The Benefits of IT Managed Service Providers to Enterprises and Modern Business

The Benefits of IT Managed Service Providers to Enterprises and Modern Business

The benefits of utilizing an IT managed service provider for the modern enterprise go beyond saving money, time and complications driven by the lack of specialized technology resources. Allowing an information technology managed service provider to manage some or all of your IT work effort mitigates risk and dead weight loss associated with allocating internal unspecialized resources to projects outside of their skillset. As technology continues to evolve at an exponential pace, The Next Idea Technology team has the experience, knowledge and forward thinking mentality to keep you ahead of the business digital transformation curve.

Saving Money With an IT Managed Service Provider

Utilizing an IT managed services provider drives major reductions in operational costs and expenses associated with an organizations information technology capital spend. Given that a monthly or annual subscription based billing model is employed when engaging an MSP, it is easier to control extraneous costs associated with infrastructure, hardware, software and internal resources. Further, utilizing an IT managed services provider reduces overall costs for an organization by mitigating risks associated with unspecialized internal resources performing business critical tasks and processes.

Saving Time and Increasing Efficiency With an MSP

A managed service provider’s business model cuts to the heart of efficiency gains by tailoring customized service level agreements (SLA) to an organizations unique business and technical requirements. An SLA saves an organization time by allowing internal resources to focus only on tasks that they are experienced, trained and highly proficient in. This organizational laser focus increases overall efficiency and output by reducing wasted cycles spent on tasks outside of an organizations internal resources skillset.

Reducing Complexity and Mitigating Risk With an MSP

Engaging an MSP reduces an organizations complexity with working with countless vendors to fulfill their information technology needs. Recent regulations such as GDPR and the California Consumer Privacy Act of 2018 put a spotlight on 3rd party vendors and risks associated with external vendors. Consolidating key IT processes and work effort into a single IT managed service provider mitigates risk associated with utilizing multiple vendors resulting in increased compliance, reduced threat of litigation and greater visibility into IT and business operations.

Scaling Your Core Business With an MSP

It has been mentioned that engaging an MSP allows key internal resources to focus on tasks that they will perform best at. The result of this efficiency gain is the potential to allow these internal resources to focus on both core business functions that they are specialized in and other tasks such as innovation. An innovation outcome for an organization has the potential to decrease costs, increase revenue and increase brand value.

It is a sound argument to conclude that utilizing an IT managed service provider saves an organization money, time and mitigates risk associated with engaging numerous vendors to fulfill their information technology related business needs. Next Idea Technology has the experience, credentials and knowledge to bridge the gap with your current internal information technology department.

Your Web Page on their home screen:  The Power of Progressive Web Apps

Your Web Page on their home screen: The Power of Progressive Web Apps

Ever see that perfect sofa or a coffee table that has all the attributes, the color, the size, the price, but you can’t buy it yet before showing it to your better half?  And just when you pull out the page in front of that significant other to get their assent, there is no Wi-Fi and you’ve just run out of mobile data?  Yeah, we’ve all been there!

What if there was a way for you to have that whole page cached in your phone just like a native app that you can access and interact with regardless of the availability of net access.  I see you nodding your head.  Yes, me too!

Well, now you can do that with a recently introduced technology called Progressive Web Applications or PWA.  Even the recent update of Google Chrome since late 2018 has gotten into the game.

What the heck is PWA?

Progressive Web App or PWA is the modern version of advanced web functionality that allows you interact with what you were browsing through but more smoothly as a native app; in other words, taking a whole web browsing experience and encasing it into a native app like instance.  The PWAs can do this because they are actually web-apps that interact with their browser sites in the background and collect the data and the features to allow you to browse the site without having to constantly access the web server.

Some history:

PWAs and the term first emerged in June of 2015 after Alex Russell posted a blog post called, “Progressive Web Apps: Escaping Tabs Without Losing Our Soul”, about a discussion he had with another web engineer named Frances Berriman.  Over the past three years, however, many of the main players in the web sphere like Google, Mozilla, Microsoft, and Apple have supported and created infrastructure and tools to create your own PWAs.  Thus came the beginning of truly cross-platform apps.

How does a PWA do all that?

