Author: mimin


New Challenge in the Software Industry

July 28, 2017

Software

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During the past 30 years the world went through a very dynamic technological transformation. In retrospective, it can be stated without exaggeration that the emergence of electronic devices and the Internet have greatly impacted daily life as well as managerial practice to an unforeseen extent. The computerization of multiple business processes and the creation of large scale databases, among many other radical technological advances, have lead to enormous cost savings and quality improvements over the years. The interconnection of financial markets through electronic means and the worldwide adoption of the Internet have greatly reduced transaction and communication costs and brought nations and cultures closer to one another than ever imaginable. Computers are now fundamental tools in almost all businesses around the world and their application and adaptation to specific business problems in the form of software development is a practice that many companies perform on their own. In the past, such computerization and automation efforts were very costly and therefore only practiced by large corporations. Over the years, however, the software industry emerged to offer off-the-shelf solutions and services to smaller companies. Today, having survived the massive dotcom crash of the year 2000, software development businesses established themselves as strong players in the technology industry.

The emergence of numerous computer standards and technologies has created many challenges and opportunities. One of the main opportunities provided by the software sector is relatively low entry barrier. Since the software business is not capital intensive, successful market entry largely depends on know-how and specific industry domain knowledge. Entrepreneurs with the right skills can relatively easily compete with large corporations and thereby pose a considerable threat to other, much larger organizations. Companies, on the other hand, need to find ways to reduce turnover and protect their intellectual property; hence, the strong knowledge dependence combined with the relatively short lifespan of computer technologies makes knowledge workers very important to the organization. Knowledge workers in this industry therefore enjoy stronger bargaining power and require a different management style and work environment than in other sectors, especially those industries that have higher market entry capital requirements. This relatively strong position of software personnel challenges human resource strategies in organizations and it also raises concerns about the protection of intellectual property.

The relatively young industry is blessed with sheer endless new opportunities, such as the ability of companies to cooperate with other organizations around the globe without interruption and incur practically no communication costs. In addition, no import tariffs exist making the transfer of software across borders very efficient; however, the industry with its craft-like professions suffers from lack of standards and quality problems. The successful management of such dynamic organizations challenges today’s managers as well as contemporary management science because traditional management styles, such as Weberian bureaucracies, seem to be unable to cope with unstable environments.

Challenges in the Software Industry

Many studies indicate that present-day software development practices are highly inefficient and wasteful (Flitman, 2003). On average, projects are only 62% efficient, which translates to a waste of 37 %. The typical software development project has the following distribution of work effort: 12% planning, 10% specification, 42% quality control, 17% implementation, and 19% software building (2003). There are many possible interpretations of the nature of this distribution of resources. First, the extraordinarily high share of 42% for quality control purposes can indicate a lack of standards and standardized work practices. This large waste of effort may also be the result of inefficient planning and specification processes. Because the share of 19% for software building is a function of software complexity, hardware, and tools used, there is a chance to reduce it by carefully managing and standardizing internal work processes. The disappointing share of only 17% for implementation, however, should be alarming to business owners, since implementation activities are the main activity that results in revenue. The relatively low productivity level reported by Flitman (2003) seems to be also reflected in the fact that the average U.S. programmer produces approximately 7,700 lines of code per year, which translates to just 33 per workday (Slavova, 2000). Considering that a large software project, such as Microsoft Word, is reported by Microsoft to require 2 to 3 million lines of code, it becomes obvious how costly such projects can become and that productivity and quality management are major concerns to today’s software businesses. The challenge for contemporary software managers is to find the root of the productivity problem and a remedy in the form of a management practice.

A plethora of recent studies addresses software development productivity and quality concerns. Elliott, Dawson, and Edwards (2007) conclude that there is a lack of quality skills in current organizations. Furthermore, the researchers put partial blame on prevailing organizational cultures, which can lead to counterproductive work habits. Of the main problems identified, project documentation was found to be lacking because documents are deficient in detail and not updated frequent enough. Quality control in the form of software testing is not practiced as often and there seems to be a lack of quality assurance processes to ensure that software is built with quality in mind from the beginning. Organizational culture was found to be deficient in companies were workers tend to avoid confrontation and therefore avoid product tests altogether (2007).

Since knowledge workers are the main drive in software organizations, creating a fruitful and efficient organizational culture constitutes a main challenge to today’s managers. The relationship between organizational culture and quality and productivity in software businesses was recently investigated by Mathew (2007). Software organizations tend to be people-centered and their dependency on knowledge workers is also reflected by the enormous spending remuneration and benefits of more than 50% of revenue. As the industry matures and grows further, the challenge to organizations is that larger number of employees need to be managed which brings culture to the focus of management. Mathew (2007) found that the most important influence on productivity was achieved by creating an environment of mutual trust. Higher levels of trust lead to greater employee autonomy and empowerment, which strengthened the existing management view that trust and organizational effectiveness are highly related. Those companies with higher trust and empowerment levels benefitted from more intensive employee involvement and thereby achieved better quality products (2007).

Product quality, however, depends on other factors as well that reach beyond the discussion of work processes. Relatively high employee turnover was found to have a detrimental effect on product quality and organizational culture (Hamid & Tarek, 1992). Constant turnover and succession increase project completion costs, cause considerable delays, and expose organization to higher risks because their development processes can be severely disrupted. While human resources strategies should help find ways to retain key personnel in the company, organizations need to nevertheless be prepared for turnovers and minimize their risks. One of the greatest risks for people-centered, knowledge worker organizations is the loss of knowledge when employees leave.

Knowledge management has evolved into a relatively new discipline in the last two decades but is mostly practiced by large, global organizations only (Mehta, 2008). As corporations realized the importance of knowledge management activities to mitigate the risk of know-how loss within their organizations, they started employing chief knowledge officers and crews with the goal of collecting and organizing information. By building custom knowledge management platforms, companies can benefit from increased transfer, storage, and availability of critical business information. Such activities can help companies innovate and build knowledge capital over time (2008). The challenge remains, however, to set up such systems and to elicit employee support for knowledge management systems. In addition, these systems leave another critical question open. What happens when top performers take all the knowledge with them when they leave?

Another crucial variable affecting software product and service quality is top management involvement. Projects in the software industry commonly fail due to one or a combination of the following three major causes: poor project planning, a weak business case, and lack of top management support and involvement (Zwikael, 2008). Software projects are similar to projects in other industries by focusing on timely project completion, budget, and compliance to specifications, the industry requires specific support processes from top management to facilitate projects. These processes are summarized in Table 1. Key support processes, such as the appropriate assignment of project managers and the existence of project success measurement, indicate that successful companies demonstrate a higher level of project progress control than others; however, Zwikael acknowledges that top managers rarely focus on these key processes and instead prefer to deal with those processes that are easier for them to work on personally.

Table 1

The ten most critical top management support processes in the software sector (Zwikael, 2008). Those processes marked with an asterisk (*) were found to be the most important.

Support Process

Appropriate project manager assignment *

Refreshing project procedures

Involvement of the project manager during initiation stage

Communication between the project manager and the organization *

Existence of project success measurement *

Supportive project organizational structure

Existence of interactive interdepartmental project groups *

Organizational projects resource planning

Project management office involvement

Use of standard project management software *

Opportunities in the Software Industry

The advent of low cost communication via the Internet and the diversification of the software industry into many different branches brought a multitude of new market opportunities. Some of the main opportunities are rooted in the low costs of communication, while others originated from the possibility of geographic diversification and international collaboration.

One major opportunity which especially larger organizations seek to seize is geographic diversification in the form of globally distributed software development. Kotlarsky, Oshri, van Hillegersberg, and Kumar (2007) have researched this source of opportunities that is mainly practiced by multinational companies; however, an increasing number of small companies is also reported to be benefitting from dispersed software development across national boundaries. The study revealed that software companies can achieve significantly higher levels of productivity by creating reusable software components and reducing task interdependencies. By reducing interdependence, the produced modules are more likely to become useful in future projects on their own; furthermore, this reduction of intertwined computer code also has a positive effect on project teams. Teams in companies that globally distribute their developments benefit from increased autonomy and reduced communication requirements. The authors point out, however, that the prerequisites to distributing software development are not only good project planning but also the standardization of tools and development procedures. Without such prearrangements it may become almost impossible to manage and consolidate the various distributed team activities (2007). Especially for teams working across countries away from one another, it may pay off to deploy video or other Internet-based conferencing technologies and exploit huge savings potentials. But are these means of communication effective?

