Agile Software Development Lifecycle Phases Explained#On Startups
The Agile software development methodology is one of the most simple, yet effective ways to deliver a great product on the market. And yet, somewhere along the way, people started to really overcomplicate it. Properly implemented Agile is fast, flexible, error-proof and just plain better way to manage software development teams. In this article, we’ll explain Agile software development lifecycle phases and how to incorporate Agile principles.
The Key Principles of Agile Development
The main ideas behind Agile development were outlined in the original Manifesto for Agile Software Development. When summarized, they are:
- Change is inevitable. The project needs to adapt to it rather than ignore it;
- Вelivering results is more important than established processes and tools;
- Real customer’s needs take priority over the requirements in the development plans.
These ideas are further outlined in the Key Principles of Agile Software Development.
The focus behind Agile is end-user satisfaction. All the tasks that do not directly work toward improving it, are secondary. And while the Agile development teams still work on establishing processes, writing documentation, and following the plans, these tasks can be postponed or done at the minimal acceptable level if they threaten the efficiency of the development.
Agile Methodology Explained
The main tool of Agile development is iteration. Iteration is a process wherein a set of actions is repeated in a sequence until a condition is met.
Different Agile development methods achieve iteration in different ways. Scrum, for example, implements Sprints. Sprints are fixed time periods — generally, 1-2 weeks long — during which the development team completes a certain part of the functionality and achieves pre-established goals.
Here’s an example of the workflow within a single Scrum Sprint:
- The Product Owner — the one responsible for its completion — reviews the incomplete tasks in the Product Backlog. The obsolete tasks get removed while the new ones get added;
- The Product Owner establishes the scope of the new Sprint and the goal it aims to achieve.
- The Product Owner has a Planning Meeting with the Development Team. They create user stories, which are decomposed into the tasks for certain Sprint stored in Backlog.
- The Development Team holds daily meetings, during which they keep themselves updated about the progress of each team member;
- Once the timeframe of the Sprint runs out, the Sprint is considered complete. The unfinished tasks are moved back into the Product Backlog; In exceptional cases a Sprint end-date can be changed by a Product Owner.
- The Product Owner holds a demonstration for the Customer and shows the work done during the Sprint.
- The Product Owner holds a meeting with the Development Team, where the results of the Sprint are reviewed. The team establishes what was done well, and what processes can be improved in the next sprint. This review is called a Sprint Retrospective.
- The next Sprint begins.
The regular review of the Backlog helps to maintain the relevancy of the features in the Backlog. The limited scope of Sprints and their pre-established goals help the developers complete meaningful work on-time. The continuous showcases of new features keep the customer satisfied and able to provide feedback. Overall, the development becomes more efficient.
NOTE. Scrum is only one Agile methodology among many. For example, Kanban does not have any Sprint equivalent and instead keeps its relevance via the constantly updated Task Priority Queue. If you want to learn more — check out a video review of Scrum and Kanban:
Key Agile Software Development Lifecycle Phases
When you break it down to the core concepts, the Agile development is not that difficult. And while it may seem wasteful with the number of meetings involved, it saves a lot of time by optimizing the development tasks and reducing the errors during the planning stages can have.
Phase 1: Requirements
Before a Product Owner can even start designing a project, they need to create the initial documentation that will list the initial requirements. They are:
- The end result the project is going to achieve. For example, a text editor;
- The features that it will support. For example, different font sizes;
- The features that it will not initially support. For example, adding animations to the text or ability to embed video;
A general recommendation is to lower these initial requirements as hard as one can, adding only the definitely necessary features and ignoring ones that won’t be used often. Developers can work on them later, once the app is deployed and the core features work well.
NOTE: If developers choose to ignore this stage, they are prone to feature creep — situation when new non-crucial features are constantly being added to the project, taking developers’ time away from the important tasks.
On further iterations, the Client and the Product Owner review the requirements and make them more relevant.
Phase 2: Design
There are two ways to approach design in the software development — one is the visual design and the other is the architectural structure of the app.
During the first iteration, the Product Owner assembles their development team and introduces the requirements created during the previous stage. The team then discusses how to tackle these requirements, and proposes the tools needed to achieve the best result. For example, the team defines the programming language, frameworks, and libraries that the project is going to be using.
On further iterations, the developers discuss the feature implementation and the internal structure of the come.
During this SDLC stage, the designers create a rough mock-up of the UI. If the product is consumer-grade, the user interface and user experience are most important. So it’s generally a good idea to review the possible competitors to see what they are doing right — and especially what they are doing wrong.
Further iterations are spent refining the initial design and/or reworking it to suit the new features.
Phase 3. Development and Coding
The development phase is about writing code and converting design documentation into the actual software within the software development process. This stage of SDLC is generally the longest as it’s the backbone of the whole process.
There aren’t many changes between the iterations here.
Phase 4. Integration and Testing
This stage is spent on making sure that the software is bug-free and compatible with everything else that the developers have written before. The Quality Assurance team conducts a series of tests in order to ensure the code is clean and business goals of the solution are met.
During the further iterations of this SDLC stage, the testing becomes more involved and accounts not only for functionality testing, but also for systems integration, interoperability, and user acceptance testing, etc.
Phase 5. Implementation and Deployment
The application is deployed on the servers and provided to the customers — either for the demo or the actual use. Further iterations update the already installed software, introducing new features and resolving bugs.
Phase 6. Review
Once all previous development phases are complete, the Product Owner gathers the Development Team once again and reviews the progress made towards completing the requirements. The team introduces their ideas toward resolving the problems that arose during the previous phases and the Product Owner takes their propositions into consideration.
Afterwards, the Agile software development lifecycle phases start anew — either with a new iteration or by moving toward the next stage.
Incorporating General Lean Principles Within Agile Methodology
The Lean Principles are:
- Eliminate Waste;
- Build Quality;
- Create Knowledge;
- Show Responsibility;
- Deliver Fast;
- Respect People;
- Optimize As A Whole.
Overall, these values correspond with the Agile methodology pretty well and can be used to supplement it if questions arise.
