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Kentico Gold Partner

Vimware is a Kentico Gold Partner after deploying multiple e-commerce sites over the last four years. To date, web sites have been built in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.

Kentico helps clients create successful websites, online stores, community sites and intranets using Kentico integrated marketing solution. With offices in the United States, United Kingdom and Czech Republic and more than 1,000 partners in 80 countries, Kentico is one of the industry leaders worldwide and is part of Gartner’s Magic Quadrant in 2017.  More information can be found at kentico.com and a personalized demo of the software and its capabilities can be scheduled.

Vimware provides IT strategy and software development services in the Greater Los Angeles Area. We specialize in helping organizations transition and reinvent themselves into the tech world. Our clients are across many industries including academia, consumer goods, entertainment, and healthcare. Expertise covers iOS, Android, Windows, LAMP and MEAN technology stacks. Vimware is a Select Partner within Amazon’s AWS partner network.

Speeding up a Slow Website – Classic ASP Code

Speeding up a Slow Website – Classic ASP Code

Legacy Website Complexities

Speeding up a legacy website can be more complex than you think. Software typically has a life expectancy of three to seven years.  A well designed system might last seven years while a poorly designed system will last three years, and likely much less. Many businesses have critical core business processes based on corporate software that dates back decades running COBOL, Fortran or other systems from the 1980s and earlier.

ROI to Replace a Legacy System

In many cases, the ROI to completely overhaul the system just isn’t there.  Also, the individuals who built the system might be long gone and rewriting it would be a major effort. A new system means new hardware, software licensing costs and re-training staff. Not to mention the development costs of a technology team with individuals to program, project manage, test and maintain. Because of the high costs, many companies decide to stick with their legacy system and try to make it faster by throwing more and more hardware at it.

Client Challenges

Recently a large ecommerce company came to us with a challenge. The client had a 16 year old website running classic ASP that was terribly slow. They asked us to identify quick and easy ways to make it faster. Their development teams had already implemented the basics such as optimizing images. They even built an extensive caching mechanism that generated HTML files multiple times per week.  In spite of their efforts, the ecommerce processes were still extremely slow with average page load times of 30 or more seconds. With their busiest shopping season of the year approaching they needed results quickly. The client requested a complete review with a recommendations presentation within two weeks.

Vimware Approach

We approached the problem by looking at the code and the database. The fundamental issue was that the developers had tried to put as little stress as possible on the database and that resulted in a less than optimal design.  In this post, I will highlight the code review and high level suggestions, and will also include a link to our detailed Classic ASP recommendations with company information redacted.  In the next post, I will discuss what we recommended on the database side.

Vimware Solutions

The short-term solutions focused on the following:

1. Page/scripting issues – check that best practices were followed when developing ASP pages.
2. Embedded non-optimized SQL queries – these are calls to the database
3. Unnecessary include files – code referenced by the web page that is not needed
4. Keeping database connections open after requests

In every case, there were improvements that could have been made.

Long-term solutions were to:

1. Move embedded SQL to the database.
2. Upgrade software to .NET or other modern technology
3. Improve the database capabilities

Download our optimization recommendations for a Classic ASP site

Vimware provides IT strategy and software development services in the Greater Los Angeles Area. We specialize in helping organizations transition and reinvent themselves into the tech world. Our clients are across many industries including academia, consumer goods, entertainment, and healthcare. Expertise covers iOS, Android, Windows, LAMP and MEAN technology stacks. Vimware is a Select Partner within Amazon’s AWS partner network.

Speeding up a Slow Website Part 2 – Microsoft SQL Server

Speeding up a Slow Website Part 2 – SQL Server

Following up on the previous article – speeding up a legacy website – this posting shows how we tackled the SQL database portion of the optimization.

Database Design

Any developer can create a database. Most developers can create a relational database and some developers can normalize and optimize a database.  However very few developers can design a database that will perform effectively over years and as transactional volume increase. Initially a poor design is not apparent due to the lack of traffic and companies marvel at how quick and easy the process was.  As traffic increases, the database can become a bottleneck and site slowness and other problems start to appear. Companies typically respond to this by asking developers to optimize queries or by throwing in more powerful servers, memory and updating the operating systems and database software.  This however only masks the problem for the short term.

ROI to Replace a Legacy System

In many cases, the ROI to rebuild the database just isn’t there.   A brand new database design can be costly, require a much longer deployment and outages.  The database is the central piece and will usually require changes in internal and other systems and processes, requiring changes for both consumers and users.

