Ministers marrying business requirements to SDLC best practices

Trusted IT partners with over 200 founders and leaders from billion-dollar brands to innovative startups worldwide. The last dull day we had was a decade ago.

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Who are we?


SoftCircles was established in 2011 as a custom Software Development company in New York. At the time of the launch, we had limited capabilities and could only develop standalone mobile and web applications. Our processes were lackluster and we made a lot of mistakes breaking ground. We ate all the cost until we brought the projects back on track, a string of strategic decisions that built trust with our clients.

Learning quickly from our mistakes, we introduced strategic management processes into our organization in 2013 and pivoted our organization to develop integrated, business-first solutions that were a byproduct of mobile and web technologies coming together and working seamlessly to provide a lavish experience. While our solutions looked and felt good, the tailored functionality they brought to the client organization allowed the client's heavy reliance on the solutions, and us an IT partner.

All of us at SoftCircles firmly believe in doing things right the first time. Our work alongside Founders and the C-suite from billion-dollar brands to innovative startups has solved over 200 real-world business challenges and brought hundreds of innovative ideas to life. Our solutions handle and age well, are optimized for end-user engagement, and can work with or alongside the existing IT ecosystem. Among others, we still continue to serve our clients we first engaged with years ago.

  • Strategy – assisting you in determining "what precisely should I build?"
  • Design - the process of developing visually beautiful, easy-to-use interfaces that please your people and make your organisation seem good.
  • Development - the process of developing and testing code that works smoothly, gets the job done, and is dependable on a daily basis.
  • Quality assurance - the process of ensuring that we always develop the proper item and that it functions safely across various platforms.
  • Deployment and DevOps - bringing your product to your customers as quickly as possible.
  • Hosting and monitoring - ensuring that things function smoothly and safely once they've been installed.
  • Ongoing Support — Keeping your product in tip-top form and responding swiftly to your demands with your own dedicated, fractional software staff.

We aggressively seek out the finest solution and manage projects from start to finish. Our company's reputation has been built on timely delivery and precise solutions.
  • We are best suited for the following kinds of partnerships or relationships:
    • New development - “from concept to MVP” or “from MVP to version 1”
    • Dedicated software team - a portion of a software department
    • Legacy takeover and renovations
    • Turnarounds or project rescues
    • Boosting existing teams – Adding common values to current teams
    • Build-to-spec
    • Just Development or just QA
    • Provide remote bodies to organisations for them to fill seats
  • We do not engage in the following activities:
    • Place our personnel on-site with our clients.
    • Contract-to-hire engagements – once again, find a staffing firm for this

Our composition and constitution


We are a group of 40 highly skilled individuals, each of whom went through an extremely rigorous process to join their fellows at SoftCircles.

All of our employees get compensated for their time spent learning and sharing. This involves reading pertinent literature, visiting industry conferences, and participating in and presenting at local meetings.

We host lunch & learn in the workplace on a regular basis so that our employees may learn from one another. We also pay for every employee to attend Scrum, project management, engineering principles and practices, excellent design, and business strategy training classes at any time.

Our people usually bill between 35 to 40 hours of their time per week.

We have registered offices in New York and Wisconsin. We also have support centers in Pakistan, India and Singapore.

Our vetting procedure consists of five steps:
  • Phone Interview with the most appropriate person
  • Technical Phone Interview
  • Coding Exercise - This eliminates around 80% of all applicants.
  • In-Person Interview with References

When we hire developers, we look for people who:
  1. would programme even if it wasn't their job,
  2. can learn and apply new, even foreign, concepts rapidly under pressure, and
  3. have a solid understanding of computer science principles.

Various people, of course, have different interests. Over time, each person develops their own "T-shaped" expertise in one field (ex: security or front-end or SQL optimization). This implies that our staff as a whole is proficient in a wide range of languages, technological stacks, and specialisations.

We don't do this unless it's for an official security clearance. When team members' resumes are sought, it is a dead giveaway that our prospective customer would prefer a staffing arrangement. As previously said, this is something we aim to prevent. You may be confident that you will engage with many different team members before we begin working on your project. If you aren't enthused about your team before we start working, we're probably not a suitable fit for you.

