Help Spotlight Software move through the field of 64 and win the Venture Madness!
We are proud to be selected as one of the 64 participants in the Invest Southwest Venture Madness. This innovative competition pits 64 of the region’s most promising startups against each other in an exciting bracket-style, head-to-head competition. In round 1, we are up against a very worthy competitor in Brett Approved and need your help!
Watch our video for the competition below and cast your vote for Spotlight here.
Interview with Vincent Serpico – Spotlight CEO and Workshop Facilitator
Matt OBrien: Today, we’re here with Vincent Serpico of Spotlight Software Development, and we’re going to talk about an upcoming seminar in December.
What’s got me excited about this is it’s an agile initiative. Those of you that are out there doing software development, you know how challenging it can be to get these projects and get your team in sync.
If there are any web development companies and agencies that are looking at getting into technical things like app and software development, this seminar is a must.
Vincent Serpico and his company, Spotlight, have what looks to be the leading tool in managing a remote, virtual and distributed team. This seminar will reveal inside secrets on how to be successful and how projects can fail (and how to avoid failure). After all, learning from mistakes breeds repeatable success.
Matt: This seminar that you’re launching on December 6th, what was the motivation behind this?
Vincent: I’ve worked as a project manager. I’ve worked at a development lead. I’ve worked as a vice president of product development at a couple of different companies. One of the things that I see as a trend is managing distributed teams. “Distributed teams” means anything from telecommuters working from home a couple of days a week to hiring an outsourced team, either from Elance, oDesk, places like that, or staffing out of the country.
Managing distributed teams is the wave of the future and is becoming more and more common. The problem is that managing distributed teams is not the same as managing an in‑house team. While there are some commonalities between managing an in‑house team and a distributed team, there are definitely differences that have to be noted.
A typical software development project has a 50/50 chance of seeing the light of day. Software development is difficult, but if you staff that development project with a distributed team, the likelihood of it seeing the light of day is about 10 percent, and that’s a horrible, horrible statistic, and it drives a lot of people away from distributed even though distributed has such huge, huge benefit.
For instance, when you hire a distributed team, your talent pool is the entire world. When you hire a distributed team, you probably are going to pay a lot less than you would pay within your local area, and when you hire a distributed team, you cut down office space cost and all the other logistics for managing somebody in‑house.
The lure of using distributed teams is huge. However, the ability to manage distributed teams is not really well known, and that’s what I talked about. I’ve been doing it for years. I know exactly how to do it. I know how to hire distributed teams very well. I know where to find them and I know how to hire them.
I know how to plan distributed software development projects so that everybody’s on the same page, everybody is accountable, and everybody communicates. Most importantly, I know how to execute software development projects driven by distributed teams so that everybody is communicating every single day, and that everybody is held accountable to what they’re doing.
My management process and my planning process are all agile, so I bake agile into everything that I talk about. The seminar is well‑received and you will walk away learning a hell of a lot.
Matt: Just a little bit on agile, because some people may not be familiar with it. What makes this such an effective strategy for software development and even app development under projects that need a distributive team like you’re talking about?
Vincent: What makes agile so popular is that…the opposite of agile is called waterfall, and waterfall is a process of doing all your planning up‑front, then doing all your coding, then doing all your testing, and then finally acceptance.
The problem with that is that unless your requirements change, that’s fine, but typically requirements change while you’re coding or in the testing phase. When that happens you have to go back to square one and it costs a lot of money and a lot of time and opportunity cost.
What I teach in agile is how to make those changes, those inevitable changes, without incurring a lot . In other words, using agile is like steering a speed boat that you can steer back and forth very quickly, whereas waterfall is like a big steam ship that takes a long time to change direction.
With agile, when your customers have feedback and they want a new feature, or market conditions change and you need to add something new to your product, you can add it with minimal destruction to your overall planning, your overall budget, and delivery time.