In the last decade a new form of organization has emerged that has taken the most advantage of the Internet. Virtual organizations exist entirely in cyberspace and their team members communicate mostly, if not exclusively, via the Internet using webcams and messaging software. The challenge for managers in virtual organizations is to exploit the new technology but also to find ways to motivate and direct the workforce and work processes. A study by Andres (2002) compared virtual software development teams with face-to-face teams and identified several challenges and opportunities for virtual managers. Managing work from a different time zone can be problematic due to the lack of physical presence. Communication will need to be asynchronous or can only occur at work hours that overlap in both time zones. Virtual teams facilitate this process by using email and voice/text messaging but more importantly by reducing the interdependency of tasks. Andres (2002) suggested that these types of communication have lower “social presence” meaning that humans have a need and ability to feel the presence of others in the group. The problem with many computerized communication channels is that visual clues, utterances, body language clues and clues from the person’s voice are missing. When placed on a social presence continuum, the various communication types rank as follows from the lowest to the highest: email, phone, video conferencing, and face-to-face meetings. Andres’ comparison between development teams using video-conferencing versus face-to-face meetings revealed that the latter group was far more efficient and productive, even though the video-conferencing team benefitted from reduced travel costs and time.

The study conducted in 2002, however, has several shortcomings. First, it is already seven years old and Internet costs have dropped and speeds have improved significantly since then. Considering the improvements in video quality and availability and computer speeds, this form of communication became more feasible recently. In addition, today’s managers are just now starting to learn how to use these means of communication efficiently. For example, even though email technology has been around for two decades now, many managers still find that emails can create a lot of ambiguity. The challenge to future generations of managers will be to change their writing style to match the limitations of email and other text messaging technologies. Another important factor to consider is that written communication may be stored indefinitely and have legal consequences; hence, more often than not, managers may intentionally prefer to avoid such communication channels for political or legal reasons. The study by Andres (2002), however, resulted in a negative view of video conferencing probably because the technology was not yet matured and the team members were not yet comfortable with it.

For video conferencing to work well, all participants need to be knowledgeable of the peculiar characteristics of that technology and adjust their communication style and speech accordingly. Regardless of meeting type, another important factor is preparation. What could be researched in conjunction with Andres’ study in the future is the degree of preparation of the group. Do team members invest enough time in preparing questions and answers for their teammates before coming to the meeting? Video conferences may require more preparation than face-to-face meetings in some circumstances.

Another opportunity for software businesses and challenge for managers worldwide is outsourcing. In the year 2007, $70 billion were spent globally for outsourced software development (Scott, 2007). Given the extreme shortage of IT skills in the U.S. and Europe, many companies take advantage of globalization by choosing international suppliers for their software development tasks. Outsourcing, however, requires elaborate coordination between the organization and its many supplier groups. The idea is that in total, coordination costs and problems are less costly than in-house development; however, this goal is not always achieved. While outsourcing, when it is deployed and coordinated correctly, can result in 24 hour development worldwide and thereby provide continuous services to the organization around the clock, it may result in the loss of intellectual property. While mechanic parts are patentable in most countries that support intellectual property rights, software is not patentable in most countries outside North America.

In addition to the challenge of managing outsourcing, software organizations exploit technologies in various ways to save costs, for example by offering remote access, telecommuting, and service-oriented architectures (SOA) (Scott, 2007). Remote access and telecommuting has increased six-fold between 1997 and 2005 and resulted in $300 million annual savings due to a reduction of office space (2007). SOA is a similar concept and involves a software rental for customers. Instead of buying, installing, and maintaining software and servers, customers can rent a service online and reduce the total cost of ownership because these activities are no longer required on the customer side. Gradually the virtualization of the software business opens new horizons and provides further opportunities but it also presents managers with endless challenges.

Some of the strengths and weaknesses of offshore and virtual team development were studied by Slavova (2000). In the year 2000, India and Ireland were the largest offshore software development locations. Offshore companies can offer up to 60% cost reduction, a faster completion of development tasks by distributing them around the globe, and specific domain knowledge which they acquired over the years providing similar services to other customers. The integration of work from external sources, however, constitutes a major hurdle. Furthermore, language and cultural issues can cause serious communication problems that put the project at risk, especially when misunderstandings cause misinterpretations of project specification documents. Slavova (2000) found that the most common remedy and strategy avoiding problems with offshore suppliers is to visit them frequently face-to-face; however, this tactic results in higher travel costs and disruptions of the managers’ workflows and hence may offset the benefits gained for outsourcing altogether. Managers in the software business need therefore to balance the risks and opportunity potentials before engaging in outsourcing because for many companies this strategy failed to pay off in the end.

A huge opportunity that emerged in the last decade is online innovation. The collective innovation effort of many individuals and companies is generally known as open-source on the Internet and it has lead to many advances in the computer technology, such as the free Linux operating system. At first businesses felt threatened by this wave of developments on the market because the businesses perceived that open-source solutions were in competition with their products. In many cases this was and still is in fact true; however, a couple of companies, including IBM, are exploiting this new way of innovation for their own and for a common benefit (Vujovic & Ulhøi, 2008). Because software companies operate in an increasingly instable environment, they struggle to create continuously new and better products. By exposing the computer code to the public on the Internet, companies can benefit from ideas submitted by the public, especially other companies. Furthermore, companies benefit from free bug finding and testing by external users but one of the primary reasons for “going open-source” is the quick adoption and spread of the company’s technology at a relatively little or no cost. The spread of IBM’s open-source technology, for example, is also free marketing for the company. But how can companies make money by offering something for free?

The closed innovation model (the traditional model of providing software without revealing the software code) can be combined with open-source, so the company can charge for the product. In other cases, the company can reveal the technological platform on the Internet for free and then sell specialized tools which utilize the new platform. The big money savers are obviously the shared development, testing, and maintenance costs since many interested parties work on the same project.

The knowledge-sharing model of open-source is nothing new, however. The philosophy and the benefits of open innovation models have been already realized in the third quarter of the nineteenth century. Back then, open innovation was practiced in the UK iron and

US steel industry. The cooperation of many industry players ended the domination of proprietary technologies for which costly royalties were due (Vujovic & Ulhøi, 2008). Given the dynamic environment of the IT industry and the short lifespan of computer technologies, the adoption of open innovation models gained much more popularity. By analyzing the largest open-source players in the market, Vujovic and Ulhøi put together a list of supportive strategies, which is shown in Table 2. Several of these strategies are quite relevant from a top management perspective as well, such as deploying open-source to block a competitor and using the open model as a gateway for greater market share.

Table 2

Strategies for adopting the open-source approach (Vujovic & Ulhøi, 2008).

Business Strategy

Obtaining higher market share

Obtaining market power

Better adoption of a product and thereby establishing standards

Shifting competitive advantage to another architectural layer

Making the product more ubiquitous

Delivering faster time-to-market

Spurring innovation

Complementing a revenue core stream

Blocking a competitor

Conclusion

Reviewing the rather recent emergence of the IT industry and the software industry in particular, several parallels can be drawn to management history. While Taylor’s scientific management was a highlight in the evolution of management science (Wren, 2005), the software industry seems to be lagging behind such great advancement. Due to its high level of complexity, the software development discipline is still plagued with quality problems stemming from a lack of standardization. Similar to Taylor’s efforts, managers need to analyze software development processes and develop industry-wide standards and measures. Once such measures and procedures exist, this will help make software projects much more predictable.