Our Sales Process


We always start with a phone call to make sure we're a good match. A realistic budget, a clear vision and direction, and a complete dedication to the project are all things we look for.

Absolutely. Checking references is a crucial aspect of the purchase procedure, in our opinion. After we've determined that we're a suitable fit for you and your project, we'll generally provide you references.

Before our first call, we will not sign an NDA. It's critical that we understand the industry well enough to determine whether there's a potential conflict with current or previous clients. We also speak with over 500 potential new clients each year. It's unavoidable that we'll encounter comparable thoughts.

We will only sign an NDA if the following conditions are met:

  1. It is reciprocal or bilateral (we typically use ours)
  2. We are familiar with the project's needs and feel that the project and client are a suitable fit for SoftCircles.
  3. We are not in breach of any other agreements we have as a business.

Not probable, in a nutshell. We have an entire blog post dedicated to explaining why, but here's a quick summary:

  • RFP criteria are frequently quite precise, yet they typically lack any commercial context.
  • The chances of this document having the best feature set are quite slim.
  • When we agree to reply to an RFP, we are putting our faith in someone else's capacity to accurately capture the criteria. The project team may learn more about the correct features by doing user interviews, mockups, prototyping, launching actual software, and receiving feedback from real users. From the start, this contract type pits the customer and consultant against each other.

We don't do fixed-bid proposals, as you may have surmised. We respectfully refuse RFPs and take the chance to educate the prospective customer on why RFPs aren't a suitable match for custom software projects.

Absolutely. We always begin with a live demonstration of the system, followed by a code audit. We provide you a comprehensive report when we finish the audit, which includes: analysis, suggestions, and a takeover proposal (if applicable).

Who owns the code and designs created by SoftCircles during the project? Yes, you do. We'll set up a services agreement before we start working that gives you ownership of all work products and deliverables as long as we're compensated for the services we provide.

When customers come to us, they are almost never ready for development. It's critical that we spend the time up front to assist you figure out what you should create and how much money you should set aside for your project. Find out more about our pre-project consultation service.

If you need new software, we'll work with you to size up your project using our pre-project consultation approach before moving forward with a Discovery, Design, and Planning engagement. Following DDP, we'll start working on your software. You'll be a part of the process from start to finish.

More information on our process can be found here.

Yes, we are always assessing new initiatives. The pre-project consultation process takes around two weeks. It takes 4-6 weeks for us to complete the Discovery, Design, and Planning phase. Following that, development starts.

Project Approach


Each project team typically consists of two to three developers. UI/UX designers, software testers, managers, and cloud engineers help each project team. We can lower project expenses for clients since each development team shares support resources. We can also make developers more productive by ensuring that they spend their time developing production-level code rather than doing other things.

Each team has a Project Lead, a full-time developer on the team who is responsible for enabling communication and planning with the customer and among the team members.

Interactions with the Project Lead are not the only means of communication between project teams and customers. Every SoftCircles employee has the authority to communicate with our customers. Phone calls and emails are frequently exchanged between SoftCircles teams and their clients during the work week.

At SoftCircles, each project team has its own email address (for example, [email protected]). The following is a list of all formal communication techniques that will be used during the project:

  • Weekly Status Update
    • Outline the following: what was accomplished last week, what will be accomplished this week, any queries or concerns, and the project's current state.
  • Weekly Call
    • This should be a weekly standing call that is set at the start of the season. The goal is to touch base and discuss any concerns, obtain answers to queries, follow up on action items, or obtain feedback.
  • Release Notice
    • This is an email notification issued to the client by the Team Lead or PM detailing what has happened since the last build and what is ready for testing and feedback.

One of the most common reasons for project failure is a lack of communication. The most crucial component of software project management is establishing communication and planning routines. These are some of the rhythms:

  • 1 hour weekly meeting to discuss accomplishments, mistakes, and future goals
    • Team members show what they accomplished the week before.
    • Everyone discusses how they can improve the project's processes/techniques.
    • A week-by-week schedule has been decided upon.
  • 15-minute daily standup to build team momentum

Our project management procedures are based on a “no surprises” concept, which ensures that everyone is kept informed at all times and that risks are addressed as they arise.

