A memorable – if not a little disturbing – simile once used by an industry legend during his seminar.
Sensing the discomfort of the crowd, he frowned & bellowed, “Well, you know what I mean, right?” Not a clue, but you certainly have my attention… “It’s like being able to tell the gender of a baby chicken just by looking at it.”
Apparently it’s a subtle art (in the loosest sense of the word) developed with many years of experience, one you can attain to determine chicken gender, or, more usefully in our line of work, developer quality.
I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t know anyone that has the ten thousand hours required to master that skill.
Anyway, we’d prefer to hire whole coops, sorry, teams of developers for a number of reasons.
- The developers already work together so have a quicker startup time.
- Cross-functional teams will be able to fulfil all the roles required for project delivery – UX, development, QA, DevOps & so on.
- They usually have a project project manager, scrum master or coach who’ll take responsibility for helping the team organise their efforts, report on progress & deliver the project.
Hiring teams is a completely different proposition to a single developer – we can’t make them all do whiteboard interviews. Here are some of the things we look for & ask at Digital Village when hiring great development teams.
Show us what you’ve done (please)
Stand & deliver. We’re technology agnostic & focus on the best processes for delivering reliable value in. In short, we spend less time looking at tech teams work & more looking at the projects they’ve completed.
Are the projects ‘significant’ & did they challenge the team’s ability? ‘Significant’ is of course subjective, but we’re looking for teams with strong capability & ambition.
Are the projects accompanied by glowing testimonials? Unfortunately self-assessment can be a little, let’s say, biased from time to time.
Now let’s talk about it
A curated brochure of past products is nice, but we aren’t window shopping here. We need to dig into things a little (lot) more. A good ol’ fashioned interview with some representatives from the team is a perfect way to find out:
- What challenges the team faced while building one of their showcased projects & how they resolved them.
- What they enjoyed about the project. Seriously, we’re all supposed to enjoy this or what’s the point?!
- Which projects they’re most proud of & why (forgetting pride is of course a Sin).
Abiding by the old proverb, “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it,” & without dabbling in amateur psychoanalysis, there’s a lot more you can take away from the interview.
Are they excited to talk about the projects? Do their eyes light up when explaining technical triumphs. Perhaps an eye-roll when describing the challenge of containing scope with an ambitious client?
Honestly, the last thing we want to see is ambivalence. We want to see anything to show a deep engagement with all the challenges (technical & otherwise) that arise during a complex project.
If they pass both stages with flying colours, hire them & give them everything they want.
Ok, just kidding. I’d feel very hesitant to hire a team purely on this basis. So, I hear you ask, what are the key questions Digital Village asks before engaging with development teams..?
How do they know they’re building (whatever it may be) correctly?
A simple yet serious question. How do they know what they’re building works as it should? It’s an opportunity to understand their practices, processes & also attitude towards producing quality software.
The answer, of course, should involve a seven letter word that causes more headaches than most: ‘testing’. But what kind of testing? QA staff are great & will pick out errors like a sniper, but automated developer tests are also important.
The bravest programmer you’ll meet (& the one you want to meet) is running a gauntlet of unit, feature & integration tests. “Does my change break anything?”, is just an automated test run away.
Adopting such methods allow teams to stride quickly & ambitiously because the safety net of automated testing is always waiting to catch them after a misstep.
How do they know they’re building the right thing?
At least this one’s simple… “it’s what the client asked for”. Get out.
Every project is a big investment for a client, so how can we be sure the investment is going to pay off?
At Digital Village we have a huge range of clients: start-up to enterprise, tech wizards to non-tech founders. With each client, we assume full responsibility for helping them understand if the proposed project is going to make their business more successful.
If not, we can steer them in a better direction even if it means having difficult (but always positive) conversations. Clients come to us looking for guidance & it’s fundamental to our service that we find the right solution.
So our question for any team is, “how will the client know if what they’ve asked for is what they really need?”
If they reply, “the client agreed to the specification, if the code meets the spec then they’re getting what they want,” they’re not the kind of team we personally like to work with.
I’d love to hear how the team proactively validates work delivered to a client, their strategies for eliciting feedback & how they manage that moment when a client says, “wait a minute, this isn’t going to work”.
So, where is everyone?
Long gone are the days of expectation & necessity for singular locations. We’ve worked with all kinds of teams: onshore, offshore & a hybrid of both. So far, we’ve found each model brings its own benefits & challenges.