Software development is a structured iterative process. However, there is no single “correct” way to do Agile — there are just ones that fit or do not fit a particular team. Each company has its own idea of what constitutes Agile development, and each one has its merits. What matters at the end of the day is a valuable final product delivered on-time.
And this is how we at Relevant Software develop well-tailored applications that meet our client’s business needs. We use Agile paradigms for all our projects and constantly deliver outstanding results.
Top 20 London Tech Startups in 2019#On Startups
Technology is moving the modern world forward. Myriads of companies introducing tech products and services to the market in the entirely new ways appear every day. Because of the term ‘TECH”, there is often some kind of ambiguity while the very essence of a startup lies in the notion of innovation, scalability and improved customer experience. So what does it really mean to be a tech startup?
According to Todd Berkowitz, Managing VP at Gartner, a technology company “[Is] generally a company whose primary business is selling tech or tech services. A more nuanced definition is a company with tech or tech services as a key part of its business.”
That is, tech companies primarily focus on the implementation of the technologies to create new products or services that address real-life issues. But in the era of personalized customer-oriented approach, the old school approach to tech servicing and production is shifted. That is why there are more and more startups launched. With the US as a leading location, London is becoming a new technology hub with unicorn tech startups operating within the major cutting-edge tech areas like AI, Robotics, Cybersecurity, VR and Blockchain. The UK is recognized as the tech unicorn capital of Europe. A Unicorn status (the name originates from the notion of uniqueness) – a billion dollar valued companies are winning the market and offering new unique solutions.
UK is home to 37 percent of Europe’s total unicorn companies.
Let’s look at some of the top technology sector startups in London and the UK that promise to shine brightly in 2019.
Artificial Intelligence is demonstrating a profound growth in popularity as one of the areas where startups in the UK demonstrate propelling growth.
Prowler.io has been stable on the tech market since 2016. The company is also engaged with the AI research sector creating AI-powered systems and bots for a number of industries. The company’s engineers create autonomous learning decision-making systems. The solutions created by the company proved to be effective and efficient within finance, city infrastructure, and driverless vehicles.
Diffblue was founded by the experts in AI and machine learning from Oxford University. Their unique product uses AI engine to automate all the traditional coding tasks – to write unit tests for Java developers automatically. Now you are all covered with test writing, debugging, exploits fixing, code refactoring, etc. The company keeps growing and builds other products for improved productivity of the software engineers and make their life easier with the help of AI and machine learning.
Cortexica is a London-based provider of the actual AI solutions for businesses. The company has been on the market long enough to gain a strong position in the area of image research solutions. It offers the now hot-in-demand Computer Vision, image recognition and research technologies alongside industry-specific consultancy. The trailblazer of it is that they continue to develop their algorithms and supporting architecture to provide the latest responsive vision AI software.
Peak.ai pioneered with the AI solutions in the area of data analytics-as-a-service with a focus on businesses grow using their data solutions. Peak is named one of the 25 fastest-growing tech companies by GP Bullhound and one of only 14 companies globally holding Amazon Web Services (AWS) Machine Learning Competency status. The highly skilled engineering team creates data management services using Big data, AI, and machine learning technologies. The solutions developed by the company provide comprehensive data analysis and recommendations based on its findings proving that at the age of data economy, data has already become a key factor influencing business. Thus, the ability to analyze data is one of the most important business assets, and Peak is working on providing companies with an advanced analytical tool to help them remain competitive.
Attest is a fast growing data analytics research platform which helps to connect businesses to a network of 100 million consumers in 80 countries globally. The company focuses on creating solutions that enable businesses with market and brand intelligence like surveys, creative testing, product development and other services. Attest’s solutions provide great real-time data and an extensive analytical suite that can generate valuable insights on the company’s performance on the market, study the customers’ behavior, help to make decisions about new product development. With Attest’s product, a brand can build its marketing strategy on the basis of the actual market data that is interpreted by the advanced algorithms.
Concured applies the advanced artificial intelligence technology to content marketing creating a platform that leverages the AI opportunities to validate content ideas. It provides a unique solution where AI analyzes multiple content sources generating insights on the competitors’ strategies, the most relevant topics, the factors affecting the content performance. As a result, the brand can create data-driven content that will be consistent and perfectly targeted. The company is among the youngest tech startups in London, however, its achievements in the intelligence-powered content generation are astonishing.
The UK is gaining its position as an incubator for cybersecurity innovations with more tech companies appearing almost daily.
AimBrain operates in the area of biometric authentication by applying voice, facial and behavior recognition to create authentication modules using deep learning technology. The authentication solutions produced by AimBrain are primarily intended for fraud prevention within the banking sector.
Panaseer uses big data technology for the development of custom enterprise security solutions. By applying advanced analytics to security and organization’s business data, the Panaseer platform provides a comprehensive assessment of risks, threats, and vulnerabilities. By utilizing high-scale analytics with the help of the security tools, the company can implement more effective protection mechanisms. The company’s position in the market of hi-tech cybersecurity solutions looks rather steady.
Wandera is a London-based startup, a cloud SaaS platform enforcing real-life mobile security to detect threats. Its unique solution for corporate devices safeguards user’s privacy, so enterprise IT can manage mobile risks including compliance and excessive data usage and gives them control with the help of machine learning tools and deep app insights for any mobile device.
The UK fintech sector is booming and keeps attracting stable investment. Here are some of the hot fintech startups.
Aire experiments with artificial intelligence applied to credit scoring. Their AI-based platform utilizes algorithms to act as “underwriters” for individuals looking for various financial products, such as bank loans. The solution the company offers is beneficial for both sides, the customer and the provider. In 2017, Aire received its venture capital financing to continue its research and development of the AI-based products.
Akoni developed a cash management system for small and medium businesses. The offered solutions are based on machine learning and data science providing the best currency rates by constant monitoring and analyzing the market.
The robotics space in the UK is progressing over the years and some really interesting startups enter the area remodeling the traditional processes.
Senseye delivers predictive maintenance solutions by integrating IoT and machine learning technologies. The cutting-edge software is used to collect and analyze data of industrial machinery thus predicting eventual failures which enables maintenance costs savings and better operational processes.
