April 22, 2014

Does an early stage startup need solid design and decent software to start working properly? How should I choose my team partner?

by Marta Dunajko

1. What is a software house?

Software house, is a company creating software-based web solutions - web applications. Software houses focus on the analysis of customer business processes, creating functional specifications, testing applications, and its integration with other systems. This industry is concerned with the creation of dedicated applications and custom software.The main tasks of the SH are:
  • E-commerce systems
  • B2B platform
  • Portals
  • CRM management support systems
  • Geographic information systems
  • Intranets
  • Workflow systems
  • Loyalty programs
  • E-financial systems
  • Procurement systems
  • B2C platform
  • Mobile apps
  • Business Process Management
  • Business Intelligence
  • Semantic Web
Software houses employ both front-end and back-end developers.

Front-end and back-end are terms used to characterize program interfaces and services relative to the initial user of these interfaces and services. A "front-end" application is one that application users interact with directly. A "back-end" application or program serves indirectly in support of the front-end services, usually by being closer to the required resource or having the capability to communicate with the required resource. The back-end application may interact directly with the front-end or, perhaps more typically, is a program called from an intermediate program that mediates front-end and back-end activities.Another important element in the software house is the role of the sys-admin. The sys-admin is responsible for maintaining the company's IT network, servers and security systems. This role is absolutely essential within any organization to ensure business continuity – if an IT network fails, the impact on the day to day running of the business can be significant, sometimes catastrophic.The role of QA tester is also crucial. It is a person that tests out software to make sure there are no problems - or "bugs" - in it. The jobs of a QA Tester go through various cycles: from getting new software builds from the Engineering teams, testing their builds, finding any defects, reporting any new, existing or old defects, and receiving new builds with the supposed fixes. Then, the cycle starts over with testing again. When the final, bug-free build is available, it goes through a final phase of regression testing, where you do a full cycle of testing the application. And lastly, your product is ready to be delivered to the customer.

2. What does a design house do?

skygate as a design house focus on: graphic design, improving brands' names and logotypes, visual brand creations, marketing and developing identity. We always analyse our client's situation in order to meet his requirements. Our goal is to refine drafts and ideas to get the best result of final project.Design houses employ the following people: Copywriter: responsible for generating the words, slogans and audio scripts that accompany advertising visuals.The typical creative process can involve:
- Discussing the client's core message and target audience
- Brainstorming visual and copy ideas with other members of the creative team
- Writing and presenting a few options to clients
- Modifying copy until the client is satisfied?
- Overseeing the production phase.
Graphic designer: responsible for creating design solutions that have a high visual impact. The role involves listening to clients and understanding their needs before making design decisions. Graphic designers develop creative ideas and concepts, choosing the appropriate media and style to meet the client's objectives.
Head of creative: produces promotional material in a variety of media, including television, radio and print; as well as ads created for billboards, the Internet, social networking websites and wireless devices. They meet with clients to learn the campaign objectives; plan the theme and concept of the advertisements; give design instructions to the art director and copywriters; review and approve the final layout, design and advertising copy; schedule and monitor production of the products and present the final results to the client. Creative heads analyze the advertising campaign results and identify any needed adjustments or expansion opportunities.

3. I have an idea and a small budget to start with. I hope to raise more funds when I validate my business model and convince investors that we will be even more successful with more funds. Why should I choose skygate?

With a small budget skygate will first try to predict what kind of MVP can be built. We believe that less means more as some functionalities can be delivered faster and we can focus then on most important features of the project instead of giving to a client many other functionalities that bring nothing good if done fast and at reasonable cost.

4. Freelancers are cheaper. Why should I choose skygate instead?

At skygate we believe that hiring a team of developers/designers is more profitable than hiring a freelancer; obviously development by a team produces faster results when compared to a single developer, as well as providing an advantage in respect of knowledge sharing and ensuring resources are always available to complete your project on time. It is of course possible to find a developer that has the knowledge of front end and back end developing, that is an administrator and PM, however we believe that having a team that can work on certain tasks can bring profit much faster.When starting on a project as a team, work is divided between senior and junior developers. Junior developer usually gets tasks of minor priority he has then time for knowing the code and application better.

5. What does AGILE mean? Why is this approach good for me?

The Agile proposes alternatives to traditional project management. This approach helps businesses respond to unpredictability. skygate works according to AGILE rules since they emphasize:
  • Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.• Working software over comprehensive documentation.
  • Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
  • Responding to change over following a plan.With Agile we follow these principles:
  • Satisfying 'customers' through early and continuous delivery of valuable work.
  • Breaking big work down into smaller components that can be completed quickly.
  • Recognizing that the best work emerges from self-organizing teams.
  • Providing motivated individuals with the environment and support they need and trust them to get the job done.
  • Creating processes that promote sustainable efforts.
  • /li>Maintaining a constant pace for completed work.
  • Welcoming changing requirements, even late in a project.
  • Assembling the project team and business owners on a daily basis throughout the project.
  • At regular intervals, having the team reflect upon how to become more effective, then tuning and adjusting behavior accordingly.
  • Measuring progress by the amount of completed work.
  • Continually seeking excellence.
  • Harnessing change for competitive advantage.
Why would you pick Agile? It provides opportunities to assess the direction of a project throughout the development lifecycle. Because teams can develop software at the same time they’re gathering requirements and because their work cycle is limited to two weeks, it gives stakeholders recurring opportunities to calibrate releases for success in the real world.

6. How skygate differs from a typical software house?

skygate as a software and design house employ both developers and designers; this way a customer can have his or her product fully developed and designed under one roof. The team is integrated and they are more efficient when working together.

7. My budget is X, does it make sense to start with it? What can I get for it?

skygate team, when getting all the necessary requirements concerning the project, will estimate it for you (including possible time of completion of the project). With smaller budget skygate will predict what kind of MVP. The budget of a client will be spent sensibly and with low budget we can advise to clients what options they can get till they can afford new functionalities.

8. Why don’t you work using the fixed price model?

Fixed-price model:
  • With a fixed-price model, you build specification in the beginning, which means you are effectively making serious decisions when you have the least amount of information. You can’t change (or it gets difficult/expensive to change) when you learn
  • It does not lower any risk for 2 main reasons;
    a) long-term estimations are virtually impossible to make
    b) once you sign a contract, you are committed to the relationship for at least the duration of the first milestone. It’s harder to track progress, and you are only able to assess the deliverables on milestone handover
  • In the traditional fixed-price model, from the day you sign a contract, your priorities are exactly opposite to those of the contractor. You want to have as much as possible done with your project whereas they want to do the least since price is fixed
  • There is much less legal back and forth, because the deal is pretty simple, and the contracts tend to be short and understandable. You can save money by using a template, with little risk. Priorities can always change, and you don’t have to set them in stone before the project kicks off
  • Yes it is. Someone on the agency side needs to calculate possible failures into a fixed price – in reality, you don’t get the lowest price, rather the safest for the company.

Fixed budget: A fixed budget is a budget that does not change or flex when sales or some other activity increases or decreases. A fixed budget is also referred to as a static budget.

Time & materials: Time and materials is a standard phrase in a contract for construction in which the buyer agrees to pay the contractor based upon the work performed by the contractor's employees and subcontractors, and for materials used in the construction (plus the contractor's markup), no matter how much work is required to complete construction.

9. What about my copyrights?

Copyright belongs to the client after completion of the project. skygate will not use the code to work on other projects and therefore there is NDA prepared to be signed by both parties, which ensures the customer that the project remains his and only his property.

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