Client Challenges

Recently a large e-commerce company came to us with a challenge. The client had a 16 year old website running a classic ASP website on Microsoft SQL Server that was terribly slow. They asked us to identify quick and easy ways to make it faster. Their 80 person development teams had already tried optimizing the processes and identified the database as the culprit. They even built an extensive caching mechanism that generated HTML files multiple times per week.  In spite of the efforts, the e-commerce processes were still extremely slow with average page load times of 30 or more seconds. With their busiest shopping season of the year approaching they needed results quickly. The client requested a complete review with a recommendations presentation within two weeks.

Vimware Approach

We approached the problem by looking at the code and the database. The fundamental issue was that the developers had tried to put as little stress as possible on the database and that resulted in a less than optimal design.  In this post, I will highlight the suggestions we made for the database, and will also include a link to our detailed Recommendations-SQL-Server-Database-Optimization with all company information redacted.

Vimware Solutions

The short-term solutions focused on the following:

  1. Incorrect indexing strategy
  2. Incorrect or missing clustered indexes
  3. Too many reads
  4. Incorrect TempDB design
  5. Irrelevant or unnecessary data being returned
  6. Inefficient and poorly written SQL Server queries.
  7. Incorrect SQL Server settings.

In every case, there were improvements that could have been made.

Medium to long-term solutions were to point out:

  1. Re-design sections of the database
  2. Remove SQL Queries embedded in code
  3. Modify the process of database changes
  4. Add senior database engineer(s)

Download our recommendation here:

Vimware-Whitepaper-Recommendations-SQL-Server-Database-Optimization

 

Vimware provides IT strategy and software development services in the Greater Los Angeles Area. We specialize in helping organizations transition and reinvent themselves into the tech world. Our clients are across many industries including academia, consumer goods, entertainment, and healthcare. Expertise covers iOS, Android, Windows, LAMP and MEAN technology stacks. Vimware is a Select Partner within Amazon’s AWS partner network.

ADA – American with Disabilities Act and Websites

ADA – American with Disabilities Act and Websites

With a significant rise in website accessibility lawsuits, a number of organizations are trying to endeavor their best to bring websites into compliance with WCAG (Web Consortium’s Web Content Accessibility Guidelines). This preventative measure helps them meet the criteria of web accessibility regulations, which intensified in recent years.

There is no doubt that the Americans with Disability Act (ADA) is complicated legislation in terms of understanding its legal implication on web businesses. Many famous brands already faced legal implications under the ADA lawsuit as their website was not accessible to physically impaired people.

Most plaintiffs are people with visual impairment and their claims are based on the fact that websites don’t have subtitles for images.

Although these people can use screen readers that convert website text into audio, if there are no subtitles, they cannot figure out if that picture even exits. This is just a glimpse of issues that people have been reporting since the past few decades. Particularly, the last decade has seen an inevitable rise in mobile applications and websites, questioning the original mission of ADA to make the US society more convenient and accessible to physically impaired people.

That is what makes exploring and getting familiar with ADA compliance with websites substantially important for business owners. Don’t worry if you think you lack the necessary knowledge about ADA compliance and why it is important for your website, as we have you covered here.

What is ADA Compliance?

As mentioned earlier, ADA aims to offer protection against discriminatory behavior based on national origin, sex, race or religion. The act went a step further by mandating businesses to ensure reasonable accommodations to workers with physical impairment or disabilities.

The law demands revolutionary additions to maximize the facilitation provided to physically disabled people at the workplace. Typically that includes wheelchair ramps, comfortable restrooms, and other accessible amenities to facilitate these people.

However, with the advent of global commerce, ADA compliance became a confusing matter for legislators in terms of its application and compliance on websites.

ADA Website Compliance

There is no doubt that ADA website compliance has not only been stirring controversy for legislators but also created a lot of confusion for most people. One of the reasons is its vague description of online compliance. To put it simply, ADA doesn’t have a clear compliance policy for websites despite the fact that it has been amended several times during different web-oriented eras.

Unfortunately, without any explicit policy, ADA website compliance has been challenged in the courts by many people. The purpose was to determine ADA standards that can be applied to websites.

What ADA Requires for Web Accessibility?

Since you know what ADA website compliance involves and where it lacks, it is better to find out what does it require to become relevant for web accessibility.

Title II and Title III are the two main sections of the ADA that question its relevance for web accessibility.

Title II– is an act in the ADA section that prohibits discrimination based on disability by local and state governments.

Title III – is an act in the ADA section that prohibits discrimination based on disability in public places; these include private businesses that deal with the public, such as hotels, movie theaters, doctor offices, restaurants, and museums.

The US justice department emphasizes that ADA doesn’t specifically address web accessibility whereas its language is comprehensive enough to incorporate websites as an integral part of your business operations. In short, the legal consensus affirms that if these sections are applicable to your business, they are also applicable to your website.

