Posts Tagged ‘Outsourcing software development’

6
JUN
2012

How Communication Eliminates Nightmares During Software Development Projects

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Entrusting the development of a web-based application to a software services company, with their programmers located outside your home country, can be a fearful proposition. The application needs to be right, the code needs to be flawless, and the vision for the final product needs to be executed properly. But equally important is the provider’s ability to keep the client comfortable and confident throughout the development process. This is achieved through making communication and responsiveness a top priority.

Communication should begin from the very first contact with the company. Do they return a sales call? If not, that should raise a red flag. If the company doesn’t respond to a client when they are seeking service, there can be little confidence that the company will respond to questions or ideas about the product they are developing.

The goal of communication for a software services provider is to make the client feel like a partner in the process. It should eliminate the guesswork and focus on what the final product will look like and how it will function. In some instances, a vendor relationship, where the client asks for something and the product is simply delivered, may be all a client needs. But when a new and unique application is required, the client needs to feel invested in the development process, and they need to feel like a partner in that process.

When a client pays for the expertise of software developers, they want to have input into the process. They need their provider to be responsive and to tell them when ideas don’t make sense or when there is a better solution to a problem. The goal of the services provider should be to make development a collaborative process with the client and allow for fine-tuning throughout development. This sort of constant interaction ensures that there are no surprises when the final product is delivered.

Softjourn approaches communication with its clients with unconditional responsiveness. Phone calls and emails are always acknowledged and returned. Softjourn prides itself on making the customer feel important in the development process, because they are. The client is the person or company that has the vision about what they want from the project and it takes constant communication to fully grasp the goals they have for their tools and software. Ultimately, the better the communication and responsiveness, the better the final product will be.

There is little debate that remote software development is a viable and cost-effective way to get development work done. Typically, hiring equivalent talent and expertise in-house can be expensive and superfluous. But the provider should provide more than mere execution; they need to communicate and collaborate with the client to make the best of everyone’s expertise: the developers’ expertise in creating applications and the client’s expertise about the tools they need for their business.

Categories: Outsourcing Offshore, Outsourcing SMB's, Outsourcing Ukraine, Project Management, Virtual Teams |

31
MAY
2012

Qualities of a Great Service Provider/Partner!

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There have been a lot of nightmare stories circulating about working with remote developers and web-based applications. Many companies describe running into challenges with time differences, language, and the quality of code in the final product. So how do you choose a great software vendor to work with?

Many software services companies promote their use of the Agile methodology, but what’s more important is how they actually employ it. Their ultimate goal should be to collaborate with the client and keep them aware of the work being done. If you choose to work with software developers outside your country, you don’t want to sit and worry about what is happening with your project and feel like there is nothing you can do but hope it is what you asked for.

Softjourn stresses constant customer interaction and frequent deliverables in their use of Agile. This means you will continually see the product as the project evolves, and you will be able to provide feedback and request changes. Dependent on the project time-frame, Softjourn schedules regular delivery dates, so that you can view the progress, as well as weekly conference calls to further involve you in the development process.

Another trait of a great software development firm is their ability to understand a client’s vision. You may not know great code from bad code, but you can envision the end product you need for your business. That’s why it’s so important for a service provider to be able to translate your vision and needs into the appropriate programming and applications. This skill should be easily identified during the bidding process. Offshore developers should be able to take your brief mock-up of the product and requirements and be able to return to you with ideas about how to achieve it along with detailed questions that indicate they really understand you. After all, you are hiring a services company for their contribution of expertise, not to just simply fill an order.

Perhaps most importantly, your service provider needs to prioritize communication. As mentioned earlier, this should be demonstrated by their approach to the Agile methodology: communication with the goal of developing a collaborative relationship with the client. Another factor in communication is responsiveness. Do they always return your phone calls or emails? Do they make you feel like an important client? This is an area in which Softjourn takes great pride. Through strict attention to communication and making the effort to partner with their clients, Softjourn is able to solve problems before they exist. And, to ward off those fears of any language barrier, Softjourn provides the client with a liaison for meetings with the programming team to increase the client’s level of comfort.