Much of today’s software industry practices would have been a déjà vu for Taylor, if he was still alive. In addition, the anomie and social disorganization concerns during the social person era apply today more dramatically than in the past. Mayo described in the 1940s how managers overemphasized on technical problems in the hope of raising efficiency ignoring the human social element (p. 296). The same situation is now evident to a larger degree in the computer industry. The rapid technological advances have created many opportunities and changed the work environment drastically. At the same time, however, management was unable to prepare for these dramatic shifts technology would bring to the workplace. At best, managers are simply reacting to technological advances because the consequences are mostly unpredictable given the complexity of human nature. For example, email brought several benefits such as low cost and simple asynchronous communication; however, many email messages are misunderstood because they are not written appropriately. Moreover, IT knowledge workers are struggling to keep up with the vast number of messages received per day as they constitute a severe disruption of the daily workflow.

As knowledge workers are becoming more and more essential to an organization’s survival and as organizations in this industry mature and require greater headcounts, the span of control is becoming an issue for managers to handle correctly. As discussed in Wren (2005), as the team size increases, the number of interrelations to be managed rises astronomically (p. 353). Managing larger teams poses a great problem because the sheer number of interrelations makes it also more difficult to develop trust within the team. Motivating large groups of knowledge workers can hence be tricky, especially because creative tasks can require a large degree of collaboration. Work design is hence a major hurdle for future managers to overcome. Much emphasis has been on hygiene factors and not on motivators of the workforce. Flexible hours, telecommuting, empowerment, and increased responsibility may help in the short-term but for the long-term management will need to find new strategies for retaining knowledge workers.

Product quality remains a big issue. Deming’s ideas are good but quality assurance in the software world is difficult to implement due to the lack of standards and measures. The open-source innovation model may provide some relief in this respect because the greater involvement of external developers can help improve overall quality. On the other hand, however, open-source projects are hard to manage for the same reason. Since open-source projects are self-directed and not owned by anyone in particular, those projects sometimes suffer from uncontrolled, tumorlike growth.

Several of Deming’s deadly sins (Wren, 2005, p. 463) apply directly to the software industry. Most products are made from scratch rather than from components and there is little standardization in software organizations. Since software developers have a tendency to see their job as a craft they defy standards and procedures. In addition, the rather complex environment with its dynamic requirements and the push for meeting deadlines make it easy for practitioners to lose sight of quality improvements through the preparation of organizational standards. High turnover and individual performance measures continue to be industry practice, even though many scientists, such as Deming, have argued for long that such measures are counterproductive.

Future managers need to find ways to compensate for the high turnover, if they cannot find a way to avoid it. The division of labor might work well for the company but it is not well perceived by the workforce which tends to require constant challenge. Top performers disfavor mundane tasks and prefer to walk away with all their knowledge. IBM has successfully deployed job enlargement for some time to combat this phenomenon (Wren, 2005, p.332). Unfortunately, this strategy might not work for every company and it can only be used within certain boundaries of the organization. Given the developments of the last two decades, managers will need to confront the discipline of knowledge worker management and find a workable solution for their organization.

The integration of management science with the advances in psychology and sociology may provide a route towards the solution of the knowledge worker management problem. It is crucial for managers to have an accurate understanding of the motivational drives for this particular group of the workforce. These employees enjoy higher income, greater flexibility and freedom, and greater bargain power. This puts them in a gray zone between the traditional, lower skilled employee and an owner in the company because knowledge workers create intellectual capital in the company. Because most of this capital is lost and remains with the employees when they decide to leave the organization, turnover can be much more damaging than with traditional workers. Managers can therefore not simply apply conventional strategies to this dissimilar group of employees; rather, they need to seek for more creative incentives for motivating and retaining knowledge workers.

 


Things You Should Know About Accounting Software

July 20, 2017

Software

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Just as your business has its own set of jargon or industry-specific terminology, so does the software industry! If you are searching for accounting or payroll software, the likelihood of hearing these terms is fairly high. Be prepared to speak with software representatives by understanding these key terms, and you will have a better chance of your needs being understood and met.

Application: This term is used to refer to a software program, as in: That application works well for processing invoices.

Compatible: Where software is concerned, compatible refers to whether applications can work well and exchange information together. Is this new payroll system compatible with the time clock we are already using? This can also refer to whether this software can run on a particular computer.

Customizable: There are two references of “customizable” in the software world. The first is the ability to alter the settings of a program to meet your specific needs, such as adding or omitting fields of information or creating and saving your own templates for later use. The second use of this term refers to open source code products. When customizing an open source product, you can actually change the software code within the program, potentially changing its functionality permanently. I like our new software because the invoice designs are customizable.

Dashboard: Just as your car’s dashboard shows you information about operating your vehicle, a software dashboard displays your most important menu options and tools available for operating your software system. This is typically the screen you see first when opening your program. The dashboard within this system makes it really easy to do my job.

Demo: Of course this is a shortened version of the word demonstration. A demo usually provides an opportunity to view a software package’s functionality, whether in video format, guided online or live tour, or even a trial version of the software. The demo really helped us gain an understanding of what it’s like to use that program.

Driver: A software program that, when installed, helps your computer understand how to use a hardware device. Once we installed the driver, we were able to use the new mouse right away.

Feature: Options or tools for functionality provided within a software program. Our new software program has more features than our prior program, allowing us to enter and pull out information in a way that fits our company better.

Interface: An interface refers to the direct communication between two software products. Many accounting software applications have an interface to payroll software applications, allowing you to post data with a few simple clicks. Interface can also refer to the way in which a software application is presented to the user as in: The user interface for that program makes it easy to navigate and use.

Intuitive: This refers to how easy it is to operate a system without training. The system was so intuitive that I felt at ease using it after only a short time.

Legacy Products: Just as our ancestors have built a legacy, so have the age-old software products that have stood the test of time. In the software world, legacy products are those that have become outdated, yet may or may not still be supported. Though newer software is now available, he chose to stay with his legacy software program.

Migration: While you may associate this term with birds flying south, in the software industry it refers to the transfer of data from one application to another. A software company can often migrate your data from an older application to a newer one.

Module: This refers to each software element that performs a distinct function, usually each of which can stand on their own without depending on other elements. The software company just added a ratios module which greatly enhances a company’s ability to see where improvements are needed.

Network: A group of computers that can interact with one another. All of the users of our software can enter information into the same database because they are set up as a network.

Operating System: An operating system is the software within a computer that makes it run. The major providers of operating systems are Microsoft (for PCs) and Apple (for Macs). I just got a new computer which came with the industry’s latest operating system.

Robust: If you think of coffee when you hear this word, you are not alone. Robust in the software world refers to a software package’s features being in-depth and complete. That system is robust and can surely handle our complex needs.

Support: This one may seem obvious. Most software companies offer support plans to go along with their software products. These support plans typically include assistance and problem solving for users of the software. Support can be conducted via telephone, e-mail, the internet, via help documents and videos, and more, depending on the company. What kind of support plans does this software company offer for their customers?

User Seats: No, this is not the chair you sit in while you use your computer. A user seat with reference to software denotes an independent user of the software system. Each user seat provides the capability for one person to be using the system simultaneously along with others. Therefore if you have three user seats, three people can be in the same program working at the same time. You will often see the word “concurrent” in front of this term. Two people will need to be entering payroll data at the same time, so we’ll need two user seats.

Updates: An update is a new release of the software that can fix problems or enhance a software program. The software company recommends all users implement the latest update to their software, to ensure smooth ongoing operation within their program.

Version: Software companies often provide updates and improvements to their programs in Version schemes, represented by numbers or letters which demonstrates the importance of what is being released. I need to download the latest version of my software because it includes crucial elements which can really help my business.

Getting to know these software terms will put you on the road to a better understanding during your software search.

 


Small Business Software

July 10, 2017

Software

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If you operate a business where you schedule appointments, class attendance, consultations, seminars, workshops, or any other type of event from which you earn revenue, it is critical that you use easy-to-use, yet powerful and interactive small business scheduling software.

I also encourage, if it’s possible with your business, to look for scheduling software that enables your customers to schedule themselves.

This not only makes your life easier, but is an outstanding website conversion tool. What I mean by this is new customers to your website can instantly book themselves for your service. No phone calls or any other obstacles that might lose the sale.

Ask Yourself:

When you book a customer, how much time does it take? Yeah, scheduling customers and clients takes time – yours and/or your staff’s time. How about the time you spend playing phone tag just to book an appointment?

