05 Top Ways to Bridge the Gap between IT and Customers

The idea that the IT staff remains tucked in the back room surrounded by machines, emerging only when some technical problem occurs that no one else understands, is rapidly becoming a myth. Today’s IT shops are moving toward greater collaboration, with the understanding that when users and IT work together, better systems result.

Increased collaboration between IT and customers is best-accomplished through greater integration with the rest of the business. This organizational collaboration can not only improve the technologies being used, but also help IT pros advance their careers through better soft skills and more recognition.

Here are four ways your organization can bridge the gap between IT and its customers, whether they’re business users or company clients.

Partner IT staff with other departments

In an organization with multiple departments, IT typically serves a function for all of them. One of the best ways to bridge tech people with the rest of the company is to assign IT staff to a specific department, allowing them to partner with a business unit and focus on solutions for that unit.

By working directly with another department, IT can solve problems more efficiently. In these types of partnerships, technology may actually be the last solution IT turns to — the partner should first consider whether the issue can be solved by bringing in different people, or implementing new processes. This improves IT efficiency, reduces costs, and diminishes wasted time and resources.

The partner approach can also help IT professionals enhance their careers. Opportunities to work directly with another department allow them to broaden their soft skills and increase problem-solving abilities, while exposing them to different processes within the company.

Consider decentralizing

In larger organizations where IT is responsible for keeping multiple departments up and running, creating centers of innovation can vastly improve processes and efficiency. Build small, specialized IT teams, each focused on working directly with one department, and maintain a core IT department to oversee the individual teams.

This type of structure works best in organizations that rely on innovation and integration, such as medical facilities, corporations, and large-scale or industrial production. A decentralized IT program also encourages tech employees to participate directly in other aspects of the organization, and develop a greater understanding of their focus areas to streamline operations and drive innovation.

Connect IT with end users

Even integrated IT staff are often confined to working within the organization, and rarely have the opportunity to interact with the people who use the company’s products or services. By facilitating interaction between IT employees and end users, you can encourage fresh ideas and stronger motivations to perform.

There are several ways to connect IT people with customers. Regular visits to other business units is a good start, but you can also send IT staff out with sales reps or other external-facing employees to shadow their interactions, or even organize business functions where the staff and customers have the chance to mingle. When IT is able to see the impact their work has on real people, they’re more engaged and motivated to deliver the best possible experience for end users.

Come out of the cave

In small to mid-sized companies and more integrated work environments that don’t necessarily have many departments, IT employees should be encouraged to leave the back room and spend time on the shop floor, so to speak. The more interaction IT has with the rest of the employees and the rest of the business, the better their understanding of their own function within the company.

Through direct observation of business processes, IT professionals can often spot issues that no one had been able to pinpoint previously, and make changes that will improve efficiency. Encourage IT staff to ask other employees questions and listen carefully to the responses, so they can develop a sense of the real needs of the business — and come up with more creative ways to meet them.

Regardless of company size, frequent interaction with other employees and end users can help IT professionals further their careers. They’re able to develop skills that are underused in direct IT work, and demonstrate that tech people are people, too — breaking down the stereotypes and perceptions that would otherwise prevent them from advancing.

04 10 Key Ingredients for a Successful User Experience

As the digital landscape becomes increasingly crowded across every channel, and users continue to tune out traditional advertising, it’s more challenging than ever to differentiate online. For this reason, more companies are seeking IT pros who are able to provide exceptional user experiences.

What makes a great user experience? Here are 10 important considerations for making your websites, apps, or programs user-friendly — and more likely to succeed.

1. Familiarity

The majority of companies still use Windows tools and operating systems for one primary reason: It’s what they’re used to. Familiarity is a key component for a successful user experience. Basically, it means that accomplishing something within the environment should be obvious and not require explanation, such as a back button — a familiar tool that’s used in every Internet browser.

2. Responsive feedback

Websites, programs, and applications often include a number of micro-tasks, such as login screens. These tasks should include validation through feedback whenever possible — such as notifying users when they’ve successfully logged in. Without relevant and responsive feedback, users end up focusing intensely on micro-tasks and become frustrated.

3. Smooth performance

It goes without saying that performance is a crucial issue for user experience. If a website, program, or app suffers from performance issues, the user perceives the product as poorly designed or malfunctioning, and won’t be likely to continue using that product.

4. Intuitiveness

This attribute relates to the level or degree to which the use of an application, website, or program is obvious to the user. In addition to an intuitive interface, efficiency in features and functionality can enhance the user experience — particularly if there are more advanced tools that can be used with greater efficiency as the user becomes more familiar with the product.