It’s important to remember that a software services firm can offer more value than cost-savings alone, if you choose the right company. A vendor that doesn’t make you feel like a small client can mean big returns for your business and your investors. How is your vendor treating you?

Categories: Outsourcing Offshore, Outsourcing SMB's, Outsourcing Ukraine, Project Management, Virtual Teams |

19
FEB
2012

What are start-ups asking…..

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I had written before that most start-ups are expected now to work with remote development teams in order to lower their burn rate.   But what about those other start-ups?  The ones that are six, seven or more years old and still call themselves a start-up.  In part they are doing this to set and continue a certain mindset; we move fast, we’re lean, not a lot of bureaucracy to get things done, etc.  So what about this type of start-up, what are they interested in?  As often as not they may keep everything in-house, thinking they move too fast to work with remote developers. They may have tried outsourcing (either onshore or offshore), but it failed. Sometimes I am hearing that they tried it 3, 4 or more times and every time it has failed. But they are still interested to try it again.  Can give them credit for wanting to try it again, but it is interesting to dig in to the reasons they give for the failures, in order to determine what not to do next time. Let’s examine a common reason given for failure and see what a start-up of this type can do to avoid this issue in the future.

One reason I have heard for why outsourcing has failed is “bad code”.  Now I can see that you do not want, and should never settle for “bad code”. As a customer, you should never settle for code that cannot later be easily maintained, that is not architected correctly, etc.  Also, of course you have a right to look at the code while it is being developed; it is your code that you are paying for. Certainly that should never be an issue. Often, however, when I ask exactly what was so bad about the code, “Why was it bad?”, the answers sometimes become a bit vague… I would expect to get answers which were more concrete, something like, “They wrote the app so that the entire survey was loaded in to memory, therefore the app could not easily be run on different telephones which had less memory.”, or something similar depending on the platform or the type of application in question. Or to hear a reason such as, “The developer did not document the code correctly, or at all.”

However, a more typical answer I hear is that it was just bad code (not from everyone of course, but often enough). Here in lies the problem I believe and I think you can see it too.  If you can’t define exactly what you didn’t like about it or what was not done correctly, then how would the developer know exactly what you wanted.  You may argue that you should not have to tell the developer to use common acceptable standards for the language they are developing in, or to comment their code, etc., with that I would definitely agree with you.  But if that were really the problem, then that is what I would hear from VP’s engineering or CEO’s of companies as the reason why outsourcing did not work for them in the past.  But I do not hear that, I just hear, “the code was bad”, which leads me to believe there is something else behind why it was bad.

So how do you get around this the next time you want to work with remote developers? There should definitely be a discussion of what you expect in the code, with the developers.  Telling them you are going to be looking at the code is one thing, well they should expect that you will look at it since it is your code and it will be delivered to you. But being more concrete as to what you expect as far as:  official coding standards to be followed, if your company has its own standards that you want followed, your expectations for code documentation, etc. Another suggestion would be to include as part of your weekly deliverables, or once every couple of weeks (at least at the beginning of the project), code reviews. Have the developer explain why they wrote something in a certain way. Also, if you expect architecture to be done as part of the project, or if you are not providing it, have the developer document the architecture and send it to you for your review, then have a discussion on it before the developer goes forward and starts writing code. Following a few simple methods of getting to the goal of having good code, can eliminate the “bad code”, and the frustration that goes along with it.

Categories: entrepreneurs, Outsourcing Offshore, Outsourcing SMB's, Outsourcing Ukraine, Project Management, Virtual Teams |

16
FEB
2012

How a New Technology Platform Helped Startup Minimize Card Not Present Subscription Decline Rates

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The subscription business model is exploding. New software companies now offer software-as-a-service applications (SAAS) instead of perpetual licenses. Services such as Spotify, Dropbox , Skype and thousands of others offer subscription services. Traditional companies continue to depend on subscriptions, such as newspapers and magazines. Even utilities, debt collection companies, health care providers and direct selling merchants offer subscriptions for consumable products (ever receive a monthly shipment of nutritional supplements you never really wanted?).