That’s why if you can set up software where your customers can book their own appointments, you’ll free up a great deal of your time. You’ll also be offering a very worthwhile customer service (and impress them). Even if only 1/3 of your bookings do it themselves, you’ll be way ahead – and probably book more clients than otherwise.

The fact is in today’s fast-paced world, customers want immediate gratification. If your phone line is busy or you have to put customers on hold, you could lose that booking. Why not eliminate those losses and poor customer service with implementing online scheduling?

How Does Online Scheduling Work?

It’s simple, and you don’t have to worry about giving up control of your schedule with the right business scheduling software.

There are different uses of scheduling software – it depends on your business

1. Simple Schedule Viewable Online

Some businesses, such as yoga studios, dance studios, martial arts schools, and health clubs may simply wish to display class schedules on their website(s).

The key is getting scheduling software that makes it incredibly easy for you to change the schedule in one central location – which changes then appear on your website(s). Let’s face it, class times, instructors, etc. change regularly.

Instead of displaying your schedule in a fixed table on different pages in your website(s), which is inconvenient to change, use a central schedule dashboard where you can easily make changes.

Have you ever forgotten to change the schedule on your website? When you maintain separate schedules, it’s very easy to forget to update your schedule on your website(s). I don’t have to tell you how customers feel about being misinformed and relying on an out-dated schedule.

Solve this problem by using scheduling software you manage in one easy-to-access location – which updates all your schedules wherever posted.

Moreover, look for scheduling software that let’s you present pop-up descriptions of your classes and perhaps brief bios of the instructor teaching particular classes. The more information you place where it’s easy to find for your customers, the better service you’re providing.

2. Self-Booking Capability

Other businesses require customers to schedule appointments or reserve rooms/facilities. Examples of these types of businesses include hair salons, spas, tattoo parlours, massage therapists, physical therapists, etc. Take yourself as much as possible out of the booking process by getting scheduling software that enables your customers to book their own appointments.

The process is simple with the right software. Your customers register and you provide them log-in information to your online scheduling system. Once logged in, your customers see only availability and then book in available time-slots. Moreover, you then add a contact to your database.

Online booking puts the scheduling power into your customers’ hands. If they need to change an appointment, they can easily do so without taking up your time.

What Other Features to Look for With Business Scheduling Software?

1. Look Only For Cloud Computing Scheduling Software

Without a doubt, the most important feature to look for with business scheduling software is that it’s cloud-based. This means the software you use is hosted with the service provider.

A classic example of cloud-based software is Google Docs. You simply log in to your Google account and use their fleet of document-producing software (word processing, spreadsheets, etc.).

I’ve used desk-top scheduling software and like most desk-top software, it costs much more in the long run, and is very difficult to add new users (i.e. adding computers to the network).

The bulk of the long-term cost with desk-top software is paying a tech consultant to network the software among your computers. Moreover, your scheduling software is not available anywhere – only on computers on which it’s installed. Don’t even think about the cost when you upgrade computers or if you use a server.

Cloud computing solves all these problems because all you need is an Internet connection in order to access your software dashboard. You don’t have to pay for networking, installation, and/or have a server. Instead, most cloud-computing software services simply require a monthly payment for access. It’s easy to scale up – you simply add new users to your account. Your cost only increases as your business grows.

2. Get E-Commerce and Credit Card Payment Processing Integration

Wouldn’t it be fantastic if you could have customers pay upon self-booking their appointments? This frees up you and your staff from two time-consuming activities – booking appointments and taking payment.

Moreover, you can book appointments if you’re busy, thus reducing lost appointments. Often saving one booking will pay for an entire month’s software cost. Not to mention gain you another potentially loyal customer.

If you’re looking to get top-of-the line scheduling software, look for software that can process payments automatically upon a booking.

3. E-Mail and Text Messaging Reminders & Notices

Do you and your staff send out appointment reminders via e-mail and/or text messaging? This too is time-consuming. Maybe you don’t do this because you’re too busy – but wish you had the time or resources to send out reminders to reduce no-shows.

When deciding on scheduling software, be sure to opt for the capability for automated reminders. Yes, this is available. Once you have a customer’s contact information in your system, and a customer books an appointment, you can set up the software to automatically send e-mail reminders and text messaging reminders about upcoming appointments.

This serves three very important functions:

  • You’ll provide a great service reminding your customers about their upcoming appointment;
  • You’ll reduce no-shows; and
  • If a customer realizes they can’t make an appointment, they can re-schedule. This frees up appointment space which you can fill from your wait-list.

Speaking of wait-lists – with the right software, you can configure it so that once an appointment slot becomes available, e-mail notices are sent to your wait-list giving them an opportunity to take up that time – all done automatically.

4. Additional Sale Opportunities

Recurring Bookings:

Most small businesses earn the bulk of their revenues from loyal, repeat customers (especially service-based businesses that book appointments). With the right software, you can make it extremely easy for customers to book recurring appointments.

Perhaps they like to visit your business on the same day of each month. Instead of having to enter in their booking information manually for each month, use software to automate recurring bookings. Better yet, with self-scheduling, make it easy for your customers to book their own recurring appointments.

Packages:

Many small businesses that are appointment-based offer a variety of services. If you do, make it easy for your customers to create customized booking packages or you can create pre-arranged packages they can easily choose and book. This is a powerful up-selling option to earn more revenues per customer.

Gift Cards:

Gift cards are a very powerful sales tool. Not only do you make sales, but it’s a way to attract new customers. If you’re looking for powerful scheduling software, look for the ability to sell gift cards within the system.

Referral Tracking:

Do you offer referral incentives to your existing customers? If not, you’re missing out on using an extremely powerful sales tool. If you don’t, it’s probably because it’s a hassle to track referrals. You can automate referral tracking with some business scheduling software.

When a customer makes a referral, the software tracks that referral and credits the referring customer with whatever incentive you offer (i.e. discounts, free services, gift cards, etc.).

Online Point-of-Purchase Opportunities:

If you get scheduling software that has e-commerce capabilities, you automatically have a shopping cart available with which your customers can access while booking an appointment.

Point-of-purchase works both in-store and online. Why not increase sales by making it easy for your customers to buy your services and products online while they’re already in your system booking an appointment?

5. User-Friendly

If your customers can’t figure out how to book their appointments online or read your class/event schedule, then you’ve wasted your money. Sure, automated scheduling software will save you time – but the main goal is serving your customers. Look for a user interface that is extremely easy to use and pleasing to the eye.

6. Centralized Contact Database

Integrating your scheduling software with your contact database is absolutely crucial in order to get the most out of your scheduling software. Why? Because you can then use that contact database to manage your operations, financials, and of course leverage it for marketing.

When a new customer signs up with your business, you want scheduling software that automatically adds their data and profile to your contact database. Once in your database, you can leverage that information throughout your entire business’ operations from client management, report generation (to track your sales, attendance, etc.) to your marketing campaigns.

Impress Your Customers with Your Scheduling Software

If you offer self-booking capability and/or extremely informative up-to-date schedules on your website, you’ll impress new and existing customers. When they get reminders, they’ll be delighted. When you send them notices for openings, they’ll think the world of you and your business.

Even if you’re a small business, the right software doesn’t need to break your bank in order to appear and offer a level of service large, resource-rich companies offer. When you deliver a high level of customer service, you’ll build trust and make dealing with your business a pleasure.

Look for scheduling software that makes it extremely easy for your customers to use your services – and you’ll not only get more customers, but you’ll get regularly attending customers.

How Much Should You Pay for Business Scheduling Software?

This will depend on the size of your business and how many users you’ll need. Most cloud computing software pricing is based on the number of users. If you’re looking for some or all of the capabilities set out above, expect to pay at least $40 per month for a starter package.

I know getting desk-top software, which usually is a one-time payment, seems more attractive cost-wise. However, you’ll give up features, and in my experience, the cost for maintaining and upgrading desk-top scheduling software costs much more than the initial purchase cost.

I know, because I’ve used desk-top scheduling software and the cost alone for my tech consultant over the years is staggering.

Think of your “on-the-cloud” scheduling software as an investment. Better yet, if your software, because of its automation in booking and sending out reminders saves you one sale, that sale likely pays for your entire month’s cost of the cloud-computing solution.

