BlueFletch Named Atlanta’s Best & Brightest Companies to Work For

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Atlanta, GA – May 17, 2018  BlueFletch, award-winning leader in innovative mobile technology solutions is proud to announce it has been selected as 2018’s Atlanta’s Best and Brightest Companies to Work For. Atlanta’s Best & Brightest is awarded by the National Association of Business Resources (NABR).

The Best and Brightest Companies to Work For® competition identifies and honors organizations that display a commitment to excellence in their human resource practices and employee enrichment. Organizations are assessed based on categories such as communication, work-life balance, employee education, diversity, recognition, retention and more.

At BlueFletch, we’re thrilled to be named one of Atlanta’s Best and Brightest for the fourth year in a row. It’s a testament to our leadership, our amazing team and our commitment to keeping innovative HR initiatives as a touchstone of our corporate culture. BlueFletch’s dedication to employee excellence includes flexible work hours and the ability to work at home, a commitment to continuing education and team outings organized for maximum fun and team bonding. Communication is king at BlueFletch and the secret to our success. We’re proud to know that listening to and learning from our team members is the reason we’ve been awarded this honor.

BlueFletch will be honored at the Best & Brightest Awards Gala will be held June 28th at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis.

 

About the National Association of Business Services

Established in 1996, the National Association of Business Services (NABR) fosters a collaborative environment in which companies and leaders learn best practices, trends and vital information benefiting the company and its employees well beyond the finances. Through the Best and Brightest programs, the National Association for Business Resources provides specialized business services, education and resources for businesses throughout the United States.

Starting a Project the Right Way

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Workshops are an easy way to get projects off to the right start, which is one of the many reasons why BlueFletch encourages these engagements.

If setup and run correctly, these sessions can reveal the client’s needs, business goals, and written assumptions, while also allowing your team to better determine the cost, effort, and risks of a project. Ultimately, the goal of a workshop is to define the project roadmap and help stakeholders move from uncertainty to certainty.

Sure, there are some scenarios where a workshop may not be necessary; for example, if you have worked with a client before, know their working style and have clear documentation of the project goals, a workshop session may not be the best use of everyone’s time. However, if you’re working with a prospective or new client, workshops should strongly be encouraged. If a workshop doesn’t take place, you run the risk of misconstruing project objectives, scope and deliverables, slowing down a project (you can cover in one workshop what you might cover in 5 shorter meetings), missing an opportunity to showcase your team’s expertise and thought leadership, and most importantly – getting into business with a client that doesn’t jibe with your company’s principles and culture.

If conducted properly, workshops can bring a high level of clarity into the conversation, enabling you to understand the project requirements, functional specifications, content modeling, solution architecture, and so on. But to run an effective workshop, a degree of preparation and strategy is required beforehand.

Here’s some key points to consider leading up, during, and after the workshop:

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Determining the Appropriate Test Strategy for Your Project

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Congratulations! After extensive meetings to finalize requirements and solidify designs and many intense hours of coding, what once existed as a potential solution to a client need is on its way to becoming a fully tangible mobile or web-based application. I know you are so relieved. Your completed application will soon be in the hands of your desired users. You are so excited to give them an awesome product! They are going to be so happy with it that they’ll tell everyone they know how much they appreciate your hard work!

But don’t celebrate quite yet. No… Put down the champagne… Not. Yet. For your application to be a success you must first conduct a series of tests to ensure it works. The Quality Assurance Analyst is responsible for confirming the overall behavior, aesthetic, and performance of the final product. We’re the people responsible for making sure that the reality matches the agreement you made with the client. The QA Analyst will perform this feat of magic by implementing functional test cases based on the requirements, assessing UI test cases based on the designs and user flows, evaluating performance, load, and stress, and testing unknown- unknowns.

QA testingThe Quality Assurance effort may, nay, MUST look different depending on the size of the project. Determining the right testing effort hinges upon the complexity of the application built, the length of time allotted for development and testing and the need for testing the performance of an application. Imagine that you are a University research team needing an application to effectively test a scientific hypothesis in 4 years, or a small startup that needs a proof-of-concept application to obtain funding from a VC in 2 months. You will have different requirements for your application and in the types and extent of your testing than a Fortune- 500 corporation that requires a suite of applications for use in all of their stores and warehouses created over the course of a year with continuing maintenance after deployment. Goldilocks would agree that to get your solution “just right” you need an understanding of what is important and necessary. Here we will discuss the guidelines BlueFletch uses to help our Quality Assurance Analysts perform at the highest standard of excellence

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Deploying Production Systems

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Deploying hardware and/or software to a production environment involves many moving parts and a lot of coordination. It’s imperative that production deployments are planned and structured in a way that maintains user productivity. Extensive preparation and testing is required to successfully execute a product deployment.