What do they all have in common? Credit cards.

More specifically, these merchants use what are known as automated recurring billing (ARB) platforms for merchants who use card not present (CNB) billing for their clients.

Parallel to this is a crisis in credit card payment declines.  Card not present merchants using ARB platforms suffer from payment decline rates of 10-20% of their subscription base due to a variety of factors, such as cards hitting their limits, cards that have expired, or cards that have closed.

This can take a huge bite out of profits when a merchant as to continually resubmit payments.

Card not present profitability solutions

CentreBack payments, a payment profitability solutions service for card not present recurring billing merchants, was founded by entrepreneur Michael Bradley, to solve this problem.

Traditionally merchants have used their own internal “re-try” logic when an attempted authorization fails. However, CentreBack realized merchants needed a more repeatable, quantifiable and strategic approach to managing payment recovery – a key component in managing the entire lifecycle of a customer.

CentreBack created a recovery platform that:
•    Increases the ability of firms to automatically recover failed payments
•    Seamlessly integrates into automated customer contact solutions, and
•    Identifies sales channels and/or campaigns which lead to higher decline rates

So how did CentreBack get to where they are today?

Force.com considered, then rejected

CentreBack needed to create an automated payment recovery platform to address this market problem, and turned to Softjourn, a software engineering firm, specialized in building sophisticated and secure payment processing solutions for demanding U.S. and European clients.

We helped them build a state-of-the-art product called Revenue Patrol which was designed to increase merchant’s authorization success rates by 25%. Initially we looked at Force.com, Salesforce.com’s cloud computing platform, on which to build CentreBack’s solution. However, we rejected it due to its lack of portability across platforms at the time.

Java based solution for portability and flexibility

Eventually we suggested to CentreBack that a Java-based solution, which is more portable across platforms, would give CentreBack more flexibility with the application.

As part of this project, Softjourn provided an end-to-end service that included design, development, testing and deployment of the Revenue Patrol application.

One of the key requirements of the platform was to develop the application in accordance with PCI Data Security Standards for payment applications. This includes security features such as:

•    Encryption configuration for credit card fields
•    Gateway configurations
•    Removing private data from completed or hard failed transactions.

We worked with CentreBack’s PCI compliance auditor to assure that all PCI requirements were met.

The delivery also included an easy to use business-user interface, an integrated analytics package, and a sophisticated rules engine to support complex business processes associated with exception management for payment. We ensured that Revenue Patrol was able to call out to third party contact systems, such as text messaging, emails, or IVR solutions.

The project development process and governance included mandatory weekly meetings for project status reviews, answering questions and solving any issues that may have arisen.

“I felt like there was a much more professional approach, distance did not become an issue, really the team understood the goals of the project.  A lot more collaboration rather than a one way push of here is what you need to do,” said Mike Bradley, CentreBack’s Founder and CEO.

The solution was built using Linux, PostgreSQL, Apache Tomcat, Sun Java SDK, as well as the Spring Framework, Spring WebMVC, Spring Security, Hibernate ORM, Jasypt + Bouncy Castle security frameworks.  Libraries included jFreeChart +ceWolf, Java Mail, Jasper Reports, Quartz scheduler and Apache commons.

Revenue Patrol was deployed in a PCI compliant private cloud using Rackspace as the host.

Conclusion

Revenue Patrol has successfully been launched and is now in Beta testing. The next step is to roll this out to a larger group of sizable card not present automated recurring billing merchants.

Categories: entrepreneurs, Outsourcing Offshore, Outsourcing SMB's, Outsourcing Ukraine, startups |

2
FEB
2012

How a startup firm can compete with large banks in the international money transfer business

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International remittance from Latin American immigrants to their home country is a huge business. In 2012 remittances to Mexico alone totaled more than $21 billion. Most recipients of international remittances are lower income households who are largely unbanked.

