Blog

Our Blog

In the blog of Theandb (definition of blog), we share with our readers the personal view and insights we have on developments in the technology sector. And as that is nowadays quite a broad sector, we set our eyes on many diferent topics and questions facing society. We also post entries on recent developments of Theandb as a company. For us, it is a part of an ongoing collaboration and communication with colleagues, clients and friends.

Test drive agile outsourced development services of Pantha Corporation

Throughout the last two years, starting with the development of the simple website publishing system transLucidonline, Pantha has built up a unique project management framework for agile outsourced development.

Since then, we have had the pleasure of supporting a range of clients from Europe and Australia (start-ups to large corporate), providing them with agile outsourcing teams that have launched and maintained many online applications with great success.

We have shared some of our stories in several blog entries here. One on 'agile software development for teams' and how this can be applied to start-ups and companies of all sizes.

At some point we wondered why it still seemed difficult to explain the benefits of agile development and its potential to change how outsourcing at this point in time is done. What if we could demonstrate it placidly somehow to new potential clients? What if it could be made much easier to engage with people interested in what Pantha offers and show how fast concrete outcomes could be delivered given a mini project? Almost like going to a car dealer and asking him for a test drive?

Which is exactly what we will do, starting now of course.

Following an overview of Pantha's agile outsourcing services. Interested parties can register their interest for a test drive of agile outsourcing here.

Finding the right branding

Thanks to being in between the years, there seems to be some breathing space for us to finally reconsider the branding for Pantha. We know that we have a lot to offer to current and future clients when we look at the mix between our core strengths of business analysis and project management and the agile outsourcing framework we've established. How to bring that across? Below a little experiment for a banner that might feature on a re-designed pantha.net website that i thought worth sharing.

'Show the Loo' live in iTunes app store, providing directions to public toilets in Australia

After many days of waiting for Apple's approval, 'Show the Loo' can now be downloaded for free in the App store! We also launched a mini-site under showtheloo.com for product support.

More in the article itself...

Theandb becomes Pantha Corporation

From hereon and actually since the 23rd of June 2008, Theandb Pty Ltd has been renamed to Pantha Corporation Pty. Ltd (official certificate). There were many good reasons for this change.

There are now on a constant basis anywhere between twenty and thirty people working on Pantha's projects. A personal brand such as Theandb did not seem to make a lot of sense any longer for what is fast becoming a web-strategy and technology execution company to be reckoned with. Other factors contributing to the name change were questions such as how we could bring a third director on-board in the future and/or the ability to exit from the business at some point with a more easily pronounceable and well recognised brand name increasing the likelihood and success of a sale.

All taken together, it had to be done.

For now, given the fact that we are very busy on numerous client engagements, we have not yet had the time for a proper branding exercise. But we will... as soon as we can. Wait for a relaunch of theandb.biz as well as pantha.net which we hope to get through with beginning of next year 2009.

Now: Champagne and a toast to Pantha Corporation!!!

Agile development outsourcing for companies

Across several blog posts, we have covered agile development for teams as well as agile development outsourcing for startups. It should not be a big surprise to anyone therefore, that we have been forwarding our experience in outsourced agile development to a growing list of clients.

What we offer are dedicated agile developer teams where the development is completely managed through us. Welcome to your outsourced project office.

We can do the writing of the user-stories (core story, wireframes and acceptance tests), the project management of the development (iteration planning, daily update meetings, status tracking & reporting) as well as the initial acceptance testing. What we find is that every project is different and we adjust our agile development outsourcing framework to these requirements. The existence of a concise framework allows us to quite rapidly set-up operations for new clients and ensures that learning's can be leveraged across our clients.

At the heart of all project management stands communication. We use a range of tools to support communication across distances. These are in no particular order Skype, conference-call rooms, project intranet and a fantastic collaboration/ white-boarding e-room. We've played with the idea of sending Mac Mini's out to clients that have a permanent team-size of >=5 to allow smooth video-conferencing via iChat (as opposed to the poor quality in Skype) but have yet to act on this thought.

We strive to provide the ultimate in transparency and as much information as possible as to the current status and delivery dates. And working in short iteration cycles of about 3-4 weeks, depending on the client, with tools (currently XPlanner, although we might start using TargetProcess) to monitor the progress of a project provides us with a wealth of information. Every day, a core group of people receives a daily update status mail that lists progress on the different stories we would be working on. Every other week, we issue a bi-weekly report and at the end of every iteration we issue a report on what was completed and moved to the next iteration.

It can be challenging to attempt agile development across distances and throughout the last year we have had many good learning experiences. Not everyone has a unit-testing framework for example so continuous testing and starting with tests is not an option (although we will propose implementing a framework at no cost as it will help us increase our overall throughput and raise code quality). Not having the customer with you means that acceptance testing feedback can be difficult to collect (we now do 'live' testing sessions using our e-rooms screen sharing and note-taking facilities). Knocking on doors to get quick feedback on interaction designs will not be possible (so we always start with a wireframe exercise, now using Axure to create very realistic demo's of the user-interface).

