Room to grow for women in software development

Women in Software Development

The software development community has made significant gains in recent years as far as fostering a more inclusive and diverse workforce is concerned. However, there is still a lot of room for improvement in this regard. In particular, the industry could be doing far more to encourage the hiring of women in software as well as supporting their professional development.

Tech-related industries continue to lag behind other sectors when it comes to representing women. According to data aggregated by the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees, women account for more than 57 percent of all professional occupations in the United States. Within computer and mathematics fields, however, 26 percent of positions are filled by women.

“26 percent of computer and math positions are filled by women.”

Bring more voices into software development
As SkilledUp’s Lee Bob Black noted, there are reasons beyond tackling a lack of diversity in the tech space for software studios to improve their efforts to recruit and women. By failing to adequately balance its workforce, this industry is losing out on an opportunity to gain and benefit from new voices. When the male perspective dominates software development discussions, fresh ideas are lost and end-user demands may not be addressed comprehensively.

Furthermore, there is a massive potential pool of high-quality coders, programmers, developers and software testers that some companies have not entirely tapped into yet.

There are plenty of organizations that are currently working hard to rectify this situation, tackling the issue from every angle. Some, like Girls Who Code and Hackbright Academy, focus on providing women with the tools and resources needed to learn their craft and hone their development and computing skills. Others have created entire professional networks for women in the tech space to offer support and guidance to one another.

Give innovators their proper due
Coder Camps director Jacqueline Sloves suggested that efforts to better represent women in tech industries should include publicizing examples of innovators and trailblazers. Sloves cited Grace Hooper, a critical member of the Manhattan Project, as an example of an important figure in the evolution of software development whose accomplishments are often overlooked.

Another example could be Margaret Hamilton, a self-taught programmer who wrote software for the Apollo 11 mission. In an interview with Medium, Hamilton explained that at the time, women were rarely given anything more than low-ranking positions in the computer science space.

Women in software have been instrumental in many monumental technological achievements, including the lunar landing.

Women in software have been instrumental in many monumental technological achievements, including the lunar landing.

Much has changed since then, with women receiving far more credit for their work and achievements in tech industries, particularly in regard to software development. There is reason to be optimistic about the continued growth of women in this sector, but organizations will need to ramp up their efforts to cultivate a more balanced workforce.

“[W]omen are highly respected in coding world,” Sloves wrote. “Companies want more women, but oftentimes they don’t know where to find the talent.”

Read More →

3 ways companies can improve their UX

Companies must improve UX

User experience remains one of the most important criteria in determining the success of enterprise software. Regardless of the type of app or the audience it is geared toward, poor UX will easily sink a piece of software before it ever has a chance to find its footing. Even if a given application is functionally sound, various factors could tarnish its UX, turning away potential users. Given the high costs involved in both app and software development and testing, business leaders cannot afford to have a program fail in this manner. To avoid such expensive scenarios, development teams should improve UX at every opportunity. Here are three ways to do just that:

1. Develop for the end user
This may sound obvious, but software developers need to create applications that meet the needs of their intended audience. The truth is that many teams lose sight of this basic, yet critical, notion. They spend so much time making sure that an application functions properly and that certain bells and whistles make their way into the final product that UX gets put in the background. Even the most helpful piece of software will fail to find an audience if it is too much trouble to actually use on a regular basis.

“Developers need to create applications that meet the needs of their audience.”

Enterprise software developers should be particularly cognizant of this point and create applications that are geared toward the average employee. Consumers are a shrewd audience, but enterprise users are arguably even more discerning when it comes to adopting an app. Anything that is too convoluted to quickly pick up, learn and effectively wield will likely be dropped in favor of a more intuitive program. By anticipating the needs and demands of these users, developers can craft more effective software that offers better engagement.

2. Bury the hatchet
Developers and designers do not always see eye to eye – that just comes with the territory. However, these two groups need to work in concert if they are to produce a product with flawless UX. A recent study commissioned by Kony found that an inability of designers and developers to get along was one of the most common pain points for software development projects. According to DeveloperTech, some surveyed designers complained that their advice and design expertise is often pushed to the wayside by developers. Without the guidance of design teams, a software project can quickly go off the rails, particularly in regard to critical concerns such as user interface.

Under these circumstances, production teams are essentially left with two choices: spend the additional time and resources fixing resulting UX problems or simply release the app as is. Neither option is ideal since they will both likely lead to lost revenue – or worse. A rushed piece of software with problematic UX could damage an organization’s reputation in addition to the loss of potential sales. For enterprise apps, employees will refuse to adopt such programs, resulting in wasted design, development and QA costs. Furthermore, staff members may be less likely to give future releases a chance if they have lost faith in their company’s ability to create high-quality software or applications in-house.

If designers and developers work together from the outset of a project and focus their efforts on creating an intuitive and easy-to-manage UI, they will put themselves in a much better position to offer end users quality UX.

Developers and designers need to put their differences aside and work together on improving UX.Developers and designers need to put their differences aside and work together on improving UX.

