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Agile and Scrum walk into a bar…

I’m a big fan of the show “Silicon Valley” on HBO. It’s well-written, funny and very likely the only show you’ll ever see where Agile development methodology and scrum management framework are used as comedic devices.


Yep, it’s geek humor. But the joke also points out (to both the technical and non-technical) how using Agile and Scrum turns a chaotic and disorganized development project into a streamlined, efficient and effective way to get things done. For that reason, I’m also a big fan of Agile development and Scrum.


So, what is Agile development and Scrum?

Perhaps the best way to describe them is to first say what they are not. In a traditional (what is a “waterfall”) project methodology, the flow of the project goes something like this:


Requirements analysis… then Design… then Code… then Integration… then Test… then Deploy.


In large projects, the waterfall method can be difficult as essentially you’re building the entire product/website, etc. in the hope that you have gathered every requirement and anticipated every pitfall beforehand. That’s not only difficult with some projects, it may be entirely impossible.


Agile and Scrum looks at the project differently. Rather than building the entire project before putting it out there for review, with Agile and Scrum, you develop the project collaboratively during intensive "sprints" of work. Each sprint is designed to release a finished version of the project. From there you analyze, review, adapt and plan for the next sprint for the next version project release. Keep in mind that the project can be a web application, a website, a mobile app, etc.


So, why use Agile and Scrum?

If this sounds familiar: “Yep, that’s how we thought it’s supposed to work, but now that I actually see it… we can’t do it that way.”


With traditional development methodologies, that fact might not be discovered until the very end of the overall project and will surely result in big changes, big additional costs and loss of time. With Agile and Scrum, those questions are touched on immediately during each development “sprint” and then adjusted to accordingly.


In the end, Agile and Scrum can save vast amounts of time, budget and reduce project risk, not to mention produce a far superior end product.


Who knew they could also be funny?



 What are you running at home?

When it comes to hiring the best technology people, this simple question during the interview process has served me far better over the last 20 years than any HR test or hiring qualification system. Why? Because how a candidate answers this question instantly tells me whether they are simply looking for a job, or if technology is a lifestyle for them.


If it’s a lifestyle, if they live and breathe technology, they will tell me exactly what they are running at home:


“At home? Well, I built my own server that’s running IIS and SQL for a .NET application I’m building. Oh, and then there’s the Linux server I set up to run DNS. Did you mean that kind of thing?”


Yes it is. That’s exactly the candidate I’m looking for.


I say this because it’s surprising how many candidates come out of college looking for a technology job, yet have done nothing on their own to stand out.


My advice: build something! It doesn’t even have to be new and different. Find an application you like and build your own, simplified version. I’ve lost count how many times I’ve told candidates that I’ve hired people on the spot who have had no employment history, simply based on the (awesome, killer) sample code they’ve done outside of school. These are the self-starters. These are the people who live for this stuff.


And these are the people who will be invested enough in their passion to bring my company ideas and opportunities, and in turn, create their own opportunities.


Over 10 years ago, it was one of my staff – one of my self-starters, who said, “Hey John, you really need to look at this application called DNN.” Today, DNN is a large part of what we do for companies all across the country, and we've come so far because our team thrives on finding out how things work and how they can modify it to work better, faster, stronger and in ways our clients need.


Those are the people who work at i2Integration. Those are the people I'm looking to hire more of. And those are the people you want building your web applications.



How are Kid Rock, app development and snow angels connected?

For years I’ve been telling prospective clients the story of my company: that we are an application development firm, that we’ve been around for 21 years. Yada, yada. The normal stuff.


What hadn’t occurred to me is that one of our key selling points is that we’re a Midwestern company. Three clients have recently shared with us that our being a Midwestern company was seen as a positive factor in their decision to go with us. One is a major national association (hint: one of the U.S.’s top 5 largest by membership), an architectural firm (also based in D.C.), and a major healthcare company in Florida.


Really? Why? After all, even when I think web application development, I think Silicon Valley, NYC, but... Michigan?


Maybe they picked us because we're better at coding, which in turn may be because we’re stuck indoors for eight months of the year, only bundling up to go outside to shovel off our roofs. Of course, that’s a stereotype, as is the “just fell off the turnip truck” image some people have of the flyover states.


Full disclosure: my “truck” is an all-wheel drive Subaru to get through the snow, and I’ve been known to jump out of the hot tub a time or two to make snow angels. Point being, they aren’t wrong about the snow.


What’s not a stereotype is that we Middle-staters tend to be more reasonably priced than the coastal concerns, and that has a lot to do with prices being lower overall. We like to make a buck as much as the next person, but our Midwestern sense is that if we’re feeding our families and our debt doesn’t keep us up at night, we’re pretty well set. And return business is big with us Michiganders and our neighbors. We like knowing that our clients trust us to look out for their best interests, that if we think they’re asking for what they don’t need, or not asking for what they do need, we’ll tell it like it is.


