Do you need a mobile application for your business to stay competitive?

Number of mobile applications in each stores Google Play, App store, Windows and Blackberry continues to rise with the front-runners being Google Play and App Store. Having a share in the market place, Blackberry and Windows have a lot of catching up to do and that is going to be very interesting the coming years.

Looking at the statistics Google Play Store has around 13,50,000 apps and Apples App Store has around 13,00,000 apps. As a business owner when you glance through the above statistics it can seem that each and everyone (even your competitors) has a mobile application except you.

That’s when you feel that you are left behind while your competitors are eating up major junk of the market share. As a business owner your main concerns would be

  1. Do I need a mobile application for my business?
  2. Building a mobile application is expensive.
  3. Building a mobile application is time consuming.

Users are now moving away from laptops and desktops and are relying more on their smart phone or tablets. From ticket booking, paying bills and buying grocery is just a click away, it is fast and very convenient. As more and more apps are downloaded from the stores, business enterprises are moving towards having their own mobile applications.

Ok! Now you are ready to join the apps bandwagon but then being an entrepreneur you would look into all possibilities and think…

“Cant users access the current website through their smartphone?”

A tricky question and it is important to know if the website is mobile friendly and has been built keeping in mind the compatibility factor with smartphones. If not be ready to face some challenges when the website is displayed in the smart phone.

Keeping these in mind you can build

  1. Mobile Optimized Website
  2. Stand alone App
  1. Mobile Optimized Website

This can be done with minimum fuzz if the current site has been developed using the mobile responsive design. One of the main advantages of mobile optimized website, it will work universally in all mobiles as the Internet browser opens a web page reliably in all the smartphones.

  1. Stand alone app

From a business perspective the stand alone app is much better than a mobile optimized website. The app is always there in the users smart phone and just a click away, no need to launch the web url in the browser which can be felt time consuming now a days. A study suggests that 82 percent of time spent with Mobile media happens with apps. If you are looking to engage customers with your product or service it is better to build a mobile app. You can be constant touch with them through notifications, be it a new product launch or a new service that you offer.

Choice is yours to decide :-)

Why We Love Software Outsourcing…. And You Should, Too!

What is Outsourcing? – Well it is a practice in which a certain company provides portions of its work or assignment to another company to reduce cost. Technology has been revolutionising the way companies work. Whether it is testing, application development, mobile development etc – outsourcing has been useful in solving business problems.

So, why do we love to outsource software development? Is it just to reduce cost? Here are some of the reasons on why to opt for software outsourcing. Let’s have a look.

1. Each company is specialised in its own vertical. Outsourcing allows the benefits of supplementing IT development with skilled developers in an effective way.

2. Lack of manpower or resources can be overcome by a remote IT team offshore. Companies get the option to choose from various vendors based on the reviews.

3. Outsourcing saves the training cost and time provided to new employees.

4. It saves cost as the companies only pay for the service utilised. In fact they can save 40% – 60% of the total expense required to complete the project.

5. Vendors tendency to update their knowledge according to the requirements makes outsourcing another great option to try.

6. Due to the time difference across various geographies the IT vendors have well equipped staff who work round the clock on various assignments, thus delivering the projects on time and maximising efficiency.

7. Traditional outsourcing of software development combined with consulting provides high level of collaboration by filling the minuscule gap in the companies.

The Indian software development industry has been maturing over the years and has evidenced in the rise of high level capabilities across broad range of talents. Every organisation has issues in keeping up to the current market trends, increase productivity, keeping up with their competitors etc. All these issues can be handled by seeking advice from experts who specialise in these areas. Keeping the above points in mind, we at Xminds thrive to help our customers by providing them with full transparency and control over the project development process. We ensure the development and on time delivery of the assignments while our customers focus on their core business activities. We provide them with a broad range of specialised resources and technical skills.

The extent of software outsourcing has been significant and the trend seems likely to continue in the future. We all know that the urge to create is equally strong in all organisations. However, lets not forget that it’s the quality that counts.