3. Get agile
When implemented effectively, agile methodologies can be a boon for enterprise software UX. One of the major tenets of agile is that developers should continually listen to user feedback to improve their applications and create finished products that better meet the needs of their intended audience.

Despite the focus agile puts on end-user feedback, some in the development community have worried that the practice could ultimately prove to be detrimental to UX. A recent Zymr blog post noted that because agile processes are typically broken down into smaller chunks like regular sprints, development teams could lose sight of the broader picture when it comes to UX.

However, organizations can happily marry the mindset behind agile with the goal to provide high-quality UX. For one, agile assumes that users can’t really know what they want from a piece of software until they have it sitting in front of them. Because of this, multiple release iterations are built into the agile process, so even if the first version is not up to snuff, developers and designers can gather feedback and make improvements.

“Users can’t really know what they want from software until it’s sitting in front of them.”

The Zymr post suggested that designers and developers take a parallel track approach to UX. This involves the design team working one step ahead of developers, making improvements to the UI while their counterparts write code. Once a particular sprint is released, designers can then check the usability of that build to ensure the UX meets expectations.

UX and customer experience design should always be at the forefront for developers, designers and quality assurance teams when creating any new piece of software. It is important that project stakeholders consider the entire scope of what constitutes UX. UI is one aspect, but so is user engagement, ease of use and the overall value that an app or piece of software offers. By keeping these factors in mind, development teams can create better software that addresses user needs effectively.

Read More →

Technology and nonprofits go hand in hand

Nonprofits embrace technology

Technology is an extremely important part of everyday life for all of us – from personal experiences to enterprise-related goals. This is something that more nonprofit organizations are realizing, and as such they are looking for new ways to implement it within their offices.

“It should come as no surprise that every company is different – even if they do the same thing. This is especially true for nonprofits.”

But what is technology in relation to nonprofits? According to NTEN contributor Peter Campbell, it should be a philosophy. Like businesses that are for-profit, there is no one-size-fits-all kind of solution here. Instead, tech should be turned to as a way of improving existing practices on a case-by-case basis that considers the actual organization in question.

With this in mind, those nonprofit organizations that are hoping to invest in mobile applications should look into custom software development. Programs are generally created to meet a specific need, but they also have to be built to serve individual companies.

Keeping people connected
Mobile technology has increased the number of ways that people can connect with one another – not to mention the frequency at which they communicate. The world is getting smaller, and nonprofits stand to gain a significant amount of traction through the use of smartphones, tablets and apps. Making it easy and convenient for people to participate in a cause ultimately improves the strength of the nonprofit in question.

“To succeed, a movement needs much more than ad campaigns or ‘astroturfing,” wrote Harvard Business Review contributors Jeremy Heinmans and Henry Timms. “Leaders must be able to actually mobilize true believers, not just talk at them. A key new power question for all organizations is ‘Who will really show up for you?'”

Smartphones help to connect more people with nonprofits.Smartphones help to connect more people with nonprofits.

Meeting specific organizational needs
It should come as no surprise that every company is different – even if they do the same thing. This is especially true for nonprofits. According to Campbell, every nonprofit is unique, and as such their solutions have to be tailored to the specific needs of both their internal and external stakeholder. This is particularly important to remember when it comes to applications and what is best to leverage. This is why custom software development is so critical to pursue. The apps that are leveraged have to work for the company that needs them, and the same principle absolutely applies to not-for-profit agencies and organizations.

Read More →

Enterprise mobility concepts have place in nonprofits too

Enterprise Mobility for Nonprofits

There have been countless new ideas that have stemmed from widespread smartphone adoption. In fact, many businesses have been founded on a concept that would not have been possible without the popularity of consumer devices like the iPhone. Services like Uber and Lyft, for example, have changed how people catch a ride. This has caused some serious disruption in the taxi and livery industries.

“Engaging an audience is easy in a software-defined setting.”

But one other place that this idea could take hold is in the nonprofit sector. According to Nonprofit Quarterly contributor Jeanne Allen, ridesharing capabilities have been used by nonprofit organizations to help provide relief in areas that have been struck by a natural disaster. This helps people to stay mobile even if their own cars or normal means of transportation have been disabled.

Nonprofits have a lot to learn from enterprise mobility. There are a number of different ways in which solid business strategies can be appropriated for the nonprofit industry in order to better serve people in need. While individual use cases will vary, there is one thing that’s certain: Custom software solutions are the only way to go. While there may be other apps out there that do the same thing that a nonprofit is trying to accomplish, programs have to be designed for the specific entities that are using them in order to experience the best possible results.

Apps help build community
Nonprofits don’t necessarily have a consumer base as much as they do a community to engage. According to Business 2 Community contributor Wendy Burt-Thomas, this is why former Livestrong CEO Doug Ulman believes that social media is so valuable to nonprofit companies.

“There is a difference between a community and a crowd,” Ulman said, according to Burt-Thomas. “In a crowd, people push and shove and try to get a step ahead. In a community, people look around, they smile and share a story, because they know that a community doesn’t move forward unless they all move forward together.”

