How a QA Team Fits into an Agile, TDD/BDD World

by Chris Durand, CTO

ChrisDurand-B360Let’s be honest, Quality Assurance is a necessary evil. Many of you have probably wondered why developers can’t just get it right the first time. Why do we pay developers to write bugs, and then pay testers to go and find them?

The answer simply stated is — writing software is hard. Software developers need to be extremely detail oriented, yet also keep the big picture in mind. They must balance short-term tradeoffs with long-term considerations. They often have to learn new tools and technologies with each project while balancing the demands of outside influencers. Oh, you needed that feature or bug fix done yesterday? And you want that application to work on all browsers released in the last 3 years (that’s 24 versions of Google Chrome alone since March 2011), plus mobile? It’s no wonder developers struggle to write perfect code every time.

While it can produce quality results, the old model of throwing code over the wall from the development team to the QA team is inefficient. We that build software have to do more for less, faster, and in a more complex environment than ever before. The rise of automated unit testing and Test- or Behavior-Driven Development (TDD and BDD) is an attempt to realize improvements. By testing at the core (that is, with the developer), we find bugs as early as possible (which yields tremendous savings as discussed in the post https://bridge360blog.com/2013/12/04/5-ways-qa-supports-development/). Automated unit testing also makes it easier to update the application going forward by identifying unexpected broken dependencies in the code before they get in front of a customer. Continue reading

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Invest in Your ‘Largest’ Clients – Which is All of Them

by Brenda Hall, CEO

Brenda_Hall_100_x_120I’ve been an entrepreneur for over 12 years now and thankfully have made quite a few mistakes. That’s right—thankful, because I’ve corrected those mistakes when I could, and I’ve learned from all of them. Of course, reading words of wisdom from those who have gone before me was helpful, but I’d like to share of few thoughts of my own that you won’t learn from your accounting department or your CFO.

Bridge360 is a global software services company. We believe software can do anything, and I do mean anything. Technology is a marriage of hardware and software, and I don’t think any of us have seen anything yet! That said, we’re in business to grant our client’s wishes, and all of our client’s wishes are unique regardless of the service they ask of us.

Number 1:  Each client is special and each has their own special need. Whether they are buying your product or a unique service you offer, each client should be considered according to their own unique business needs.

Number 2:  Your clients are likely located all over the globe because they, you, and their business are tethered together like a fast moving zip line crossing rivers, mountains, and cities everywhere. We see evidence of this every day by just looking at the “Made In” labels in our clothing or in the food products on our grocery shelves.

Number 3:  And this is the most important of all — each client you have thinks they are the most important client you have. I have a client who mentioned over a dinner one evening that he “…assumed we are your largest account.”  Of course this wasn’t true but it gave me pause to think we must be doing something right if he thought that.

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Austin’s International Footprint Just Got Bigger!

by Brenda Hall

F1-Racing-012Formula 1 was a big success for Austin, Texas. I heard multiple languages being spoken on the streets Saturday evening after the first qualifying rounds. Ferrari’s and Porches had their runs on the track before the big race on Sunday.  Restaurants were clogged, bars were pouring the spirits, and parties were everywhere.

Austin has been an international city for many years, going back to the early to mid 1990’s. During that timeframe, many large corporations had already or were in the process of setting up their headquarters and/or major branch offices here – companies like IBM, Dell, AMD, Motorola and others. They were all doing international business from the beginning. Of course, our university system with The University of Texas, McCombs School of Business, St. Edwards University and the Austin Community College all had opportunities for students to follow global business pathways.

It’s just that no one ever really thought of Austin as a being a “global” city as it is surrounded in a state with Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. Those of us who live and work in Austin seldom think of ourselves as very ‘international’, but we are. The success of Formula 1 has brought global eyes to Austin. And now, Austinites are beginning to see the international vision as well. The vision and mission of bringing this major sport to our city is a large step in the right direction for Austin. I don’t know all the specifics of how our City Council, Mayor Lee Leffingwell, Governor Rick Perry and others put it all together, but I’m very impressed with their efforts and commitment.

I’m looking forward to next year when, hopefully, we’ve ironed out some of the wrinkles with moving massive numbers of people into and out of this venue.  Yes, I got very dirty (as well as my car) from parking over 2 miles from my seats at Turn 5.  And yes, the shuttle buses need to be more organized and numerous.  But at the end of the day, there’s nothing like the sound, excitement and exhilaration of watching professional drivers take their Formula 1 cars through time trials on a beautiful track — for the track is truly a wonder and very beautiful!  It was a perfect “international” weekend in Austin.

Thank you Formula 1 fans for coming to town, enjoying our “global” city and giving us a successful event we can all be proud.

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Sarbanes-Oxley: Protecting Stocks and Stopping Scandals

by John Kulas, Bridge360 Software Security Analyst

In my previous blog, we began a discussion on technology-related compliance standards, why we have them, how they work and the specific ways in which they protect us. I introduced the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) as one of the most well-known and widely applied standards in the U.S. economy.

Another major standard that many larger companies must comply with is the Sarbanes–Oxley Act of 2002, more commonly known as “SOX” (pronounced “socks”). Let’s talk more about SOX, because it has made some pretty big news over the last decade.
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The U.S. Department of Commerce Honors Bridge360

Austin-based Software Company Acknowledged for Dedication to International Trade Operations

Bridge360, a custom software application development company, has been granted a Certificate of Appreciation from the U.S. Department of Commerce for its commitment to helping companies prepare for international markets by providing internationalization, localization and software testing for foreign markets.