Here’s another factor: all three of the aforementioned companies had previously contracted with other application developers, mostly in big cities on the coasts who, as it turned out, were more interested in taking their client’s money than in giving the client what they needed to get the job done.


Bottom line: we’re fine with the stereotypes, as long as they include the best ones. Like our work ethic. And our fair rates. Even our snow angels.


I enjoy the heck out of the television show Silicon Valley. But that's a valley I could never inhabit. We don’t need to impress our friends by having Kid Rock play at our corporate barbeque. Besides, Kid Rock lives here.



5 Solid Reasons to Choose i2Integration for your Web, Mobile and Application Design and Development in Lansing

1. We’re local.


We’ve been in Lansing since before we were born (really, our parents lived here). And we’re staying. Located in Delta Township, we’re 5 minutes from downtown, which means we’re not just a voice on the phone. We can also put a face to the voice, providing you on-site attention in short order.


2. We’re trusted.


By whom? Here’s a few in the Greater Lansing area:

  • Jackson National Life

  • Sparrow Health System

  • Consumers Mutual Insurance of Michigan

  • DeWitt Township

  • Michigan Society of Association Executives

  • Michigan Manufacturers Association

  • Michigan Association of School Boards

  • Physicians Health Plan of Mid-Michigan

  • City of Lansing

  • Lansing Board of Water and Light


3. We’re experienced.


From website design to mobile and custom application development -- if it touches the web, we have designed, built and supported it for organizations all over Lansing and mid-Michigan since 1994. A few project examples:


  • MSAE: website design

  • PHP of Mid-Michigan: custom document management application development

  • CMIM: company-wide intranet

  • MASB: custom Microsoft SharePoint development

  • Sparrow Health System: patient registration, patient scheduling, bill pay


4. We’re different.


Different in a good way. We’re not a graphics firm. We’re not a marketing firm. We’re the guys those guys turn to when you need to build something complex. Example?


  • When you need a website to integrate with your CRM or email marketing system

  • When you need single sign-on between your CMS and another system

  • When you need a custom application that pushes and pulls data from your internal legacy systems

  • When you need to track the engagement of your client or members between your website and various third-party systems

  • When you need a mobile application that involves geolocation tracking


5. We’re invested in the community.


CEO John Forsberg is a former board member of the Michigan Society of Association Executives and has given talks to the Capital Area Career Center, The Explorers Club and various associations and colleges. Mark Stiles, Director of Sales, is a lifelong Lansing resident and keeps i2Integration engaged in the community by serving as a Lansing Regional Chamber ambassador, member of the development council for WKAR and as a guest speaker at marketing, mobile and tech startup conferences around the area.


If you’re looking for a Lansing-based company for website, mobile and application development… look to us!



A review of the

Many years ago I was working on a project for a client. They were happy, I was happy and the project was moving along beautifully. Seeing how pleased I was, my client turned to me and said, "Just remember, John. One "aw sh**" wipes out ten atta-boys."


POW. I never forgot that. His statement stuck and has been a foundation for how I do things ever since. One area in particular where I put that lesson to use is in the planning of web application projects before production (coding) begins.


And by "application," I mean a website, a desktop app, a mobile app... it doesn't matter. Today it's best to think of everything as an app.


By "planning," I mean taking the time to wireframe and prototype the application to ensure there are no pitfalls, false expectations or problems that may crop up in the future. It's all about foreseeing and eliminating a devestating "aw sh**" moment that could later on effect the timeline, cost, stability or even success of the project.


So, what's a good wireframing and prototyping tool out there today? Recently we've begun using a new application called JustInMind. From the moment I started playing around with it, I fell in love.


JustInMind has managed to blend in a bit of both worlds: the design and the interactivity in wireframing and prototyping a development project. I can plot out the wireframe with clickable buttons, menus, etc. I can prototype workflow. And I can also develop a sense of the actual UI design.


Perfect for application development

Whether it's a website, a mobile app, a custom desktop app, etc., we have started using JustInMind to lay out the wireframe, UI/UX and flow of our client application development projects. What we're really liking is that our clients don't have to picture in their mind what the final product will look like. With this app, they can see, click, maneuver and prototype what the final product will be, along with an extremely accurate representation of what the application will actually look like, design-wise. 


Mobile friendly

One of the cool features in JustInMind is the ability to quickly jump back and forth in previewing between devices to see how the website or app will look and function. Create an app for an iPhone, then review it on an Android tablet, then a desktop. Quick and easy.


What's not to love?

Creating some interactivity functions can involve a steep learning curve. For instance, it took me several hours to figure out how to create a slide-out, pull-down menu for a mobile application design. I eventually figured it out, but the numerous steps involved seemed excessive for how common the function is on mobile devices. I'm hoping that will be rectified in future versions.


Regardless, this app is already saving our clients (and us) a tremendous amount of time and cost by reducing false starts, miscommunications or misaligned expectations.


That means more attaboys. Fewer "Aw sh**s."


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