Fixed-time contract vs Time & material contract
When outsourcing projects or insourcing tasks, organizations face a very crucial question about billing. Working with outsourced development team means that there are a few elementals that need to be sorted out from the beginning. It is because each project is different in its regard and comes up with its own set of requirements.
When a customer signs a deal with a software development company, they sign a billing agreement. The pricing model used depends mainly on project requirements. Two popular billing models are — Fixed-price Contract and Time and Material Contract. Selecting the right contract agreement is a vital step when outsourcing software development. Consequences of a wrong choice may yield unexpected outcomes.
Each type of contract has its pros and cons; hence, choosing any one of them may be a complicated task. The option that is well suited for one project may not be the ideal for another one. This article emphasizes on the advantages and disadvantages of these pricing models and explains which is better in what condition.
Fixed Price Contract
The fixed-price agreement is a type of contract where the service provider is accountable for completion of the project within the agreed sum in the contract.
In a Fixed Price model, the total budget on the project is set before development starts and remains unchanged. Plus, the exact deadline must be approved before the development starts. The contractor will bear the risks for late execution of works.
It is a practical choice in those cases, where requirements, specifications, and rates are highly predictable. The client should be able to lay down his clear vision of the project with the contractor to ensure appropriate final results.
When to use a fixed price contract:
- Clear requirements and deadlines
- Limited or fixed budget
- Limited project scope
Fixed Price advantages
- Usually requires clear deadlines and figures to be set to the budget. Planning expenses 1 to 3 months provide accurate statistics.
- Regular project management communication with the contractor ensures scope compliance and eliminates the possibility of surprises.
- Payments to the service provider count on the percentage of work performed. There is little involvement in such workflows since expectations are transparent and preset.
Time and Material Contract
Time and material (T&M) contract is the type of contract where the contractor is charged for the number of hours spent on a specific project, plus costs of materials.
Time and material contracts are much different from Fixed-Price because they involve billing clients for what they get. A time and material contract charges clients based on an hourly rate for all labor, along with the costs of materials. This type of arrangement might present some risk to the budget, but factors such as flexibility and opportunity to adjust requirements, shift directions and replace features prove to be very beneficial nonetheless.
In this model, the customer has a more significant role in the development of the software solution and bears all risks related to the project. The length of responsibilities that the client carries through the whole development process with time & materials is much higher than with fixed-price projects.
When to use T&M price contract:
- Long-term projects
- Full project scope not established
- Flexibility to modify the range with varying requirements
Time and Material advantages
- T&M contracts allow businesses to modify the scope of work, revise materials or designs, shift the focus or change features according to project requirements.
- There can be an established general goal that can be achieved, however knowing how it’ll be achieved is not so important beforehand.
- Opting for T&M contract process helps to save time and start projects immediately.
6 factors to consider while selecting any Algorithm Library
Processing geometric inputs play a crucial role in the product development cycle. Ever since the introduction of complex algorithm libraries, the NPD landscape has changed drastically, and for good. Typically, a well suitable library streamlines the work process by executing complicated tasks using a wide array of functions.
An algorithm library basically works on the principle where it is fed with specific instructions to execute in a way with functionalities customised with it. For example, in manufacturing industry; there is a term known as point cloud library and it holds its expertise in converting millions of point cloud data into mesh models.
There are particular algorithms to perform numerous perplexing tasks. There are platforms that use specific and unique functionalities and programming to get the job done. Manufacturing requirements, end product objectives lay down the necessities for choosing a particular algorithm library. This article sheds a light on 6 key factors to consider while selecting any algorithm library.
Once data has been fed and stored, methods for compressing this kind of data become highly interesting. The different algorithm libraries come up with their own set of functionalities. Ideally, functionalities are best when developed by in-house development team, to suit up in accordance with design objectives. It is a good practice to develop functionalities to address complex operations as well as simple tasks. It is also essential to develop functions which might be of need down the line. In the end, one’s objective defines what functionality laced algorithm library will be in use.