As you can tell by reading much of the other content on this site, I’m in-tune with a great deal of software applications available for small businesses. I’m a small business owner and am always looking for ways to improve my customer service with technology (and automate processes to save me time).

I’ve used many business scheduling software applications, including Google’s online calendar. The problem with many scheduling software services is they are limited in features.

Sure, you might be able to integrate it with other software applications you have, but the ideal software is one that has all the features you’re looking for built-in the system itself. Integration sounds great on paper, but can be a real nightmare in practice.

 


Why You Need Software Testing

July 5, 2017

Software

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Introduction and Importance

Software development companies dedicate a substantial amount of resources and manpower for the development of applications according to requirements specified by enterprises or individuals. However, subsequent to development of such applications/software, companies are required to ensure that such software/applications perform in accordance with the client’s requirements. To ensure that any and all bugs in the software are identified prior to the deployment, various testing procedures are implemented by the IT industry. The importance of this is directly related to the ability of software to measure up to its potential. If the new software is unable to perform the task it was designed for, the client might face severe losses due to stoppage of work and also adversely affect the business of the software development company. The scope of these procedures is to facilitate identification of a problem in the software, fixing of such problems is not within in the scope of software testing. Some of the leading methodologies implemented by companies in the IT industry include General, Load, Functional and Regression Testing.

General Testing

This refers to the general tests carried out on software/applications to ensure the functionality of newly developed software. Some of the common tests included as part of standard Quality Assurance procedures are web performance and usability testing. The web performance testing procedure is mostly engaged in evaluating the online performance of a web-based software application or a website. Usability testing is a mainly subjective approach, which ensures that the software is capable of being utilized effectively in a given set of circumstances. The purpose is to identify the general operating capability of the software/application being tested and to help developers determine some of the areas of improvement for the software. A software development company usually performs general testing of software/applications along with other more advanced methods to ensure that the software conforms to the pre-defined operational capabilities specified by the client/user group.

Load Testing

The load testing procedure simulates operating conditions of the software/application during periods of higher/normal load to gauge the effect of such changes on the functioning of the software/application. This is not the same as stress testing, because load testing checks the operational capabilities in case of both normal load and high load conditions, while stress testing attempts to induce errors in normal operations by using increased system load. This is considered to be a type of non-functional testing, which is undertaken by software development companies to gauge the multi-user support capabilities of the application.

As a commonly employed practice in the software industry, its specific goals are widely disputed and the term is often utilized in conjunctions with volume, reliability, software performance and concurrency testing. By using load testing, developers can attempt to determine the reason for slow performance of software. The common reasons for such slow response commonly include load balancing between multiple servers, client-side processing, network congestion/latency, available database service and/or bugs in the application server(s) or software. The use of load testing is recommended for software/applications, which are subjected to SLA (service level agreement) for ensuring that the software is capable of supporting multiple users. As the procedure simulates an increase in system load by using multiple virtual users, various software are currently available to carry out load testing. Some of the leading load-testing tools used by developers globally are IBM Rational Performance Tester, Apache JMeter, LoadRunner etc. Additionally, a load testing tool commonly favored by software testing companies in India is available as part of the Visual Studio Ultimate Edition of Microsoft.

Functional Testing

This type of testing is a type of black-box testing based on the specifications of the software components being tested. The functions of specific components of the software are feeding inputs and checking the output thus obtained. In functional testing, the internal structure of the program is seldom considered hence, it is classified as a type of black-box testing. The key steps involved in functional testing include identification of functions, which the software is expected to perform, creation of input data according to specifications of the identified functions, determining output based on the specifications of those functions, executing the test scenario followed by comparison of the obtained output vs. the expected output. Functional testing is not the same as system testing as system testing involves validation of a program in comparison to the published system or user requirements, whereas, functional testing is carried out by checking a program with respect to established specifications and available design documents for the software/applications.

Regression Testing

The regression testing refers to any type of software testing, which attempts to identify bugs, which are present in either the functional or the non-functional areas of a system subsequent to making modifications such as configuration and patch changes. The key function of regression testing is to ensure that the use of a patch or upgrade does not lead to the introduction of a new bug into the existing system. Additionally, regression testing helps ensure that the changes in one section of the software do not induce changes in another part of the software’s code. Some of the commonly applied regression testing methods include the use of earlier tests to check for alterations in program operation and the search of any previously fixed bugs, which had re-emerged subsequent to introduction of the new code. Fixed bugs in software often re-emerge and regression testing is one of the leading methods to ensure that such re-emergence is identified and easily controlled before any lasting damage occurs. Software development companies repeatedly perform regression testing of software/applications after any change in coding such as use of patches etc. to ensure that the functionality of the application is unimpaired. Such repetitive testing is usually automated by using an external tool such as Bamboo, TeamCity, Jenkins, Hudson, Tinderbox or BuildBot. This type of testing is generally performed by the QA team in case of leading software development companies, however, smaller companies are often engaged in outsourcing such services to companies specializing in the field of software QA and testing.

What’s Next?

As new technologies emerge, more testing procedures are being developed and implemented by organizations all over the world to ensure that new software perform according to their requirements and specifications even when stress or when additional functionality is introduced into the software. The emerging testing solutions, which are powered by new technology, are designed to reduce the time and resources required for testing in order to streamline the quality control / quality assurance services associated with software development. Some additional types of testing, which are currently used in the software industry are white box testing, system testing, non-functional testing, acceptance testing and integration testing. Each of these testing was developed to identify and resolve application/software limitations in a specific set of conditions; hence they are useful for software testing carried out in case of specific quality assurance and testing procedures.

 


All About Software Testing

June 26, 2017

Software

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1. Box Testing specifically tests the functionality of the software and doesn’t pay heed to internal design.

2. White Box Testing checks the various internal software and codings that the software is built on. Code coverage is the main factor.

3. Unit Testing deals with the checking of the modules that the software is broken into and requires detailed knowledge of coding, hence usually done by the programmers.

4. Incremental Integration Testing tests the application continuously to make sure that the various added functions works perfectly.

5. Integration Testing checks the modules when they are integrated with each other and heir dependency.

6. Functional Testing deals with the output that the software provides due to specific inputs provided.

7. System Testing provides test results for the whole system at a go instead of checking the various modules. It provides an all over the result for the entire software system.

8. End-To-End Testing shows how the software you have developed will work in an environment which is same as the real world.

9. Sanity Testing tests the software for its stability. It pushes the software to the extreme limits to show how it would work under pressure.

10. Regression Testing is one of the major types of software testing which covers the entire software and shows you the various modifications which the modules need for the software to be bug free.

11. Acceptance Testing checks whether the software is up to the mark with the requirements of the customer or the end user who will in turn decide the popularity of the software.

12. Load Testing checks how the software will react under pressure or excessive load. Various amounts of load are added to the system to check the response time under the condition and the functionality is thus checked.

13. Stress Testing puts excessive stress on the software, even beyond the specified limits, and checks the productivity of the software under the additionally stressed environment.

14. Performance Testing will check the performance ability of the system under various real world conditions that the software may face once launched in the market.

15. Usability Testing checks the ease with which a new user will be able to adapt to the software, the user friendliness of the interface and the smoothness of the flow.

16. Install/Uninstall Testing checks the ease of installation of the software and the various upgrades that will be available over time for the software as well as the time taken for uninstalling the same.

17. Recovery Testing checks the time taken for the software to heal up from probable crashes, failures of hardware and other magnamous problems that it could face once launched for public use.

18. Security Testing checks the ease or difficulty that the hackers will face to penetrate the particular software.

19. Compatibility Testing deals with the way the software will react in the presence of various other software, the hardware of the system and the various operating systems that it is going to run on.

20. Comparison Testing tests the software to its previous version so as to see how much stronger or weak it has become after the modifications.

21. Alpha Testing is done in the house by creating a virtual or fake environment consisting of end users to check the real world experience.

22. Beta Testing is the final testing done by the real world users who will be using the software in future too.

 


The Process Of Software Development

June 20, 2017

Software

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Many business people don’t fully understand the complexity of a software development process. It’s natural, since specialized books about development are read by developers and other IT people, and many others might still be referring to a software project as ”coding” or ”writing”. With better luck one might add ‘designing’ and ‘testing’. Quite inaccurate.