ADA Web Accessibility Penalties or Lawsuits

The number of lawsuits filed in recent years against government and businesses has increased, alleging that websites have been in ADA violation. These claims mainly target websites for being inadequately accessible to physically disabled and impaired people. There were not less 814 lawsuits against different organizations from various industries, including restaurants, credit unions, banks and E-commerce websites. Both major corporations and small businesses, like Burger King, Nike, and The Hershey Company had to pay penalties for infringement.

Another pertinent example is the Winn-Dixie Supermarket chain that was allegedly accused of violating ADA regulations. The famous supermarket chain did not make its website accessible to visually impaired users under ADA Title III. Despite having multiple sections, Winn-Dixie’s website was not accessible to the plaintiff who was visually impaired, preventing him from using certain services offered by Winn-Dixie grocery stores.

That means no matter what type of website you have if it is not designed in a way that enables disabled people to access it without any problem, it violets ADA Title III and is at risk of facing a civil penalty from $55,000 to $75,000.

Who Needs To Be Compliant?

Tied to the last paragraph, it raises the question if ADA compliance for online business is mandatory for your website. Despite the fact that there is no explicit and clear description for ADA compliance for a website, it is always a good idea to stay on the safe side.

Many countries have already adopted accessibility laws after seeing the rise in accessibility-related lawsuits in recent years. The success rate of plaintiffs is comparatively higher than defendants, even without clear ADA regulations.

How You Can Make Your Website ADA Complaint?

The best way to make your website ADA compliant is to follow WCAG 2.0 level AA guidelines. It incorporates the standard accessibility principle that many countries and the European Union have been practicing since 1999.

WCAG guides you through recommended actions while keeping online accessibility laws ahead and provides a powerful business model granting equal access to everyone. By following WCAG guidelines, you can make your web content accessible to a wide range of physically impaired and disabled people including those with deafness, low vision or blindness, cognitive limitations, speech disability, limited movement, and photosensitivity.

Given below is a brief review of WCAG guidelines:

A website should

  • Provide alternatives to visual and auditory content
  • Use style sheets and markups properly
  • Use clear and natural language
  • Create comprehensive tables with a graceful transformation
  • Feature the latest technology
  • Have direct accessibility of the user interface
  • Provide a comprehensive navigation mechanism
  • Use various interim solutions
  • Have device independence
  • Have simple and clear web pages

Bottom Line

Overall, there is no denying that ADA laws are still vague in terms of online accessibility. However, as an entrepreneur, it is beneficial to make sure your business practices don’t violate ADA laws and treat all customers in the same way.

Sources

 

Vimware provides IT strategy and software development services in the Greater Los Angeles Area. We specialize in helping organizations transition and reinvent themselves into the tech world. Our clients are across many industries including academia, consumer goods, entertainment, and healthcare. Expertise covers iOS, Android, Windows, LAMP and MEAN technology stacks. Vimware is a Select Partner within Amazon’s AWS partner network.

The Product Requirements

The Product Requirements

Got a fascinating product idea for your business? Well, having an idea is easy, but actually deploying products in a successful manner is what matters the most. Many of us can come up with an idea for a great startup or venture, but do we all think of the requirements to  deploy it?

Product requirements can involve a board strategy. This can include production planning to the development of Minimum Viable Product (MVP) by the team. As a decision maker, you need to make sure that your new product meets your current business goals and mission statement. However, below are some highlights that you need to keep in mind while deciding on your product requirements.

1. Understanding the Pain Points and Business Goals

People do not purchase products because they have certain features; rather, they get products to help solve problems. Consider the products you tend to use every day as well as why you use these products.

For example, you probably would not state that you like LinkedIn for its direct messaging feature or newsfeed algorithm. Instead, you would say that LinkedIn helps you in finding job opportunities or hiring the best people. This is why it is important to understand pain points.

Before actually launching a new product you need to understand your business goals. As an IT consultant, you need a thorough and in-depth study as to why a specific product can be a fit for your business or is in accordance with your business goals. Having extensive research regarding the product can be a good starting point. This is where you can use digital databases and cloud based products.

You should also beware of creating a preliminary list of detailed requirements your product needs to meet to appeal to potential buyers. Of course, noting down a brief idea and goals for your product is a great way to start. But there is a risk that it can also lead you down the wrong path.

What if your detailed Product Research Document (PRD) contains a list of all the in-depth requirements, but yet fails to answer the basic essentials of your new product.

2. Research, Marketing and Gathering the Data about the Product

Research and marketing play an important role to make any new product a success. Perhaps, it is one of the essential product requirements. Without analyzing the historical data and customer reviews you are not going to get things right.

In the age of the internet, we have countless resources to gather relevant data. How about using online marketing tools and network to target your potential customers? Perhaps, you can also use personalized marketing. Additionally, you can also take help from focus groups to get an idea about customers will react to your product.