Data Size and Performance
A huge data can be challenging to handle and share between project partners. A large data is directly proportional to a large processing time. All the investments in hardware and quality connections will be of little use if one is using poor performing library. An algorithm library that allows for the process of multiple scans simultaneously has to be the primary preference. One should also have a good definition of the performance expectations from the library, depending on your application whether real time or batch mode.
Libraries that automate manual processes often emphasize on processing speed, delivering improvements to either the processing or modeling. This allows for faster innovation and often better, yet singular, products. As witnessed in the case of point cloud, the ability to generate scan trees after a dataset has been processed greatly improves efficiency. A system will smooth interface that permits fast execution, greatly reduces the effort and time taken to handle large datasets.
Make versus Buy
This situation drops in at the starting phases of processing. Let us take an example of point cloud libraries. Some of the big brands producing point cloud processing libraries are Autodesk, Bentley, Trimble, and Faro. However, most of these systems arrive as packages with 3D modelling, thereby driving up costs. If such is the case, it is advisable to form an in-house point cloud library that suits the necessities. Nowadays, many open source platforms give out PCL to get the job done which has proven to be quite beneficial.
The commercial aspect also plays a vital role in while choosing an algorithmic library. Whether to opt for single or recurring payment depends upon the volume and nature of the project.
There are different models to choose from, if one decides to go with licensing a commercial library:
A: Single payment: no per license fees, and an optional AMC
B: Subscription Based: Annual subscription, without per license fees
C: Hybrid: A certain down payment and per license revenue sharing
Whatever option you select, make sure there is a clause in the legal agreement that caps the increase in the charges to a reasonable limit.
Storage, Platforms and Support
Storage has become less of an issue than what it was even a decade ago. Desktops and laptops with more than a terabyte of capacity are all over the market. Not every algorithm library requires heavy graphics. Investing in a quality graphics card is only important if your preferred library demands heavy graphic usage. That doesn’t mean investing in cheap hardware and storage systems available. A quality processor with lot of RAM is decent if the processing task is CPU and memory intensive. Another point to look into, is the type of platform or interface to be exact, the algorithm library supports. Varied requirements call for varied platforms such as Microsoft, Mac, and Linux. The usage, and licensing should be taken into account before selecting an interface.
Last but not the least, it is to mention that the inputs from customers are highly significant and there has to be a robust support system to address any grievance from the customer side. Having a trained support staff or a customised automated support system must be given high priority.
New Application Development - Addon vs Standalone
At the starting phase of developing an application, the primary question usually comes like this—whether to make it an add-on application or a standalone application?
Before we get into the details, we need to understand what exactly these two terms mean in the computing world.
An add-on (also known as addon or plug-in) is a software application, which is added to an existing computer program to introduce specific features.
As per Microsoft’s style guide, the term add-on is supposed to represent the hardware features while add-ins should be used only for software utilities, although these guidelines are not really followed as terms are mixed up quite often. When a program supports add-ons, it usually means it supports customization. Web browsers have always supported the installation of different add-ons to suit the tastes and topics of different users by customizing the look and feel of that particular browser.
There are many reasons for introducing add-ons in computer applications. The primary reasons are:
- To introduce abilities to extend an application by enabling third-party developers to create variety of add-ons
- To support new features
- To reduce the size of an application
- To separate source code from an application because of incompatible software licenses
Usually, the host applications operate independently, which makes it possible for developers to add and update add-on features without impacting the host application itself. A host application doesn’t depend on add-ons but on the contrary, an add-on depends on the host application. Add-ons usually depend on the services provided by the host application and cannot operate by themselves.
A Standalone application is the type software that doesn’t comes bundled with other independent software features. In simple words, a standalone application does not require any separate software to operate.
A stand-alone application deploys services locally, uses the services, and terminates the services when they are no longer needed. If an application does not need to interact with any other applications, then it can be a stand-alone application with its own exclusive local service deployment. Services locally deployed by this application are not available to any other application.
A standalone application needs to be installed on every system which makes it hard to maintain. In the event of a system crash or a virus attack, when a system needs to be replaced or reinstalled, the application also needs to be reinstalled. The access to the application is limited only to the systems that have the application installed.
