Tagged: Software

Getting LEAN

Getting LEANThe typical way to start a new business or venture is to first get started with a clear cut business plan, then pitch the idea to potential investors, gather a team, introduce a service or a product and finally start selling as hard as you can. Well, according to a new research done by Harvard Business School, 75% of all start-ups fail, because most of them experience a setback somewhere in the sequence of above events. Things like running out of cash flow, or lack of a proficient team are typical reasons why start-up do not succeed.

In the last couple of years, a new methodology has started appearing, popularly known as the “lean start-up” and it favors experimental approach over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition and iterative design over traditional development. The term “lean startup” was first coined by Eric Ries in the year 2011, it originally generated from the philosophy based on lean manufacturing, which is the streamlined production methodology developed in the 1980s by a Japanese auto manufacturing company.

According to the theory, the lean methodology seeks to eliminate wasteful business practices and increase value producing practices during the product development phase so that startups can have a better chance of success without requiring large amounts of outside funding, elaborate business plans, or the perfect product.

So while following a lean startup method a founder or owner doesn’t begin with a business plan, they would begin with the search of a business model. The other notable element of lean methodology is – quick and responsive development. In comparison to traditional product development, where each stage occurs in a leaner sequence and has timelines attached to it, agile development builds products in short and repeated patterns. So for example a manufacturing company following the lean methodology would produce a “minimum viable product” that would contain only the critical features, gather feedback from its customers and then start with the revised and improvised version.

Many big companies are going the lean starup way as they see the tremendous cost advantage in adapting this new methodology. For example, companies such as GitHub, and cloud based services, such as Amazon Web Services, have minimized the cost of software development to millions of dollars. Even hardware companies no longer have to build their own hardware setups, since off-shore manufacturing is so easily accessible.

If we look at the history of management education, we can see it was solely focused on helping students build strategies and tools that formalized execution and efficiency of existing business. With the introduction of the lean startup method, the focus has changed to searching new business models as we launch startup venture. This new methodology is here to stay and would eventually help business owners meet challenges with a new perspective, innovate rapidly and transform the way we do business.

Top five accounting tools for small businesses

Top five accounting tools for small businessesAccounting and budgeting are the most essential parts of any small businesses setup. Business owners and entrepreneurs are always looking for easy-to-use tools that helps them manage their day-to-day accounting, financing, invoicing and budgeting tasks. With emerging new technologies and the introduction of cloud based computing, it is important to choose a robust tool that helps you with basic tasks and gives you that extra value and ease.

There are a growing number of online services dedicated to helping users manage their finances. Here is a list of the top five most popular and user friendly accounting and financing tools:

QuickBooks: One of the most popular accounting and financing tools available in the market, QuickBooks has been developed by Intuit. After its initial release, the software became instantly popular among small business owners who had no formal accounting training. The software is currently offered through a hard drive version and also online. The software provides a comprehensive menu of functions, including a ledger, accounts and payable, payroll and inventory.

Freshbooks – It is a complete cloud based accounting tool designed for small business owners. Founded in Canada by Mike McDerment and Joe Sawada in 2003, FreshBooks is a complete solution that can be used online. This program allows you to upload documents for members to use and send invoices via mail or e-mail. You can track the status of your invoices, as well as all of your expense and income reports.

Sage 50 or Peachtree Accounting: A business management cum accounting software, this product was published by the Sage Group and is sold primarily in the USA and Canada. Popularly known as Peachtree, however as of the 2013 edition, the software is now called Sage 50. In addition to the standard accounting functions of inventory tracking, reports and analysis, this tool also provides customer contact records and transaction histories. This software also makes it easy for you to manage cash flow, customer payments, track inventory and plan purchases. This tool is apt for any medium sized business.

Xero: This online software gives you the option to manage your business and your personal financing. The solution is sold by a monthly subscription and the charge is proportionate to the number (and type) of company entities managed by the subscriber. The key features of Xero include automatic bank account feeds, invoicing, accounts payable, expense claims, fixed asset depreciation, and standard business and management reporting. Xero is an online cloud based tool, so you can also partner Xero with numerous add-ons, including programs for performance reports and online signatures.