You can use these tools to get feedback seamlessly:

  • AngelList
  • BetaList
  • Unbounce

Another great way is conducting surveys relevant to your product. Perhaps, if you lack a decent marketing budget, then reviewing websites in the same industry niche as yours and getting feedback from early adopters of your product can be helpful. You might come across a five-star rating for your competitor product. But have you gone forward and thought about all the efforts they put in to achieve that rating?

With these tools, you can harness the power of email:

  • Re Targeter
  • Sidekick

After all, decision makers require a ton of data and metrics to reach an ultimate decision. With poor or lack of data, decision-makers might run the risk of reaching the wrong conclusion that might seriously affect the product’s feasibility.

3. Convert Product Features into User Stories

A user story is a brief and self-contained piece of development work that is designed to achieve a particular goal within the product. A user story describes the desired outcome or intent of a small yet full slice of user functionality. Note that a specific product feature might comprise multiple user stories.

These are some of the benefits of leveraging user stories:

  • Stories capture desired outcomes and intent, and leave the real development instructions with the experts and specialists: the developers themselves.
  • Stories can fit easily into sprints; in contrast, features usually can’t. As a result, stories make for more effective collaboration and scheduling.
  • Stories are vertical; this means they represent a complete piece of functionality. Hence, they allow development teams to focus all their efforts on one complete piece of functionality

4. Make Sure To Provide Wireframes

User interference (UI) is becoming a leading way to generate leads. The way you place content or “Call to Action” statements can highly impact the outcome and increase your click through rate. This has increased the demand for wireframes. In simple words, a wireframe is a tool that represents the proposed functions or elements of a new product.

Wireframes are both essential for team members and clients. For team members, wireframes can give the confidence that the product is catering to users’ needs while fulfilling business objectives at the same time.

Wireframes are commonly used in the early stages of the product lifecycle. Of course, you are not going to take the risk of non-visualization of your new product and leave your team hanging.

For clients, wireframes help visualize the deliverable. They can also be used as a tool to get quick feedback from the client by using it as an early visual of the product. It is always easy for the client to grasp the concept in wireframes. But it is the designer that needs to put the visualization into perspective.

To counter the conflict between visualization and product design, make sure you consult your designer before you forward the wireframe to your client. As a technical decision maker, you also need to make sure that your wireframe covers all the requirements of the client that can get you positive feedback.

5. Prioritizing the Minimum Viable Product (MVP)

How about formulating a Minimum Viable Product for the client before you actually submit the deliverable? Perhaps, this can also serve as a marketing strategy for decision makers. MVPs are becoming quite common to gather product ideas and feedbacks in the early stages.

This can also be helpful in reducing the cost of a product. By actually creating the full-fledged product and customizing it later in case it is not in line with the client’s expectation.

MVP is a smart way to release your outstanding product in the market or satisfactorily delivering it to the client. This can also help reduce the cost of the product by getting an early response. They are also likely to help your team gain confidence and stay motivated that they are working in the right direction.

Besides, the MVP is likely to have enough basic features that will provide decent and thorough feedback to your team. As a decision maker and marketer of the product, MVP should be prioritized before you forward the deliverable to the client.

 

Vimware is a Los Angeles based IT strategy and services firm that strives to be your most trusted technology resource. We work with you to understand your business demands and goals, then align them with the right technology strategy and solutions. We help you improve your digital footprint by carefully managing every detail throughout the Product Life Cycle.

AMP Pages

Since the beginning of 2018, phones and other mobile devices have not only become a lot cheaper, but have also become a lot more powerful.With devices like the iPad Pro that is capable of handling desktop applications, and the Galaxy Note 9 that is an absolute powerhouse of a phone, phones are the future and nowhere is this more apparent than AMPs.Now you may be wondering what an AMP is and how it works.  Read on

What is an AMP?

An AMP (Accelerated Mobile Page), as the name implies, is a page on a website that is programmed to work faster on a mobile device, like a smartphone. AMPs allow your website to function much faster on mobile devices, and allow for visitors to stay longer.

Although there is a massive difference between an ordinary webpage and an AMP in terms of speed, there is not much difference in terms of aesthetics. On the surface, there is no difference between an AMP and a standard web Page. This means that you are not compromising on style or aesthetics for the sake of speed or convenience. But does an AMP make that big of a difference? Yes it does, and here is how.

Search Engine Priorities

Other than merely convenience, AMPs affect how search engines discover and prioritize their content. Search engines, like Google and Bing, now no longer work solely on SEO and keywords; rather, they prioritize content depending on how optimized a specific webpage is.

Websites that do not have well optimized webpages run the risk of not making it to the top of a search engine’s results. This is all the more concerning considering what an oversaturated market means if you are not at the top of SERPs; it means you will not get the attention of your consumers. Google is especially picky when it comes to its top search results.

