can take time. Here are 6 strategies for more Agile user experience.
  • Usually we just link to specific articles here but Nancy Settle-Murphy’s website Guided Insights has so much information on improving virtual team succes, we couldn’t pick just one.
  • Mobile applications are taking the world by storm. Gigaom talks with entrepreneur Edward Aten who says the real revolution for smartphones is about fulfilling a whole new set of needs that people have in their daily lives.
  • Virtual teams are no different than onsite teams when it comes to evaluating performance. Keith Ferrazzi talks about how to evaluate employees you can’t see for virtual team success.
  • In the spirit of the Super Bowl coming up in about a week (and for some fun), this article gives a first look at some of the new ads that you will see. Warning: If you want to be surprised by the ads, don’t read.
  • If you own a startup or small business, using outsourced contractors is a great way to cut back on costs as the BizSpark article mentioned. Sign up for Spotlight’s webinar and learn how to hire and manage a virtual team of software developers such as on Elance.

An offer to the startups and entrepreneurs out there – if you work with virtual teams via Elance or some other avenue, you can use Spotlight free for a full year to manage all your projects. Ensure virtual team success with improved collaboration and productivity and sign up today!

Have a great weekend!

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.


Breaking the Ice for Virtual Team Communication

By Seth WeedinVirtual Team Communication

A virtual team environment can often cause an already quiet person to sit back and let others do the talking. Not being face to face with other people allows them to disengage even more. This is one of the main reasons virtual team communication is a very difficult thing to optimize.

It’s important to encourage all members of a virtual team to collaborate and input their ideas. Sometimes the best ideas come from the person who doesn’t always interject.

There are several things that managers of virtual teams can do to “break the ice” among team members and ramp up virtual team communication. Oftentimes, all it takes is one meaningful conversation with those that are a bit shy to break them out of their shell.

Nancy Settle-Murphy, CEO and Founder of Guided Insights, along with Rich Trombetta of Innovation Company, outlined 7 tips on bringing team members out of the box in a virtual setting. Idea input from all team members improves the level of overall virtual team communication, eventually leading to increased project success rates.

Our team collaborates on a daily basis via Spotlight to encourage even the most reserved team members to offer their ideas.  One tip in the article points out how many people are just more comfortable writing out their ideas than verbally communicating them. The team dashboard in Spotlight offers a centralized place that all team members can see each others ideas and thoughts through typed out Status Updates. We often discuss many of these ideas in live virtual meetings later on.

Being able to portray ideas through the Status Update function helps our virtual team members build off each others ideas as well. Oftentimes, a team member offers an idea that just needs some tweaking or built upon a little further to make it a truly unique solution.

In the world of software development, this is especially important as one idea for an application often leads to a brand new, improved feature as fellow team members build upon it. This is when great virtual team communication and collaboration really pay off.

Positive reinforcement, encouragement, and listening can often get even the most reserved person to let down their guard and contribute their ideas. While it may take a little time, using the 7 tips from Settle-Murphy and Trombetta can expedite the process and improve the overall level of virtual team communication. Combine them with Spotlight and you have very unique environment that can make your virtual project teams very successful.

Try Spotlight free for 30 days and improve your virtual team communication.

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.


Night Owls: How Programmers Work Nights

By Seth WeedinHow programmers work at night

A recent article by Business Insider talked about how programmers get their best coding done when they work nights. What sounds like madness to the rest of us daylight workers actually is much more productive for a programmer.

At the center of the reason for late night coding is to avoid distractions. But this can be further broken down into 2 main parts as the article describes:

The Maker’s Schedule

The maker’s schedule is “a schedule for those of us who produce stuff” as author Swizec Teller puts it. Producing stuff involves working on large systems that require concentration and being able to construct the system from start to finish. One distraction and the whole system crashes.

That’s why they work nights. No distractions from the rest of the world while they’re sleeping comfortably. Ever wonder why it’s hard to reach a programmer via email? Now you know why and for very good reason.

Here at Spotlight Software, our developers all work nights and are very productive. By updating their status and availability through our Spotlight application, other team members can instantly see when not to distract them. That keeps people like me from bugging them at those times.

The Sleepy Brain

By human nature, we are all wired to sleep at night no matter what. So why does working nights bode so well for programmers when the brain is tired? Because they have no choice but to focus or what’s left of the brainpower from the day will disappear quickly.

Teller says that the brain, when fully alert, has a tendency to wander and start wasting time with things like the Internet. When it’s drained though, you aren’t alert enough to concentrate on anything else but the task at hand.

One thing that helps our developers work nights is paired programming to keep each other’s brains going. Spotlight lets our developers see in real-time who else is online with them at night for help. This gives them the chance to bounce ideas off each other when one person’s brain is maybe more tired than usual.