Matt: Sounds fantastic. This is going to be a four‑hour workshop, and essentially you’re going to tell people, “Bring your computer. We’re rolling up the sleeves. We’re going to dig down into projects, and if you’ve got some project you’re working on, and you’re considering getting onto the Spotlight platform, and getting into an agile, that is really who you’re looking for.” Is that correct?
Vincent: That’s correct. Absolutely. Just come on down. There will be workshops. We’ll get you up and running. If you’re a project manager and you already have a distributed team, this is perfect for you. If you plan on hiring a distributed team and start building your own apps, this is perfect for you.
The idea is if you’re going to be leading a distributed team, whether they’re telecommuters, or they’re outsourced, or whatever, as a project manager, a product owner, a stakeholder, or whatever, you need to attend the seminar.
Matt: Even if you’re thinking about getting into the distributed team, maybe you guys do web development, minor software, and you’ve got a team here, and you want to look at that risk of going distributed overseas down in Mexico…I know you have tons…in fact, there are some pretty notable companies that are using your software that have pretty much built their success around it, so those are going to be great insight.
This is going to be at the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation?
Vincent: Correct, CEI. That’s right.
Matt: Where is that located?
Vincent: CEI is on Van Buren and 38th Street in Phoenix.
Matt: If you want to learn more, what’s the best way to get in touch, go to your website or email address?
Vincent: Yeah, go to the website. You’ll see more information about the upcoming seminar and you can contact me anytime.
Matt: That’s spotlightppm.com, and we will display the contact information in this video. Vincent, looking forward to that. I plan to be there myself and absorb all the knowledge that you’re going to be sharing with us.
Agile Development Process – What is it and how you can use it with your software, app and distributive team projects (Very popular discipline within software development)
Distributed Teams – More and more PM’s are working with distributed teams
Planning a SW development project
Executing a project
About The Presenter:
Vincent Serpico has been actively involved in software development for over 15+ years. He began his career as a developer where he led several teams building large-scale applications, including 2 task management systems. Mr. Serpico moved into executive management where he served as Vice President in several companies before starting SerpicoDEV, a near-shore services company. While at SerpicoDEV, Mr. Serpico employed a team of over 20 developers distributed across Mexico and the United States. He learned how to manage distributed teams to effectively delivery quality software at a fraction of the cost. Honing his skills, Mr. Serpico created a software platform called Spotlight to help project manager’s better manage distributed teams. Spotlight helps project managers around the world more effectively work with distributed workforces. Today, Mr. Serpico shares his vast knowledge of managing distributed teams through seminars, workshops and private consulting.
Telecommunicating, outsourcing, virtual employees – with more and more work happening remotely, it’s the wave of the future. The concept works best with the right tools to manage a distributed team. That’s where Spotlight shines. Spotlight is a communication and task management platform for distributed teams. It’s a way for teams to get things done together, even when they can’t get together.
Spotlight is designed so you can work across multiple companies and projects, helping distributed teams work more efficiently with the unique social dashboard. Users can log into Spotlight on the Web or on the mobile app, available for iPhone and Android.
Spotlight shines in its features, like status cards with integrated Skype connectivity, status updates, a message center to facilitate collaboration and reduction of email pollution, and agile task management, which allows distributed teams to deliver results faster. Spotlight’s rock-solid task management system combines task and bug tracking, built‑in QA testing, task comments, and file attachments with helpful functionality like automatic time tracking, daily progress report benefiting team members by tracking what they accomplished on one day, to set accurate and appropriate goals for tomorrow.
Spotlight is the most trusted way for distributed teams to collaborate and communicate. Make Spotlight part of your team, and see why so many people are agreeing Spotlight shines!
Vincent Serpico: Spotlight is project management for distributed teams. It’s a way for teams to get things done together, even when they can’t get together.
Telecommunicating, outsourcing, virtual employees ‑ it’s the wave of the future. The concept works very well with the right tools to manage a distributed team. That’s what Spotlight was built to do. That’s where Spotlight shines.
You log into Spotlight on the Web or on the mobile app. Spotlight is designed so you can work across multiple companies and projects. Spotlight helps distributed teams work more efficiently with our unique social dashboard.