Google has explicitly stated in various blogs and reports that their algorithm will give a higher priority to faster and well optimized webpages compared to ones that are not optimized. Moreover, since Google is by far the biggest search engine as of now, people do even consider using any other search engine. Google has such an influence over the current generation that people even refer to searching for something on the internet as “Googling” it.

Google has not made this change in its algorithm at a whim, as there is something that is clearly influencing this decision. So, is there something else that makes AMPs important? Yes, and it is the people themselves.

People and Time

With every passing generation, one thing in particular that has seen a notable decline is peoples’ attention span. Patience and time is often a luxury that people in this generation cannot afford, which is why most people don’t bother with websites and webpages that are incredibly slow and irresponsive.

Accordion to a report by BBC, the attention span of an average teenager is between 10 and 20 seconds. While it may not seem shockingly low, this attention span reduces even further when people are on the Internet. This means that websites have a very limited amount of time to captivate their audience, which makes the extra waiting time all the more detrimental to the overall user experience.

Due to peoples’ shorter attention spans, an AMP is crucial to websites that will obviously be viewed on a mobile device.

How it will Affect Websites

Through both a technical and an aesthetical standpoint, AMPs have absolutely no drawbacks. This means that not only are these types of webpages incredibly fast and helpful, but they don’t leave you or your viewers at a disadvantage.

If websites use AMPs, they will not only rank higher in most search engines, but they will also increase the chance of converting visitors to permanent members. As a website owner, your aim should be to provide information to visitors in a fast and visually pleasing manner; it is something that you can only do effectively with the help of an AMP.

Moreover, seeing how developing AMPs is not expensive, there is no reason to not add AMPs to your website. That being said, how hard is it to incorporate AMPs into a website?

AMP Pages: Implementation into your Website

One of the many reasons people have become vary of AMPs is because of the effort that will go into developing them. Seeing how most websites take a lot of time to create, starting from scratch to create a faster webpage may seem like a lot of effort for most websites.

That being said, while you do have the opportunity to create your webpage from scratch, you can simply convert your regular HTML page to an AMP, which is more convenient. Google has released various articles and reports to better help its community of creators in converting their webpages into AMPs.

Even if a third party developed your website or application, Google’s AMP has access to various types of third party applications. This makes your transition from HTML to AMP HTML all the more seamless. On the other hand, you may also be concerned about how you can add AMP pages to your WordPress website.

Adding AMPs to your WordPress website is as simple as adding the AMP plugin for WordPress. This plugin will not only turn your standard HTML webpages to AMP HTML, but it will also show you how this website will look on mobile devices, which is great. You can also change the headers or the orientation of the page itself to your liking, at just a push of a button.

Conclusion

AMPs are possibly the most essential part of any website. It ensures that your website is functioning fast in order to keep most visitors coming back for more. Thanks to AMPs by Google, the only thing that is holding your website from reaching millions of people is your own content; so, step up your game by integrating AMP pages by Google into your websites.

 

Vimware is a Los Angeles based IT strategy and services firm that strives to be your most trusted technology resource. We work with you to understand your business demands and goals, then align them with the right technology strategy and solutions. We help you improve your digital footprint by carefully managing every detail throughout the Product Life Cycle.

AWS Services offered by Vimware

AWS Services Offered By Vimware

Vimware is now officially an AWS Amazon Select Partner . To date, our team has significant experience with 23 out of over 190 services offered by AWS, which we deploy, manage, and optimize for our clients.  We are actively looking to add more expertise in 2019 to further service our clients as they leverage AWS cloud for their growing business needs. Here are some of the AWS services we have worked on over the past few years.

Service Description
Auto Scaling & Load Balancing Automatically scale up or down resources as traffic changes
AWS VPN Enables Virtual Private Network (VPN) for AWS and on-premise networks.
Backup Fully managed backup service for snapshots and centralized storage
Certificate Manager Provision, manage & deploy SSL/TLS certificates
Cloudfront Global content delivery network (CDN) that minimizes page load time
CloudTrail Enables governance, compliance and auditing of AWS accounts
CloudWatch AWS service monitoring and alerting
Cost Explorer AWS billing and cost management services and tools including File System and Budget
Directory Service Managed domain directory service built on Microsoft Active Directory
EC2 Spin up virtual servers in the cloud for enterprise applications and robust production websites
EFS Fast and expandable file storage for EC2 instances
ELB Elastic load balancing services that distributes traffic across your AWS instances and functions
Glacier Low-cost and secure archive storage for long-term backups
IAM User access, permissions & encryption key management
Lightsail Quickly and cheaply spin up simple applications, WordPress sites, and development and test environments
Management Console Web-based user interface to manage your AWS infrastructure
RDS Managed database services for Aurora, SQL Server, MySQL, Oracle and PostgreSQL
Redis Real-time very fast, highly availability, easily deployable, scalable and secure database
Route 53 DNS service to map web sites to servers
S3 Cheap, reliable, scalable and secure cloud storage
SES Highly scalable email service to send up to millions of email
SNS Notification service for users and device using mobile push, SMS and email
VPC Virtual Private Cloud featuring multiple layers of security enabling quick creation of secure private networks
WAF and Shield Application and firewall to limit hacking by common attack schemes such as DDOS, injection and cross-scripting