The team at BlueFletch has experience in multiple industries, allowing them to give insight into best practices during the preparation phase.  Long before it’s time to deploy, tasks such as requirements gathering and user testing should be undertaken.  Creating prototypes for user testing allows end users to have input into the preparation process. This alerts the development and implementation team to existing issues and provides real-world documentation needed to evaluate the efficiency of business processes.

Detailed planning is another important task in preparation for a product deployment.  Critical aspects such as establishing that the infrastructure is in place and tested, confirming availability of resources and contingency plans are a necessity.   Planning also includes coordinating resources after a deployment in order to establish a support structure to mitigate any issues that arise once a product is deployed.

MDMBlueFletch has worked with multiple MDM (mobile device management) platforms for software and hardware deployment. Our expansive experience allows us to prepare a strategy for using a client’s chosen MDM for deployments.  This includes organizing the MDM platform for ease of future management, developing a staging process to deploy software/hardware at scale and creating processes for updating software and hardware in production. Some examples of our large scale deployments include:

  • Designing and leading the teams that implemented the mobile technology that was the basis for all applications on 100,000 mobile devices at a leading retailer. 
  • Deployed 10,000 Zebra TC51s into 700 Grocery and Liquor stores 
  • Automatic hands-off migration of 20,000 Zebra MC40s from legacy MDM to AirWatch, including an OS Upgrade

Alongside support for a production employment, BlueFletch has also worked with analytics.  These analytics include hardware data points such as battery life, network connectivity and operating system information.  Analytics can also be used to gather information about application usage and to catch issues before they cause an outage or loss of productivity.

BlueFletch can provide know-how in all aspects of the deployment process.  We work alongside our clients to effectively guide them from conceptualization to product deployment. For more information contact info@bluefletch.com.

System Architecture Design

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Whether building a single application or a large application suite, designing the appropriate system architecture is a critical step.  It is not just a technology selection or a collection of system component diagrams or flows; rather a result of decisions based on business, technical and operational requirements that impact the quality, maintainability, performance and successful implementation of an application or application suite.  In more than a decade’s worth of designing architectures for various systems, I’ve found the following key guidelines necessary in the design process, regardless of how you approach system design:

  • Define key requirements and constraints
  • Identify key scenarios
  • Application overview
  • Identify risk areas and potential issues
  • Communicate key architecture decisions

Define Requirements and Constraints

Defining clear and specific requirements up front creates boundaries necessary so you can focus on creating a design that solves for specific objectives.   It is important that these are specific, e.g. “System must be able to retrieve data from systems A and B” versus “System must be able to interface with existing systems.” Nonspecific objectives can take your design down a rabbit hole of designing for a very broad use case.  Constraints must be accounted for in the architecture design in order to prevent surprises down the road that can potentially result in significant time and/or cost.

Identify Key Scenarios

It is also important to identify the key scenarios that are architecturally significant.  These are the scenarios that define what the architecture needs to support and doesn’t necessarily delve into the actual flow for each objective.  Examples of these could be:

  • Login
  • Lookup Inventory Information
  • Update Inventory Details, etc.

App Overview DiagramApplication Overview

At this stage, a high level diagram of the application can be defined.  This should be at a level that exposes the interaction between the different pieces, e.g. where the user interacts with the application, how the application interacts with the various backend systems, etc.   It should also show where the different crosscutting concerns apply to the interacting components in the architecture.  These may include authentication/authorization, logging and instrumentation, configuration, and caching among others.

Identify Key Risk Areas and Potential Issues

Most of the mistakes made during the design of the architecture happen when the designers fail to evaluate the proposed architecture against risk areas and/or potential issues that may occur after the design is implemented.   Some of the questions may include “can we handle a million users”, “can we swap out software X with Y”, “how quickly can we change business rules”, “how do we audit user authentication”, etc.   Asking questions like these ultimately define decisions for the architecture “abilities” (extensibility, flexibility, reliability, security, etc.).  This may introduce additional requirements but it is cheaper to revisit them at this stage than later.

Communicate Key Architecture Decisions

All of the key decisions about the architecture must be documented and communicated to everyone involved with the development of the application.  When all the stakeholders understand the key decisions and the rationale for those decisions, it helps align expectations and enables them to make better decisions for improving the application.  Communicating architecture decisions to developers empowers them to build the application aligned to those decisions and the QA organization can focus on the high-risk areas identified by this design.