If a team has offshore members, great! Some of our current teams that contain offshore members produce incredible results at a fantastic price-point.
Traditionally, communication is seen as a potential pitfall for offshore teams, but our success is due to amazing team leads who are responsible for communicating with project stakeholders locally & team members offshore… a conduit, if you like.
So let’s hear about who is responsible for communicating the client’s needs to the team & relays the team’s questions, concerns & suggestions.
What’s the silent killer of projects?
To be clear, I’ve never asked anyone, “what’s the silent killer of projects?”. One, because it’s over dramatic, & two, there are always symptoms.
I would love to know, however, what the team thinks is most likely to derail a project. Although answers will vary, if this were a game of Family Feud I’d expect “communication problems” to be a top answer.
As Bernard Shaw, a man that revolutionised comedic drama, said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.
So what are their individual thoughts regarding communication? How could they be sure a client has understood them (& vice versa)? Perhaps most importantly, will they be willing to take on the commitment to communication that Digital Village does?
Dev teams are often missing one vital piece of the puzzle. The client. Now we aren’t expecting 40hrs a week, but we always try to bring clients & users into the project team. Invite clients to join meetings & the same communication channels as the rest of the team.
The last word(s)
So, a case study & an interview. We’re hardly rattling the established pillars of HR & recruitment with this one, are we? But what it all boils down to is can we answer the following questions with a reasonable degree of certainty:
- Is the team proficient enough to produce technically sound work?
- Do they care enough about their client to provide them with results that make them more successful & do it in a way that makes the client feel empowered during the process?
I’d be happy to work with anyone who can do that.
…A question faced by all entrepreneurs but particularly ‘non-technical’ founders that require tech solutions. Even knowing where to start can be a challenge. Having struggled with previous tech partners, Rupert Ballinger, CEO & founder of Wundar, recruited Digital Village to guide him through the process of developing their private mentorship platform.
Rupert had spent the previous 12 to 18 months conducting customer research & was sure his private mentorship platform served a real purpose. It was time to start developing a product but not coming from a tech background put him in a daunting position.
“It was challenging,” he recalls. “It was hard being a non-technical founder. I had trouble finding the right technology partner to help build Wundar & take me on that journey. I was really looking for someone to sort of hold my hand and help educate me and my team and give me the opportunity to learn about what we’re actually doing and how to do it.”
Rupert had raised a considerable amount of seed money but spent much of it with previous agencies building prototypes (too much by his own admission) that continued to fail. He felt previous tech partners were too focussed on the tech itself rather than helping him develop his initial idea into a product that solved a real-world problem.
“It’s key to find a partner like Digital Village, who can really roll up their sleeves and get into the trenches with you at that early stage and really help you on that discovery phrase. It’s the biggest challenge & I think it’s the software agencies that need to be responsible for helping startup finders find that market fit without spending too much money.”
Sprinting To Success
After an initial meeting with Digital Village, founder Jason and DV Producer Jithesh hosted a workshop with Rupert to understand Wundar, its requirements and the problem space. An end product was then mapped out & broken down into four smaller modules.
Digital Village utilises a 20-Day methodology that divides projects into 20 day iterations (or sprints). Each 20 day sprint has predetermined outcomes for a set cost. The agile methodology reduces risk and wastage & ensures the correct product is built from the start through continuous testing & feedback throughout the process. Although general outcomes are predetermined, each module is flexible and based on both the needs of the business for the month & results of the previous module.
Wundar UI on IOS
Module 1 // Proof Of Concept: Functions such as onboarding organisations, user registration, profile set up. Mod 1 allowed Wundar to get early users on board & experience the app to determine what the next module of work should include.
Module 2 // Add Social Media Features: Introduced a newsfeed, the ability to create content posts with text, image, and video. The MVP was released to both the App Store & Google Play Store.
Module 3 // Build ‘Events’ Feature & Upgrade Messaging: Real-time chatting was added with the ability to share images & documents. Improvements/ fixes were made to features developed in Modules 1 & 2.
Module 3a // Trial user feedback was gathered & improvements made based on the user experience of the new & existing features.
Module 4 // Private Groups Within A Private Network: A group chat feature was also added & further improvements made. Wundar now had a fully working product.
“I’ve heard too many stories where startups and founders run out of money, close the doors because they spent too much in the initial prototype stages. They couldn’t get into the market; they couldn’t even get it to the market… and they go back to the workforce. It’s a sad story & I almost got to that point. It’s a bit of a miracle I got through. So that’s why I feel so strongly about how important the agile methodology is that Digital Village has adopted.”