 

 

Vimware provides IT strategy and software development consulting services in the Greater Los Angeles Area. We specialize in helping organizations transition and reinvent themselves into the tech world. Our clients are across many industries including academia, consumer goods, entertainment, and healthcare. Expertise covers iOS, Android, Windows, LAMP and MEAN technology stacks. Vimware is a Select Partner within Amazon’s AWS partner network.

Working with Teams to Develop New Products

Working with Teams to Develop New Products

Getting a team to develop new products can be tough. Team members can be diverse in terms of their roles, skills, social background or deeply-entrenched cultural or organizational differences. However, collaboration between team members can highly affect the outcome or results of a project.

Obstacles aside, once a team is finalized an entrepreneur or team leader can look forward to product development. Product development often requires a lot of brainstorming and you are likely to work toward devising a strategy and making your product unique in the first phase. This brings us to the essentials you are likely to need to create a successful product.

1. Developing a Strategy

If you sail without a map or compass you are likely to get lost fast. The same is the case with product development. In simple words, a strategy is necessary to achieve your targets and goals. An effective strategy includes setting business priorities, planning growth and deciding the roadmap for your product. A strategy will outline what’s important for your business and what you must do to achieve it.

In order to devise a successful strategy you must first gather the relevant facts about the industry you are working in. You need to identify your target market and the strengths and weaknesses of your product. A good plan will also include the threats that you will face in the future and ways to tackle them.

Add continuous value to your product and identify the potential of increasing competition or countering market saturation. Developing an effective strategy is what most decision makers must do before actually moving forward with product development.

2. Creating a Roadmap

Once a viable strategy is implemented, you have to come up with a roadmap to work toward your goals. This detailed roadmap can span weeks, months, or even years, depending on the decision maker and will help you move forward.

Make sure your roadmap is compelling and visually clear. Communicate the tasks and goals to your team members so that they are likely to achieve them in a given time period. This also includes identifying conflicting roles and resolving issues in a timely manner. A clear roadmap should also be accompanied by strategic justification so members are aware of what they are working toward.

3. Guiding Clients through Requirements and User Experience

Leading and convincing your clients can be difficult, especially if you are working on a new product. You might already be facing competition from existing brands that can reduce the possibility of your future business growth, but with proper analysis of your client requirements, you are likely to secure a substantial market share.

Proper marketing can let your potential clients know why they should choose your product and how it is different from other brands working in the same industry. Refer back to your roadmap in order to deliver a good marketing strategy. Every user experience counts. Influencing a client with a better user experience can facilitate your future business dealings and will attract more customers in the long run.

4. Testing and Focus Group

For any business, testing and quality assurance of a product pave the way for future business growth. Imagine delivering your new product without proper testing and getting negative feedback from your clients. The harm it will bring to your business can be long lasting and might turn away your potential customers. This can also lead to heavy spending on reactionary marketing activities for your business.

Proper testing of your new product ensures that it is in line with the requirements of your customers and will save you a considerable amount of money, time and effort from making changes  in the future.

In contrast, focus groups are a part of market research and they pay attention to the user reactions to new products and services. This type of research is usually accompanied by questions for the target audience.

A perfect focus group research involves selecting members that are likely to have an interest in the underlying business product. For new products, it can also be effective as it provides understanding to team members on how to improve and add value to their goods or services.

5. Check in Early and Often To Ensure There Are No Misunderstandings

As a team leader, you might already have a strategy, a clear roadmap and may also have done testing and research on your product. Now comes the most important task, which includes regular follow-ups with your team members. Know that you only have one team that is likely to be diverse. There might be misunderstandings that can delay your product development.

To make sure your team members are all on the same page, you need to have regular feedback sessions. This includes interacting with team members and providing them with a solution when they seem to be stuck.

A good leader is one who can resolve the problems in a smooth and timely manner. Anyone can be a decision maker with regards to new product development but putting things in perspective is what counts as a good quality leader. Since you are developing a new product it is likely that your team members might be de-motivated with regards to the possibility of the product’s feasibility, but you need to stand by them and address their misconceptions.