The Project Lead, in a nutshell. Every Project Lead from our team has the authority to communicate directly with clients. This helps to keep things flowing and maintain our flat organisational structure.

Clients are expected to participate actively in their projects. You are the one who brings your knowledge of your industry and market to the table. We have no way of knowing if we're constructing the correct product without it. Weekly calls or meetings, as well as phone availability throughout normal business hours, are all part of the involvement.

Client input is critical at every stage of the process. Even if the features are still rough, you should always give feedback. Your responses will provide us with context on what's important to you and your company. This allows us to prioritise and stay focused on your requirements.

Yes. This type of flexibility is critical and may decide a project's success, but major modifications after the kick-off may have an impact on the budget or timeline.

Yes. We think that successful software projects are built on open, transparent communication. You'll always know what's going on with your project, and you'll be in touch with your team at all times. Our Project Leads frequently phone their customers multiple times each week. To keep you informed, we give weekly progress updates and regular releases on a staging site.

Software is rarely completed. We are certain that our clients and their users will continue to come up with innovative ideas throughout the process and beyond the initial delivery. Your software will need to evolve and adapt as your business changes.

After the initial release, it's usual to take a break from adding new features and focus on improving or fixing existing ones in order to increase user acceptance.

QA personnel are involved from the start, and test strategies are created at the start of projects. Testing occurs throughout all stages of the project, not just at the conclusion. We also use code reviews and pair programming to guarantee that only high-quality code is created.

Open source tools, libraries, frameworks, and even whole projects, as well as our own proprietary libraries, provide tremendous value to SoftCircles teams. When there is a tool that is suited for fixing an issue, we never recreate the wheel. We always programme the components that make your project unique and valuable from the start.

Cost & Timeline


The following are some examples of typical projects for us:
  • Code Audit – 2 people, 1 to 2 weeks
  • Discovery, Design & Planning engagement – 3 people, 4 to 16 weeks • Idea to Version 1 – 3 people, 3-5 months
  • Dedicated Team – monthly retainer
  • Fill a gap until an internal team is formed – 2 people, 3 months
  • Staff augmentation with current internal team – 3 people, 6 months

We've done projects for clients that only have the money for a "Version 1" on several occasions. They spend some time familiarising themselves with the programme before returning for another round of design and development with a better understanding of where the product needs to go.

We won't be able to answer this question properly unless we first understand your concept, business, market, users, and so on. While we can't tell you precisely how much your project will cost, we can tell you what's typical for the projects we're most equipped to help you with based on the 200+ projects we've delivered since 2012.

While it is difficult to determine the exact expenses of a project without going through a research process, such as our Discovery, Design, and Planning phase, we can generally assist you set a reasonable budget before you engage us.

It's also crucial to remember that most projects are divided into phases. Our objective throughout the initial phase of development is to constantly focus on the most valuable features and build something that will set us up for future phases.

No matter how large or small your budget is, we always aim for the value we provide to our clients to much outweigh the costs we charge.

Two to three full-time developers constitute a typical small team for the projects we work on. A big team consists of four to six persons.

We divide the aforementioned figures by 32 hours for each member on the team to get a general estimate of project length. A 1200 hour project, for example, requires about 3 months of calendar time for a team of three individuals (1200 hours / (3 persons * 32 hours/person/week) / 4 weeks/month = 3 months).

On major projects, we can add personnel and move quicker. That is very impressive, and not something that every team or organisation can do. Expanding the team necessitates the availability of more personnel.

When paying for bespoke software, keep in mind that you are paying a team to design and create the first version of a product. Building the proper product, funding and scheduling risks, third-party integrations, and technical strategies that need to be demonstrated are all threats in custom software projects.

Keep in mind that you are paying your team to assist you in mitigating these risks, not to financially own them. Each sprint or release does not guarantee a complete, bug-free product and you can always identify them and plan the fix with us in the next sprint, along with backlog items.

We do, however, have standards and best practises in place to encourage each team to do their best to create a high-quality product the first time.