At a glance, everyone knows what everyone else is working on, as well as their availability. Spotlight’s dashboard creates a sense of group camaraderie, as well as group accountability.
Spotlight helps manage distributed teams in a lot of valuable ways. Let’s review some of Spotlight’s features in the context of optimally managing the distributed team.
First, Spotlight makes it easy to get the whole team together for a morning huddle by integrating Skype directly into the Spotlight status cards. This is a great way for distributed teams to start the day communicating with each other. Spotlight really shines with status updates.
As the day progresses, team members alert the rest of the team what they’re working on and their availability. There is no better way to keep a team communicating than Spotlight status updates.
The Spotlight Message Center is a great way to collaborate. Messages are consolidated in Spotlight, so you can avoid the dreaded email pollution, and quickly get to your messages.
Spotlight employees agile Task Management, so that distributed teams can deliver faster. We’ve built a rock solid, best in class Task Management system that features Task Tracking, Bug Tracking, Built‑In QA Testing, Task Comments, and File Attachments.
Tasks are always timed, so you know who’s been working on, what and when. You can even drill into reports to balance your invoices against actual time worked.
Spotlight’s Daily Progress Report is a way for team members to recount what they accomplished today, and set their goals for tomorrow. It’s also a great way for managers to review the daily progress of the team.
Spotlight is the most trusted way for distributed teams to collaborate and communicate. Make Spotlight part of your team, and see why so many people are agreeing Spotlight shines!
In part 1 last week, Spotlight CEO discussed the benefits a business can see by using a distributed team model. Today, Vincent looks at the issues he ran into while running his nearshore software development company that ultimately led to the creation of Spotlight People & Project Manager.
“Where the HELL is Pablo?!?” Mickey was pissed. Pablo was hired as a full-time dedicated resource for Mickey’s company through my services company.
“Did he send you an email or something, Mickey”, I asked.
“Nope. And we need to deploy the database before tomorrow morning. I tried Skyping him, emailing him, and called his mobile.”
It was 3:30 in the afternoon. “OK, let me try to get in touch with him. I’m sure he’ll make up the hours and we’ll be fine. Pablo’s responsible.”
Pablo really is responsible, and gets his tasks done. He works more than 40 hours per week… but not the usual 9-5. As a remote contractor, he enjoys the benefits of working remotely, which include picking up his kids from school around 3:15 in the afternoon.
I reached Pablo a little after 4:00. “Pablo… I don’t mind if you take off to pick up your kids… but you have to let the client know.”
Pablo seemed panicked. “Vincent, I sent Mickey an email. Here let me forward it to you.”
The email was sent in the earlier part of the afternoon. And lo and behold, it cited that Pablo would be out from 3:00 – 4:15, and that he would deploy the database when he returned. Which is exactly what he did, and the deployment turned out to be a success.
However, we still have the issue of solid communications among distributed teams. Because while I wish this was an isolated instance, it actually happens a lot more than it should. And it wasn’t just my company, it’s an issue that plagues all distributed teams…whether they are an office that telecommutes, an enterprise team spread across a campus, or a company that hires contractors in Mexico, India and China. Distributed teams face the challenge of communication, collaboration and accountability.
We all know where this story’s going, so I’ll cut to the chase. I built Spotlight to enhance communication, collaboration and accountability among my crew of ~25 contractors spread all over Mexico and the United States, and to provide my clients with a way to peer into the daily operations of their project. In other words, Spotlight’s mission was to minimize the “Where the HELL is Pablo?!?” phone calls from my clients.
It worked. It worked much better than even I expected. That’s why I spun the product off as its own entity. And with the help of my partner, Dan Schulz, we took the product to even higher aspirations by adding a task-timing feature that blows the competition out of the water.
So… guess whom our most excited customers are today? That’s right… PM’s, scrum masters and other product owners that received similar “Where the HELL is Pablo?!?” calls when they ran distributed projects.