The End

In conclusion, programmers work nights because no one else does. They can put their nose to the grindstone while the family is in bed and no one is online to distract them.

Our development team here works great as a team and Spotlight allows them to easily interact with each other at night when they are all online. It creates a highly collaborative environment no matter what time of the day or night. Try it for free and see for yourself!

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.

Posted: January 21st, 2013
Categories: Application and Mobile Development
Tags: , , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

Friday Findings: Outsourcing Work & Using Agile

Every Friday, Spotlight will publish a blog article with links to articles and news relevant to managing virtual project teams, the overall globalization of the world’s workforce, and some entrepreneurship mixed in. We hope you find some quality information and maybe even learn a thing or two to get a discussion started with your colleagues.

Happy Friday! Today we hit on properly outsourcing some of your business activities, the perks, and managing the virtual team. Also, if you are a business looking for a way to better manage your outsourced or virtual team, help us out by testing our new release of Spotlight! A link to the free sign up can be found at the end of this article.

The Findings

  • In 1999, NASA launched a Mars Orbiter into space, but it exploded soon after costing them $125 million. See how a breakdown in communication between the virtual teams in California and Colorado contributed to the explosion.
  • The role of value-added outsourcing may be changing but won’t go away any time soon. The cloud era will ensure outsourcing virtual teams will be as efficient as ever.
  • As entrepreneurs, we are all looking for ways to cut back on spending. Here are 5 business activities you can outsource to save the budget and increase productivity.
  • Good advice on how to build your virtual team as a project manager and manage them to achieve the goals of the project.
  • Outsourcing some of your work to freelancers can offer you high quality talent at a lower cost. This article from Inspiration Feed outlines 5 more perks to working with freelancers.
  • The Small Business Association wants to make sure outsourcing that businesses do is done right (and within the law). Get it right with these 5 tips.
  • Confused on the difference between Agile, Kanban, and Scrum? This article describes the difference in less than 5 minutes.
  • Ever wonder how Agile could be used in your organization? Here is a good overview on how to implement Agile processes across your organization.
  • Agile and virtual teams work hand in hand these days with the rise of freelance contractors online. Learn how to make commitments to your goals wisely when using Agile within a virtual team.
  • Is your business looking at hiring an outsourced development team but not sure where to start? Attend our webinar on how to hire and manage a virtual software development team. It will save you time and money.

Last but definitely not least, we are looking for users to try out our new release of Spotlight People & Project Manager and provide us feedback. If you work with a virtual team or hire freelancers to do any web and development work, you may find communication is not easy. Try Spotlight free and improve the communication and collaboration in your virtual team.

Do you own a new business? We also offer Spotlight free for a full year to all qualifying startups and entrepreneurs. So if your new business is using virtual teams of any kind and looking to save some money, sign up for our startup offer and start using immediately!

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.

Posted: January 18th, 2013
Categories: Friday Findings
Tags: , , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.

3 Ways to Keep Virtual Teams Happy and Motivated

by Seth Weedin

Keeping Virtual Teams MotivatedVirtual teams work in an environment where motivation is key to getting things done. Some days that motivation is just not there and not physically going into an office can often make it worse. Project managers must know how to deal with these types of scenarios when leading virtual teams, which takes a different approach than with an in-house team. Let’s take a look at some ways to keep your virtual team motivated and happy for increased production.

Clearly Communicate Your Vision

In a virtual team setting, open communication is a must in everything from the vision of the business right down to that last remaining task. By clearly communicating the company’s overall mission and vision, you keep virtual employees always focused on the end game and motivated towards a long-term goal. The same applies for those being interviewed and possibly hired; try to find candidates that share the passion for your company’s vision.

After the virtual team is fully functional, don’t forget to keep reminding them of the big picture. In your daily progress meetings, remind the team of the vision and provide positive feedback on the progression towards fulfilling that vision. If they see positive results that their hard work is a big part of the vision fulfillment, their motivation level will increase even more.

At Spotlight Software, we make sure everyone of our virtual team members has a clear understanding of the overall vision. Employees, whether virtual or traditional, want to feel like they are being helpful in some way to society. By communicating a vision that we are helping virtual project teams become more successful and productive, our virtual team members are more motivated to do their jobs and help people in the same work setting as themselves.

Build Virtual Team Trust

With virtual teams being dispersed all over the world, there is always that worry that things will get lost track of. Things like payroll, time off, and holidays can be hard to track between cultures and time differences. So why not automate the whole thing? When team members trust each other and the administration they are working for, they don’t waste time with things like keeping track of their own hours. Let software take care of it, that’s what it’s made for.