Solutions for sending money abroad have varied from Western Union and MoneyGram to smaller startup companies.

Viamericas (www.viamericas.com), a Bethesda, Maryland-based company, is one of the more innovative companies that have emerged to provide services for international remittances in Latin America and the Caribbean.

International money transfers using Check21

Viamericas had been using a Check21 system provided by a nationwide bank to fund remittances. The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act (Check21) of 2003 provides guidelines and standards in check truncation. Check truncation is the practice of using an electronic image of a check to substitute for a physical check when presenting to the receiving bank for settlement.

With its fast rate of growth Viamericas knew it would grow out of its bank-provided solution, and had to develop their own solution. But their network of nationwide independent agents had grown accustomed to their current system, presenting a challenge: how to create an alternative solution that was acceptable to their agents.

Developing a secure system to rival large banks

Viamericas needed to develop a system that satisfied their agents’ usability requirements, provided the functionality of larger bank solutions, as well as additional functionality that allowed them to become more competitive.

They turned to Softjourn, a development firm specializing in designing and developing secure financial applications, with headquarters in the United States and development facilities in the Ukraine.

Softjourn designed, developed and tested a centralized server application and a client check truncation application. They also worked with Viamerica’s current Check21 solution provider to design, develop and test the sending of electronic cash letters and the receiving of electronic returns files between the bank and Viamericas.

The new solution also included functionality which was not available with the current solution, such as the ability to put checks on hold automatically, based on system-wide restrictions established at the central Viamericas location.

An integral part of the new solution was to research, test, and recommend the appropriate recognition software to be used for the final solution.  Initially Softjourn created a long list of potential OCR (Optical Character Recognition) vendors; including open source vendors and large-scale commercial products. The Check21 application being developed was to replace the one that Viamerica’s was paying for on a subscription basis, from their bank.  That solution included high-end OCR recognition including recognizing CAR – Courtesy Amount Recognition (the amount in characters) and LAR – Legal Amount Recognition (the hand written amount). The solution Softjourn chose also had to take in to account that almost 50% of the checks processed by the new system were going to be hand written, so the OCR software would have to be able to recognize the amounts on a lot of different checks. Having a .NET version was also a requirement as the new Check21 system was being written in .NET.

Some of the vendors evaluated included:
http://www.altova.com/download/authentic/xml_db_form_editor_desktop.html
http://www.dart.com/products.aspx
http://www.infragistics.com/dotnet.aspx
http://www.leadtools.com/SDK/Raster/Raster-Products-n.htm
http://www.visionshape.com/Evalrequest.aspx

As well as several higher-end solutions:

http://www.miteksystems.com/products_quickstrokes.asp
www.a2ia.com
www.orbograph.com
www.byteway.it

Evaluation included installing all of the different products, creating test image files based on real check images, supplied by our client, and comparing the results.

After initial results and creating a short list of possible vendors, Softjourn recommended the QuickStrokes Banking Edition, from Mitek. The product included ICR (Intelligent Character Recognition), OCR, MICR (Magnetic Ink Character Recognition), CAR and Business LAR. It did not include hand-printed LAR and was therefore less expensive. Mitek did have a QuickStrokes Premier Banking Edition which could read the LAR field, but in most cases it was not necessary. Recognition results averaged 92% with the Premier edition and 78% with the regular Banking edition.

Using bank functionality to compete with banks

Check truncation systems are usually the realm of banks, but smaller firms, such as Viamericas, can also use this functionality.

Softjourn helped Viamericas develop their own system, allowing them to compete more effectively against their competitors and larger banks.

Luis Gonzalez, CFO of Viamericas, said: “This project puts our company in a competitive advantage with regards to our competitors because we were able to emulate what large banks are doing quickly and effectively even before some of them launch their own product, providing unbanked customers with the means to use financial services.”

Their agents also liked the solution.