There are several ways of going about designing system architecture, and every system and application is different. Our experience has shown that accounting for the above mentioned guidelines during the design process gives a clear direction where everyone is on the same page on how the architecture fits within the business requirements, and how it should influence the final product.  It is important to remember that a sound architecture is one that is built for change, and by adhering to these guidelines you should have a solid foundation to build future changes on.

Why We Do Requirements

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It’s all in the details.  At BlueFletch, we don’t shy away from dedicating the time and resources needed to fully understand your solution and provide guidance in choosing the right technology.  From technical architecture to security specifics, we partner with you to ensure comprehensive requirements are captured for planning and traceability.

Gathering and reviewing requirements at the onset of a project is critical to identifying, understanding and solving the right problems and to support successful development and delivery.  We use a variety of approaches and tools: ride-alongs and shadows, interviews with stakeholders, white boarding, process mapping, etc.  The requirements process is the planning stage necessary in order to enter the design process with momentum and minimal back-and-forth.  The easier our team can reference and understand requirements, the higher our efficiency going forward.

First steps

Do you have a problem that you are ready to solve?  We will scope out the effort and provide project roadmaps and estimates.  Our requirements process begins as soon as your end goal, product or solution is communicated with us.  We research the line of business, competitors and mine similar projects we’ve worked on for insights and potential risks.

mobile app project roadmap

Meetings

Our initial effort is to prepare a rough index of user stories and apply best practices and past learning to create initial artifacts on which to collaborate with stakeholders.  We then schedule requirements and design meetings, usually limited to five or fewer stakeholders and decision makers relevant to the session’s topic.  Limiting sessions to a manageable size reduces tangents and allows thorough understanding and documentation to build an exact solution.

During the sessions, there are often open questions and takeaways for the group.  Not everything has to be solved in one sitting.  There is great brainstorming that occurs when your idea is deeply analyzed and we are sure to capture all notes for future use.

After the meeting

The output of the requirements process is technical workflows highlighting integrations, user workflows, technical architecture diagrams and our master requirement tracking file.

Not only will these artifacts assist in your decision-making, but they will also be the reference for our project planning.  We create development and quality assurance tasks based each user story’s requirements.  Functional or non-functional, every requirement should be captured and tested.

Continuing into the project lifecycle, requirements will evolve. They are then updated and revised to match new discoveries and design decisions.

Mobile Strategy Workshops

If your organization is looking to accelerate their mobile projects, we provide a free mobile strategy workshop covering a variety of topics tailored to your specific interest areas. A mobile strategy workshop is an opportunity for your team to pick our brains about our experience developing mobile solutions. Past workshop topics include: development tooling, hardware interaction, UX design approach, deployment process, and domain specific mobile principles (retail, logistics, and warehouse). To learn more about our free mobile workshops, learn more here.

Managing Proof of Concepts

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We can all agree with the saying “practice makes perfect,” whether it is learning your ABC’s at a very young age and turning your ‘jello-minto-p’ into ‘l – m – n – o – p’; or the young athlete practicing your free throws, backhands, bunts or putts for hours and hours in preparation to be the best in the heat of competition. Corrections and modifications bring us closer to achieving our goals and help us recognize failures. Similarly, a proof of concept (PoC) is a step in the process to achieving your business goal. Companies utilize this process for various reasons, such as gaining a competitive advantage or creating a better customer experience.

In my career I have found enterprise companies struggle in executing this step-by-step process. I have been tasked with managing and running PoCs for companies many times over and have gained key insights into how to achieve the stated goal.

What is a Proof of Concept

 Wikipedia defines Proof of Concept “PoC” as the realization of a certain method or idea to demonstrate its feasibility, or a demonstration in principle, whose purpose is to verify that some concept or theory has the potential of being used. A proof of concept is usually small and may or may not be complete.

It is important not to blur the lines of PoC, demonstration (demo) and minimal viable product (MVP). A MVP is the minimal execution of a product that is released to customers. A demo or demonstration is just that, an example of a working process. No more, no less. A PoC is one step in the trial and error process that validates or invalidates a process for a given task.

A PoC troubled from the start

 This year one of my clients, a globally renowned brand, referred BlueFletch to an internal team to help them with a project. The project entailed helping them run a few PoCs. I was excited because the work was right in our wheelhouse. Below is brief dramatization of our one and only conversation.