It’s undeniable that social media got a huge leg-up from the constant accessibility enabled by smartphone and tablet applications. This is something that nonprofits have to keep in mind – the sense of community that they’re looking for can be found in apps that encourage social interactions and involvement. Engaging an audience is easy in a software-defined setting, and doing so can help nonprofits to increase awareness, donations and support by making these things fun, simple and social.

Social media apps have helped to prove the importance of community in mobile connectivity. Enterprise mobilitySocial media apps have helped to prove the importance of community in mobile connectivity.

The importance of custom software
For any given task, there are countless apps out there that claim to be capable of handling it. But many of these programs are not designed with specific organizations in mind, meaning they only have a general understanding of what a company actually does. In order to make sure that a nonprofit gets the most out of an application, it’s important to invest in custom software development. This will ensure that target audiences are engaged and the overall goal is reached.

Read More →

For nonprofits, the time is now for mobile investment

The idea behind the success of the smartphone is that it can be used to do almost anything. Modern mobile devices have a seemingly limitless potential when it comes to improving a user’s everyday experience, and this is something that nonprofit organizations are starting to realize.

“Whether [custom software] is directed at supporters or employees, an app has to fill a need in order to be successful.”

According to First Nonprofit Group, this goes against the common notion that nonprofits are “behind the times when it comes to embracing technology.”

“[T]he truth of the matter is that nonprofit groups are diving headfirst into technology through social media, search engine optimization and a number of digital strategies that help charities and foundations thrive in a world where there is increasing competition for donors’ attention and contributions,” FNG stated on its website.

Mobile investments are becoming essential for nonprofit entities. While there may have once been a question as to whether or not this was something to pursue, it’s now an issue of when to seek out custom software development. Chances are, sooner will be better when it comes to bringing smartphones and tablets into the equation.

Beginning the process
According to nonprofit tech consultant Beth Kanter, the first place to start when working on an app for a nonprofit is to identify a purpose. Too often there is a likelihood that an app will be created without having a goal behind it. This is an easy way to build a useless piece of software.

“Unless an app makes a person’s life easier or better, the app won’t be used,” Kanter wrote. “To be certain that this is what will be accomplished, a nonprofit should clearly determine its goals for a project before embarking on the development of an app. If it is mission-based and serves the needs of the audience, then an app might be a worthwhile solution.”

This isn’t just true for nonprofits, but for any organization. Functionality is key for mobile apps, and if users don’t perceive one, they are less likely to adopt the program. Whether this software is directed at supporters or employees, an app has to fill a need in order to be successful.

Apps are becoming essential for nonprofits.Apps are becoming essential for nonprofits.

Custom development is imperative
Even more than having an app or a purpose behind it, it is essential to make sure that programs are developed for the specific organizations that use them. Custom software solutions are critical for all kinds of companies, and nonprofits are right up there with the others.

Read More →

For nonprofits, mobile is a strategy – not a solution

Mobile Strategy

Smartphones and tablets have simplified daily life for millions of people. Organizations have accepted that mobility is reality in the modern era, and as such they see value in application investments. Not only is this true for businesses and enterprises, but also for nonprofits.

The only way to succeed, however, is with a plan. It’s easy to say “we need an app to stay relevant,” but what is the program in question going to do?

“[I]f you develop a real reason to have an app (perhaps you offer deals and coupons for certain businesses who support your nonprofit, or offer updates on your progress and exclusive videos of your efforts), connecting with your audience through mobile can be a strategic move,” wrote Nonprofit Hub on its website.

There are a number of different tasks that a nonprofit organization can streamline through the use of mobile technology. From spreading the message to application-based fundraising, nonprofits have to invest in custom software solutions.

Increased visibility a major advantage to having an app 
Mobile programs allow for an interesting kind of engagement. It’s different than exposing people to a commercial, or even going out and trying to connect in person. Users feel as though they have more control over their experience, and may even be more inclined to donate to a nonprofit in need.

This brings us to another major advantage: fundraising. Donations are key for countless nonprofit organization, but drumming them up can be difficult. Some people may feel on-the-spot if approached in person, making them less likely to donate – even if only a little. Many donation drives also have a chance of catching people at a time when they don’t have any cash available. The idea of being able to support nonprofits through an application rather than try to explain why they can’t donate at the moment increases the likelihood that they will give any little bit than they can.

Additionally, nonprofit apps can take advantage of push notifications, which can help to keep donation goals and upcoming events front-of-mind for the target audience. It’s the phone’s features, like the camera, GPS and notification centers, that set it apart from other platforms.

“Being able to connect with your supporters through their personal mobile devices is probably the most powerful argument for creating a mobile app,” stated Fundraising IP contributor Marita Meegan. “When you take advantage of the fact that a smartphone is usual no more than a few feet from its user and your app takes advantage of all the capabilities of a mobile device, no PC or laptop can even come close to replicating the connectivity of a smartphone or tablet.”

Programs have to be fitted to nonprofits that use them
Not all applications are designed equally. Some solutions try to be everything to all organizations that use them. But the thing about it is that every entity – regardless of if they are in direct competition – operates very differently. Nonprofits have to make sure that the software they’re using is specifically designed for their individual needs.

Read More →