Post Penguin SEO – Don’t hunt for links, instead plant and grow them naturally!

It has been a while since we are dealing with the Google panda and penguin update and the minor refresh after that. The Internet is abuzz with news that this is probably the end of SEO marketing. To all those doomsday predictors… this one’s for you!

I agree that Google hates unnatural link building to the same degree as it hates spammy links. But if you were to implement strategies that get natural links, I think you’re in safe zone. I know what you are thinking right now “everyone says natural links, but how to obtain them?” Here’s how to:

The days when you hunted for links are over! Now you have to plant them, water them and grow them “Naturally!”

Before the Google penguin update was made on 24th April,  SEO mainly focused on getting the maximum number oflinks as quick as possible to gain the love of the search engines. It didn’t matter where you get the links or how you get them. All it mattered was if the links were from anchor text keywords. After the penguin update, all these still matter but with on rule: The number of links should be increasing naturally and the nature of the links should not be overly anchor texts. Here are few tips to do that:

Planting the links in the right spots

In order to grow the links naturally, you have to plant them in the right spots. This is where diversification of content comes into play. Diversification of content helps in expanding the spots where you can obtain links. For example, if you are just producing quality articles and including links in them, your reach is limited to a bunch of article directories. On the other hand, produce well written articles, blogs, press releases, great infographics, video content etc and you have an opportunity to spread your links across various platforms. The main advantage of spreading links across various platforms is that your link profile would be organic. Your website would never get penalized for over optimization of anchor text links.

Just publishing different types of content in various spots doesn’t grow the number of links by itself. You need to provide a little support to these published contents to grow naturally. For example, social bookmarking is one popular SEO strategy that can be used to gain extra exposure to any type of published content. You could also share them in the social media sites such as facebook, twitter and Google plus to grab the attention of the social media crowd. Here is a short clip from a video QnA session by Matt Cutts (The distinguished Google Engineer) on this extra promotion Once the extra SEO done to these published content takes its effect, all you have to do is to sit back and watch the links grow naturally.

Natural growth of the links

Now you have great content which is presented to a huge audience. Depending on the quality and catchiness, the content would spread virally into the social media and gets syndicated naturally by other surfers. Each and every share or syndication of your content is equal to a natural link that is generated to your website.

So here is the key to grow links naturally:

Seed = Great, diversified content

Plantation spots = SEO spots where you publish different types of content

Watering the plants = SEO and social media marketing for the published content

Natural growth = Viral social shares and natural syndication

Citizen based Disaster Management Platform by Xminds – CDMP

cOcOn 2012 is an annual event hosted by Kerala Police. cOcOn is aimed at providing a platform to discuss, showcase, educate, understand and spread awareness on the latest trends in information, cyber and hi-tech crimes. This year held at Taj Vivanta Hotel in Trivandrum from 2nd – 4th August, it attracted delegates and presenters from across the nation and from overseas. Xminds was especially impressed to see the number of senior police in attendance: the Chief of Police of Kerala, Rajasthan and Jharkhand and a wealth of other really impressive individuals from the Indian Police Service.

The quality of the presentations was universally high. If we were to single out anybody it would be Federal MP for Trivandrum Dr. Shashi Tharoor. His opening address was noteworthy for its insight but also for the depth of knowledge the MP showed on the subject. Many speaking live and breathe the business of technology everyday. Dr Tharoor evidently has more than tech on his plate but showed a mastery of his brief and for this we commend him for special mention.

Xminds was invited by Kerala Police to present and showcase our Citizen-based Disaster Management Platform – an integrated solution for citizens and emergency services when faced with a distress situation.You can read what The Hindu said about our platform in the paper on 6th August 2012.

Much effort and innovation has going into this turnkey solution and it was gratifying to see the response to the presentation made by  Jagadeesh Vijayakumar and Alexander von Kotze. Xminds now has to wade through a deluge of enquiries from state police forces across the country.