The Spotlight application has this functionality to ensure trust is built among the virtual team and everyone involved. Besides a highly collaborative social network-like interface for team members, Spotlight automates tracking for all hours spent on project tasks. No more manual labor by the team in keeping track of time worked and opening up the door for all kinds of errors.

Automating these kinds of processes as well as having an open platform for team collaboration can enhance trust tremendously. Building strong trust motivates virtual team members to do what they are supposed to do and not worry about the administrative tasks on the side.

Set Clear Expectations

No one likes to constantly be monitored and watched while they are working. And many times, it can be detrimental to their productivity. By setting clear goals, expectations, and providing positive feedback, you can keep your virtual team on track and motivated without overdoing it. Be firm with expectations and deadlines but don’t get in the way of the creativity of the team. Providing clear expectations and constructive criticism when they aren’t met will keep team members happy and motivated.

Spotlight’s social network-like dashboard provides micro-managing insights without actually doing it. Project managers and stakeholders can have full insight into the activities of their virtual team without constantly bugging them for a status update. Individual team member status cards provide information like their availability, current status, and tasks being worked on all from one centralized dashboard. With team members taking a few seconds to update their status card, project managers are constantly kept informed and the team doesn’t feel burden.

As a leader of a virtual team, having an effective plan for managing it will help your project succeed. Keeping employees motivated to do their work combined with a highly collaborative environment makes everyone more productive resulting in a great synergy. Try Spotlight out for 30 days free and let it help push the team collaboration to the next level.

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.

Posted: January 16th, 2013
Categories: Virtual and Remote Teams
Tags: , , , ,
Comments: 2 Comments.

How to Manage a Virtual Team of Software Developers

Managing a virtual team

 

Outsourcing, offshoring, and nearshoring are terms we hear quite often these days with increasing budget constraints. Sometimes it gets a bad rap, but this practice can be very successful if done with the right process.

An Aberdeen Group study recently showed that 50% of all software development projects fail, especially those done by virtual teams. Communication issues, language barriers, and culture differences can all contribute to this. But with careful planning and organization of the project and your virtual development team, this percentage can shrink dramatically.

Hiring a team of virtual software developers and managing them through the project delivery process can be simplified with an emphasis on team collaboration. The entire process from hiring all the way through executing the project requires open and quality communication. Some things to consider when hiring and managing a virtual development team:

Choosing a Virtual Development Team

High quality developers can be found online right now through sites like Elance and oDesk. This gives companies access to a wider array of talent at a much lower cost.

But choose wisely. Selecting the right software developer or team is crucial in ensuring they fit your business plan and work style. Looking for developers that like to work in teams is also a plus. As we all know, a team working together in unison is much more successful then everyone trying to do it on their own.

Build a team of software developers that will last. It will generally take anywhere from 3 months to a year for a new developer to become familiar with an existing app, depending on complexity. Ensure that your chosen software developers are in for the long haul and can commit the time.

How to Choose Your “Right Team”

First of all, communicate the goals of your project to the developers, not the process to get there. Software developers are very good at creating roadmaps to reach the goals you wish to accomplish with your project. If the virtual developer you are considering can do this, the opportunity is worth exploring further.

Require a short programming test of your potential candidates. This will demonstrate not only their talent, but also ambition to work hard for your company. Hard work and dedication may be the most important attribute to look for.

Planning and Executing Your Project

The planning of your software project is very important to create an organized approach for faster delivery and saved money. Wireframes and use cases can outline the roadmap to what you want your new application to achieve. Wireframes graphically represent each screen of the software and the flow users take to get to there. Use cases are textual descriptions outlining how users will interact with the app. These provide a clear vision for everyone involved in the project.

Actually executing your software development project requires good communication and constant team collaboration. Daily scrum meetings, regular status updates from team members, and end of the day progress reports keep everyone on the same page. They also help identify any issues that arise so they can be quickly addressed.

Constant and quality collaboration between all parties involved in the project will keep your project on track through delivery. It promotes team cooperation in getting tasks accomplished and helping each other with issues that come up. This leads to increase productivity and eventually faster project delivery time.

Conclusion

Although this is just an outline, it’s a methodical approach to hiring and managing a virtual team of developers that can be very successful. Not only will it be cheaper for your business in the long run, but allow you to find talent from anywhere that you may not be able to find locally.

If you would like more information on this process, join our webinar Tuesday, January 15th at 11:00 am MST (1:00 PM EST). We will go into this process in much more detail, helping to improve the success rate of your projects driven by virtual teams.

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.


Friday Findings: Agile, Scrum, and the Cloud

Every Friday, Spotlight will publish a blog article with links to articles and news relevant to managing remote project teams, the overall globalization of the world’s workforce, and some entrepreneurship mixed in. We hope you find some quality information and maybe even learn a thing or two to get a discussion started with your colleagues.