One can think of several metaphorical comparisons to describe software development, such as writing a book or building a house. Some of them are a good light in the dark, some are rather misleading. And while many people may argue whether creating software is an art, a science, or a precisely elaborated process, we’d leave that choice to someone else. It cannot be described sparsely. But we’ll try to give some descriptions and comparisons in a compact and clear way.

Do We ”Write” Software?

One of the common but rather vague things is comparing creating software with writing. Writing code, writing a book, and so on. You can start writing a book without a plan and go with the flow; with custom software development you cannot, unless developers do a rather small piece of software on their own – and for themselves. Moreover, an outsourced software project never starts with writing code.

Books and software may both have strict deadlines. But once a book is published, what’s written is written; rewriting is not an option. But software keeps being under constant improvement with new versions being released – it’s a natural thing. It’s almost impossible to get every need of your end user, catch up with business and technological changes once and for a lifetime. Books aren’t that dependent on changes; software is. But that’s good: your software, unlike a book, can’t become just another mediocre thing on the market, can’t become irrelevant and outdated. The processes are absolutely different: we prefer using the words ”create” or ”build” software rather than ”write”.

Do We ”Grow” Software?

”Growing” software on a good basis and a good set of documentation is possible to a certain extent. Like with writing, it’s not the best description one can suggest. It partially gets the incremental, agile nature of making and maintaining relevant software. But while ”growing”, the product is rarely tasty until it’s ripe, and the owner has to wait awhile.

The difference is, in software development there are different stages of being ”ripe”. Startups usually demand rolling a minimum viable software product on the market, getting feedback and making corrections and improvements. Each version is more ”ripe” than its predecessor, and it has to be ”watered” by support and maintenance, kept fresh amidst all the business and technological changes.

Do We ”Build” Software?

This one is considered by many specialists the closest way to describe software development, and we can agree with that. Construction works show the huge importance of careful planning, preparing, guiding the work, and performing it. The limits of software depend on how its architecture is constructed. The amount of works doesn’t grow gradually, since every building is different, and requires different approach. There can be a hospital, an office building, a school or a barn, and same physical size doesn’t mean equal amount of labour. Something is done with concrete, something can be done with wood and nails, and the latter doesn’t work well with complex and valuable software for mobile startups and other businesses.

– Everything depends on the kind of a building you need. You need to figure out the problem the software will solve, and conduct the necessary preparations, do market research, gather info, etc. The more complex your software is, the more resources must be spent on planning. Bad planning – and the whole app fails, falls like a house of cards by the first gust of a wind.

– Then you and your chief architect (project manager) can proceed to design that perfectly combines functional requirements and interface, resulting in proper user experience. Sure you want those who will work or live in the building to be fully satisfied with it. Same thing with software. One more good thing, once the design is approved, it’s way easier to give more precise estimations for the remainder of the construction (development) works.

– When furnishing a house, you needn’t building things you can buy: household appliances and furniture. It’s much cheaper and way faster. Same with software: if your software development team is experienced, it will use all the available resources to stay away from writing needless basic things: there are lots of software toolkits, frameworks, classes, and libraries for that, each for a particular case. And if the team means business, they will easily find tools and technologies that will get your tasks done as fast as possible. Custom pieces of furniture take more time and efforts, but in most cases there are already existing pre-built ways to save your time and money without compromising security and efficiency of your software.

– There will always be changes in functional requirements. Again, changes can painlessly happen within the planned architecture. Here we once more emphasize the importance of preparations – although this topic is worthy of a separate article. And we cannot go anywhere without mentioning quality assurance, which constantly checks different aspects of how the software works. What’s more – even a minor change involves testing, so that’s not the place to cut the costs (in fact, QA usually takes about 30% of the whole development time).

– Optimization of software (inner walls of a building) is limited to the approved architecture, and here main expenses are all about labour, not materials. But what you receive in the end is better software and satisfied users. Meanwhile users speak their minds on what they would like the apartments to look – and one should never neglect these opinions.

– One more thing worth noting – a good architect (or a good creative expert in software development) is always ready to consult you on things that should be solved immediately, and what can be left for later without breaking your plans or the quality of your software. You are most likely to not know the subtleties of the technical side – so leave making suggestions and explanations to your team. Unless you are an experienced IT person and you needn’t reading this article to get these insights.

As you can see, the last example is really the closest, and the list of similarities can be continued forever. But the ones we presented here should be enough to understand the process of software development, which is impossible without patience, expertise of the team, and mutual understanding.

 


All About Software Piracy

June 10, 2017

Software

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There are several kinds of software piracy. The bottom line is when software is pirated, the developer does not receive compensation for their work.

Effects of Software Piracy

When software is pirated, consumers, software developers, and resellers are harmed. Software piracy increases the risk consumer’s computers will be corrupted by defective software and infected with viruses. Those who provide defective and illegal software do not tend to provide sales and technical support. Pirated software usually has inadequate documentation, which prevents consumers from enjoying the full benefits of the software package. In addition, consumers are unable to take advantage of technical support and product upgrades, which are typically available to legitimate registered users of the software. Pirated software can cost consumers lost time and more money.

Developers lose revenue from pirated software, from current products as well as from future programs. When software is sold most developers invest a portion of the revenue into future development and better software packages. When software is pirated, software developers lose revenue from the sale of their products, which hinders development of new software and stifles the growth of the software company.

Kinds of Piracy

End User Piracy –

Using multiple copies of a single software package on several different systems or distributing registered or licensed copies of software to others. Another common form of end user piracy is when a cracked version of the software is used. Hacking into the software and disabling the copy protection, or illegally generating key codes that unlocks the trial version making the software a registered version creates a cracked version.

Reseller Piracy –

Reseller piracy occurs when an unscrupulous reseller distributes multiple copies of a single software package to different customers; this includes preloading systems with software without providing original manuals & diskettes. Reseller piracy also occurs when resellers knowingly sell counterfeit versions of software to unsuspecting customers.

Indications of reseller piracy are multiple users with the same serial number, lack of original documentation or an incomplete set, and non-matching documentation.

Trademark/Trade Name Infringement

Infringement occurs when an individual or dealer claims to be authorized either as a technician, support provider or reseller, or is improperly using a trademark or trade name.

BBS/Internet Piracy –

BBS/ Internet Piracy occurs when there is an electronic transfer of copyrighted software. If system operators and/or users upload or download copyrighted software and materials onto or from bulletin boards or the Internet for others to copy and use without the proper license. Often hackers will distribute or sell the hacked software or cracked keys. The developer does not receive any money for the software the hacker distributed. This is an infringement on the developer’s copyright.

Another technique used by software pirates is to illegally obtain a registered copy of software. Pirates purchase the software once and use it on multiple computers. Purchasing software with a stolen credit card is another form of software piracy. Unfortunately there are many kinds of software piracy that has hampered the software industry.

These types of software piracy have hampered the software industry. For the software industry to prosper and further develop useful software for consumers please support and pay for software. This results in better software for all.

To Report Piracy :

Software Information Industry Association

 


All About Software Patenting

June 2, 2017

Software

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INTRODUCTION

The concept of “intellectual property” in India over the last few years has taken on some epic proportions for a number of reasons. One of the primary reasons, attributable to the growing awareness among the urban Indian population, is of the significance and, more importantly, the commercial benefits in protecting its intellectual property rights both within and outside India. And under traditional principles of intellectual property protection, patent law is to encourage scientific research, new technology and industrial progress. The fundamental principle of patent law is that the patent is granted only for an invention i.e. new and useful the said invention must have novelty and utility. The grant of patent thus becomes of industrial property and also called an intellectual property. And the computer software is a relatively new recipient of patent protection.

The term “Patent” has its origin from the term “Letter Patent”. This expression ‘Letter Patent’ meant open letter and were instruments under the Great Seal of King of England addressed by the Crown to all the subjects at large in which the Crown conferred certain rights and privileges on one or more individuals in the kingdom. It was in the later part of the 19th century new inventions in the field of art, process, method or manner of manufacture, machinery and other substances produced by manufacturers were on increased and the inventors became very much interested that the inventions done by them should not be infringed by any one else by copying them or by adopting the methods used by them. To save the interests of inventors, the then British rulers enacted the Indian Patents and Design Act, 1911.