We think this is a nice problem to have!

And if you are reading this as a representative of a Police or other Emergency service and would like more information about this turnkey solution, please do not hesitate to email alex@xminds.com

Startup success: Forget the recipe, focus on the ingredients.

Build it and they will come. Ever wondered the truth of that statement? Read on.

You’re sat in a swanky coffeehouse with your mates on Sunday afternoon. Three espressos later and all present reach the conclusion that the idea is going to work. You’ve even worked out the reasons why it will work, just in case the question comes up at the next family gathering on why you quit your corner office corporate job to work in a startup.

The stark reality is that the rate of failure is high. Here’s why: startups can’t exist by themselves. The ecosystem for their success requires other ingredients. It involves mixing that initial idea with mentors who’ve had the experience to ease that painful but necessary learning curve, a healthy financial reserve to weather that incubation period of any idea coming to life as well as the all important ability to test that idea as a product with the target audience.

The importance of testing and getting feedback with a minimum viable product (MVP) has proven vital in successful start-ups. Remember the early days of Dropbox? They moved quickly to launch the minimum viable product with the key features for testing with their target audience. Dropbox certainly built it and people came but they allowed their customers to build it with them and success came knocking. For more information on Dropbox’s minimum viable product days read TechCrunch’s post.

To build your own minimum viable product and success story contact us @ Xminds.

Individual Software Vendors V/s Software Companies

Your organization is more likely to hire a Vendor for your IT needs while you focus on your core competencies. Today, the key question facing SMEs is whether they should hire an Individual Software Vendor or a Software company.

The greatest advantage you can get from hiring an Individual Software Vendor is that of complete attention to your project. If you hire a veteran Individual Software Vendor with the right expertise, you can be sure that your project will receive the professional’s full attention.  Unlike with a Software Company, where a Development team works on so many projects at a time, an Individual Software Vendor usually works on just 1 or 2 projects at a time. This ensures that quality is not compromised.

You can stay in personal touch with an Individual Software Vendor and provide feedback on the parts of the project already accomplished, which the Vendor can immediately act upon. While there is a certain element of uncertainty involved with an Individual Software Vendor, most of them are more than willing to work late nights, so that the project is completed on schedule.

Finally, the payment terms of an Individual Software Vendor is more than reasonable compared to a Software Company.  An Individual Software Vendor also turns out to be cost-effective compared to a Software Company.

One of the main advantages of hiring a Software company is that you can take advantage of the numerous skilled professionals employed by that company. With a programming company you can assign multiple projects to the company and expect to get them completed within a reasonable period of time. While you may not be able to communicate with each individual working on your project, you may be assigned an Account manager whose primary job is to understand your requirements & communicate then to the Development team.

A Software company can quickly replace a team member who has resigned from the company, thereby ensuring that your project is delivered on time. Therefore, hiring a Software company protects you from turnover risk.

Pros and Cons of hiring a Individual Software Vendor Vs. Software Company:

S.no Factor Individual Software Vendor Software Company
1 Pricing Low – Individual Software Vendor works from their home and therefore has low overhead costs. High – The Software company needs to pay salaries to employees, maintain infrastructure, pay utility bills etc.,
2 Location Independence High – Individual Software Vendor mostly work from home. Low – Software Companies have a physical location.
3 Skill sets Focused. Wide range depending on organization.
4 Communication risk Low to Medium – easier to communicate with an Individual Software Vendor. Medium – difficult for a team of diverse skill sets to speak in one voice.
5 Global Reach High – Usually have Clients who are located anywhere in the world. Medium – Usually have Clients who are close enough to drive to their location.
6 Online presence High – Online presence helps them in Global reach. Medium – Online presence part of marketing plan.
7 Delivery risk High – may be difficult at times to enforce an Individual Software Vendor, particularly an offshore one, to stick to deadlines. Low – A Software Company will be able to quickly replace a Programmer without much impact on your project.
8 Face to Face contact High – mostly work virtually. Low to Medium – A software Company always meet their clients.