Happy Friday! This week we hit on Agile software development, how to hire and manage a remote team, Scrum planning, and some cloud computing. We also lead you to a couple cool news stories on some local happenings in the start-up scene right here in Phoenix.

The Findings

  • Looking at hiring an outsourced software development team? Listen in on our webinar Tuesday, January 15th on how to hire and manage a remote team of software developers.
  • Usually most of the talk on virtual teams is how to build one for ultimate success. But what happens when the project is over? PMI talks about the project adjournment process for virtual teams.
  • Agile versus Waterfall, which should you choose? There are still uses for both in software development as discussed in this blog article from Bright Hub Project Mangement.
  • Planning out the Sprint process for your Agile project? Create powerful, and long-lasting results by breaking the process down into two meetings: What and how.
  • Eric Savitz of Forbes, takes a look at the year ahead for cloud computing and makes 4 predictions on where it will go.
  • Remote Agile teams need quality communication throughout the entire project to successfully deliver it. Another great article from PMI outlines 6 communication tips for remote Agile project teams.
  • Remote employees need to happy to keep motivated? Make sure your remote team is satisfied and productive using these 4 tips from PicNet blog.
  • The cloud application industry is continuing to grow quickly. Read the latest news and trends in Cloud Computing Daily, a collection of articles from Leigh Dow at Dow Media Group.
  • A shout out to our friends at Gangplank here in Chandler, AZ for being selected as one of the 17 coolest co-working spaces in America by Business Insider!

Have topic you would like more information on but don’t have time to search for it? Leave us a comment and I’ll find you relevant articles for next week!

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.


The Story Behind User Stories


User Stories ListSpotlight will implement user stories in an upcoming release to make software requirements easier to communicate between the client and technical team. So what’s the story behind user stories?

In Agile software development, user stories capture the ‘who’, ‘what’ and ‘why’ of a requirement in a simple, concise way. User Stories are designed to keep development teams focused on customer needs, and serve as the driving force behind quickly delivering valuable, high quality software.

Anyone that has used the Agile software development process has probably experienced communication issues between the development team and client. The issues become even larger in a remote or virtual team setting.

Creating user stories is a great way of opening discussion and bridging the communication gap between the client and development team. User stories created by the product owner (typically the client) are written in a non-technical format that fulfills a business requirement for the project. The development team then creates the needed tasks to satisfy the client’s business requirements. Creating the tasks of the project this way allows everyone to understand what is needed to achieve the requirements.

If you have worked with user stories before, then you probably understand the keys to writing effective user stories using the INVEST model. A Google search of the term will lead you to hundreds of good articles.

But from a client and business standpoint, you may be wondering what advantages user stories actually provide for a development project.  Here are 5 benefits that user stories provide:

Creating user stories is fast and easy

User stories are easy and fast to write. Clients with no software development experience at all can write them easily to communicate their goals. Not a lot of time or money is invested in writing them; therefore, if they are changed or never used, the team has not lost a lot in developing them.

Written by the “user”

User stories are ideally written by the “user” or client in most cases. This allows the development team to spend time with the user and better understand the functionality that they want. If a client is not comfortable writing the user stories for their project, the development team can step in and assist them, enabling a better understanding of what the end product needs to accomplish.

Easy for remote development teams

User stories are simple enough that a freelance or outsourced team would easily be able to understand the end goals. Spotlight’s platform with the new user story functionality merges the best of both worlds: a productive team collaboration platform and a centralized area to communicate user stories. This will help alleviate those communication challenges that come with trying to pass user stories along via email or on a conference call.

Creativity

The user story allows for the development team to be creative in designing the product. Clients give a basic outline of the needed functionality and the designers and developers can run with it. This lets the development team create the product in a way that works on all platforms and is easy to integrate.

Faster and cheaper

Client user stories help development teams better estimate the development roadmap needed to complete the project. More accurate estimates and roadmaps lead to quicker development and faster delivery times, hence a cheaper project. Developing quality user stories through the project can help improve the project’s overall ROI by expediting the delivery process.

User stories help keep the client and development team on the same page for the requirements of the project. This leads to more productive collaboration between the parties to make the delivery process more efficient. Look for this improved project efficiency in Spotlight soon as we release user stories!

For more information on Spotlight Software and our services, please contact us or visit our FacebookGoogle+, LinkedIn, or Twitter profiles.

Author Profile
Seth Weedin (seth.weedin@spotlightppm.com) is the Director of Marketing at Spotlight Software.

Posted: January 9th, 2013
Categories: Application and Mobile Development
Tags: , , , , ,
Comments: No Comments.