Good question.  Well, we know that the secret behind a native app functioning without internet (at times) is that when you install a native app on your phone it captures and installs all the necessary components on your phone.  The same way a PWA essentially puts both the program and the essential data on your phone.  However, a PWA is better in the sense that along with being able to get the HTML, the CSS and the image files from your browser’s cache, a PWA can be made to keep the data of the page updated via network calls.  This is accomplished through the Service worker.

How are PWAs different from normal web apps and web pages?

Unlike browsing a web page interaction with a PWA is:

  • Fast Loading: Unlike a web page in a browser that relies on getting data from a web server and thus is slow loading either due to your own device’s lacking capacity or the Internet speed, PWAs load almost instantly because they encapsulate both the page and the data right in your phone and keep the page data updated with background processing. So, loading a web page via PWAs is a jiffy.
  • Smooth running and integrated: Unlike the clunky and often slow websites and even sometimes the native apps, with their endless splash screens, PWAs are seamless, with quick navigation, silky smooth animation, and fast scrolling. In addition, PWAs are quick to adapt content to your device’s size and make all operational components fit and act according to your device naturally.
  • Highly reliable: With the majority of modern users living on their phones, and other devices, PWAs are highly responsive and reliable. With background processing and caching, PWAs will not only work without the endless loading and lagging of bulky apps, or the tethers and chains of network availability.
  • Secure: The PWA standards require them to run HTTPS, which in turn ensures the security of the connection between a PWA and its users. Making sure that the exchanged information is secure and not tampered with.
  • Engaging: PWAs feature background synching with on-network data to ensure an engaging, relevant, timely and contextually sound experience with notifications that are up-to-date even when the browser is not working.

What constitutes a genuine PWA?

In his now infamous blog post back in 2015, Alex Russell set out with only three requirements to qualify any web app as a PWA, namely:

– You need to be running under HTTPS.
– You need a Web App Manifest, a JSON file that describes the baseline attributes of the PWA.
– You need a Service Worker: Something that updates the encapsulated data in the background.

PWA Service Worker

Running Apps over HTTPS:

In order to make personal information transactions implicitly, like removing the whole payment process of endless entering of your payment form in various websites or other exchange of information, it is critical to have all PWA interactions occur over HTTPS.

A sample Web App Manifest (via Github)

What does the Web App Manifest do?

This JSON configuration file is a detailed document of how a PWA will look, install and behave when used.  This is very important to give the PWA that feel of a native app and to provide the gliding and responsive feel that working in a window-within-window of a browser lacks.  In addition, a Web App Manifest could also become a tool to allow customization by the user or other features that may be used to enhance the interaction and make it engaging.

How does a Service Worker work?

A Service worker is a stealth JavaScript code that a browser runs in the background independent of a web page or user interaction.  This along with your browser’s cached API manages something called a push notification which in turn is a flexible mechanism that runs in the background to interact and update the changes on the website’s page to your device.  To put it simply if that sofa that you wanted to buy got sold while you were going to show it to your better half, it’ll tell you that before you get her all excited with or without access to the internet there.

You Get What You Pay For: The True cost of Software Development

You Get What You Pay For: The True cost of Software Development

In no sphere of life is the adage that you get what you pay for truer than in software development. Turns out that the adage is no respecter of persons (or brands). Even large corporations like the Boeing Company have to deal with the after‑effects of “cheap” software.

cost and value difference in software development

Following the crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines’ 737 Max planes that killed 346 people, multiple investigations are ongoing to try to determine the causes of the crashes. The Max’s software, more than anything, else has been the prime suspect from day one, and there are suggestions that this suspicion may be accurate. Indications from the investigations increasingly point to poorly designed software. Then came revelations that Boeing outsourced the development of the Max’s software to $9/hour engineers from developing countries, ostensibly to reduce costs. Which raises the question: At what point is it safe to prioritize cost over quality?

To be clear, that question is not meant to cast aspersions on the skills and expertise of software developers from developing countries. It is not even meant to advocate for expensive software. Its goal is to revisit that common tension between quality and price that everyone involved in software development knows so well, whether as a client, as a developer or even as an end user. Ultimately, we should be able to establish what the focus really should be when it comes to software development.