Esteban Bernal, Viamericas’ VP of Engineering, said: “Our agents like working with the new Viacheck system over our old solution. Their work is consolidated on a couple of screens making it much easier for them to use.”

Conclusion

The United Nations estimates that 191 million immigrants send money to relatives back home.  The World Bank estimates that $550 billion was remitted globally in 2008.

This is a huge market with a huge opportunity for financial services providers, and advances in technological solutions making it easier to securely transfer and process money abroad, has enabled more firms to take part in this lucrative market.

But financial processing applications are complex. If you want your share of the billions traveling back and forth across borders, you need the right partner to help you.

Categories: Outsourcing SMB's, Outsourcing Ukraine |

24
JAN
2012

Another year! Maybe it’s your turn?

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As often happens at the start of the year, well at the start of the Chinese New Year in this case…we take a look back at what we did in the past. This year I decided to take a look at the very first blog post I did almost 6 years ago and see if the reason I started the blog in the first place still has meaning.

Back then I wrote, “Most information on outsourcing, books written lately, magazine articles and blogs have been geared towards larger companies. On one hand this is great, it is great to learn from the big guys who have been doing this a while. On the other hand, it leads to a lot of discussion on areas that may not be applicable for a smaller firm who needs 2, 3 or 15 persons offshore, not hundreds.”   The idea behind the blog was to provide information to entrepreneurs with new company ideas, or smaller firms who would have smaller teams of software engineers.  I emphasized the objective with the tag line, “Outsourcing is not just for the big guys!”

In order to determine if this topic was still relevant, one of the things I looked at was what Softjourn’s clients have told us over the years.  Six years ago the quote from one of our start-up clients was, “My fears and concerns (with offshoring) where alleviated by having a local contact who was not just relaying information back and forth but who seemed to understand that he needed to have a firm grasp of my goals before assigning the work overseas. Every attempt has been made to provide an excellent product. Issues were addressed promptly and through the entire process I felt that I had a partner not a contractor.” So clearly there is concern over the location and the distance.

A more recent quote from a client looks like this, “It was great to find someone to work with us as a collaborative partner. We have never done this before so sometimes we didn’t know what we were asking for and we were figuring things out as we went along. When you’re creating something totally new it is absolutely necessary to have a partner offer suggestions, be proactive, and think 3 steps ahead instead of merely executing what we said. I can’t thank you enough!” Obviously more recently, there is less emphasis on where the people are, and more on how they can be an effective partner and assist in getting a company, or a new service, up and running.

When I first started this blog, it was less common for smaller companies to want to work with remote teams of software engineers. Start-ups especially though, we are working too fast, how can we work remotely? Now, however, it is expected that start-ups will work with remote teams; it is considered basically obligatory. It is also more and more common for smaller companies to have team members all over the world. But with the move to more global teams, there still comes the challenges such as: managing time differences, collaborating with individuals in multiple locations, making sure everyone is on the same page, managing different sets of goals, and so on. This blog has always been about helping start-ups get their businesses launched and helping small and medium sized businesses add new services and improve on their current ones.  Going forward I will be placing increasing emphasis on helping these same companies overcome the challenges they are facing while trying to grow their businesses with global teams, after all, “Global teams are not just for the big guys”!

Categories: entrepreneurs, Outsourcing Offshore, Outsourcing SMB's, Project Management, Virtual Teams |

17
JAN
2012

Is Open Source Software Safe For Online Payment Processing Solutions?

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When eWeek released a slideshow entitled “Ten Reasons Not To Buy Open Source”, the presentation was quickly refuted in another eWeek article, knocking down every point that argued against open source software.

Point number one in the counter presentation: open source software is safe – safer than proprietary solutions, such as Microsoft, which are often rife with security loopholes (noting of course that it does depend a lot on how the application is built).

Hundreds of security and financial transaction applications have been built using open source development tools and frameworks, and supported by open source operating systems, application servers and web servers.

Modern, cost-effective online payment processing solutions for merchants

Case-in-point: startup company Noca, a California-based firm, has developed an innovative online payment processing solution that enables merchants to start accepting payments online right away and avoid the high fees of credit and debit card processing systems by offering a new type of electronic checking solution.

