According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment across all IT jobs is expected to grow by 22% through 2020. Despite this steady increase of openings in the technology industry, competition for talented individuals in the tech industry is at unprecedented levels, which raises the question- how does a company successful recruit the best developers and tech talent as competition continues to grow? Here are 10 key tips to keep in mind:

  1. Keep an ongoing relationship with potential hires. Even if there is not an open position for them at the time, it is well worth establishing a relationship with talented individuals for future open positions. You want to make sure you are pursuing the person, not the slot you want to fill
  2. Be sure to ease into a relationship. There’s a lot of middle ground between no relationship and a full-time salaried hire. People are freelancing more and more, so be open to arrangements that let you both test the waters to see if you’re compatible — sometimes you need to date before you marry. Conversely, don’t drag things on forever. If you’re in a part-time/contractor relationship with someone that is clearly looking for a full-time gig, and you have any hesitation, don’t string them along.
  3. Be honest and transparent. Try to avoid wasting time by promising decisions or deadlines for hires if you’re not ready to commit. Pull the trigger or move on.
  4. Avoid sounding like a recruiter. When you’re looking for new hires in the tech industry, be sure to avoid sounding like a recruiter in any correspondences (people hate recruiters).
  5. Don’t shop when you’re hungry. Do your best to avoid waiting until you are in dire need of a certain role or position to begin looking – this may lead you to have to make unideal hiring decisions and settle for someone who is not a perfect fit within your business.
  6. Hit up user groups and meetups. Tech events such as user groups and meetups can be a great place to meet and establish relationships with talented tech individuals. They also can be an ideal place to see and converse with other industry professionals who may have a great reference for a potential hire.
  7. If you’re not technical, don’t try to be. Nothing is a quicker turn off than someone trying to fake expertise. If you’re not technical, focus on what you do know and why you’re recruiting that person.
  8. Cast a wide net and you’ll catch a lot of fish … crappy fish. Trolling for keyword matches and bulk e-mailing will waste the time of everyone involved (including your own). Long gone are the days of resume databases and keyword indexing. The best hires come from networking and reputation.
  9. Respect preferred modes of communication. Potential hires probably aren’t going to want to field a phone right off the bat, be sure to pay attention to utilizing preferred means of communicating to make the hiring process as seamless and comfortable as possible.
  10. Know the market — skills have increasingly diversified and stratified. Long gone are the days when you can go out and simply hire a “web developer” (pour one out for the webmasters of the world). Do you want a frontend programmer? UX? Backend? Rails? .NET? Are you looking for a DBA? devops? If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you’re not ready to recruit.

As a business owner you are always looking for the next step – how you will grow your business, improve your product, sustain competition, and with the increasing popularity of mobile technology, you may feel that your business would benefit from building an app. It should be simple enough, right? After all, school age kids are doing it in their parent’s basement on the family computer. How hard can it be?

Well, while you may be an expert in your industry, the software business can be pretty tricky. There are three common pitfalls that can cause your app to take a nosedive and it very well could take your company with it.

  1. Mishandling your funds: Statistics tell us that 9 out of 10 tech startups fail (1). Most of these are not because of features or usability, but instead are problems related to cash flow, undercapitalization, and lack of revenue. Keep your eye on creating the shortest possible (responsible) path to revenue. Don’t spend everything you’ve got on your first build. We often advise taking your total Phase 1 budget and dividing it in half. Invest the first half getting your first iteration built. You’ll need the rest for polish, further iterations, fixes, maintenance, marketing, and the issues you cannot see yet.
  2. Lack of clarity is another common problem. You may be hard at work building a great app, yet have no idea what specific problem you are solving or who you are solving it for. When you are fully immersed in building software, it is very easy to lose sight of your ideal customer. Without clearly defining who the primary user of your product will be, your team may lose its common vision – sending product owners, UX/UI designers, developers, QA staff, marketers, and salespeople each in a different direction.  Few companies take the time to create a specific, detailed profile of their ideal customer before beginning to build their software, and while it is no easy task, those who accomplish it fare far better than those who don’t.
  3. Trusting technologists to make business decisions. While a talented developer is invaluable to your team as you build the software, developers typically are not inclined to think of the business implications of technology decisions. A poor platform decision out of the gate could cost you down the road. You need an experienced, diverse team who fully understands all aspects of the digital market.

Although developing an app can be a difficult process, being cognizant of these three major pitfalls can help you avoid detrimental mistakes and develop a successful app that will benefit your business.

1. http://www.forbes.com/sites/neilpatel/2015/01/16/90-of-startups-will-fail-heres-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-10/

Did you know that Amazon found that for every 100 milliseconds more in page load time, their sales decreased by 1%? That when Google switched from a 10-result page loading in 0.4 seconds to a 30-result page loading in 0.9 seconds, that it decreased traffic and ad revenues by 20%? Or that when Google Maps worked to reduce their homepage load time from 100KB to 70-80KB, that their traffic went up 10% in the first week, and 25% in the following three weeks? (1) If these statistics weren’t enough to make us sit up and listen, consider for a moment that these came from studies done in 2006 and 2007. For those keeping score, 2007 was the year the first iPhone was released. The explosion of mobile devices into the web space – devices with less processing power and memory than their desktop counterparts, only increases the urgency around this topic.