Standalone applications can never be kept online, and remote availability of data is practically impossible. However, there are situations where standalone application is the best choice. Here are a few:
- Text mode printing on pre-printed stationary, which browsers fail to do
- Where data security is very high and you don’t want the data to travel on the wire at all
- Design applications which need very high responsiveness and at the same time work on big data structures
- Printing on legacy continuous stationery
- No need of networking, application is needed only on a single system
- More hardware support like barcode printers, webcam, biometric devices, LED Panels, etc.
- More Operating System level operations like direct backup to external devices, mouse control, etc.
- Creation and manipulation of local files
Points to consider while developing regression suite for CAD Projects
As the development of software makes its progress, there comes a stage where it needs to be evaluated before concluding it as the final output. This phase is usually known as testing. Testing detects and pinpoints the bugs and errors in the software, which eventually leads to rectification measures. There are instances where the rectifications bring in new errors, thus sending it back to another round of testing, hence creating a repeating loop. This repeated testing of an already tested application to detect errors resulting from changes has a term — Regression Testing.
Regression testing is the selective retesting of an application to ensure that modifications carried out has not caused unintended effects in the previously working application.
In simple words, to ensure all the old functionalities are still running correctly with new changes.
This is a very common step in any software development process by testers. Regression testing is required in the following scenarios:
- If the code is modified owing to changes in requirements
- If a new functionality is added
- While rectifying errors
- While fixing performance related issues
Although, every software application requires regression testing, there are specific points that apply to different applications, based on their functioning and utility. Computer-Aided design or CAD software applications require specific points to keep in mind before undergoing regression testing.
Regression testing can be broadly classified into two categories, UI Testing and Functionality Testing. UI testing stands for User Interface which is basically testing an applications graphical interface. Numerous testing tools are available for carrying out UI testing. However, functional testing presents situation for us. This content focuses on the points to take care while carrying out functional regression testing.
Here are most effective points to consider for functional regression testing:
- It is important to know what exactly needs to be tested and the plans or procedures for the testing. Collect the information and test the critical things first.
- It is important to be aware of market demands for product development. Document or matrix should be prepared to link the product to the requirement and to the test cases. Matrices should be modified as per the changes in requirement.
- Include the test cases for functionalities which have undergone more and recent changes.
It’s difficult to keep writing (modifying) test cases, as the application keeps on getting updated often, which leads to some internal defects and changes into the code which in turn might break some already existing functionalities.
- It is preferred to run the functionality testing in the background mode (non-UI mode) because often it is faster and eliminates problems associated with display settings on different machines.
- One needs to lay down precise definitions of the output parameters that are of interest. Anything from the number of faces, surface area, volume, weight, centre of gravity, surface normal, curvature at a particular point etc. It is always a good idea to have a quantifiable output parameter that can be compared.
- It is often advisable to develop a utility to write the parameters that are of interest in an output file it could be text, CSV or xml file.
- Creating baseline versions of output data files is a good idea to visually see every part for which the baseline data is created.
- Developing automation script enables the entire test suite to run without any manual intervention and the results can be compared.
- Compare the output data generated with the baseline version, for every run of test case, for it is very important to keep in mind that if there are doubles or floats in the output data, tolerance plays a very important role.
- Some areas in the application are highly prone to errors; so much that they usually fail with even a minute change in code. It is advisable to keep a track of failing test cases and cover them in regression test suite.
Failure to address performance issues can hamper the functionality and success of your application, with unwelcome consequences for end users if your application doesn’t perform to expectations.
Five points to consider for a CAD Software Development Process
In any software development process, the methodology involved is more or less the same. The most generic requirements are developers, preferred programming language, testers and carefully planned set of actions to perform. The same can be applied to development of CAD software as well.
Having CAD software that can actually meet product development needs is an obvious necessity. Although, there is a lot of common ground between a CAD software development project and a regular software development project, there are criteria very specific to CAD software development projects which needs to be addressed.
Let us take a walkthrough:
Acceptance CriteriaAcceptance criteria are a list that mentions user requirements and product scenarios, one by one. Acceptance criteria explain conditions under which the user requirements are desired, thus getting rid of any uncertainty of the client’s expectations and misunderstandings. However, defining acceptance criteria is not simple, but has its complications. Also, it is not convenient to expect a 100% pass rate. In such case, an ideal way is to have a set of test cases with defined input and output data.