More and more startups and small businesses are using Elance and oDesk to hire freelance teams for software development, design, and other types of work. It’s low cost and offers access to talent that may not be available locally. This trend towards more freelancer project work will increase the chances a project manager will have to manage a virtual team.
Let’s look at 5 tips for project managers in leading a freelance team to successful project delivery.
Ensure the right fit
Always start off small. If you are a project manager for a new freelance team, you want to ensure they can deliver, but also that you can work and communicate together. Start off with a small project to gain this understanding and see if you hired the right team.
This project can be a single, small project or a chunk of a larger one. Have them deliver all the goals of the small project to better gauge their skillset, teamwork, and ability to communicate. You will learn key characteristics of your new freelance team to determine if they are a potential long-term fit. Better to do it right off the bat like this then realize half way through a major project that they aren’t the right fit.
Breaking down a project also can help you gain more insight into the scope of the project. You will think more thoroughly about the deliverables and timeline. This practice will also help determine whether you indeed do have one major project or if it needs broken down further for better efficiency.
Communicate, communicate, communicate
At Spotlight, we take this to heart. Frequent communication is a must in any project team and even more important within a freelance team. You want to be on the same page with your freelancers at all times on the project. This prevents those last-minutes surprises from popping up and helps you keep track of team members.
Frequent status updates through the day help a project manager monitor their team. This can be as simple as a quick email or using an app such as Spotlight’s status control to let them know team member availability and what tasks are planned for the day. The advantages are two-fold: it keeps the project manager on top of their freelance team and they don’t have to constantly be requesting updates on the project from members.
And don’t forget the daily scrums. We still practice this every day with our freelance team and make it no more than 15 minutes. It keeps everyone aligned with each other and can often bring light to challenges quickly. Team members will often collaborate even further offline when an issue is brought to the table. It encourages even further communication.
Make expectations clear
One of the biggest issues you often hear about using an outsourced or freelance team is lack of accountability. Sometimes this is the team member’s fault and other times, it’s because expectations weren’t laid out at the beginning. Clearly communicate your expectations of the team and hold them accountable.
A practice that has worked for us is to send a daily progress report at the end of each day. This report is sent to the project manager of the tasks done for the day and those being worked on tomorrow. Our team members spend only a few minutes creating this report and it’s great insight for the project manager.
Keep your team motivated
As a project manager, keeping your freelance team motivated can be a challenge without physically being together. Motivation often has to come in the form of rewards and recognition. If a team member goes above and beyond, recognize them to the whole team via email or whatever form of communication you use. Send a gift or bonus from your part of the world to let them know they’re appreciated. I’ve even heard of managers ordering from a restaurant near the team member’s house and having it delivered to buy them dinner
Also, make sure you have an open door policy in case members of your freelance team have issues. Give them your personal cell phone number to call in case of emergencies. It creates a sense of unity within the team and builds trust between you and the members.
Time zones, differences in culture, and various work schedules are all challenges to making a freelance project team successful. That’s why being flexible is important. Having some understanding of their culture and holidays will prepare you for those days when they aren’t online for those reasons.
This also goes back to the status updates throughout the day. Practicing this keeps you informed when team members have doctor’s appointments, need to go to the bank, or anything else like that. You don’t have to wonder where they are and it keeps a flexible schedule that works. It also contributes to employee motivation and happiness.
This is just a short list of some project management tips when leading a freelance team, but they can get you started on the road to success. It just takes a little adaptation to your management style to make it a smooth transition.
Are you a project manager who has had to make this transition? Leave us a comment with your experience and other tips!
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 cover how measure the success of virtual teams, teamwork in general, and properly hiring an outsourced team. For the 49ers and Ravens fans out there, some reasons why your team will win the Super Bowl.
We are also looking for beta users to try out our new release of Spotlight People & Project Manager. If you work with a virtual team or hire freelancers to do any web and development work, you may find communication is not easy. Leave us a comment or contact any one of our management team members if interested.
Entrepreneurs 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Work 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.
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.
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 Spotlightcan 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!