5. Utility

Products that are actually helpful to users in accomplishing real goals deliver a better user experience. If a program, website, or application solves a business problem but disregards user needs, the experience is diminished for the user.

6. Relevant content delivery

A satisfying user experience should include relevant and valuable content, delivered in a timely manner. Ecommerce giant Amazon has mastered this aspect of the user experience with features like product recommendations, customer reviews, and a powerful and intuitive search function that deliver the right content at the right time.

7. Internal consistency

The user experience is enhanced when an interface or application handles similar tasks in similar ways, making the overall experience more intuitive and shortening the learning curve. In addition to internally consistent functionality, consistence in visual design is vital for presenting a professional and well-organized product.

8. External consistency

This refers to the visual appearance of a program, website, application, or interface aligning with its purpose and matching the expectations of its target audience — such as a polished and professional look for a website offering legal services, versus a fun and colorful theme for a site offering products for children.

9. Contextually appropriate

The interface for the user experience should match the environment in which the product will be used. For example, a product used for military applications should be more compact and rugged than one used in a restaurant, where the environment allows for a larger and more detailed interface.

10. Trustworthiness

In many cases, there is an implicit trust when users first work with an application or interface that the product will work as intended. Any issues that impact user engagement, such as error pages or non-working features, can erode that trust and diminish the user experience.

Published in IT Infrastructure

Have Anything Left in Your Yearly Tech Budget Heres How to Spend it

IT budgets can be tricky to handle. Ideally, you’d like to have things perfectly planned, so at the end of the year your budget balance is zero — but that happens rarely, if ever. Often you’ll have a little left over as the year comes to an end. So do you spend it wastefully, or leave it sitting there and risk having your budget cut next year because upper management decides you don’t need as much?

Fortunately, there are options for a middle ground. Here are some quick ideas on using minimal remaining IT budget funds to create maximum impact at the end of the year.

Invest in team mobility

Company-provided mobile devices can increase your team’s productivity, along with their satisfaction and loyalty. They also make a great holiday gift. If you have enough left in your budget, investing in top-of-the-line tablets or smartphones for your IT team is a smart move, helping to reward employees’ hard work while also making them more connected and productive.

Pop up your marketing

If you’re a smaller company or consulting firm, chances are your marketing is the lowest priority on your budget list. But conversely, your business can’t grow if you don’t invest in marketing. When you’re facing a year-end budget surplus, turning those funds into a marketing investment is one of the best gifts you can give your business — with a good chance of netting you an increased budget for next year.

Expand your cloud

Even if you’re not using the cloud much right now, you will be soon. The tech industry as a whole is on a rapid march toward cloud platforms and services, and as support for legacy solutions dwindles, the cloud is becoming a greater necessity.

If you’re already using cloud services on a limited basis, now is the perfect time to expand. Use your budget surplus to increase your cloud storage or bandwidth, or add more features to your existing platforms and services. The more agile your cloud, the better your business will perform in a cloud-based near future.

Invest in open source

One of the main attractions of open source platforms is that they’re free, or at least significantly lower in cost than popular enterprise solutions — so why would you invest money in them? Well, if you’re currently operating with proprietary solutions, it’s going to cost you to migrate to open source. But the benefits of moving to open source platforms are numerous, and the investment will pay for itself in the long run.

Open source has evolved from a complex toy to a major enterprise force, and many open source platforms are more reliable, more secure, and more robust than legacy solutions. Look into the options, and consider investing your surplus budget in an improved and more cost-effective platform.

Untangle your cable nests

Over time, server rooms can start to look like someone held a spaghetti party and forgot to clean up. If you have cabling strewn around the floor, and cracked or dried-out cable housing on some of your older cables, it’s time to upgrade — and a year-end budget surplus is the perfect excuse to handle this task.

Depending on your budget amount, you can either purchase replacement cables and have your team install them as needed, or hire a professional to come in and clean up in one pass.

Back up your backups

Being in IT means you already have a backup solution — but is it enough? Backup redundancy is often a small investment that can result in substantial returns. No backup is failsafe, and data loss can cause catastrophic consequences that often lead to business shutdown.

Investing in extra backup is never a waste of funds. At minimum, you should have both an online and a local backup solution in place, with scalable capabilities that can handle more than expected increases. If you already have this, you might consider a fireproof local backup solution or remote physical backup to guard against theft or natural disasters.

Still need more help coming up with solutions for a surplus end of year budget? Contact the IT pros at The Armada Group for more ideas and help implementing these changes!

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Published in IT Infrastructure

 

Looking for Java Developer Jobs in Mountain View?