Oxbotica is an autonomous vehicle software company. It addresses the hot issue of technology enabling machines to robustly navigate, understand and act in their specific environments. Using computer vision and machine learning techniques, the company engineers build autonomous vehicle control systems, self-driving vehicles and fleet management solutions.
The Small Robot Company is a UK-based startup focusing on an agri-tech robotic service through its Farming-as-a-Service (FaaS) model. Founded in 2016 the company offers robotic hardware services that digitize farming processes including crop and soil monitoring robot, the precision drilling and planting robot.
Automata, a London-based startup was founded in 2015 to make robotics affordable and usable. The company applies robotics-as-a-service (RAAS) business model by integrating robotics into everyday processes and workflows.
The worldwide interest for the VR is growing stronger with a lot of companies emerging. And the UK is no exception.
Oxford VR is the startup which focuses on therapy issues by building psychological treatments with the help of virtual reality technology. Founded in 2016, the company has made great progress with VR and a cognitive-behavioral therapy approach. Using the suite, patients can find new ways of thinking and behavior with the help of automated treatments by a virtual coach adapted to each condition.
Improbable is another London startup. It offers a comprehensive platform for creating virtual and alternative reality applications. Their product, SpatialOS allows producing rich, feature-heavy virtual spaces for simulators and games. The platform uses cloud computing to run its services, thus enabling easy and cost-effective resource provisioning and scaling.
Blockchain technology in the UK is growing into real use cases and generates business value.
Electron is implementing blockchain-based solutions in the energy sector. Its innovative solutions make it possible to create efficient and environment-friendly energy systems for enterprises and households. It has already delivered its products to a number of companies in the UK. Blockchain-enabled technology allows to control of energy meters and monitor resource allocation.
Appii is a London-based startup which applies blockchain technology to support employee CV verification and background checks. Using the solution, the job-seekers can create profiles with verified credentials, highlighting qualifications and other personal information, like ID, etc. These credentials are verified with the employers and educational institutions in an absolutely secure way.
Vault is one more startup launched in London. It offers a platform harnessing private distributed ledger technology to create a reporting solution for managing and mitigating any form of misconduct at the workplace. Its secure effective solution enables employees to submit reports with other affected colleagues confidentially and increase the level of trust and productivity.
On a final note
Startups are disrupting every industry vertical all over the globe. The UK is home to an impressive number of them, which makes a real impact on the economy revolutionizing tech world.
Though the market is booming and it’s difficult to identify your way within the tech ecosystem, it might be a good start to consult an expert in technology innovations.
We at Relevant Software are here to help you out with your needs so that your next great idea really works.
5 Success Stories of Tech Startups from London#On Startups
London is quickly turning into a European technology hub with new startups appearing on a weekly basis. We hear London startups success stories everywhere, and UK startups have begun to create real competition for the Silicon Valley.
If you surf the Internet for the accounts of major London startup events, you are definitely going to come across references to new successful projects that have been launched in London or in the UK and be amazed by the boldness, innovation, and entrepreneurship displayed by the new startup companies of the UK.
In this article, we have selected five success stories of London startups showing how a non-traditional approach to problem-solving together with the brilliant application of new technologies can create unique solutions in various industry sectors.
According to Ambarish Mitra and Omar Tayeb, the startup idea was born when they joked about the Queen coming out of the £20 note. This idea grew into a startup that experiments with augmented reality, computer vision and deep learning.
This London startup was founded in 2011. In less than a decade, it has rolled out a line of augmented reality products and has earned a reputation of a company that is not afraid to try new technologies and unusual integrations to create unique solutions.
One of Blippar’s products that is definitely worth mentioning is their AR building platform. By downloading the Blippar SDK, you can create augmented reality even if you have absolutely zero coding skills. Another version, for more code-savvy users, is also available.
Another technology that Blippar uses in building its applications is face recognition allowing to create various promotional apps, such as virtual try-ons.
Right now, Blippar has taken up a challenging task of building a whole new AR-based browser. Imagine a browser where you do not need to type the search string; instead, just point your smartphone camera at the object you need the information on – and there you go. The application is already available for download, and the team continues adding new objects and enhancing its functionality.
At the moment, Blippar is valued at more than $78 million and has reached the revenue generation stage. Their bold experiments and the application of the cutting-edge technology has earned the investors’ trust and helped the company to start making a profit. Blippar’s story is an example of startup ideas literally lying around, you just need to reach out and grab them.
What Touch Surgery is doing may seem a bit eerie, as they are developing an application where you can practice surgery in a very realistic simulator. At the same time, this is not a game at all, as the app serves a noble purpose of bringing quality surgical services to as many patients around the world as possible. According to Touch Surgery CEO and founder, Dr. Chow, “There are around 7 billion people on the planet, but 5 billion people don’t have access to safe surgical services. That’s why we created Touch Surgery – to be part of that story that helps scale surgery to really meet global demand.”
Touch Surgery is used in many surgery training programs in various educational institutions. The application has a vast library of default surgical simulations and allows building custom ones. Showing the step-by-step surgery sequences, the accepted techniques and the components of each surgery, the application provides a truly “hands-on” training for young doctors.
Touch Surgery has been on the market for six years after its founding in 2012. A number of investors have already chosen to support the startup in their research and development seeing the potential of their work.
Touch Surgery shows what you can achieve when your solution is created by acknowledged industry and technology experts – an advanced product that can serve a great mission.
Darktrace was founded in 2013 as a response to the growing threat of cyber attacks. The concept of a new approach to cybersecurity was created by a team of mathematicians, machine learning experts and intelligence professionals of MI5 and GCHQ. As a result, a unique security solution, Enterprise Immune System, was developed. The system allows proactive response to cyber attacks and is focused on preventing threats, thus minimizing the possible damage.
In the five years that have elapsed since its founding, Darktrace has released several security products for different types of customers – enterprise-scale security solutions, industrial solutions, solutions ensuring security in cloud and several others.