6. Smooth Production Deployment

As a team leader, you have mostly done your tasks to work with teams in order to develop new products but you still need to make sure that your strategic plans and roadmaps are working toward smooth product deployment. Deployment of a new product can be critical and there is a major risk of failure.  You are not willing to take such risks.

In order to ease production deployment, make sure that your product is installed in batches. Of course, you are not going to start from scratch if your new product fails in its first run. Deploying in small batches ensures that the team is moving forward slowly but gradually toward the completion of your product. You can also try automating your deployment process as much as possible to reduce the risk of human errors.

Final Thoughts

Working with teams to develop a new product might be difficult in the initial stage but with a proper strategy, testing and smooth deployment you can achieve many favorable outcomes, leading to a great and long lasting startup.

As a bonus tip, make sure you always have a plan B in your strategy to look forward to in case things do not work out as expected according to your plan A. Additionally, effective marketing and using digital advertising can ensure you are heard by your target audience on the internet.

 

Vimware provides IT strategy and software development services in the Greater Los Angeles Area. We specialize in helping organizations transition and reinvent themselves into the tech world. Our clients are across many industries including academia, consumer goods, entertainment, and healthcare. Expertise covers iOS, Android, Windows, LAMP and MEAN technology stacks. Vimware is a Select Partner within Amazon’s AWS partner network.

Managing Offshore Teams

Outsourcing is a common tactic among most companies, regardless of the market where they reside. This is all the more easier thanks to the internet and various communication apps.

However, outsourcing to smaller companies outside of your native country for the sake of generating more profit is easier said than done. With issues like language barriers and radically different time zones, outsourcing to other countries can be a chore if anything else. So, if you are facing troubles dealing with offshore teams, or just don’t know where to start, this guide will help you.

 

How to Maximize Effectiveness

Maximizing the effectiveness of your company is the one of the major reasons why companies like yourself outsource in the first place. The real challenge that most companies face when it comes to outsourcing to companies is not your company’s effectiveness, but the other company’s effectiveness.

After finding the right company that has the right amount of experience and has the ample workforce size for your task, it is still easy for that company to be ineffective in its task. That’s is not to say that there is one particular problem that leads to this ineffectiveness, but there are many. Let us look at these problems:

1. Communication

One of the most notorious problems that nearly every company faces when it comes to outsourcing to a different country is communication. Effective communication is critical when it comes to your project, as a lack of communication could well lead to you having an unfinished product on your hands.

Lack of communication can happen, mainly, because of either language barriers or lack of responsibility; sometimes it is both. You must stay in constant contact with the company on a day to day basis, where you can discuss progress and talk about any future projects.

2. Lack of Leadership or General Vision

It is hard to ask a company to help you with a certain task, especially when they don’t know why they are doing it. Keeping an offshore team estranged from the rest of the company can often lead to lower morale and a much less efficient work ethic. Same is true for leadership, as a company that lacks leadership often fails.

3. Lack of Interaction

While you may argue that this is the same as communication, interaction with the offshore team is different. Although, it is important to communicate with your team on a daily basis through meetings, it is more important for you to meet them in person. Most companies do not realize the importance of meeting with their offshore team. This problem mostly connects to the second and first problems and can result in a lower morale and a variety of different communication issues.

4. Treating Them like an “Offshore” Team

One of the biggest mistakes that nearly every company makes is not treating their offshore team like a proper team. While this may seem a little confusing, in simpler terms you should not treat them differently from the team that you are already working with.

How to Properly Deal With Offshore teams

1. Video Conferencing

Starting off with one of the most well-known problems, communication is also one of the easiest to solve. Communicating with your offshore team is easier with social media applications, such as Skype and WeChat. Through these applications you can not only message them, but you can also contact them through both voice and video calls.

This will enable you to reduce the communication barrier, and can help in enforcing a presence that will otherwise be lacking in the office space.

2. Design Better Work Schedules

Designing better work schedules should be one of the major priorities of any company that outsourced their tasks to a company in a different time zone. While one or two hours doesn’t make that much of a substantial difference, 13 to 14 hours difference between you and your offshore team can lead to serious issues.

In order to avoid these issues, you should manage their time so that there are two or three hours that overlap with your working hours. This will allow for meetings in a more professional environment, and will allow your team to contact you without hesitation. This will help in establishing your presence in the team, and they will feel like you are treating them less like an offshore team.

3. Visit The Premises Annually

Finally coming to what is possibly the most important step for you to take is meeting them. Annually meeting them and checking up on your projects is a good way to ensure you are addressing all the aforementioned problems at once.

By meeting with the offshore team you are interacting with them face to face, you are communicating with them, you are making your presence felt, and you are giving them the importance they need to function effectively.