Offering near instantaneous approvals of merchant accounts, the Noca system avoids the pitfalls of traditional e-check systems by offering identify and account verification services as an online, in stream process.

This is ideal for merchants who were previously skittish about using an electronic checking system due to the inability to automatically and instantaneously verify a payer’s identity.

Help developing a testing environment

To get their new service off the ground, Noca needed to develop a comprehensive testing environment to allow potential merchant customers to test out the system before committing to the service.

The project required deep knowledge of several open source development tools and frameworks, and detailed coordination of several intricate pieces that comprised the complete system.

For example, Noca needed to:

  • Develop and integrate credit card processing
  • Develop a plug-in for Ubercart ecommerce shopping cart
  • Set up complex email processes, with specific event handlers using an upgraded email system
  • Improve their notification system
  • Modify their marketplace functionality
  • Develop security features such as the use of PIN numbers

Noca decided to turn to Softjourn, which specializes in developing financial transaction applications, front-end development, and open-source software.

Complete secure open source solution

Using tools such as an open source application server, Dojo and Eclipse development frameworks, Drools business rules management system, and other open source web service frameworks, Softjourn developed a complete testing environment for Noca.

Noca’s CEO PJ Gupta was so pleased with the work our partner did they decided to extend their assignment to work on core payment processing applications.

“I have been very pleased with the work that Softjourn has done to assist us in getting our testing environment in place for our clients, and I look forward to continue to work with the team!” Said Gupta.

So is open source secure?

Though it sounds counter-intuitive, having hundreds if not thousands of developers worldwide helping to make open source development tools and platforms secure makes open source a more viable solution than proprietary technologies.

cutting-edge online payment processing company Noca is betting its whole business model on open source software.

But if you want to build your financial application with open source software, and get it right the first time, contact Accelerance, and we can arrange for an interview with Softjourn who specializes in developing open source financial applications for some of the most demanding financial services firms today.

Categories: Outsourcing Offshore, Outsourcing Ukraine, startups |

12
JAN
2012

How To Build A Payment Processing Application For The Unbanked

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According to a recent study by the Federal Reserve over 7 % or about 1 in 13 American households does not use a checking or savings account, and over a quarter of households rely regularly on “alternative financial services” like payday lenders or pawn shops.

Shocking statistics? Maybe. But it is a great business opportunity for savvy financial services firms who want to make life easier for employers who hire unbanked employees.

Firms such as an Atlanta, Georgia-based PayPartners which offers large companies the ability to pay their employees with pre-loaded debit cards are one such company

PayPartners provides unbanked employees with a safe and inexpensive alternative to check-cashing firms and pawn shops, who often charge between 1 and 6 percent of the face value of a paycheck, in order to cash it.

Additionally, PayPartners provides debit cards so companies can reimburse employees for travel and expenses, and incentive payment cards so employers can reward their employees for contests or meeting company goals.

Building a complete solution: credit card processing, international payments and customer self-service

PayPartners needed to build a complete solution that not only included credit card processing, but also enabled employers to make international payments and cut customer service costs.

Several years back, Pay Partners turned to Softjourn to help them continually develop and support their solution.

Softjourn helped PayPartners build a system that enables employers to issue, re-issue, and move monies in real time, provide role-based access to information, provide real-time reporting capabilities, and enable employees to enroll for their service online.

Financial applications and user interface design: the ideal combination

PayPartners chose Softjourn because of their extensive financial expertise, such as knowledge of credit card processing, online payment processing, and international money transfers.

However, they also needed a firm with the front-end experience to build a self-service portal that both employees and employers could use, cutting customer service costs. Softjourn fit the bill.

PayPartners CEO Ryan Powers stated: “The work …. done to this point has helped us streamline our operations and has eliminated the need for us to hire customer service reps….we were able to extend more control to our clients which allows them to better manage their payment process.”