The cyber defense solutions that Darktrace develops use the most advanced technologies, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence. The principle that lies at the core of Darktrace’s security algorithms is the comparison of cyber threats to viruses that attack the human body. Viruses mutate making counter-measures more difficult and rendering previous medicines ineffective. Cyber viruses do the same, thus it is of utmost importance to quickly adapt to the situation and respond to a new threat with adequate measures.
Artificial intelligence analyzes all components of the network, from individual users to devices and nodes, and uses this analysis to detect possible threats and nip them in the bud.
At the moment, Darktrace has reached the latest stage of venture capital financing which shows that its operation style, business management, and product line have proved their value to investors. The company closely cooperates with the national security agencies with Darktrace products currently protecting critical components of the national infrastructure. Darktrace’s success is largely due to their highly professional and scientific approach to one of the top priority issues of the current time. Cyber threats are growing and developing at a scary speed, and adequate protection mechanisms are in high demand.
This is another startup that has chosen healthcare as its major area. The company was founded in 2013 after Kenneth Mulvany sold a biotech business he had been running. The idea that is behind BenevolentAI is that the human mind is unable to process the rapidly growing mass of information that is being accumulated in the world. That leads to a noticeable disbalance between the available knowledge and the amount of insights and usability it can create.
The startup took on the challenge of applying artificial intelligence where the human brain was lacking and using it to process the health-related information that may be omitted by traditional research methods. BenevolentAI focuses on using artificial intelligence to accelerate the knowledge processing and the development of useful methodologies on its basis, particularly, the development of new medicines.
The development of medicines is not the only line of BenevolentAI product. Its other solution, BenevolentTech, is intended to help researchers make discoveries by optimizing their access to the available information. Again, this platform heavily uses artificial intelligence and is constantly learning from its interaction with scientists.
BenevolentAI products are made to bring together the immense computer capacities and the abilities of the human brain to create unique solutions and methods. AI can process gigabytes of data within seconds finding trends, patterns, and connections that humans may overlook. Making AI work for the benefit of the humans is the startup’s mission.
This commitment and dedication have not gone unnoticed by investors, and BenevolentAI is steadily enjoying support from venture capitalists. Recently, the startup has opened a research facility in Babraham Science Park, Cambridge, where it is working on new treatments for major diseases.
The success story of BenevolentAI shows that even such tradition-bound and heavily regulated industry as healthcare can benefit from advanced technologies when they are combined with profound professional experience.
While we have listed Starship Technologies among the tech startups of London, the company’s geography has reached far beyond the UK. Today, Starship Technologies also has offices in Germany, Estonia, and the US, and its user base has amounted to twelve million.
The company was founded in 2014 with the aim of revolutionizing the delivery service by implementing the robotics technology. Their goal was creating a new smart delivery system that was faster and more cost-efficient than the traditional ones. As a result, the delivery service consisting of self-driven robots has been developed.
One of the priorities that the developers had in their research was the utmost safety of the delivery robots. The Starship Technologies robots are light (up to 50 pounds without the load), they move at a walking speed and can navigate around obstacles. The robot’s journey can be tracked in a special application.
Also, the robots produced by Starship Technologies are incredibly environment-friendly, as they produce minimal emission and consume very low energy. This way, the costs of delivery are also reduced which is one of the major benefits of using robots to carry loads.
Starship Technologies is one of the young tech startups of the UK and is now in its seed investment stage. However, with one of its investors being Daimler Corporation, the future of Starship Technologies looks rather bright. A small local idea, when backed by a powerful technology, can mean a true revolution.
As you can see, the range of tech startups in London is rather diverse and colorful. By no means, we claim to have listed all top tech companies from London, but you can get the idea of the immense brainpower that is at work there. If you are looking for the London startups that are worth supporting, see our pick of the best London startups of 2018 where you can find companies working in different industries and applying different technologies.
At the same time, London is welcoming blockchain startups, too, as the UK regulations seem to be rather favorable in this respect. We have put together a list of top blockchain startups in London that you can follow in 2018, and we believe that you can find some truly disruptive projects among them.
Top 10 Reasons Why your Startup should Outsource Software Product Development#On Startups
To outsource or not to outsource… that is the big question. Why do companies outsource software development? There must be a good reason for this, as the number of outsourced project and outsourcing agencies grows steadily.
The available statistical data shows that, despite certain dips, the overall trend to outsource services continues to climb.
For startups, outsourcing their product development may be a great solution to jump in the market at the minimum cost and within the shortest time possible.
Indeed, with in-house development, the time between the idea and the finished product is much longer, as it involves renting an office space and setting up the entire development infrastructure, as well as putting together a professional team. Naturally, the cost of the in-house development will increase the initial investment greatly and can affect the company’s capital requirements and its overall starting position.
While outsourcing definitely does not mean the absence of investment, it is a much more cost-effective solution. Besides, both for startups and established companies, outsourcing brings other benefits that allow them to develop, promote and market their product more successfully.
Apart from the direct benefit of cost- and time-saving, there are also other advantages of product development outsourcing.
#1 Access to deep knowledge and experience
One of the main reasons startups outsource software product development is that by engaging an outsourcing agency you are getting much more than just the software development.
In fact, you can come to such agency with only a product idea that only exists in your head, and you will get a complete package of consulting, analytical, marketing, design, and development services. Outsourcing agencies will work with you from the very first phase of your project – the discovery including market research and user interviews resulting in building the product prototype.
Depending on your product type, project specifics and budget, you can proceed to the development or can start with creating an MVP, or minimum viable product, to validate your idea and make certain changes if necessary. In this case, the marketing and design experts of the outsourcing company will help you design the most optimal MVP and then interpret the analytical data it yields.
Project planning, cost estimation, wireframing, UI/UX design, software development – outsourcing companies can do it all, and in all cases, they can put together the most optimal project plan.
Of course, you can only outsource the services for which you lack own resources, for example, assign the development to an agency while doing your own marketing. In this case, you will not have to worry about the development and can focus on your tasks.
#2 Access to great tech talents worldwide
When you decide to outsource your product development, you are not limited by your geographical location. Your primary choice criteria are the team’s skills and professionalism.