Java has been around since the 90’s, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the world’s foremost object oriented programming languages. With the tech boom the last decade or so, IT has positively exploded once the average person realized how revolutionary it really is. Along with this explosion was the abundance of new positions.  Now, twenty years later (has it been that long?) Java has evolved into a lucrative and defined (no pun intended) field.

As there is much debate as to the differences between programmers and developers, we will report numbers for both. Here are some of Palo Alto’s salaries for these positions.

If you’re new to Java, and have very little or no experience, it is a great place to begin – and with an average salary of $66,600 for a Java Programmer I, there are certainly worse entry-level career paths. The lower 25% still brings in $59,500, whereas the upper 25% yields $75,500. Not too shabby, Palo Alto, not too shabby.

After 3-5 years, it’s time to move up in the world to Java Programmer II. The mean income rises to $83,400, and the lower quartile rakes in $73,500. Finally, the highest quartile brings home $94,300.

As a Java Programmer III, or Senior Programmer (generally 5-10 years in) the average jumps to $103,600. The upper and lower quartiles are $14,700 and $93,000 respectively. There are certainly worse ways to earn a living.

On the Development side, the average is $99,000, with $83,100 and $110,600 as the outliers. (One can debate about what “Developer” means, but the general consensus is that developers attend more meetings. While it may or may not be true, it does pay more, to be sure.) Most people in this position have 3-5 years’ experience and a strong background in Java programming.

As a Senior, there is (naturally) a sizable pay increase. As a senior Java Developer, one can reasonably expect to be offered $114,800, although between $101,700 and $132,800 are all possible, depending on experience and company. The top 10% net $149,148, though it’s doubtful their experience level is 5-*10 years like the rest of the senior positions.

Regardless of where you are in your career, Java is an incredibly important computing language that pays well, especially around Silicon Valley. And we want to help you get there.

At The Armada Group, we specialize in elite, on-demand talent. We work with some of the most innovative ad fastest growing companies in the world, and we recruit for a variety of roles and positions. If you are looking for java developer jobs in Mountain View, contact us today.

 

Published in Recruiting

When considering the hottest skills for software developers, the first thing that comes to mind is usually programming languages, platforms, and technology types. But you may be surprised to learn that the most important skills for developers might not be the kind you use for writing code.

The reason is that many software developers have the same technical skills set—but not all of them have the right non-technical skills. For today’s employers, good soft skills are in high demand. In a field crowded with candidates, these skills can help you stand out and land the career you want.

Dealing with people

The notion of the awkward, anti-social IT person that everyone tolerates because they can talk just fine to the machines is heading for extinction. No matter what kind of work you do—unless you’re a solo entrepreneur with a huge, independent cash flow—your software development career is going to involve other people.

Employers are looking for software developers who can work well not only with the rest of the development team, but also co-workers in other departments, managers and executives, investors, board members, and even customers. These people skills involve tact and diplomacy, a willingness to listen and take feedback, and often, the ability to explain complicated technical concepts in non-technical terms.

Problem solving

This is an absolutely critical skill for any software developer, because it is the definition of the work you do. No matter how complex or time-consuming the work, every software development project is about solving problems.

Software itself is something that solves a problem for the end user. Developing it means solving a series of problems on the way to the final solution. Without good problem-solving skills, you can’t be a good software developer. This is why technical interviews are often so difficult—employers want to know that you can solve problems, preferably quickly and creatively.

Self-directed learning

Technology is changing rapidly. Every day, some portions of technology decline toward obsolescence, while other portions rise to take their place. For this reason, employers prefer software developers who can learn new things on their own, quickly.

Even more importantly, you should be able to demonstrate your enthusiasm for learning and trying new technologies. It’s often easier than you might think to learn a new programming language, framework, or platform—because in most cases, you’ll have a decent foundation in place. Earning new certifications or developing side projects using different technologies is a good way to show an employer that you’re all about learning.

Naming things

In software development, naming is important. You’ll often deal with reading and understanding code that includes components named by someone else, and when you write code, you’ll have to come up with several names for objects, concepts, and data along the way. These names need to help other people understand your code—and serve as a directory for yourself as you make changes.

You can impress an employer if you hand them a piece of code you’ve written, and they’re able to follow it through your logical naming methods, variables, and classes. Naming is a skill you need, both to make yourself more employable, and to improve as a software developer.

Developers need to have a solid foundation in some core technical skills. But when it comes to getting hired, you’ll also need these essential soft skills that enable you to work within a team and demonstrate your value to employers. Be sure to invest your time in improving your soft skills as well as your tech knowledge.

If you are looking for software developer employment in Sunnyvale, contact us today.

Published in Recruiting