We invoice once a month in arrears when charging by the hour. For example, on February 1st, you will get an invoice for the hours tracked from January 1st to January 31st. The payment is due in 10 days.

When paying for a dedicated team, money for that month's team is needed in advance. For example, on February 1st, you will pay for the entire month of February.

We guarantee the price. We go to great efforts in our upfront approach to de-risk projects in an industry notorious for cost overruns and low-ball bids. This endeavour yields precise answers, precise estimations, and successful connections. If we misjudge something, we will bear 100% of the additional cost until we are back on track. Why? Because that is the moral thing to do. We also promise that you will be able to cancel at any moment. By putting the power of termination in the hands of our clients, we ensure that we are held accountable at every step of the process.

Project Management


In an industry where 42 percent is the standard, we have a success record of 96.5 percent. Communication, tight frequent feedback loops, and remaining lean have all contributed to our high level of success and reputation for providing rapid, accurate answers.

Yes, we have had a few initiatives fail in the past. Every failure may be related to communication difficulties, which included:

  • Lack of knowledge of the project's scope;
  • misalignment between what was being created and what was required; and
  • a lack of client and team communication throughout the project.

In the case of a failure, we ate the whole project's cost until it was brought back on track. We know it was the right decision.

We enhanced our processes and training after taking our bumps. Among the enhancements are:
  • Development of our very effective Discovery, Design, and Planning phase
  • Methods of multi-point estimation with a focus on risk
  • A more comprehensive 60-day onboarding procedure for all new hires
  • Scrum training is required for all new hires.

SoftCircles offers a diverse skill set, which allows us to investigate possibilities and choose the best languages, platforms, and tools for each task. We use these for around 80% of our work:
  • Web – Angular.js, React.js, Vue.js, Node.js, Python (Django, Flask), ASP.NET Core (C#), PHP, RoR
  • Mobile – iOS & Android: Swift, Kotlin
  • Cross-Platform – React Native (JavaScript), Flutter (Dart)
  • Desktop – Java, Microsoft WPF (C#)
  • Embedded – C, C++, JavaScript
  • Database – PostgreSQL, SQL Server, MySQL, MongoDB

We do, indeed. Assuming your project does not necessitate complex polling or data processing, we often utilise React Native or Flutter to target both platforms with the same core code. This significantly reduces development time and expenses.

Sports

HealthCare

Online Retail

Distribution

Travel

Education

Hospitality

Real Estate

On our website, you may find a list of some of our most recent clients. Unfortunately, due to confidentiality concerns, we won't be able to discuss project information until we know there's a suitable fit and a mutual NDA is in place. At that time, we will offer you a portfolio of work as well as a comprehensive list of references.

Yes, an API layer is built into all of our applications.

Yes, we've handled HIPAA compliance on numerous large-scale healthcare projects, and PCI compliance is something we deal with on a daily basis because 80 percent of our projects include the processing, transfer, or storage of credit card data.

We can offer our full security and compliance package, which outlines our policies and procedures for data processing, security, and any other protections, upon request. This covers all regulations pertaining to our hosting packages.

Hosting & Monitoring


Yes. We have a private cloud hosted and managed by AWS and Azure that we use to host and manage our clients' apps. We host and maintain products on which thousands of users rely on a daily basis. Uptime as a result has never been a problem in our production environments.

  • Container for services such as transactional email, notification, and batch reporting, among others.
  • Development, testing, and staging environments in sandboxes
  • Updates to the operating system on a regular basis
  • Backups of the web server and databases are performed on a nightly basis.
  • Bot and attack monitoring is ongoing.
  • Standardized recovery methods and performance monitoring

Yes. We can offer our full security and compliance package, which outlines our policies and procedures for data processing, security, and any other protections, upon request. This covers all regulations pertaining to our hosting packages.

While no one is ever completely safe, we take pleasure in the fact that none of our clients have ever been attacked and that our network has never been compromised.

We've never had to deal with an emergency recovery situation, but we do make nightly backups to help with rapid recoveries. We backup data every few hours in some situations. Our response time to recovery is less than 24 hours.

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