Algorithmic ComplexitiesTo successfully develop a complex product, two critical questions must be answered, how to develop the right product and how to develop the product right.Unlike some of the other problems like interest rate calculations or workflow management system, there is not a defined set of steps that results in the final answer. There are often multiple algorithms for a single issue and the situation becomes more complicated when a particular algorithm, deemed to be perfect for a given situation, may not perform that well in a different scenario, which often leads to trade offs.
TolerancesTolerance is one of the factors to evaluate product quality and cost. It has a significant role. As tight tolerance assignment ensures design requirements in terms of function and quality, it also induces more requirements in manufacturing, inspection and service that results in higher production cost. Most of CAD data works on variables that are doubles and floats and Floating point precision, Tolerance plays a very important role in the algorithms. When using data from other systems say STEP file from other source, if there is a mismatch in the tolerance, the destination system can cause lot of issues.
Risk of RegressionAdding a new functionality or improving an algorithm always has a risk of impacting the test cases that were working before the fixes. One should always develop a robust test suite for catching regressions while carrying out testing. To create a regression test case suite one must have thorough application knowledge or complete understanding of the product flow.
InteroperabilityThe quick emergence of varied CAD software has led designers to democratize, leading to the usage of multiple CAD systems in the design process, thus challenging the CAD interoperability aggressively. Different suppliers require different CAD platforms. It depends on many factors, primarily the nature of the task and product upon which it has to work. Merging different CAD data together without affecting the design intent is quite the hassle. Although, a lot of software these days support different CAD files, there are instances, where the particulars of a project has made the product confined to that one CAD software. Interoperability eases up extra work and whether to make your own software compatible with other, is a decision that should be seriously taken into account.
For starters, digitization is converting of analog/physical things such as paper documents, microfilm images, photographs, sounds and more into digital (bits and bytes) version. So it is simply converting and/or representing something non-digital into a digital format which then can be used by a computing system for numerous reasons.
Sometimes a paper document gets destroyed after having digitized, sometimes we capture the sound and images in the form of video of your presentation at an event, the digital format continues to exist while your voice and physical presentation during that presentation are gone forever. Digitizing doesn’t means replacing the original document, image, sound, etc.
Another synonymous term is ‘Automation’ which more or less means the same. The conversion of physical data into intangible format has its benefit and has revolutionized paperwork in its own way.
Benefits of Digitization
- Streamlining of process, which results in delivery of information to the right person at the right time, optimization of the processing time and improvement in overall productivity and efficiency.
- Smooth management, storage & control of documents; protection of records in physical form and reduction in the risk of losing documents.
- Digitization process ensures the continuous availability of information.
- Elimination of manual search
- Reduction in storage costs
5 ways digitization is helping the business
There have been debates about automation and development of artificial intelligence (AI) over the last couple of years. All credits to movies and their takes on AI. Some eminent minds have also predicted its dark future. However, AI has already changed the business world with companies gradually automatizing work and other sorts of activities. Almost 85% of industry leaders believe automation will allow their companies to obtain or sustain a competitive advantage.
Flexibility of working hours
With all the data and information being stored on digital media and devices; digitization has made it possible for us to transform it and access it from anywhere. As a result, we can adjust our work schedule to our personal needs and lifestyle. We can choose how to work and when to work, and we owe it to digitization.
We all know, innovation helps companies come up with groundbreaking ideas, use special tools and business applications for organizing & managing work, reach wider audience and create a better product. Digitization is not only about transforming physical data into digital format, but also about using it and finding new ways of developing/enhancing them.
The lack of right information transfer leads to misunderstandings and conflicts. Without proper communication, a business cannot thrive. Communication has always been one of the most important aspects of our lives. Fortunately, there are tools and channels that enable smooth exchange of information. There are tools that facilitate the exchange of thoughts, ideas and opinions such as blogs, websites, conferences and business meetings. Digitization has made it possible to propagate information while providing ready access to information, thereby, consuming less amount of time.