Outright: Primarily a US based solution, Outright is an accounting and bookkeeping application that assists small businesses and sole proprietors with managing their business income and expenses. This online software covers the basic functions of income, expense and tax reports. The Outright website is focused on “a single word – simplicity.”

The importance of a PMO (Project Management Office)

small business pool_project management officeIf your organization is into offering project management services then sooner or later you would need to setup a PMO (project management office) within your business. A PMO is a department, division or a group within an organization that defines, executes and maintains the standard process and procedures that are related to project management.

Project Management is getting popular among many small businesses. In simple terms it is the planning, organizing and controlling of resources and manpower to achieve a desired outcome or a specific goal. Anything that involves a defined beginning and an end and is usually time and money constrained is called a project, and to ensure the smooth delivery of this project you need to follow basic project management principles.

A PMO is more like an umbrella entity within any organization that overlooks such project management activities. This division strives to standardize and introduce economies of repetition in the execution of projects. The PMO is the source of documentation, guidance and metrics on the practice of project management.

With increased globalization, industry certification programs, such as ISO 9000 and the Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award, as well as government regulatory requirements, have propelled organizations to standardize many processes. Businesses of all sizes and shapes are defining, borrowing and collecting best practices in process and project management and using it within their PMO office.

However, there are many small and medium sized businesses that tend to overlook the importance of project management office due to resource constraints often common within organizations. Many businesses tend to find a qualified project manager and/or software and then hope the pieces all fall into place.

A well organized PMO office is very necessary within any form of Project Management practice.  It is important to streamline PMO functions first by standardizing Project Management tools and techniques. This will help in avoiding overall project risks and failures. Eventually, how a project management office (PMO) is designed and staffed for maximum effectiveness depends on a variety of organizational factors, including targeted goals, traditional strengths and cultural imperatives.

Can User Experience be designed?

Can User Experience be designedUser experience (UX), in simple definition, involves a person’s emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User experience is a very blurry concept and many people use the term incorrectly. A lot of designers seem to be talking about user experience (UX) these days and have a strong belief in how they can craft the user experience of their product or website.

Recent research indicates that UX takes a broader approach to communication between computers and humans. UX takes many different aspects into consideration as well, such as emotional, hedonic, aesthetic, affective and experiential variables.

According to the Hassenzahl’s model, each user assigns some attributes to a product or service when using it and these attributes are different for each individual user. UX is the consequences of these attributes plus the situation in which the product is used.

So in a realistic world, you cannot design the user, because some are able to easily use a product, service, or a website to perform their task and others simply cannot! The stimulation that a product or service provides depends on the individual user’s experience with similar products. Also, every user has different goals, and so they use products, services and/or websites in different modes.

The other important point to remember is that you can never design a situation. A user situation goes beyond what can be designed. It can determine why a product is being used, and it can shape a user’s expectations.For example, on some occasions, you may want to explore and take advantage of the wealth of features on Twitter or Facebook. In other situations, the same functions may make things too complex for you. Moreover UX also evolves with time. For example, the first time a user tries an application, they may be confused by it and have a slightly downbeat experience. Later, when they get used to it and discover its wealth of features and learn how to handle it, they might get emotionally attached to it, and the overall UX (user experience) would become more positive.

So while designing a product, service or an application, it is very important to understand the user. Typical methods such as user research with surveys, interviews and observations are very important. Finally, it is important to give users what they want, and perhaps a little bit more! In addition to enabling users to use your service effectively and efficiently, it is important to give them the “WOW” experience. Exceeding their expectation is always preferred.

“Business-Web-Media”

business-web-mediaSmall Business Pool is a business BLOG where entrepreneurs and business owners could find useful information, advice, insights, resources and inspiration for running and growing their businesses.

Small Business Pool also offers project management and business consulting services to Small and medium enterprises (SMEs). The objective is to partner with clients to deliver customized solutions that create a lasting competitive advantage.

The tag line “Business-Web-Media” signifies the core areas of the services i.e. in the field of Business, Web & Media.

Business: Management Consulting & Planning, Strategy & Change Management, Digital Transformation, Human Resource Management, Statistical Analysis, Market Research & Surveys, Sales & Lead Generation, Virtual Assistants, Customer Service & Support.