With respect to patentability of software -related inventions, it is currently one of the most heated areas of debate. Software has become patentable in recent years in most jurisdictions (although with restrictions in certain countries, notably those signatories of the European Patent Convention or EPC) and the number of software patents has risen rapidly.

MEANING OF SOFTWARE PATENTING

The term “software” does not have a precise definition and even the software industries fails to give an specific definition. But it is basically used to describe all of the different types of computer programs. Computer programs are basically divided into “application programs” and “operating system programs”. Application programs are designed to do specific tasks to be executed through the computer and the operating system programs are used to manage the internal functions of the computer to facilitate use of application program.

Though the term ‘Software patent’ does not have a universally accepted definition. One definition suggested by the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure is that a software patent is a “patent on any performance of a computer realized by means of a computer program”.

According to Richard Stallman, the co-developer of the GNU-Linux operating system and proponent of Free Software says, “Software patents are patents which cover software ideas, ideas which you would use in developing software.

That is Software patents refer to patents that could be granted on products or processes (including methods) which include or may include software as a significant or at least necessary part of their implementation, i.e. the form in which they are put in practice (or used) to produce the effect they intend to provide.

Early example of a software patent:

On 21st Sep 1962, a British patent application entitled “A Computer Arranged for the Automatic Solution of Linear Programming Problems” was filed. The invention was concerned with efficient memory management for the simplex algorithm, and may be implemented by purely software means. The patent was granted on August 17, 1966 and seems to be one of the first software patents.

CONCEPTUAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN COPYRIGHT AND PATENT

Software has traditionally been protected under copyright law since code fits quite easily into the description of a literary work. Thus, Software is protected as works of literature under the Berne Convention, and any software written is automatically covered by copyright. This allows the creator to prevent another entity from copying the program and there is generally no need to register code in order for it to be copyrighted. While Software Patenting has recently emerged (if only in the US, Japan and Europe) where, Patents give their owners the right to prevent others from using a claimed invention, even if it was independently developed and there was no copying involved.

Further, it should be noted that patents cover the underlying methodologies embodied in a given piece of software. On the other copyright prevents the direct copying of software, but do not prevent other authors from writing their own embodiments of the underlying methodologies.
The issues involved in conferring patent rights to software are, however, a lot more complex than taking out copyrights on them. Specifically, there are two challenges that one encounters when dealing with software patents. The first is about the instrument of patent itself and whether the manner of protection it confers is suited to the software industry. The second is the nature of software, and whether it should be subject to patenting.

However, issues involved in conferring patent rights to software are a lot more complex than taking out copyrights on them. Specifically, there are two challenges that one encounters when dealing with software patents. The first is about the instrument of patent itself and whether the manner of protection it confers is suited to the software industry. The second is the nature of software and whether it should be subject to patenting.

a) Different Subject Matters

Copyright protection extends to all original literary works (among them, computer programs), dramatic, musical and artistic works, including films. Under copyright, protection is given only to the particular expression of an idea that was adopted and not the idea itself. (For instance, a program to add numbers written in two different computer languages would count as two different expressions of one idea) Effectively, independent rendering of a copyrighted work by a third party would not infringe the copyright.

Generally patents are conferred on any ‘new’ and ‘useful’ art, process, method or manner of manufacture, machines, appliances or other articles or substances produced by manufacture. Worldwide, the attitude towards patentability of software has been skeptical.

b) Who may claim the right to a patent /copyright?

Generally, the author of a literary, artistic, musical or dramatic work automatically becomes the owner of its copyright.

The patent, on the other hand is granted to the first to apply for it, regardless of who the first to invent it was. Patents cost a lot of money. They cost even more paying the lawyers to write the application than they cost to actually apply. It takes typically some years for the application to get considered, even though patent offices do an extremely sloppy job of considering.

c) Rights conferred

Copyright law gives the owner the exclusive right to reproduce the material, issue copies, perform, adapt and translate the work. However, these rights are tempered by the rights of fair use which are available to the public. Under “fair use”, certain uses of copyright material would not be infringing, such as use for academic purposes, news reporting etc. Further, independent recreation of a copyrighted work would not constitute infringement. Thus if the same piece of code were independently developed by two different companies, neither would have a claim against the other.
A patent confers on the owner an absolute monopoly which is the right to prevent others from making, using, offering for sale without his/her consent. In general, patent protection is a far stronger method of protection than copyright because the protection extends to the level of the idea embodied by a software and injuncts ancillary uses of an invention as well. It would weaken copyright in software that is the base of all European software development, because independent creations protected by copyright would be attackable by patents. Many patent applications cover very small and specific algorithms or techniques that are used in a wide variety of programs. Frequently the “inventions” mentioned in a patent application have been independently formulated and are already in use by other programmers when the application is filed.

d) Duration of protection

The TRIPS agreement mandates a period of at least 20 years for a product patent and 15 years in the case of a process patent.

For Copyright, the agreement prescribes a minimum period of the lifetime of the author plus seventy years.

JURISDICTIONS OF SOFTWARE PATENTING

Substantive law regarding the patentability of software and computer-implemented inventions, and case law interpreting the legal provisions, are different under different jurisdictions.

Software patents under multilateral treaties:

o Software patents under TRIPs Agreement

o Software patents under the European Patent Convention

o Computer programs and the Patent Cooperation Treaty

Software patenting under TRIPs Agreement

The WTO’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs), particularly Article 27, are subject to debate on the international legal framework for the patentability of software, and on whether software and computer-implemented inventions should be considered as a field of technology.

According to Art. 27 of TRIPS Agreement, patents shall be available for any inventions, whether products or processes, in all fields of technology, provided that they are new, involve an inventive step and are capable of industrial application. (…) patents shall be available and patent rights enjoyable without discrimination as to the place of invention, the field of technology and whether products are imported or locally produced.”

However, there have been no dispute settlement procedures regarding software patents. Its relevance for patentability in the computer-implemented business methods, and software information technology remains uncertain, since the TRIPs agreement is subject to interpretation.

Software patents under the European Patent Convention

Within European Union member states, the EPO and other national patent offices have issued many patents for inventions involving software since the European Patent Convention (EPC) came into force in the late 1970s. Article 52 EPC excludes “programs for computers” from patentability (Art. 52(2)) to the extent that a patent application relates to a computer program “as such” (Art. 52(3)). This has been interpreted to mean that any invention which makes a non-obvious “technical contribution” or solves a “technical problem” in a non-obvious way is patentable even if a computer program is used in the invention.

Computer-implemented inventions which only solve a business problem using a computer, rather than a technical problem, are considered unpatentable as lacking an inventive step. Nevertheless, the fact that an invention is useful in business does not mean it is not patentable if it also solves a technical problem.

Computer programs and the Patent Cooperation Treaty

The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) is an international patent law treaty, which provides a unified procedure for filing patent applications to protect inventions. A patent application filed under the PCT is called an international application or PCT application. Under the PCT, the international search and the preliminary examination are conducted by International Searching Authorities (ISA) and International Preliminary Examining Authority (IPEA).

CURRENT TREND

However, before we start hailing the advent of a new era and equating the patenting of software in India it would be well worth our while to take a pause and examine the realities of software patenting. We could do this by looking at examples of countries in which software patenting has already become the order of the day, such as in the US and Japan .

United States

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has traditionally not considered software to be patentable because by statute patents can only be granted to “processes, machines, articles of manufacture, and compositions of matter”. i.e. In particular, patents cannot be granted to “scientific truths” or “mathematical expressions” of them. The USPTO maintained the position that software was in effect a mathematical algorithm, and therefore not patentable, into the 1980s. This position of the USPTO was challenged with a landmark 1981 Supreme Court case, Diamond v. Diehr. The case involved a device that used computer software to ensure the correct timing when heating, or curing, rubber. Although the software was the integral part of the device, it also had other functions that related to real world manipulation. The court then ruled that as a device to mold rubber, it was a patentable object. The court essentially ruled that while algorithms themselves could not be patented, devices that utilized them could.