All in all though we know that the outcome using our agile development outsourcing framework guarantees our clients greater flexibility in their planning, increased ability to provide us with feedback that will actually be integrated, a better sense of the different project status and a higher overall output than compared with outsourced development teams operating "the old" way.

Soon we will provide some examples of how we perform our iteration planning sessions, keep clients on top of things and collaborate with them and our outsourcing team on project requirements and execution. We are considering providing a "test-drive" to a selected few interested parties tempted to try our agile development outsourcing services as well, more on that coming up.

"Web technology provides consultant with global reach" feature in Australian Financial Review, role of collaboration in outsourcing

As a company that provides consulting and outsourcing services to medium-sized and corporate companies, we have to strike a balance between being on the cutting edge and not loosing the focus at the same time to translate new tools & methodologies into concrete benefits for our clients.

For quite a while now - as early as 2006 in fact - we have been posting on collaboration tools and how they can enhance interaction for distributed as well as local teams, including the possibilities of 3D virtual worlds such asSecondLife or Croquet.

At the same time, we have used many tools ourselves most of which we discarded as being not user-friendly, slow or not fitting to our requirements. Being in the same situation as other product development companies of having to co-ordinate people across three, sometimes four time-zones, we needed an application with a broad range of tools, the swiss army-knife of collaboration tools.

We were actually featured last year October in the Australian Financial Review and could only agree (yep, there was some shoulder tapping) that Theandb was "an example of globalisation at work and how the use of technology can compete with much larger companies". Some more quotes that i could not put any better:

"We could not have successfully moved the business to Australia and kept some of our longstanding, former clients without this technology," Ponthus says.

Theandb relies on the facility to consult with businesses across Europe and Australasia, helping them develop online strategies and implement web projects.

Theandb's work involves regular meetings to ensure everyone involved knows the stage a project has reached and what their responsibilities are."

The best thing about using this system is that there's no disagreement at the end of a meeting about what everyone needs to do for follow-up and what was said during the meeting because the project manager writes the notes directly into a whiteboard that everyone sees," Schliebitz says."

Back at that time we were using Marratech which was unfortunately bought up by Google.

Only last week we finally - after months of research and trying out way too many different web1.0 and 2.0 applications - we found the perfect replacement, an application that is even better than Marratech was and it goes by the name Elluminate. We will post more on this wonderful tool soon.

We have seen vast improvements in communication and the ability to collaborate with our clients since starting to have Elluminate. We can finally be literally on the same page again, share our desktops, write up meeting notes which everyone can read and comment on while the meeting is taking place, use the excellent whiteboarding features, paste in screenshots and doodle around on them; simply put it is like working together in the same office, only far more efficient because you can actually fully concentrate on what is at hand.

We are quite aware that using such tools gives us an advantage over other suppliers in the development outsourcing market and will continue to elaborate on our outsourcing framework and general set-up as we learn with our clients. We will post more on the framework we use and why we believe it to be unique shortly.

Update CEO Symposium; an overview of our services

Following our presence at the CEO Symposium, here an overview of the range of services Theandb can extend to clients in Australia and world-wide in the form of a Flash-enabled presentation.

The CEO Symposium 2007 was an excellent event and it was a great pleasure meeting so many outstanding people in such a short time. Looking forward to future interactions.!

Consultants Of Compassion, Theandb @ CEO Symposium 27./28.03.2007

We are very happy to be present as sponsors of the CEO Symposium tomorrow and Wednesday (26th and 27th of March 2007). The speakers, attendees and other sponsors look super-charged and we feel that we can add something special and unique to the mix; consulting with compassion, passion, energy & heart combined with extensive experience in the online world and an outstanding network of partners.

Here a quote from our event-brochure that gives a good overview of our offer. Please also see the complete slides in our previous post further below.

"Consultants Of Compassion, Theandb is helping its clients to succeed in the initial concept, startup and planning phases of an online-product creation with a specialisation in e-commerce, portals and marketplaces. Supported by the directors 16+ years of experience in Fortune 100 companies, including managing Amazon.com’s online assets, we will help you to save valuable time & costs before the implementation commences and ensure that there will be no gaps between business’ expectations and the final online product.

Theandb further uses industry-recognized intangible intelligence analysis in their work - created and endorsed by the Intangible Management Standards Institute – to support companies in financially valuing intangible assets such as staff engagement/ disengagement levels, knowledge, collaboration, culture, and others on an activity-by-activity basis. This results in productivity improvements of 20+ percent and considerable increases in cost efficiency for project- and risk-management, engagement with (outsourcing) suppliers and selection of strategic technology platforms."