Browse the company’s portfolio, look up the customers’ feedback, check the reviews, try the products that the company has delivered, and you will be able to find the team that is perfect for your project’s purposes. No matter where they are located, whether they work together or remotely, their development talent will contribute to the creation of your product.
However, while contemplating collaboration with a team that is half a world away or distributed over many countries, we recommend considering the considering the cultural differences and taking steps to minimize their influence on the project development process.
#3 Optimal balance of skills and rates
With outsourcing, you can find the perfect balance between the team’s development skills and their rates. The outsourcing geography is rather broad, India and Eastern Europe being among the best-known outsourcing hubs.
The countries of Eastern Europe, such as Ukraine or Belarus, are quickly rising in the outsourcing rankings. The software development companies operating in these countries provide quality service with the optimal balance of expertise and creativity.
At the same time, the development rates in Ukraine are lower than, for example, in the US or Western Europe. Therefore, by outsourcing to Eastern Europe, you are going to get a professionally delivered product at a considerably lower cost.
#4 Ability to gather the best professional team for the project
If you start your project with putting together your own startup development team, this process is going to throw you off schedule quite considerably. For a successful product launch, you need not only the developers to write the code and the DevOps to deploy the product. In order to ensure a smooth product release, you also need to engage the following professionals:
- Business analysts to identify the requirements to the project functionality and translate them into features
- UI/UX designers to plan the user experience, create wireframes, design user flows, arrange UI components and, finally, create the UI mockups for the UI developers
- QA engineers to test the product during and after the development
- Copywriters to create UI texts and product documentation
Subject to your project specifics, there may be a need in some highly specialized skills. For example, your idea may include some advanced technology, such as virtual reality or AI. Finding such experts may take quite some time.
Usually, outsourcing companies have a complete team on board or can quickly recruit freelancers to fill the positions that they have no experts for. Already at the project planning stage, the project manager proposes the team that is capable of delivering the project stating the approximate time required from each team member.
#5 No need of micromanagement
When you assign your project to an outsourcing agency, the project is coordinated by a project manager whose job is to take care of all matters related to the product development and launch. The project manager will be your main point of contact in all issues that may arise.
You will meet the PM at the first stage of your project development and will work with them on its plan. Once you have approved the project plan and estimate, it will be the responsibility of the project manager to keep to the agreed schedule and budget. Usually, the PM already has the tried and tested methodologies for managing remote teams, as well as in-house teams.
It will be the job of the PM to plan the sprints, set the deadlines, control the delivery, schedule and prepare feature demos. Any changes, suggestions, comments, complaints – you can always address them to the project manager and be sure that the required actions will be taken.
#6 Effective communication within the team
The importance of communication goes without saying.
Naturally, in a team where people know each other and have more than one project under their belt, the communication is next to telepathic. The roles, responsibilities, skills, and subordination are known in advance, and no time is spent on team-building.
An outsourcing agency has all tools and platforms for effective communication and collaboration properly set up and functioning. Preparing a collaboration environment for your project will take minimum time and effort – a workspace in Slack, a project on GitHub, a board in Jira or Trello – and you are mostly all set.
When a team is used to working together, all issues, big or small, will be handled in the quickest and the most effective manner.
Besides, in a well-established team, the project manager will have little problem with finding replacements in case of illness or other emergencies, as all primary and secondary skills of the team members are well known.
#7 Application of the Agile methodology
For a startup, keeping to the principle of lean development is often critical, as it allows delivering a product in the most effective way. Lean development minimizes the share of unnecessary tasks resulting from incorrect management, poor communication, excessive complexity, and other issues related to the project coordination.
The Agile methodology organizing the development as an iterative process favors the lean approach. In the most common model, the product creation process is broken down into sprints that are usually two weeks long. The tasks to be performed within each sprint lead to the completion of a feature or functional component that can be tested and then demonstrated at the end of the sprint.
Agile allows making changes on the go and adapt the development process to the changed requirements. With Agile, the necessity to redo a finished component reduces to the minimum.
Many development agencies adopt Agile recognizing the startups’ need to keep to the lean development approach. This way, the customer is always informed of the current status of their project and can suggest changes quickly.
#8 Easy scalability
In the course of project development, it may happen that the scope either grows or reduces with some changes that need to be implemented. In this case, the initially selected team should be scaled up or down which is extremely difficult to do with in-house development.
If you are doing your own development, it is not easy to quickly find another team member with the required skills, especially, if these skills are needed for one project only. If you need to reduce the team, you will either have to dismiss people or continue paying their salaries to keep them for future projects. Either way, the solution is far from optimal.
With outsourcing, you are likely not to see such problems at all, because the agency usually has enough staff to cover the project needs and, when very special skills are required, they can contract a freelancer or a part-time member on the hourly basis.
Similarly, reducing the team is no problem for an outsourcing agency, as they may be running more than one project at the same time and transfer the colleague to another assignment.
#9 Minimum risk
Of course, when you assign your project to a new team, you are always running a certain risk. Despite good reviews and positive first contacts, there is still a chance of miscommunications, delays, features developed differently from what you expected, as well as many other unpleasant situations.
However, the central concept of outsourcing can protect you from such risks or minimize them.
Start with contracting an agency for a small task. Make a complete agreement specifying the quality, deadlines, rates, acceptance criteria. If you are satisfied with their performance, go ahead and sign a contract for a larger chunk of functionality or even for the complete project.
At the same time, if you see that the agency is not up to the task, you can cancel the cooperation at any time (just check the contract carefully not to run into legal troubles).
Under some contracts, you can keep the already developed project components. In this case, terminate the contract and start looking for a new outsourcing company to continue.
#10 You will be in a good company
The methodology of startup outsourcing has been around for quite a while with a list of successfully outsourced projects amounting to hundreds, and the outsourcing geography covering the entire planet. You may never guess that some of the world-famous products were built by outsourcing companies.
Just to name a few:
- Slack. This convenient communication tool that many development teams love for its simple and efficient functionality is, in fact, the work of MetaLab who redesigned the messenger at the early stages of its life and happened to hit the bullseye.
