Pre Sales, Software Services

What is proof of concept?

A proof of concept or a proof of principle is realization of a certain method or idea(s) to demonstrate its feasibility, or a demonstration in principle, whose purpose is to verify that some concept or theory is probably capable of being useful. A proof-of-concept may or may not be complete, and is usually small and incomplete.

In software development, proof of concept (abbreviated PoC) is often incorrectly used to describe three processes with different objectives and different participant roles. These uses of the phrase proof of concept are therefore not synonymous and are delineated below.

  • A proof of concept can refer to a partial solution that involves a relatively small number of users acting in business roles to establish whether the system satisfies some aspect of the requirements.
  • By contrast, the objective of a proof of technology is to determine the solution to some technical problem, such as how two systems might be integrated or that a certain throughput can be achieved with a given configuration. No business users need be involved in a proof of technology.
  • A pilot project refers to an initial roll out of a system into production, targeting a limited scope of the intended final solution. The scope may be limited by the number of users who can access the system, the business processes affected, the business partners involved, or other restrictions as appropriate to the domain. The purpose of a pilot project is to test, often in a production environment, whether the system is working as it was designed while limiting business exposure.

Why we need proof of concept?

A PoC generally should be done early in the development cycle or to sell a software concept. It is used to validate technical feasibility, helps identify potential stumbling blocks, identifies what a platform can or can’t provide, helps determine the scope and level of customization necessary to complete the project.

The PoC can also help identify performance issues.  Generally, today, we assemble many of our applications / solutions in a “composite” fashion.  We’re re-using services, functions, etc. from other applications.  This re-use requires integration points.  It’s these integration points in our overall “context” that we’re vetting with the prototype effort.  While also validating assumptions regarding what the platform or framework can or can’t provide.

The outcome is a technical feasibility confidence factor along with factors that impact overall scope and estimate of effort.

Effective PoC

To create an effective PoC we need to create a PoC project as well as a document which will cover all the technical, functional approach of the project.

Below are the useful tips to create an effective PoC project:

  • Create the same architecture for PoC project which you are going to use for the development.
  • Design a Login page with exciting graphical interface if security is a primary concern for the project.
  • Home page with logo, all the possible menus/tabs, Search, links for the other sub functions of the project.
  • The home page should speak about the entire site what we are going to achieve.
  • If the content of the home page or other pages is based on user Roles then you should develop different pages showing how it will look like after login depending upon Roles.
  • Dashboard if required.
  • One or Two pages/modules which will show that how you are going to design/develop the pages/modules and how they are linked to each other. These page(s) should be the most important parts of the application.
  • If the project has any report(s), create a sample report with exciting look & feel so that the client can understand how you are going to produce the results.
  • If the project has any graph(s), create a sample graph.

In brief, it should cover all the features in short so that one can see what you are going to achieve after in the production version of the project.

 How to create PoC Documentation

The documentation for your PoC should explain about the entire design of the project. You add the below points with brief description.

  • The architecture detail which will be used for development.
  • Add all the technologies, third party tools you are going to use, with explanations why you have chosen the same.
  •  Add all the modules with brief functionality which will be developed.
    • Add the methods how you are going to handle security.
    • Explain each menu you have used in the PoC project.
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Methodology, Pre Sales, Software Services

Extreme Programming

Similar to Scrum, XP (Extreme Programming) starts the process by creating a backlog of work to perform during a sprint/iteration. XP creates the backlog by working with customers and creating user stories. In parallel with this work, the team performs an architectural spike, during which they experiment with the features to envision the initial architecture. XP classifies this work as the exploration phase.

The planning phase follows exploration. This phase focuses on identifying the most critical user stories and estimating when they can be implemented. Tasks are defined for each feature, to aid with estimating complexity. The team outlines an overall release schedule, with an understanding that a high level of uncertainty exists until the work begins. A release will have one to many iterations, which are typically 2- to 4- week construction windows.

When an iteration begins, the specific plan for the iteration is revisited. The team adds any new user stories and tasks that have been discovered since the overall release was outlined.

XP integrates customer testing into the development iteration. The customer is asked to identify the acceptance tests, and the team works to automate these tests so they can be run throughout the iteration.

The planning phase is followed by the productionizing phase, during which the code is certified for release. Certified means the code passes all customer tests plus nonfunctional requirements such as load testing, service-level requirements, and response time requirements. You can see an overview of XP in below figure.