Conclusion

Managing an offshore team is much easier said than done. However, by instilling faith in them and communicating with them on a regular basis, you can solve most of the issues that otherwise plague other companies. Although you may face more troubles throughout your time working with offshore companies, just know that you can solve most of them with proper communication.

 

Vimware is a Los Angeles based IT strategy and services firm that strives to be your most trusted technology resource. We work with you to understand your business demands and goals, then align them with the right technology strategy and solutions. We help you improve your digital footprint by carefully managing every detail throughout the Product Life Cycle.

How to Easily Load Balance a WordPress Site Using AWS

WordPress is the most popular Content Management System (CMS) and powers more than 30% of the web. Many high traffic websites such as TechCrunch and BBC America use this CMS.

Although there are many other CMS options, the low cost, flexibility and customization functionality results in the popularity of WordPress. There is a flaw, however, in the default WordPress configuration, where a single server has both WordPress and the database, does not scale up to handle large amounts of traffic. Web pages load slower ruining your visitor experience. To overcome this situation, a multi-tier solution is required.

The solution is to move to multiple database servers; this can be easily accomplished using Amazon Web Services (AWS). AWS offers a Relational Database Service (RDS) that uses SQL for maintaining and querying the data. Some webmasters who run the standard single server configuration may need help during the deployment process. Here is a brief guide on how to load balance your WordPress site.

The Method

First, you need to open the RDS console and create a new database from your dashboard. You will be prompted to specify the DB details. Although, there are default settings for this, pay attention to the DB instance class and Multi-AZ deployment.

For security, create a DB username and password to securely access your DB and relay information. Under the Database option, type DB name and note down your DB port value to be used later. Have a sneak around the other default settings and click “Create Database”.

The next step is to modify the ingress rules on RDS instance’s security group. To do this, go to the Amazon RDS console and choose a database to view its details. Under security settings, note the Security Groups  and Endpoints. This can come in handy later on.

Under the security section, you will also see the security group associated with your DB instance. Click on the link to view the security group in the EC2 Console.

Once open, choose “Inbound” in security group details. Click “Edit” and then add your Rule and Type and select mysql that your application uses.  Lastly, modify the source table or type “sg-”to view a list of available security groups.  Click ‘save’ and let the configuration take place.

Meanwhile, download WordPress from here along with the configuration files since you will need it later to deploy it on your server. Extract WordPress in your directory and the configuration files over the WordPress installation.

As you do this, you are already halfway to deploy your first WordPress website using Amazon RDS. But don’t get excited too quickly since we still need to work around with the Elastic Beanstalk Environment (EBE).

Use the AWS Management Console to create an EBE. You also need to choose the PHP platform and accept the default settings and sample code. Click on Configure more settings, select high availability, scroll down and click on modify Auto Scaling group. In there, select number of max servers as additional servers will be billed as per standard charges. Click save and on the next screen click create. Once you create the ‘’Environment’’ you can configure and connect it to the database created earlier.

Upon successful configuration, deploy the WordPress code to the environment you downloaded from the repository. You can also click here to launch the Elastic Beanstalk console. Upon loading, you need to choose the language of the platform such as English, Spanish or Arabic, etc.

For Application Code, choose the sample application and then click on ‘‘Review and Launch’’. You will be prompted to review the options, and once you are satisfied, hit “Create App”. The creation of the environment takes a few minutes and creates the following six resources.

  • EC2 Instance
  • Instance Security Group
  • Load Balancer
  • Load Balancer Security Group
  • Auto Scaling Group
  • AWS Cloud Formation Stack and a Domain Name

Elastic Beanstalk will manage all of the above resources. So make sure to not terminate your environment as it will terminate all your resources. The Amazon RDS DB is launched outside of the environment so you will also need to carefully manage its life cycle.

Make sure to configure and verify the structure of your WordPress Beanstalk Folder. You need to configure environment property section by providing a database endpoint username and password mention above.

Finally, you can install WordPress and have your website up and running. To complete the installation, open the Elastic Beanstalk Console here and navigate to the management page for your environment. Choose the environment URL to open your site in a browser and you will automatically be redirected to the WordPress installation Wizard.

Perform the standard installation. Since the database is already connected to the environment, you won’t be prompted to configure the DB. Installation takes a few minutes to complete, after which you can successfully run your load balanced WordPress using AWS.

Best of luck!  And if you need help load balancing your site, we are available to assist with the transition.

 

For Reference and Additional Information:

https://docs.aws.amazon.com/elasticbeanstalk/latest/dg/php-hawordpress-tutorial.html

 

Vimware is a Los Angeles based IT strategy and services firm that strives to be your most trusted technology resource. We work with you to understand your business demands and goals, then align them with the right technology strategy and solutions. We help you improve your digital footprint by carefully managing every detail throughout the Product Life Cycle.

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