- Opera. The lightweight browser first marketed by Telenor, a telecommunication company from Norway, was built by a distributed development team. The members worked from more than 25 different locations and managed to create a browser that has earned the appreciation of many users.
- MySQL. Believe it or not, but this database management platform that holds one of the top ranks for its popularity was also a product of a distributed team who continue to support its operation.
Agencies or freelancers?
On a final note, let’s briefly look into the matter of which outsourcing structure is better for a startup project. It seems we’ve got you convinced of the advantages of outsourcing, but now you need to decide whether you should choose an agency or hire freelancers for each specific task.
Both approaches have their pros and cons, the most obvious being the cost.
Freelancers usually have lower rates than outsourcing agencies, as they work with minimum infrastructure and management. However, this advantage has its flip side – with freelancers, you will need to provide management on your side, and coordinating a very distributed team with each person working according to their own schedule and routines is not an easy task.
Development agencies, on the contrary, do their own management which makes the process more streamlined. For this reason, if you are thinking of outsourcing a large, complex project, we recommend contracting a reputed company that can be expected to deliver the product matching your standards.
Top 10 UK Blockchain startups and technology companies to watch in 2018#On Startups
In 2018, nobody questions the role of blockchain in the global economy. In the decade since its invention in 2008, blockchain and cryptocurrencies have grown so big that they have begun to affect the economy of entire countries.
Let’s look at the UK, the place that to a large extent determines the European financial balance. UK’s regulations on blockchain business and cryptocurrency operations are so flexible and favorable that many blockchain companies choose it to open their businesses in. Therefore, let’s see which companies call the shots in the UK blockchain market in 2018.
The primary area of Coinsilium business is support and promotion of blockchain technology companies. They offer an accelerator platform for startup companies developing blockchain applications and invest into promising blockchain development companies.
The Coinsilium team is a group of blockchain enthusiasts who believe that this technology is causing a technological revolution similar to what the Internet did in its time. That is why they are so devoted to supporting companies that develop blockchain solutions.
Since its founding in 2014, Coinsilium has consulted and financed about two dozen companies operating in blockchain development. The company supports startups at the initial stages of their growth and helps them start independent operations.
Coinsilium not only invests in blockchain companies, but it also attracts other investors. For example, check the interview with Eddy Travia, Coinsilium CEO and co-founder, talking about how to choose blockchain startups to invest in.
BlockVerify has set quite an ambitious goal – verify the authenticity of all products through blockchain. The history of each product is to be stored in the blockchain and can be traced back to its origin. This way, counterfeit and stolen products can be identified easily.
BlockVerify was founded in 2014, and since that time has implemented blockchain-based verification for four product categories – pharmaceuticals, luxury items, diamonds, and electronics. The first product to which the company applied blockchain verification were pharmaceuticals. That was due to the fact that damages caused by counterfeit medicines are enormous and their effects are devastating.
In all their blockchain technology use cases, BlockVerify works with the product manufacturer to ensure the quality and authenticity of each item. They are planning to expand the range of products that can be verified with the ultimate goal of making all products traceable via blockchain.
According to the BlockVerify team, their mission is to “make the world more honest.”
SETL is a convenient blockchain platform for real-time financial settlements. What SETL offers to its customers is reliable identity verification, secure messaging and expedite transactions. SETL uses a distributed ledger platform to execute transactions providing top security.
Through SETL, funds are transferred directly from one party to the other, thus substantially reducing the time required to complete the payment. At the same time, the level of security and identity verification is the same as in conventional banks.
SETL was founded in 2015, however, within this relatively short time it has managed to accumulate quite an impressive client base and is now getting continuing media attention. In September 2017, the company announced the launch of IZNES, the all-European platform for keeping fund records. The platform will be based on blockchain technology and is designed to provide cost-effective, transparent and secure financial transactions through all Europe. It seems SETL has quite ambitious plans for 2018.
Cashaa is a very young company. It was founded only in 2016. However, within 2 years it has proved that the idea that brought it into being is worth attention. The company is focused on settling a problem that many people who transfer money encounter – the existing banking systems are slow and bureaucratic, while cryptocurrency has certain usability issues and unclear legal status.
Cashaa has created a blockchain finance app that allows all kinds of financial transactions in a secure and totally legal way. Their partner is Mastercard Service Provider, and together they have developed a blockchain-based wallet via which users can send any fiat currency to any card in any place in the world.
With Cashaa, money is transferred even faster than blockchain cryptocurrency, while the recipients get fiat money that they can immediately use. The company has managed to create a solution combining the advantages of both cryptocurrency and real money transactions.
BSave allows earning interest on Bitcoin. With BSave, users benefit not only from the cryptocurrency volatility but also from interest accrued on the Bitcoin in their savings accounts. There are all kinds of account options – long-term and short-term – so that anyone can choose the one that is the most convenient for them.
With BSave, cryptocurrencies will bring passive income with the possibility of withdrawal at any time. It is an excellent solution for those who feel out of their depths in matters of cryptocurrency trading but still to want to earn with it. Moreover, the interest is credited on a daily basis, so there is no need to wait until the end of the month.
BSave is only three years old, being founded in 2015, but has already earned the trust of many Bitcoin holders.
Electron sets an example of applying the blockchain potential to a totally non-crypto sector. The company uses blockchain on the energy market helping to plan electricity supply in strict accordance with the demand, thus reducing costs and protecting the environment.
The company uses the decentralized blockchain structure to record meter readings and coordinate the distributed resources. Electron builds blockchain-based energy infrastructures with decentralized management and low maintenance costs.
In the three years after its founding in 2015, Electron has developed a robust decentralized blockchain app for the energy sector and is working on other projects of blockchain and Ethereum development.
Queueco is a cryptocurrency exchange platform that supports online trading with the help of AI-based algorithms. Artificial intelligence generates trading recommendations and decisions based on the analysis of the current trends, statistics, and forecasts. No manual intervention is required, thus transactions are much faster and more accurate.