Let’s see policy of large companies towards Individual Software Vendors Vs. Software companies. Intel, for example, says it primarily collaborates with Software companies & Individual Software Vendors, alike. Therefore, we can understand that the right Skill Sets & timeliness is more important than other factors when hiring an Individual Software Vendor or a Software company.

Agile – Sets up time-boxed iterations and provides a decent feedback loop!

Gone are those copy-writer days where I have spent 3 hours on impact analysis document when I’ve changed a few lines of C++ code. When I co-founded XMinds, I was very clear on the process we are going to use and thus we adopted Agile where extreme change is the mantra and adapting to change is considered as the key to success. I’ve heard people saying ‘Agility’ means undisciplined practices where you often end up with zero documentation and ‘No’ schedules. I’d like to change that belief by emphasizing the key benefits the model holds.

Why Agile ?

I often wondered how I managed to release complex web applications in the past where the requirements changed almost every week. We did a good job in getting the project releases out but I must be the first to admit that the process was always irksome to a few of us. Being an entrepreneur myself, I now understand what would have gone through the minds of business owners or stakeholders when they changed the priorities overnight.

In this fast-paced world, how can they predict what their product needs in 2 months from now ? Today it might be content syndication and Facebook integration but next month it could be an API layer which their iPhone application uses to talk to the server. So ‘Embrace Change’, an old cliché is often the key to success. And what you need is a process that can adapt quickly to such rapid changes in priorities.

And Agile is the answer!

Value it brings

1. Continuous Integration (CI) – In traditional waterfall model, integration has to wait until the end of the development cycle and “the longer you wait, the more painful it is”. If we agree, then why can’t we always keep the code integrated ? And that’s where Continuous Integration comes into play. The idea is to build the code whenever a check-in happens and run all the automated tests and send reports to the concerned people. This process will ensure sure that unit tests are executed several times a day and thus avoiding late-night support calls. We rely on Hudson for build-automation and it does an awesome job.

2. Test Driven Development (TDD) – The idea is to create test cases that initially fails and then write the code to make them succeed. One thing I’ve noticed here is how important the tests are from an Agile perspective. When we write the code first, our propensity is always to get to the next feature and thus ignoring the tests completely. So TDD ensures that you get very good test-coverage and along with continuous integration you’ll get a high-quality-less-buggy product.

3. Better Planning – We work in small iterations and call it a ‘Sprint’. A Sprint is typically 2 to 4 weeks long and depends on how rapid you anticipate the priority changes are going to be. We write the requirements as user stories which are quite high-level but informative. Mike Cohn in his book User Stories Applied has suggested some formats for writing the stories

“As a (role) I want (something) so that (benefit)”

A Typical user story in the format above is “As a user I want to search for a product so that I can buy it”

We then break the user stories into small measurable tasks which give us better visibility and then they are added to the product backlog. A Sprint always aims at doing the high-priority tasks from the product backlog and during the sprint review meetings these features are demonstrated to the stakeholders.

Feedback from such meetings end up as new user stories in the backlog. So the core principle is short cycles of Plan-Do-Check-Act which helps to better plan the priorities.

4. Detect failures early – Since business owners and stakeholders are involved in every phase of the project starting from writing user stories to sprint planning to review meetings, problems become apparent and course of actions can be carried out to rectify it at an early stage. I’ve worked with clients who have a sense of detecting these problems very early and they will change the priorities in the next Sprint making sure they are fixed before they become too complex.

This is one important aspect of business where you have to embrace the change in priorities.

5. Collaboration – I’ve worked on several products that failed over time and most of them owing to not hearing what the customers have to say. So user involvement is a leading contributor to the success of a project and agile gives very high value to business owners collaborating continuously with their customers.