Brenda Hall CEO accepts the award on behalf of Bridge360 from U.S. Department of Commerce – Commercial Service Director, Karen Parker

Bridge360 has enabled software and developed software applications for businesses of all sizes and industries including major automobile manufacturers, high fashion retail, mobile technology, education, and finance. “Bridge360 believes that doing business globally strengthens our clients’ businesses and our country through international trade and understanding,” said Brenda Hall, Bridge360 CEO. “Making sure software works anywhere in the world has always been a core competency for us and receiving recognition for our work is a testament to Bridge360’s contribution to our clients’ successes.”

Bridge360 CEO Brenda Hall has been member of the Camino Real District Export Council (DEC) for over ten years. She served as the DEC’s chair in 2007 and as the Secretary / Treasurer of the National DEC Steering Committee from 2010 – 2012. The U.S. Department of Commerce grants these Certificates of Appreciation in recognition of outstanding contributions to the Department’s promotion of U.S. international trade.

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Creating and Sustaining Culture as a Company Grows

by Bonnie Caver, President of Caver Public Relations

Growth for a company is a wonderful thing, but it doesn’t come without a little pain. One of those annoying pain points is around creating and sustaining internal culture. As founders start a company, they have a vision for what the company will accomplish, the way it will operate, the customers they will serve and the problems they will solve.

Their passion for what they are doing is clear and contagious. Dynamic leaders are able to get people onboard with their vision and help a company grow rapidly. But then growth begins to happen. To support growth, the CEO needs VPs, then directors, then managers, and pretty quickly, there are several layers between the leadership team and the rest of the organization. And breakdowns or cracks in communication, vision and culture begin to happen.

Companies that are growing rapidly generally have cracks beginning at around 50 employees, then again between 150-200 and again between 400-500 people.  Just like a crack in the foundation of a home, these are often ignored until they cause a stumble or even until foundational separation is visible. In business, it is best not to bury your head in the sand but to address changes proactively before the cracks begin to show, because breakdowns in culture are often core to reputational risks.

Here are four strategic steps to help mitigate cracks in communication and culture, address them as they are forming and repair them when they are visible.

  1. Articulate your culture, values, purpose, vision – These are often difficult things to articulate companywide. The founders have this branded in their heads and talk-the-talk at the beginning, when they are hiring and are cultivating funders. But these core company philosophies can become diluted as a company grows, and they can change as more people, ideas, expertise come into the company. Revisit your core philosophies with your entire organization and make sure they are something you can all articulate and understand, whether there are 5 people in the company or 500.
  2. Create a culture of communication – Communication is a continuous management function, and culture is created through communication. Therefore it is important that your company’s communication delivery, behaviors and message match that of the culture you want to create in your company. If you want everyone to work toward common goals with a clear understanding of your values and vision, those things have to be communicated in ways they are heard and understood. Everyone needs to know the individual role they have in the company’s purpose and vision and take ownership in it. And they need an opportunity to be part of the discussion. You are creating a collaborative company, not building farm silos in the Midwest.
  3. Work your culture – A culture is not something that comes from reading words on a coffee mug or wall everyday. It is something that a company has to create, work on and hire to. Creating benchmarks and measuring to those benchmarks are important to follow progress. Best Places to Work nominations are great ways to gather benchmarks. Though you may not win an award, what you are really trying to do is create a best place to work, not necessarily win an award. Use this information to make appropriate changes and get everyone rowing in the same direction. And never forget that new people can change your culture instantly for good or bad. In a company where cultivating a certain culture is important to management, you must hire to that culture. How people fit within your company is crucial. You are building a team where each person has a role, and you can’t build a lasting championship team when you have bad apples, even if some are superstars.
  4. Reward – Show your appreciation for jobs well done. Not just completion of projects or getting new clients or meeting financial goals, but show appreciation for living the internal culture, for pushing the company’s brand forward and for delivering on the brand promise.

Creating and maintaining the culture you want in your company is possible no matter how large your company grows, but you are never really finished. Understanding that building and maintaining your culture is an intentional and ongoing strategic decision is crucial to your success. It’s hard and requires a lot of effort, but the payoff is the core of guiding your reputation.

Writer’s note: Recently, I worked with Bridge360 to develop the Bridge360 Way, a collaborative effort of the entire Bridge360 team, including all management and employees. The Bridge360 Way represents the core beliefs and business practices of the company, and it’s the way the company works as a team to bring excellence to software.  

Bridge360 management was intuitive to the way growth was changing the company and made a visionary decision to intentionally guide the culture—to make it something everyone was part of while proactively addressing challenges brought about by the pains of growth.

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Bridge360 CTO, Chris Durand comments on the Austin Chambers’ new Tech Connection

Austin, Texas, sometimes known as Silicon Hills, has a reputation for being a great place to live and work. It’s also home to a large talent pool of highly skilled and experienced technologists who remain in high demand. Yet even in a place like Austin where referral is a way of life, finding the right candidates for your company can be challenging—especially for a growing mid-size company in a tight job market.

So when the Austin Chamber of Commerce announced a new job portal designed to match candidates and companies while promoting our community and its assets, we at Bridge360 were excited to be a part of the pilot program.
AustinTechSource.com was officially launched on May 17, 2012.  Bridge360′s CTO, Chris Durand, participated in the roundtable discussion promoting the website.

In an interview with impactnews.com, Chris said that like many Austin-based companies that strive to attract talent from around the country, Bridge360 is always looking for new ways to recruit top talent.

According to the Austin Chamber, over 2,000 candidates have already registered on the site and over 30 Austin-based companies have a new talent pool of highly qualified professionals.

If you are looking to make a change in your career or looking an Austin company with positions to fill, we recommend checking out AustinTechSource.com!

Read the impactnews.com article by Amy Denny.