Web: Web Programming & Design, E-commerce, Online Game Development, Scripts & Utilities, Web Plug-ins, Mobile Apps Development, Application Interface Design, Email Marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Social Media Marketing, Online Advertising & PR, Media Analysis, Web Analytics, Website Content Development, Blog & Article Writing.

Media: Graphic Design, Illustration, 3D Modelling, Animation, VFX, Presentations, Corporate Video Production, Bio Videos, Commercials and Viral Marketing Videos.

Playing Games

playing gamesA video game is practically software that has art, audio, graphics and game play. Game development is usually done using the “agile development” method i.e. it is based on iterative prototyping, a subset of software prototyping. This process depends on feedback and refinement of game’s iterations with gradual increase in feature set.

A typical game development team comprises of the producer, the publisher, the development team, designers, artists, sound engineers and testers. The games go through development, alpha, and beta stages until finally being released. The video game industries is fairly volatile, similar to other artistic industries including television, music, etc and has a distribution methods similar to those of music and film industries.

A game development software or more popularly known as a game engine is the most critical element for a game developers. A game engine is a vital tool that eliminates a lot of technical aspects of making a game. So all you do is focus on designing your game and let the game engine do the rest.

Top 3 game engines:

  • Unity: By far the most popular and widely used game engine in the market. This tool has a whole suite of assets, strong support, a good community, and it’s free! Another unique and awesome feature is that it allows you to play your game immediately in the editor.
  • UDK (the Unreal development Kit): This engine offers a full-fledged tool that allows you to create games. It has some of the most state of the art rendering and animation integration. It includes a tool called Unreal Kismet, which is a visual programming editor that requires no programming knowledge to use.
  • Cry Engine 2: This Game Engine has a full suite of tools that are used to create your game. It has one of the best looking graphics rendering of any game engine. It also included is an AI (Artificial Intelligence) system and custom character support built right in the engine.

3D space

3D has become one of the most dynamic and path breaking achievements of the decade. Films, games, applications, utilities, software scripts, products etc, all have an element of 3D. In scientific terms, a three-dimensional space is a geometric 3-parameters model of the physical universe in which we exist. These three dimensions are commonly called length, width, and depth (or height).

3D originated from the very basic theory of elementary geometry, called polyhedron (or polytopes). Polyhedron is a geometric solid in three dimensions with flat faces and straight edges. So in regard to three dimensions, the theory signifies that there are nine regular polytopes: five convex and four nonconvex.

In the world of 3D computer graphics, geometric data is stored in computer software for three-dimensional representation. 3D computer graphics are often referred to as 3D models and rely on many of the same algorithms as 2D computer vector graphics in the wire-frame model.

With so many 3D computer applications, scripts, tools, plugins, platforms, engines, and packages available it is sometimes overwhelming for an aspiring 3D artist to decide where to start from. Here is a list of the top 5 most widely used applications:

3D Max: One of most widely used 3D applications by professionals, and students. 3D Max is more popularly known as “Autodesk 3ds Max”. Autodesk offers a ton of programs for 3D modeling, animation, and special effects, but 3ds Max is by far the best application for someone who is learning 3D, and wants to take it into a profession.

Maya:Autodesk Maya” is another award winning application that is used in all kinds post production studios across the world, and is easily one of the most professional, and versatile 3D platforms available.

Cinema 4D:Maxon Cinema 4D”, is one of the most user friendly 3D applications available. You can choose from an array of different editions and bundles. Whether it is post production, architectural visualization, or even engineering, the different bundles have different modules to fit your every need.

Lightwave:NewTek Lightwave” is another high-end 3D platform that has a steep learning curve, but is used quite widely in the post production world. It is a complete modeling, animation, and rendering package, that provides full functionality for your imagination.

Softimage: “Autodesk Softimage” (formerly Avid Softimage XSI) is a node-based visual effects platform, which is used for everything from games to movies, and even in television post production.

Apart from the above, there are many other 3D applications and utilities available online. Depending on your need and interest, you can learn, experiment and implement any 3D tool or utility for your project.

3D as a theory or phenomenon is constantly evolving. With the coming of virtual reality and augmented theory, there will be a time when all human life will easily understand and talk the “language” of 3D.