But in 1982 the U.S. Congress created a new court i.e the Federal Circuit to hear patent cases. This court allowed patentability of software, to be treated uniformly throughout the US. Due to a few landmark cases in this court, by the early 1990s the patentability of software was well established.

Moreover, Several successful litigations show that software patents are now enforceable in the US. That is the reason, Patenting software has become widespread in the US. As of 2004, approximately 145,000 patents had issued in the 22 classes of patents covering computer implemented inventions.

Japan

Software is directly patentable in Japan. In various litigations in Japan, software patents have been successfully enforced. In 2005, for example, Matsushita won a court order barring Justsystem from infringing Matsuhita’s Japanese patent 2,803,236 covering word processing software.

Indian Position

With respect to computer software, in Patents (Amendment) Act, 2002, the scope of non-patentable subject matter in the Act was amended to include the following: “a mathematical method or a business method or a computer programme per se or algorithms”.

However, the recent amendment changes (Ordinance, 2004), which amends the Patents Act, 1970, has been promulgated after receiving assent from the President of India and has came into effect from 1st Jan., 2005. Apart from change in pharmaceuticals and agro chemicals, one of the seminal amendments this Ordinance seeks to bring is to permit the patenting of embedded software.
Hence, the amendment means that while a mathematical or a business method or an algorithm cannot be patented, a computer programme which has a technical application in any industry or which can be incorporated in hardware can be patented. Since any commercial software has some industry application and all applications can be construed as technical applications, obviously it opens all software patenting.

In any case, any company seeking to file a patent application for software under the Ordinance should ensure that its invention firstly, follows the three basic tests:

o Inventive Steps

o Novelty

o Usefulness

Therefore, it is important that the software sought to be protected is not merely a new version or an improvement over an existing code.

Further, in accordance with the specific requirements of the Ordinance with regard to patent ability of software, the software should necessarily have a technical application to the industry or be intrinsic to or “embedded” in hardware. This is to prevent against any future litigation or claims of infringements being raised, which is a distinct probability even after a patent has been granted.

 


All About Coding Skills

May 24, 2017

Software

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When it comes to product creation many aspiring internet marketers struggle to come up with ideas. Usually it comes down to a couple of things: 1) They have no experience and thus aren’t comfortable creating a “how to” product or 2) they lack certain specialized skills like copy writing or programming.

If that’s you (or was you) then you can relate. I know it was something I struggled with and many of my students struggle with the same thing. So when I’m coaching students on product creation I often suggest they create a simple software.

Software is great because it has a higher perceived value which makes it easier to sell. Oftentimes all you need to “sell” software is just show a demo of what it does. Which leads to another perk – you don’t have to know any super secret “loophole” that makes $x,xxx per hour in order to create a popular product.

Normally all it takes to have a successful software launch is to create a software that saves people time or helps to automate a tedious task…
But isn’t it expensive to outsource software?

Sometimes, but usually not nearly as expensive as you think…

But! There is a better way…

DO IT YOURSELF!

Yes, today there is technology that allows you to create software without having to actually code the software. Heck, you don’t even have to know how to code. (I don’t know how to code.)
That brings me to today’s topic: 3 ways to create software without any coding skills…

It’s very easy with the use of “rapid development tools” like the ones I’m going to talk about. These tools allow you to quickly and easily become a software creator…

However, be warned not all tools are created the same – each of the tools I’m going to talk about today serve different purposes and different levels of sophistication.

I’m going to start with the most basic (and cheapest) of the three.

Easy Software Maker
This is the newest of the three and also the most basic. Easy Software Maker is a souped up version of an “HTML compiler”. Which means that anything that can be displayed on a web page can be turned into a software using this product. This means you can turn any JavaScript, HTML, html5, PHP etc. into a working and marketable software. One of the customers of this product used it to quickly create a cool QR code generator.

The best part of Easy Software Maker is the price. It’s the most affordable of the three which means it will be very easy to recoup your investment. In fact, if you create just one software you should be able to “get your money’s worth”. You can also upgrade to a version that requires a registration for list building and/or a password on certain pages. (I bought the “Pro Plus” version which allows both.)

The second way you can create software without any coding skills is a little more advanced.

iCurator Pro

iCurator Pro is a “dashboard” style software creator. Which means you can make some very attractive looking software. This software creator gives you the ability to build a dashboard with up to 10 buttons that can link to any website, PDF or video. This means you can easily take PLR (private label rights) products and turn them into a training product with a much higher perceived value.

Now, last but not least is the most sophisticated of the three software creators…
Software Product Magic

Software Product Magic is essentially a “recipe” based software builder. However, don’t let that fool this – it’s much more powerful than other “recipe” based builder. Software Product Magic allows you to make a “template” of any kind (JavaScript, HTML, CSS, etc) and put in “tags” that allow your user to essentially “fill in the blanks” and output the results. For example, my Exit Pop Ninja software was created using Software Product Magic. The user simply follows the instructions and the software spits out an exit pop code for them ready to copy and paste into their squeeze page or sales page.

I’ve owned Software Product Magic longer than the other 2 software creators mentioned above and even though it was kinda pricey it has paid for itself over and over and over…

In conclusion, it’s easier than ever to get started as a product creator with software and these “rapid development tools” make it easy and painless to create your own software even without any coding skills (like me). So if you have been struggling with ideas or lack of experience but want to get started with product creation I suggest you pick one of the tools above and get started today. I own all three products and I absolutely love them.:-)

Remember, with software you have a higher perceived value and should be able to recoup your investment in no time at all. Leave me a comment below and let me know what you think about software creation.

 


Pros Of Software Development Business

May 19, 2017

Software

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All businesses and organisations will typically need some form of software during their lifecycle. The types of software utilised by most companies range from applications that will enable better management of key organisational functions – Human Resources, Finances and Accounts, inventory and stock and even running projects, to more specific items of software that have a key purpose such as Content Management Software for use on company websites. Although these software applications can be purchased “off the shelf”, there are many business benefits that can be associated with choosing custom software development.

Custom Software Development is created for you

Developing custom software is a bespoke, made to measure process, which means that any applications and software programmes created as a result of the process will be entirely made for your company and its individual needs and requirements. Basically, a piece of custom made software is flexible and has the potential to fulfil your specifications meaning that it is easy to use and can be deployed throughout your entire organisation. Instead of having to make do with a ready made software programme or application, with customised software you can be sure that what you will receive will be entirely fit for purpose. There are also significant financial benefits that can be associated with custom made software despite it costing a little more to purchase than off the shelf packages. Software applications that have been made for you don’t require any licence fees, so you can distribute them across your entire organisation without needing to pay extra.

Custom Software Developers will work with your Company

When creating software designed for your company, custom software developers will design and code it to integrate properly within your organisation. The software won’t just help you achieve what you need it to achieve, it will be rich in features and tools that will make it usable by the people who will be operating it. With a piece of custom software all the requirements of your company will be considered, and developers will meet these both in the way that they develop the software and the after care that they provide properly. Although some training and support is available with off the shelf software to a certain extent, with custom made software your developers will continue to work with and support your company whether that’s through training staff members in the use of the software or providing maintenance and technical help to remedy any errors that might occur in the software.

Customised Software is Safe and Secure

The ready made software packages available to businesses and organisations today are certainly a lot more secure than the ones that have been developed in previous years, however they don’t compare to the security levels of customised software. Because customised software has been created for your company it will only be usable by individuals in your company. When you purchase custom software you will be given administrator rights to the software ensuring that you can change and alter user profiles and passwords to be in accordance with your own internal data protection policies. Customised software used on the web is also a lot harder to hack than standard, off the shelf software, and you can be sure that a reputable custom software developer will work hard to keep your application or programme and the data it contains as safe and secure as possible.

Customised Software is Adaptable

Ready made software is designed to be adaptable and flexible, meeting your company’s needs and requirements both now and in the future. Even if you need a few different software programmes to accomplish organisational tasks, a custom developer will be able to integrate the different processes that you need into a single, usable application. Custom software is also much more likely to be cross-platform suitable, so you can be sure that when your company goes mobile you have the software that will support it.