 

Some of the characteristics of XP are as follows:

  • Specific practice —Unlike Scrum, XP is specific about the practices that should be used during a software project. These practices include pair programming, TDD, continuous integration, refactoring, and collective code ownership.
  • Modeling —XP teams frequently use modeling to better understand the tasks and architecture needed to support a user story.
  • Simplicity —Teams perform the minimum work needed to meet requirements.
  • Automation —Unit and functional tests are automated.
  • Quality through testing —Features are tested constantly, and developers check each other’s code via pair programming.

These are some of XP’s strengths:

  • Customer-focused (it’s all about user stories)
  • Quality via frequent testing
  • Constant focus on identifying and delivering the critical user stories
  • High visibility on project status
  • Great support for volatile requirements

It also has weaknesses:

  • Need for team maturity —Practices such as pair programming and TDD require responsible developers, and they aren’t always easy to obtain.
  • Dependency on testing —If developers know that significant testing will take place downstream, they may be less than diligent when they’re creating designs.
  • Scalability —XP may not work well for large projects.
  • Dependency on team member co-location —The team usually has a team room.

XP supports many of the critical goals of an agile process, such as dealing with volatile requirements and delivering prioritized, working software as soon as possible. XP also supports the principle of just enough, keeping with the lean philosophy of minimizing waste.

XP has sometimes been criticized for its lack of formality in system documentation and system design. In recent years this has changed, and XP teams now create the documentation needed to support a project’s customers.

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Pre Sales, Software Services

Creating effective Information Architecture in 11 steps

Information Architecture (also known as IA) is the foundation for great Web design. It is the blueprint of the site upon which all other aspects are built – form, function, metaphor, navigation and interface, interaction, and visual design. Initiating the IA process is the first thing you should do when designing a site. Clients sometimes view the development of an IA to be impractical, both in terms of the time it takes and the skill needed to do it effectively. But this mentality is slowly changing. A good IA is incredibly effective, and knowing the basics of the IA process can save both time and money in the long run.

The following steps define a process for creating an effective information architectures.

  1. Understand the business/contextual requirements and the proposed content for the system. Read all existing documentation, interview stakeholders and conduct a content inventory.
  2. Conduct cards sorting exercises with a number of representative users.
  3. Evaluate the output of the card sorting exercises. Look for trends in grouping and labeling.
  4. Develop a draft information architecture (i.e. information groupings and hierarchy).
  5. Evaluate the draft information architecture using the card-based classification evaluation technique.
  6. Don’t expect to get the information architecture right first time. Capturing the right terminology and hierarchy may take several iterations.
  7. Document the information architecture in a site map. This is not the final site map, the site map will only be finalised after page layouts have been defined.
  8. Define a number of common user tasks, such as finding out about how to request holiday leave. On paper sketch page layouts to define how the user will step through the site. This technique is known as storyboarding.
  9. Walk other members of the project team through the storyboards and leave them in shared workspaces for comments.
  10. If possible within the constraints of the project, it is good to conduct task-based usability tests on paper prototypes as it provides valuable feedback without going to the expense of creating higher quality designs.
  11. Create detailed page layouts to support key user tasks. Page layouts should be annotated with guidance for visual designers and developers.

Developing an information architecture in this way enables you to design and build a system confident that it will be successful.

It simply isn’t good enough for organizations to build functionality or write content, put it on their computer systems and expect people to be able to find it.

Developing effective information architecture is an essential step in the development of all computer systems.

Effective information architectures enable people to quickly, easily and intuitively find content. This avoids frustration and increases the chance that the user will return to the system the next time they require similar information.

Remember: “People can only appreciate what they can actually find”

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Methodology, Software Services

Scrum Methodology

The Scrum process begins by reviewing a product backlog with the product owner. You identify the highest-priority features and then estimate how many will fit into a sprint. These features then compose the sprint backlog. A sprint is a predefined period of time, usually 2 to 4 weeks, during which the team analyzes, designs, constructs, tests, and documents the selected features.

The team holds a daily status meeting, referred to as the daily Scrum, to review feature status. Individual team members answer these three questions:

  • What have you accomplished since our last meeting?
  • What will you work on today?
  • Are you encountering any impediments or roadblocks in completing your work?