Enabling international payments

PayPartners needed to issue international cards for companies with overseas employees. They also had to replace the Lynk processing system with the i2C and Transcard processors.  Softjourn assigned a two-person team to help them with this successful move.

Check Authentication

In early 2011, PayPartners took a major step forward in the market of cash and checks. For persons who have traditional bank accounts, when they cash different types of checks, depending on the type of check, the funds will be “provisionally” available only, and if the check bounces the funds will be reversed. Because of the risk of many checks such as handwritten payroll checks or two-party checks, it is often difficult for unbanked persons to be able to cash those checks. There is no option for an unbanked person to have funds “provisionally” available.

To help alleviate this problem, PayPartners developed a new BranchOffice solution for check cashers (retail banks initially).  As part of this solution PayPartner’s existing Back Office (BO) service was integrated with CHEXAR®’s check cashing and guarantee solution which lets check cashers safely cash over 20 types of checks, the types of checks which are often difficult for unbanked persons to cash.

CHEXAR is the national leader for technology and solutions that enable clients to cash any check and provide  unbanked customers the option to receive cash for the check and/or load that cash on to a card, such as PayPartners Prepaid Card.

As part of the integration with Chexar, the following functionality was included in the new BranchOffice solution; check verification, online chat, risk management evaluation and immediate card deposit. This new PayPartners’ BranchOffice solution lets bank departments or financial organizations work with customer’s checks in banks, stores, etc.

Since BranchOffice is to be deployed in financial institutions, it was necessary to add additional risk mitigation and ID verification features to meet financial institution’s compliance requirements. These requirements include giving FI’s the ability to control and set users limits such as: maximum number of checks that can be cashed in one day, maximum total amount of checks that can be cashed in one day, maximum single check amount to be cashed, etc.

Chexar’s system will allow clients using BranchOffice to validate the authenticity of a check and to perform any required compliance verification such as OFAC and CIP on the customer. Each financial institution will determine what forms of identification will be accepted. The customer will have the option of having all of the value of the check (minus the check cashing fee) converted to cash or having all, or some, of the value of the check deposited to a prepaid card (minus any applicable fees).

Check scanning was enabled using a scanner and software from ScanShell which reads the MICR line on the check.  The check amount is entered manually by the operator.  Since PayPartners’ BO works under Linux/Apache and the scanner software uses Windows drivers, Softjourn integrated the two using Active-X components.  According to Yuriy Kropelnytsky, Sr. Developer and Project Lead for Pay Partners, “I was very glad to work with people which considered me not just a third party programmer. I felt like a full member of the PP team and was able to make my own decisions and come up with creative solutions for the service and features PP wanted to provide.”

Technologies used:

The complete system, including the credit card processing, full payment life-cycle, reporting, roles-based access, and self-service portal was built on the Ubuntu operating system using PHP, Javascript, HTML, XML and C++ on a PostgresSQL database and AJAX development tools.

Next Steps

In today’s web savvy world, even the non-banked have access to the Internet, through inexpensive home computers or through the new generation of web-enabled smartphones.

Finding a development firm that combines deep expertise developing financial applications, such as credit card processing, online payment processing, international money transfers, and mobile banking is hard enough.

Finding a firm with financial expertise and user interface design experience for the web is a rare bonus.

Contact Softjourn for more information on how we can help you build a financial application for the web.

Categories: entrepreneurs, Outsourcing Offshore, Outsourcing SMB's, Outsourcing Ukraine, startups |

24
MAY
2011

Business expertise versus technical skills!

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In talking with a group of product managers recently about working with distributed software development teams, where part of the team was in the US and part of the team was in an offshore location, there seemed to be a big consensus that one of the most difficult issues in working with the offshore team was getting them to understand the “business side” of the system.  For example one person was very vocal about the issues with the developers in the offshore location not always understanding why the payment system needed to work in a particular way, or why the users needed to work in a certain way.  Other examples came up with billing systems and with the developers not understanding why sales commission had to be calculated in a certain way. This got me to thinking as to why this could be occurring?