Your website’s performance directly impacts your revenue, whether you’re using it as a tool to generate leads, sell goods, or even just increase brand awareness. So what can you do about it? For starters, consider a performance audit on your website. This audit will reveal in a negligible amount of time not only how much room for improvement there is on your website but also quick wins that could be extremely cost-effective to put in place. And finally, take comfort in knowing that measuring performance is an exact science, which means you will be able to see the performance statistics of your website before and after any changes are made, then be able to measure your website’s goals against them. What are you waiting for?  

  1. http://www.websiteoptimization.com/speed/tweak/psychology-web-performance/

I recently received an email from a client that included a message they had received from Google with an ominous warning in the subject line that “Googlebot cannot access CSS and JS files” on the client’s website.  The body of the email warned us that “Googlebot cannot access your JavaScript and/or CSS files because of restrictions in your robots.txt file.”  So, just what does that mean, wondered my client.

The message arrives from the Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and after doing more digging, I found that this is a new push by Google to inform website owners that blocking these important files can hinder Google’s ranking of your site.

Ok, cut through the tech jargon.  What does this mean?  In short, CSS and JS files are files on your server that make sure your website displays as intended, and functions properly.  Since these files are basically computer code, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to the average person, and many web developers put a line in their code (specifically, in a file called robots.txt) that tells search engines to ignore the CSS and JS files, so they don’t end up showing up in search results.

Since we’re telling search engines to ignore these pages, that means that when Google looks at your website, it scans the homepage, and sees that in order to display the page properly, it needs to also load these JS and CSS files, but then Google sees that it is being told to ignore those files.  That leaves Google with an incomplete picture of what your site looks like.  It still can read and index the content on your site, which is the most important thing, but Google is now wanting a more complete view of your site, including how things are displayed on the page.  In order for that to happen, it needs to be given permission to view those CSS and JS files.

So, if you’re ready to unblock these files, or want to see if you currently are:

  1. Make sure you have your site set up with Google Search Console
  2. Within Search Console, on the left click on Crawl -> Fetch as Google
  3. Leave the URL space blank to fetch your homepage, and click on Fetch and Render
  4. After the fetch is complete, click on the results to see the rendering. This will show you how Google sees your page vs. how a visitor to your site sees it.  Below the rendering, you’ll see a list of any blocked items.
  5. If your CSS and/or JS files are being blocked, you’ll need to edit the robots.txt file. (You will probably want to get a developer to do this.)  Here’s what you’ll need to add to your robots.txt file:
    • User-Agent: Googlebot
      Allow: .js
      Allow: .css

That should solve the issue and now Google will be able to fully render and understand the appearance and structure of your website.

Last week, the Centresource Strategy team went to Braintrust’s CSPO (Certified Scrum Product Owner) Training. Braintrust describes Scrum as a “way to get work done” and most simply put, this is exactly what we went to learn. For two days, we froze under A/C vents in a conference room carefully reviewing what it takes to be a successful Product Owner.

Building software is never simple, but by using simple methods to manage the workflow and prioritization of work, one can greatly impact the quality of the final product. Additionally, embracing the values (commitment, focus, openness, respect and courage) internally and with our clients means better products and happier teams.

To most easily illustrate how Scrum works, I’ll share a story about an exercise we went through that hit me pretty clearly over the head.

The Fruit Salad Experiment

During the training, we were grouped into teams and asked to make fruit salad. Yes, this is a real thing that happened. We were given a table full of fruit and asked to plan, develop and launch a salad, together as a team. Metaphors to software development were more apparent than you might think.

As a group we assigned roles, tasks and responsibilities. Our first cause for discussion was that we noticed, among the strawberries, blueberries and kiwis, sat a raw potato and garlic. What role can these two items play in a fruit salad? We quickly came to the consensus that they were, indeed, not necessary. The imaginary lightbulbs flashed over our heads – these represented unnecessary product features. We set them to the side.

We only had two knives, one cutting board and a whole table full of fruit, so we had to plan what we could accomplish with the items available to us. Again, noting the similarities to software development, as resources and tools can be limited.

Knowing we had three sprint cycles of development to work with, we planned our time against the first, and began washing, preparing and slicing our fruit. After, our instructor (the decision maker) stopped by, provided feedback on the progress, and sent us off to our second sprint.

About halfway through the second sprint, we got our next curveball – a pineapple. Our decision maker tossed the new fruit on our table and exclaimed “get this into your fruit salad now!” We all knew what this metaphor was – a new feature we had to process that we hadn’t planned for. We set it aside for later discussion and eventually built it into our third sprint.

We wrapped by focusing on the new feature (pineapple) and ended up with a fruit salad that was beautiful, functional, delicious and free of unnecessary ingredients. In this 20 minute exercise, we had figured out the Scrum process: Plan the what & the how, do the work, review the progress, rinse and repeat until done.

The metaphors may have hit us over the head a little bit but I walked away from this exercise knowing that each step of the process was equally as important, and remaining true to your planning and trusting your group are keys for success.

Now that we’re officially certified (along with several other Centresource team members that were Scrum Master certified last year) we’ll be continuing to exercise these methods in order to develop the strongest and most viable products for our clients.