Is there value in custom software for an organization?

In a world saturated with off‑the‑shelf software that may or may not suit your organization’s needs, custom software can be the key differentiator that sets your brand apart. It offers a high degree of tailoring that distinguishes your products and services in the marketplace and represents a unique competitive advantage that innovative companies recognize and value. While many organizations recognize this fact, they do not give as much consideration to what it involves beyond price.

Avoiding the price-quality tradeoff

The truth is, software development is complex. While the initial ask for a particular project may appear simple enough, the nature of software development is such that there are always several unknowns that will only arise after the project is initiated. That simple ask may be turn out to be so much harder to implement than any of the parties initially envisaged.

The developer must therefore factor in multiple considerations, some of which – at least on the face of it – can be contradictory. This is especially true when it comes to cost and quality of the end product. While it is immediately obvious in some cases that what the client wants cannot be delivered at the price they wish to pay, this is not always the case. What should the developer and the client then do?

They must prioritize clarity. Every design and build process should be premised on what the client wants, rather than on what the developer thinks they want or should want. It is therefore important to understand the client’s needs, who the end users are and the problem the software is designed to solve. Based on this sound knowledge, the developer can offer accurate costing.

This is where a good Software Requirements Specification (SRS) becomes critical. The SRS will help both parties flesh out important considerations like quality attributes, external interfaces, required performance levels and design constraints among others. When the client provides a good SRS, the amount of time and effort required to achieve desired software goals is minimized and cost is reduced. This is just one piece of the puzzle, however, there are other considerations, particularly for the organization.

How to get it right

Faced with the pressure to maximize profits, some organizations make price their number one priority. They may do this by choosing to use developers from developing countries who charge very little, as with the Boeing case referred to above. Or they may pick the cheapest quote for the job. They could also try to cut corners with the specs. Regardless of the cost cutting measure, research shows that when an organization makes price the number one priority in software development, the result is rarely good.

That’s because whenever developers are forced to satisfy an untenable price point, the tendency is to sacrifice sound software development practices, which leads to poor quality software. So it really is true that you get what you pay for when it comes to software development.

Does this then mean that an organization must break the bank in order to get good quality software? Not necessarily. There are certain steps an organization can take that will ensure it gets good quality software while managing the cost.

  • It is important to drop the-cheaper-the-better attitude. If you are quoted a price that seems too good to be true, it most likely is. Upfront costs are significantly higher for quality software.
  • Requirements and design should be clearly communicated. If a developer does not clearly understand what is being built, its purpose, and how it will integrate with your current ecosystem, costs are likely to increase as it may take several rounds of back and forth to get it right. Therefore, ensure you are clear right off the bat about your requirements and design.
  • Prioritize key features – It is important to understand the key features that will offer the most ROI to your organization and value to end users. By prioritizing these features, you can implement them earlier, which will make your software immediately relevant and reduces cost.
  • Selecting the right development team for your project is key, so choose your team well. Good software developers have in‑depth knowledge of the latest technologies, are responsive, quick to problem solve, and most importantly, are better and faster at coding, and their code is more accurate. This is critical to cost saving because if the code is not done correctly, you will have to deal with bugs in your code, and the more bugs you have to deal with, the more money you have to spend.
  • Use reusable code, which saves time and money, resulting in up to a 30% decrease in development costs. By focusing on creating software that works for your entire organization rather than the needs of a single department, you can achieve significant cost savings.
  • Research the average cost for developing the software you want and be prepared spend what is required to get the quality you need. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Conclusion

There is no doubt that in software development, as in most aspects of business, there is often a tradeoff between price and quality. An organization can be tempted to simply go for the lowest price they can find or forgo custom software in favor of off‑the‑shelf software. However, either of these options do not necessarily mean paying less. Going for the lowest priced developer can end in disaster as the poor-quality code they present you could cost you several times the initial cost to correct. Similarly, custom software often can be the more cost‑effective solution when compared with commercial off the shelf software, which need to be purchased, modified and maintained.

Choosing the right developers and technology will play a crucial role in determining whether your technology investment offers you a worthwhile return or it becomes a drain on your bottom line.