According to the group of product managers the reason was specifically based on the fact that we are exposed to “how certain things” work more often in the US than in some of the offshore locations.  I agree this can be a factor with understand such things as “calculating sales commission”. Well at least the basics of calculating sales commissions, because as many people know there are many many ways to calculate sales commissions. It can greatly vary by company. So any developer would need to know what is the algorithm/s used by the company. 

After thinking about this question for a while, I started to think about how many companies search for outsourcing partners. A top priority for many companies is technical skills, which of course are very important when choosing who to work with. But I think sometimes technical skills are given a higher priority than if the outsourcing partner has related business or experience with your vertical market.  For example if your company is in the payments space, working with an outsourcing partner which has experience in that space will go a long way towards helping to overcome issues with understanding how the system has to work. Many companies when they start to look for a partner, are thinking, well we have the domain expertise, we are the experts, which is definitely true, and we can help pass that expertise on to anyone that we work with.  What we don’t have is enough technical skills.  If a company makes a concerted effort to pass on the needed domain expertise then the combination of your side having the domain expertise and the vendor having the technical skills, can work. However, in a distributed environment, passing on the domain expertise will take more effort, and it is easy for it to fall by the way side. It seems to make sense then to give, if not equal weight to both business domain expertise and technical expertise, then at least put business domain expertise in a close second place, when choosing a partner to work with your firm on software development.

Categories: Outsourcing Offshore, Outsourcing SMB's, Outsourcing Ukraine, Project Management, Virtual Teams |

27
MAR
2011

Business case changes the reason outsourcing relationships go wrong?

Comments (149)

I was reading an article earlier this month about business cases and outsourcing and some of the typical reasons that outsourcing agreements go awry – http://preview.tinyurl.com/outsourcing-business-case. The article was based on a study done by the Outsourcing center (http://www.outsourcing-center.com), which looked at 140 outsourcing relationships; long term relationships during which certainly the business case was going to change over time.  The author, Kathleen Goolsby, a senior writer at the Outsourcing Center has been writing about outsourcing relationships for more than ten years. I find her articles very informative. 

In this one she reviews the most common reasons that the outsourcing relationships, from the Outsourcing Center study group, went wrong and give some possible suggestions as to what can be done to solves those problems if they occur in your outsourcing relationship.

The reasons the outsourcing relationships went wrong, as cited in the article include: 
1. Resource allocation – on the part of the provider, they did a poor job of planning.
2. The buyer’s business model changed – changes need to be made to the relationship and agreement in order for the buyer to remain competitive. 
3. Multisourcing environment – if the provider is subcontracting some of the work and not all of it is within their control or the buyer is working with many vendors and does not have control over all of them. 
4. Attrition – when the service provider is experiencing a lot of turnover.
5. Changes to the pricing model – in this case they refer to affects to both parties if their fiscal years do not overlap, this can affect compensation for the provider. 
6. Changes in IT business-case assumptions – changes in required technology due to changes caused by the market. 

I think I might add one more reason to this list. One that starts before the outsourcing relationship begins and continues as the project goes on. That is – was enough time and therefore enough money put towards making sure that all of the people, within the buyer organization, that need to be involved with the project, are onboard with what needs to get done and is there enough time for them to do what they need to do. Was there actually enough time built in to their schedule for all of the work they need to do on the project: time to review what they need to, to do what work they need to do – whether that is time to compile information and data at the beginning of the project, to review product as it is delivered throughout the course of the relationship, or time for integration when final product is delivered. Also was enough time and money put towards ongoing reinforcement/communication of the reasons for the outsourcing relationship and its corresponding business case. If this was not accounted for before the project and relationship started, there will definitely be some hiccups at the beginning and both parties will have to get together and discuss how to overcome this issue, how to make changes so that the necessary people are able to be fully involved and that all of the necessary work gets done.

Categories: Outsourcing Offshore, Outsourcing SMB's, Outsourcing Ukraine, Project Management |