  • CLIENT: Based on the requirements I sent over for the Green team, we are looking to obtain a better process capturing and reporting on important information. My goal is to define a process for running small, week long PoCs for internal teams for a strictly defined budget. Is this possible and how you would technically solve for this?
  • BlueFletch: I have reviewed the requirements as well. Has the Green team shared with you their top priority for this project? Have they defined any metrics that would help us prioritize the features defined in the requirements to obtain a better process?
  • CLIENT: BlueFletch, what is really important is understanding how I can define a repeatable process for running internal PoCs.
  • BlueFletch: Ok. So what does success mean to you?
  • CLIENT: Can we achieve my goal or not?
  • BlueFletch: I’m unclear of the goal. We can definitely work on a process for a week, but when you deliver the output of the PoC to the Green team how do you know if you were successful or not?
  • CLIENT: Because it will be delivered.
  • BlueFletch: What if we do not finish the process in a week?
  • CLIENT: Then we will give you more time. My goal is to deliver what we scoped in the requirements to the Green team.
  • BlueFletch: That is not a PoC. That is an MVP.
  • CLIENT: That is the process I am trying to execute here.
  • BlueFletch: (face palm)

The client wanted us to deliver an MVP for a PoC price and time frame. Even if the scope of the effort was large enough, the fact we could not agree on success from the start is a red flag that is commonly overlooked.

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BlueFletch Joins Zebra Technologies at NRF’s Big Show

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ATLANTA, GA, January 8, 2018 – BlueFletch, an Atlanta-based consulting firm focused on building innovative mobile solutions for the enterprise, and Zebra Technologies PartnerConnect Premier ISV partner, will be exhibiting in Zebra’s booth (Booth #1603) at the NRF BIG Show 2018, January 14-16, at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in New York.

BlueFletch will demonstrate its Inventory AR application on Zebra’s TC51 mobile computers, showing retailers how they can utilize back-end data and augmented reality to increase efficiencies for inventory and merchandising operations.

  • The Inventory AR application is an open source product that enables retailers to better maintain accurate inventory replenishment data, optimize merchandise planning, and verify product pricing in real-time.
  • Using augmented reality, this product can read multiple barcodes or SKUs in a single motion, then quickly superimpose visual feedback in the user interface (UI) to indicate relevant product information such as: inventory counts, reorder thresholds, units sold last week, weekly sales trends and price check validation.
  • Currently supporting Zebra’s TC51,TC56, and TC70x mobile computers, Inventory AR can be customized and implemented for small-, medium- and large-sized retailers.
  • For more information on the National Retail Federation, please visit: https://nrfbigshow.nrf.com/

Brett Cooper, Founding Partner, BlueFletch

In retail, there are lots of companies waiting for the next new technology to get here. The secret to getting ahead is to get started. Companies that don’t leverage their technology correctly, don’t have an advantage over those without technology.

Richard Makerson, Founding Partner, BlueFletch

We are tremendously excited to showcase our solution at NRF with Zebra, whose enterprise-class devices serve as a great platform for us to solve client problems and meet end-user expectations. Finding labor efficiencies is a top priority of all retailers and to push efficiency through innovation on existing hardware is a win-win for the retailers and retail workers.

 About BlueFletch

BlueFletch is a team of mobile development experts dedicated to solving business problems using mobility. Since 2008 BlueFletch has grown into a widely trusted mobile company in the enterprise space by developing high value line-of-business apps for organizations in Retail, Consumer Goods, and Transportation & Logistics. For more information, please visit BlueFletch.com

Media Contact:

Lauren Lynn
BlueFletch / lauren.lynn@BlueFletch.com
855-529-6349

Ladies Made the Midtown Alliance Member App

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In early 2017, an all-female project team from BlueFletch was sent out to make the Midtown Alliance mobile application. There was no specific plan to draft a team of only girls, but as the resources fell, so female the team was. I (Kira) did business analysis and project management, Nicole made a delightful design, Alli cranked out the React Native iOS and Android apps, and Wanita QA-ed the finished product until it hurt.
Midtown Alliance, WIT, Women in Tech
Midtown Alliance, WIT, Women in Tech
Midtown Alliance, mobile app dev, women in tech
Midtown Alliance, Women in Tech, WIT

The Midtown Alliance Member App allows MA members who live or work in Midtown to redeem deals at neighborhood businesses.

While there is nothing remarkable about any one of us doing the particular job that we were assigned to do, statistically, it was improbable that we would find ourselves as a group of all girls (At BlueFletch, there is currently a 3.13% chance that a random four-person project team would be all-female). The composition of our team was unique enough to be noticed and positively reflected on by our client, Midtown Alliance.
So what does a lady tech team look like?

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