When a sprint is completed, the features are demonstrated to the customer, and the team and the customer decide whether additional work is needed or if the sprint work is approved to be released to a beta or production environment. Each sprint is followed by a retrospective during which the team lists items that went well or poorly; action plans are documented to keep the successes going and to improve the areas that performed poorly. Continue reading

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Microsoft

Microsoft's Plans for Windows 8 OS

What’s Microsoft cooking up for Windows 8? We’ve already heard rumors of a 128-bit operating system with a 2012 release date, but what about the cool stuff that would make an upgrade worthwhile? A few Windows aficionado sites have just posted leaked documents–purported to be from Microsoft insiders–that offer a sneak peek of what Redmond has in mind.

The paper trail originates with an Italian Windows enthusiast site called “Windowsette,” which purportedly obtained clandestine Microsoft presentations that outline Windows 8’s direction. The top-secret data made its way to English-language sites including Microsoft Kitchen and Microsoft Journal, which sliced and diced the PowerPoint slides for public consumption. Continue reading

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Methodology, Software Services

The 12 Principles of Agile Methods

  1. Highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage.
  3. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter time scale.
  4. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  5. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment and support they need, and trust them to get the job done.
  6. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information to and within a development team is face-to-face conversation.
  7. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  8. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. Simplicity — the art of maximizing the amount of work not done — is essential.
  11. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  12. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.

For more information about the 12 Principles of Agile Methods, please visit

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Pre Sales

12 tips for writing a winning proposal

The words “send me a proposal” are music to the ears of many consultants. The invitation to write a proposal is a milestone in the sales cycle — an opportunity to get one step closer to a client and a new project. Even though they might not really enjoy writing proposals, most consultants jump at the chance because they believe that exciting, lucrative work might be right around the corner.
A great proposal can be decisive in winning a project, while a poor one can cause you to lose a project, even if everything else in the sales process has gone flawlessly. Follow these 12 tips to a write a killer proposal every time.

1. Create a powerful, but concise executive summary Decision-makers start with and focus on the executive summary, so create this section with that fact in mind. When writing the executive summary, assume that the reader knows little or nothing about the proposed project.
2. Quantify the results that the client can expect from engaging you Some consultants create proposals that overemphasize their consulting process and methodologies. Clients buy results, not tools or methodologies.
3. Be generous with your ideas You may fear that revealing your ideas about how to solve a problem during the proposal process could result in clients taking those ideas and completing the project themselves. In rare cases, that may happen. But you’ll have more success if you don’t hoard your ideas. Use them to show clients that your team thinks and approaches problems in creative and innovative ways.
4. Size does matter Keep your proposals as short as possible, while meeting the client’s request. Think quality, not quantity.
5. Focus on the client Many proposals begin with a long discussion of the consulting firm, describing its qualifications and history. Focus your proposal on the client’s needs first, and then describe your firm’s capabilities. Remember, clients care only about how you’ll address their issues, so show them how you’ll do that.
6. Beware of best practices The client may view your liberal use of “best practices” as a convenient crutch. Instead of relying on answers that worked for a previous client, find a blend of outstanding practices and innovative solutions that fit your client’s particular needs.
7. Be accurate If you are using client data to support aspects of your proposal, double-check and triple-check that information. It’s easy for facts to be misunderstood and misused in a proposal. You’ll risk turning a winning proposal into a loser if you present inaccurate data to the client.
8. Sweat every detail Watch for typos, use high-quality materials, and make sure that the right people receive the proposal on time.
9. Rewrite your resume for every proposal Highlight the skills in your resume that demonstrate your qualifications for the project at hand. A boilerplate resume is rarely up to the task.
10. Finish early Let your proposal sit for a day after you’ve completed the final draft, and then reread it completely before sending it to the client. You’re likely to come up with some new ideas that enhance your work, and you may find errors that you missed earlier.
11. Let your personality shine through Give clients a sense of your firm’s culture and its style of working. The traditional, stilted language of many consulting proposals doesn’t help clients answer the all-important question: What will it be like to work with these consultants?
12. Don’t let your claims outdistance your true capabilities Some proposals tout the expertise of the consulting firm by referring to past successes with similar projects. These testaments to past achievements are important, but be sure that the capabilities of the proposed consulting team can live up to your firm’s claims.

The proposal is a crucial step in the consulting sales cycle. Don’t trip by providing a misleading, sloppy proposal. Instead, engage your client with clear, thoughtful explanations about how your firm is uniquely suited to meet your client’s needs.

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