AI-based cryptocurrency exchanges are a perfect solution for those who wish to trade but have insufficient knowledge or expertise to make right investment decisions. With artificial intelligence analyzing the cryptocurrency market, the recommendations will be the most optimal.
Queco was founded in 2014, and it seems that, with the AI technologies being a big boom, the company is going to get some attention in the nearest future.
The Billon Group has built a revolutionary payment system based on the distributed ledger, one of the attributes of the blockchain technology. The Billon solution is more convenient, efficient and secure than traditional banking. The reason is that with the usual way transactions are executed, a lot of time and effort is spent on the verification of both parties and, in some cases, a prepayment is required. At the same time, traditional financial institutions are forced to apply multiple security mechanisms to protect their customers’ funds.
In Billon, no additional security measures are required due to the inherent security mechanisms of the blockchain. As a result, transactions take much less time, while remaining as secure as expected.
Compared to other companies operating in the blockchain technology sector, Billon is a very mature organization. It was founded in 2008, and since that time grew to more than fifty people and developed a whole line of financial products.
Now, the company is planning to extend their innovative solution to the banking industry, thus fusing the traditional money handling with the advanced technology.
Elliptic watches over the security of blockchain operations. The company helps to investigate illegal Bitcoin transactions tracing them through all entities in the chain. Elliptic maintains a database of millions of Bitcoin addresses that allows detecting suspicious cryptocurrency activity.
The company was founded in 2013, and in five years have assisted many law enforcement agencies and financial institutions both in the UK and beyond in investigating unlawful Bitcoin transactions.
One of the lines of Elliptic research and development is a response to ransomware attacks. The team has created a software that can identify such attacks and trace the ransom received during them. The cryptocurrency is identified as obtained as the result of the attack and becomes extremely difficult to use.
With the increasing frequency and sophistication of hacker attacks, being able to withstand them and alleviate their consequences becomes one of the primary goals. That is why it is worth following the research made by companies similar to Elliptic to be sure that your assets can be protected.
Qadre chose the mission of helping businesses verify product identity and build trust. The company creates its own blockchain models and, through an API, assists businesses to implement custom solutions enabling encryption, controlling access and setting up security mechanisms.
The Qadre solutions can integrate into the existing systems or blockchain networks. As a result, businesses obtain a cost-effective, easily scalable system for checking and tracing a product origin and identifying counterfeit products. The key component is the blockchain implementation, as it stores an immutable and transparent product history.
The company is fairly young. It has been on the market only since 2014. However, it has already done a lot towards blockchain popularization and adoption by businesses and contributed to the prevention of counterfeit goods circulation. With Qadre solutions, identity management and authenticity verification become less costly and much faster, and more effective.
Nowadays, never a day goes by without news from the blockchain and cryptocurrency universe. Sometimes, it seems difficult to find your way in this ocean of cryptocurrency rates, Bitcoin ups and downs, Ethereum projects, and blockchain applications. Each month, dozens of new ICOs are announced, and you may find yourself at a loss to decide which startups can be trusted.
If you decide to collaborate with a blockchain company or invest into one, we recommend selecting a reputable business that has been on the market for some time and can show a number of successful projects in its portfolio.
The list of companies you have just read is our pick of the top UK-based businesses that useblockchain programming in their solutions. The products and services they deliver are capable of influencing the national or even global economy in the nearest future.
Freelance developers vs Product development agency – The Startup Outsourcing Choice#On Startups
Finally you decided to start something on your own. You have a bright idea of a product and you are keen as mustard to launch your startup. There’s no time like the present to start working hard to make it successful. Only one slight hitch – you don’t know how to code.
If you are planning to learn coding – you are on a dangerous path. Don’t underestimate the difficulty of learning programming languages from scratch. Even though you somehow managed to get acquainted with the basics, development of a good piece of software is a challenging task.
You’d better focus on creating of your product’s strategy, establishing business connections, and penetrating the overcrowded market. Everybody should be focused on what they do best of all and leave software product development to professionals.
Whom should you trust to bring your idea to life?
If you want to give birth to a really successful startup, you need to hire professionals. Choosing the right contractor to develop your future offspring is a difficult pill to swallow, considering your limited budget and timeframes.
What should you consider in order to hire the right people and ensure your project’s success?
Universal panacea does not exist, same is for the right choice of whom to hire. Hiring in-house team for one-time product development is a wastage of money for startups.
Thus, you will have to make your choice between passing your development project to a freelancer or hire an established software development agency.
Both freelance developers and agencies have their pros and cons, and you need a clear understanding of each option.
Who is who
Freelancer is a self-employed person who has a set of specific much-in-demand skills. For example, a freelancer may specialize in front-end development, UI/UX design or data analytics. Usually, freelancers are not committed to a particular employer on a long-term basis, and often have multiple clients at a time. They mostly avoid offices and work from homes, cafes, or famous downshifting spots.
Software development agencies are established teams of professionals that work well together. Commonly, the teams consist of developers, designers, business analysts, quality assurance engineers, and project managers.
Most agencies provide the services of full-cycle software development, from initial consulting to the product launch.
Key difference points between freelance developers and product development agencies:
Most freelancers set up lower rates than software development agencies. Moreover, you are not to pay any overhead costs, like office supplies, health insurances, dinners, or any other perks. Freelancers seem to represent a budget option.
This may sound appealing for your startup if you are on a short budget or awaiting money from investors, or if you need to develop just one specific feature. However, hiring a bunch of freelancers for different parts of your project may turn out to be quite expensive.
Agency’s services often cost more. Initially, higher rates may seem to be a considerable disadvantage, but the price greatly depends on the agency’s region. Hiring a company from the US or Western Europe will cost you an arm and a leg, while Indian agencies are offering absurdly low rates.
The companies from Eastern Europe lie somewhere in between. Companies from the region offer highly skilled developers for reasonable costs, so you will not blow your dough. As agencies offer comprehensive end-to-end solutions, they represent invaluable quality/price ratio for a startup.
Also, with an agency you will save costs on your time, as you will not have to lead and micromanage several distributed freelancers.