Having met all requirements, Wundar has launched as two native apps on the App Store & Google Play Store. The service is being trialled with three different groups & 50 new users are being onboarded each week. As a partner of Wundar, Digital Village are continuing to develop further iterations of the mentorship platform & share Rupert’s excitement for the future.
“We’ve got a great product and two native apps. It’s been cost-effective & we think we’ve got real market fit, so it’s really exciting,” adds Rupert.
Who is Wundar?
Wundar is a private mentoring network that allows you to connect and engage with your own community in a safe and secure environment. Communicate privately, stay up to date with community news, and search your network for mentors.
Sketched prototype utilising design sprints
Amazon Web Solution
Angular Java Script
Private Social Network (invite only)
Give us a call or stop by our door anytime, we try to answer all enquiries within 24 hours on business days.
We are open from 9am – 5pm week days.
Suite 6.01, Level 6/201 Kent St, Sydney NSW 2000
“What began with dozens of students has now morphed into 4000 students across 47 schools and 290 classes taking part in physical activity and engaging with Australian history geography in culture.”
Client: NSW Dept of Education School Sports Unit
From increased concentration to developing positive lifelong habits, the benefits of physical activity in young people is widely recognised. What NSW high school teacher Emily McLachlan didn’t anticipate, however, was the immediate success of her ‘Race Around Australia’ challenge – a virtual tour of the nation as student’s runs were plotted on an interactive map. Digital Village created a web application to help thousands of NSW students race around Australia and sprint towards their academic goals.
Concerned by falling levels of activity amongst young people, Emily McLachlan wanted to design a physical challenge that would engage students. The premise was simple: ‘Race Around Australia’ (albeit virtually). Student’s runs were plotted on a virtual map so they could see their progress around the country. The innovative challenge garnered interest from students, teachers and education departments but was quickly overwhelmed by the need to manually update the map each day. In order to achieve her goal – creating a challenge that every student in every school could participate in – Digital Village was approached to develop a tech solution.
We hosted a workshop in order to fully understand the specific needs and requirements of our client. The outcome was to, firstly, create a web application that allowed students of all ages to sign up, enter their run distance and see their progress across Australia. As they raced across the country, however, content relevant to their studies would be displayed as they passed points of interest. A competitive element was also added to keep students engaged. Classes and even schools could race against each other, seeing their cumulative totals nudge their school crest around Australia.
The web application we developed has allowed our client’s vision to become a viral success. What began with dozens of students has now morphed into 4000 students across 47 schools and 290 classes taking part in physical activity and engaging with Australian history geography in culture. ‘Race Around Australia’ has been covered in national media and its creator, Emily McLachlan, proudly recognised in the Learning Edge search for NSW’s most innovative educator. Most importantly, however, teachers have reported students being happier and more focussed after their runs alongside the social benefits of students working a cohesive team goal, to ‘Race Around Australia.’
NSW students have now run a combined 166,000KM with Race Around Australia, which is 6.5 times around Australia.
Want to hear more?[hubspot portal=”4736889″ id=”2037e462-ce71-4969-913e-db8d854b4ae4″ type=”form”]
The world is changing,
Employment is changing,
The way we work is changing,
The flexibility people want, is the flexibility organisations need to stay relevant and competitive.
7% of Australians find work through the gig economy. This way of working is expanding around the world as people look for flexibility, choice and autonomy in their work;life balance. Global Consulting Firm, Deloitte, summarised in a recent research paper;
“The composition of the workforce is changing dramatically. As alternative work arrangements become more common, how can organizations appeal to, engage with, and drive value through workers of all different types?”
Within their research they found that 42 percent of the survey respondents said that their organizations are primarily made up of salaried employees, and employers expect to dramatically increase their dependence on contract, freelance, and gig workers over the next few years.
Essentially, companies are moving away from established work forces and moving to the more flexible engagement options to both be more competitive but also to attract the talent they need.
What a beautiful opportunity for the world
Here we have an opportunity to empower people to enjoy their work and work in such away that is inline with who they are and how they want to live their life, and at the same time provide organisations with the flexibility, agility and expertise they need to stay relevant and competitive.
The raising of consciousness
As technology has been evolving, so have people.