So Agile is the answer to your problems if you believe

1. You’re in a fast changing world
2. Your requirements are unclear
3. You value feedback from beta users very seriously
4. You value frequent scrutiny and adaptation
5. You value self-management through leadership and teamwork.

I was not an avid fan of Agile but after trying the methodologies in my organization I’m convinced that Agile is the way to go. I was more allured towards implementing a practice by taking the ‘good agile’ parts from Scrum and XP.

It’s totally up to you to decide what’s best for your organization but keep in mind, Agile makes the life easier by setting up time-boxed iterations and a decent feedback loop.

Straight from the tech kitchen

My thoughts on IDE’s:

1. Eclipse: (Windows/Mac/Linux)

The latest version available is the indigo release. It provides set – infact a lot of tools for developing in a multitude of languages from java, php, python, mobile apps – it has C2180-276 tools for the data modeling, reporting – all most everything you will want for.

As I write this, my personal  000-089 favourite is Eclipse – helios release, all the releases bring new features, but some are just an extravagance for the ordinary developer.

2. Netbeans,(Windows/Mac/Linux)

Primarily came into as a java development environment, it is still hot among various segments of developers. It is lightweight and its modular structure allows to create modules C4040-122 and incorporate. Apart from java, j2EE app development it supports PHP, python, c, c++ , mobile.

3. Aptana: (Windows/Mac/Linux)

Basically based on the eclipse platform, aptana has emerged as foremost used IDE for web development, with the support of ruby (radrails), it supports javascript code assist, css, html code assist, debuggers. I feel aptana 000-104 with it rad rails flavour is mostly acclaimed among the ruby folks.

Also aptana has found its way to be nice web designer toolkit.

4. Syntori (Mac)

Basically for java developers, it includes various features for debugging.

5. Code::Blocks (Windows/Mac/Linux)

This is c, C++ ide, it is build around plug-in architecture, so it can extended by installing/creating new plugins

7 Important Tips For An Entrepreneur.

1. Goal – As an entrepreneur one needs to have a goal. The goal could be an idea or a product that would be helpful for the internet/web world/ social media C4040-123 user as a whole. Having defined goal would help the entrepreneur reach the destination with a plan, without a strong goal it would be pretty difficult to reach the destination. You need to know where you are going.

2. Desire to reach the goal – Identifying goal is not alone enough, only a burning desire would take you to the goal. The best quote for this would be from Napoleon Hill “Every person who wins in any undertaking must be willing to cut all sources of retreat. Only by doing so can one be sure of maintaining that state of mind known as a burning desire to win – essential to success.”

3. Plan – The entrepreneur needs to draw a clear plan on how he/she would be going about achieving the goal. Your plans might change during your travel C4040-124 towards the goal but it is imperative to have a plan. If you have one and if you change course or if you deviate from your path the plan would guide you back to the original path.

4. Patience – It is important to know that with patience comes a great result. One should be like a duck, paddling very hard and fast under water but staying calm above.

5. Persistence – An important ingredient in law of success, one needs to keep on moving until success is achieved. Go that extra mile to get things done and do it with all you heart and success will follow.

6. Ethics – Define clear cut values and follow them honestly. Understand that there are no short cuts to success.

7. Enjoy what you do

Life as a Startup Entrepreneur

They are more important to you than you are to them

I happened to read this wonderful blog by Chris Lynch, the CEO of Thoughtful.

He has mainly pointed out the difference between a tech and a sales guy and how one takes rejection.

I really enjoyed reading it and thought would share my views on how an entrepreneur should take rejection.

The first step would be

1. Reject me I LOVE IT attitude – A sales guy would go through end number of NO’s to reach YES. For the sales guy its just part of the job and moves on. As a startup entrepreneur you may not be happy hearing NO from an investor. It can happen but you can learn plenty of things from the meeting with an investor even if it did not go well. Brush up and get ready for the next presentation.

2. Go read some books like Reject Me I love It, The greatest salesman in the world and also read the story “shake it and step up

Cheer up dude success is around the corner :)