Freelancers usually have professional expertise in one specific area. You should study their portfolio before hiring one to know exactly what he/she is best in. Sometimes freelancers position themselves as Jacks-of-all-trades, but we all know that one cannot master everything.
Freelancers are good to hire for some specific tasks or one-time projects. For example, if you want add some feature to your mobile app, or create a website on WordPress, hiring a freelancer will be a reasonable option.
You can pick up a perfect profile for every challenge on Upwork, Behance or GitHub.
With an agency you don’t need to find a separate specialist for every specific task. Agencies usually offer full-cycle software development services, including initial consulting (often free of charge), business analysis, UI/UX design, prototyping and business idea validation, development and deployment. Everything in one place.
You’d better leverage services of an agency, if you want to develop complicated product from scratch, like mobile or web app, loyalty system or CRM solution.
What is more, members of a team got used to each other, and developed their own ways to work productively and efficiently. In addition, software development companies face fierce competition, that is why they try to constantly develop and improve their workforce: they continually learn new programming languages, stay aware of the the newest trends and emerging technologies, share knowledge with each other, and deliver the most up-to-date solutions.
Before choosing your contractor, always check trusted resources like Clutch or GoodFirms to read other companies’ feedbacks and project overviews.
Freelancers love freedom and that’s why they chose to avoid office life and rules. They set up their own schedules and decide upon the workload. Freelancers usually work for many clients, so get prepared for the situation when they are not available when you need them. For example, if you want to make a quick add-on to the project, your freelancer may have already started working for the next client, turned sick, or went for vacation.
Their working schedule often depends on when the inspiration comes: sometimes they work during regular hours, sometimes at night, or even weekends and holidays, and you’ll not be able to gain a full control over their schedule. Still, this flexibility can be really beneficial in case of urgent tasks.
Agencies always have established schedules and workflows. Teams work 9-to-5, and overtime when necessary. Also, as soon as one developer becomes temporarily unavailable, they are immediately substituted by another one within the team. Well-tuned workflows in established teams help members stay organized and meet deadlines.
Just make sure you share the same time zone or have enough overlapping hours to get in touch with the project managers, make some adjustments, or communicate about the deliverables for your startup.
4. Quality of work
There are many highly skilled professionals among freelancers, still, some of them focus only to get the work done, receive their payment, and move to the next client. Sometimes they want to finish their projects as quickly as possible, as more clients mean more profit. For some freelancers quality is not a priority, so you have to be really careful when choosing a contractor for your startup.
Studying their portfolios for relevant projects, looking through their portfolios on Behance and Upwork and reading feedbacks will be helpful to find the person with the good reputation and solid track record.
On the contrary, long-term relationships with their clients and professional reputation are the main focuses for software development agencies. They concentrate on quality, rather than on quantity, that’s why they put all their time and efforts to build trust.
They strive to deliver as high-quality products as possible in order to exceed their clients’ expectations, get positive feedbacks and have the clients back for development of their next products.
For example, if you hired an agency for your mobile app development, and something went unexpectedly wrong, the team will move heaven and earth to fix the bugs.
Moreover, agencies are capable to provide comprehensive solutions for startups, from the initial idea and design to front-end and back-end development.
Have you ever managed software developers? This is not an easy task. While onboarding a freelancer, you’ll have to bring them up to speed, get them acquainted with all the basics, reporting, and deadlines. No other person but you will have to control them and evaluate the quality of their deliverables.
An extra freelancer may become an overhead to your startup team management, as they will require your additional time. As well, it will be hard for you to supervise a software development process, if it is not your area of expertise.
Moreover, if you are hiring several freelancers for different parts of the project, they will have to get used to each other and learn to work together efficiently. And, it all costs you time.
Agencies always have their in-house project managers, so you will not be responsible for management, and will be able to focus on your core tasks: strategy, marketing, growth. Also, agencies provide a possibility to scale a team if necessary: reduce the number of developers to eliminate overhead, or add more people to speed up the product’s time-to-market.
Project managers will be also responsible for meeting the deadlines, anticipating any possible glitches, and smooth introduction of changes. Also, when you are hiring an agency for your startup product development, you can be sure that the team have worked together before and have developed their own algorithms of efficiency and productivity.
6. Legal Issues
Freelancers are natural persons, that is, private individuals. They work as independent contractors or separate entities, and usually cover all legal issues by themselves. For example, they are paying their taxes and do accounting on their own.
You will have to sign a civil-law contract with your freelancer, or no contracts at all. Still, it’s always better to protect your confidential information and delicate matters, and sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement) with freelancers.
Agencies are legal entities. But, you will not have to worry about contracts preparation and conclusion. They will take care of all necessary documents and agreements required to start cooperating, as they often have their in-house legal departments with lawyers and accountants. Just read carefully what you sign.
Freelancers complete the project and then move to a new client. That’s the most typical situation. It may be hard for you to approach them after the product launch to fix some bugs or make further adjustments to the final product.
Even in case of highly skilled developers, some code updating and bug-fixing will always take place. In addition, freelancers usually require extra payments for any after-launch works.
When hiring a freelancer, you should always specify the possibility of future maintenance in advance.
Surely, you are concerned about the future of your startup. With an agency, you may expect a product maintenance, which means bug fixes and updates, development of additional functionality, and constant product’s support. Also, you will be able to return to the team, who developed your product and know it like the back of their hands.
Who should your startup choose?
After considering all the pros and cons of freelancers and software developments agencies, you may discover that there is no definite answer whom to choose for your next startup product development. Ideal choice does not exist.
Freelancers are convenient to hire for a specific project or task that requires the skills they’ve mastered. While hiring a software development agency works better for complex long-term projects. The more complicated the project is, the larger team is required.
At the first glance, freelancers may seem much cheaper than agencies, but they will require more of your time for their management. So, hiring an agency may be more saving in the long run.
Also, always remember to check your chosen contractor before hiring. Carefully look through their profiles, portfolios, read case studies and testimonials before giving them your first task to make sure you found that right one.
If you want to start a complex project, Relevant Software team will come in handy. We provide full-cycle software product development for startups, and help them with their projects from A to Z.