People are searching for more in life. More meaningful work, more contribution, favourable life experiences, more happiness in their day-to-day and ultimately searching for answers to the fundamental questions of life.
This can be seen by the ever-growing self-help industry and the expanding interest in alternative spiritual practices. Meditation is now near normality and yoga studios are brimming with those in search of inner peace and understanding.
You’ve heard it before; the common story of a professional climbing the ladder well into their 40’s, finally reaching the top only to throw it all away in search of something more meaningful. This realisation of ‘time and purpose’ seems to be discovered earlier in careers than ever before.
Professionals are looking for alternative ways to have both a successful career and live the life they want to live. Traditionally, it was one or the other, impossible to have both within the confounds of organisational structures and corporate hierarchy. That is no longer the case.
The project economy
As people are valuing their time more and taking steps to find more meaningful work, many are looking to contracting, freelancing and project-based work for more choice and flexibility.
However, this can often mean losing out on the benefits of employment, such as friendship among co-workers, training and development, culture and belongingness.
The importance of human connection
It is an innate human need for people to be together and to feel connected to others. It has been at the core of our survival for thousands of years and although we as people love our tech and being online, ‘the 3rd screen’ has crept in between the relationship of people which as a result left people feeling lonely. (ironic when there are more people in the world than ever before). Studies carried out in Australia suggest that loneliness is so pervasive that it may be highlighted as the next public health crisis.
So how can we have independence and connection at the same time?
Throughout 2019, Digital Village has been exploring the concept of “freelancing cross functioning teams” working on a project basis. Projects are defined by business outcomes with clear metrics to measure the level of success.
We have found this way of working to be more enjoyable, more rewarding and more effective for the client. Because, there is more accountability, more responsibility, more dependance and reliance on the professional to get the job done. The team structure is important because the responsibility is shared among the small team and people are eager to work together and be supported by each other. There is no option to hide behind the large curtains of the corporate brand and pass responsibilities to others.
The end. Or not…
It’s a crazy world out there, things can happen incredibly fast and anything is possible. Both good and bad. The beautiful thing is that we have a choice and have the power to create the future we want for ourselves and for the planet.
Life is too short to not enjoy our work, and the world needs our work to contribute in a positive way. What you do matters.
What about you?
Are you a professional in IT or digital? Are you interested in learning more about joining a Digital Village team and working on projects?
Or are you within an organisation and feel that a Digital Village Project Team might be a good solution for an upcoming project?
A People first approach to running tech projects
People are the centre of everything we do. Friends, family, community, business, economy.
Although we live in a digital world, we are still people. The purpose of these Meetups is for us as people, people in the technology space, (whether that be building it or relying on it for our businesses) to share and learn from one another and hear perspectives from both client and developer sides to help us all run better projects together.
In this Meetup we explored some common scenarios where people are at the centre of the problem, not the technology. We then re-group to sit down and examine each scenario in a little more detail.
Each participant is given a script with a character to play.
On your card you will see a character and persona of your Village alter-ego. You have a problem you are trying to solve or a job you are looking for. Take a walk around our makeshift Village to find a person that matches your needs.
If you meet a person and they are not the person your looking for, move on to asking the next person nearby. You should have a card that provides leading questions to ask the other person.
Once you have matched with someone, and have completed the questionnaire, write that person’s name at the top of that meeting for later. And then move onto the next conversation.
1. Ecommerce Post-Life Cat Shop
Jenny has an Ecommerce site selling post-life cats. Her taxidermy felines from all around the world were a big hit last year but this year she has seen that her cart abandonment rate has increased to over 80% for the last 6 months.
- Might this scenario result in a successful outcome for both parties?
- Are desirable outcomes/results likely to be achieved?
- Feeling of trust and partnership?
- Likelihood of future engagement?
2. Mobile App for a Startup
Malcolm has been working with a developer to build this mobile App that enables people over 70 to learn how to skateboard. The project has been deemed complete bt there is some bugs that he has found and wants to talk to the developer about fixing them.
- Might this scenario result in a successful outcome for both parties?
- Are desirable outcomes/results likely to be achieved?
- Feeling of trust and partnership?
- Likelihood of future engagement?
We hold these Meetups to share and learn from each other to make the journey an enjoyable and fulfilling experience that results in success for our personal and business lives. Whether your a freelancer, agency, startup or established business. We all experience the same problem; People. The right people for the job, the right people to work with, communicating effectively to people, and understanding people. (We may never fully understand people).