Reverse Engineering: Outsourcing and Beyond
We all know reverse engineering is an economical approach towards product development & innovation which is often utilized by manufacturers to evaluate and redesign competitor products. The method requires understanding the product design, system integrity and the manufacturing processes involved to realize the potential required to build a similar or an improved version of the product. The reverse engineering technique is best suitable for producing design data and related technical manuals for products that no longer have any design information available.
The entire work-process involves engineers studying every single design feature, associated manufacturing processes and tools needed for product development and storing information using CAD tools. After digitizing the entire information, suitable design modifications are carried out as per requirements.
However, to get things right one should have an efficient and dedicated engineering team, right software and hardware tools, etc. which seems difficult to have within the organization always.
Here comes the advantage of outsourcing reverse engineering projects where the activities can greatly reduce the cost of product development and burden on the engineers who can, then, put full emphasis on developing innovative design solutions for the product.
If one still questions outsourcing, some of the important benefits to outsourcing reverse engineering projects are mentioned below.
- Outsourcing can bring in a global pool of talent with the myriad of innovative ideas that can assist in product design and development without investing in infrastructure and resources.
- As the in-house resource can focus on R&D, it greatly helps in improving the productivity of an organization.
- Product development time reduces considerably.
- Hiring an outsourcing partner who matches requirement scale greatly enhances the organization’s capability.
- RE outsourcing presents a scope to develop the product at a competitive price since the development cost is considerably less.
Mass Customization: Why “built-to-order” is a healthy step for your business
With every individual looking for a custom product designed especially for him/her, more and more companies are now offering Mass Customization to satisfy the needs of their customers.
At a high level Mass Customization can be categorized into two broad areas,
B2B Mass Customization
B2C Mass Customization
Mass Customization essentially means offering customers what they want, rather than what the organization has to offer them. It creates a huge differentiator in the minds of customers, both B2B and B2C.
Mass Customization is achieved by using web based tools like Product Configurators which achieves Customization yet resulting in savings in cost.
This is how it works.
Configure: The Product Configurators present a simple user interface to the customers to try out various options by changing parameters and selecting different options, to suit their specific requirements. Once they are satisfied, they can often preview their selections in the form of a 3D model.
Instant Quote: The quote generation system is linked to the Product Configurator helping customers with instant quotes for the selections that they make.
Ready to Manufacture: The Product Configurator can generate all the details like manufacturing drawings required by the manufacturing/assembly team without manual intervention
Level of automation at each step depends on the complexity of the product and the nature of the sales cycle. For simple products (typically B2C) it can be completely automatic and for complex products (typically B2B) it can be semi-automatic. Even for B2B products, the semi-automatic process greatly improves the productivity of the sales team and the design team.
At a B2B level Product Configurator are seen in many diverse industries ranging from Cranes & Hoists, Material Handling and Storage, Pumps, Valves, Bearings, etc. The benefits it offers are,
- Shorter Sales Cycle because of quicker and accurate quotes to prospects
- Shorter Delivery Cycle because of quicker and accurate data to manufacturing team
- Convert more prospects into customers, with quicker response and sharing relevant CAD data
- Improve the efficiency of Sales and Design team
- Better understanding of customer’s needs
At a B2C level use of Product Configurator is seen in variety of sectors like laptops, apparels, shoes, jewellery, houses, furniture etc. The advantages for a B2C model are,
- Differentiation through personalization
- Satisfying the needs of the customers by delivering what they want
- Reduced capital because of reduced inventory
- Customer loyalty
The perks of Electronic Product Catalog
More and more companies are now going for Electronic Product Catalogs and are making necessary CAD data about their products available to their customers and prospects.
There are many benefits of electronic product catalogs, they,
- Help your prospects take quicker decision about your product
- Help you showcase your product changes quickly and effectively
- Avoid last minute surprises and installation nightmares
- Give you an edge over your competition
So if you are thinking of making your product information online, here are the few decisions that you need to make.
- The Product: You may have dozens or even hundreds of products in your portfolio. You could apply the 80-20 rule and decide a set of products that gives you maximum coverage.
- The Platform: Most obvious choice is to make it available on your website. However you could choose to make a Phone App or you could create a DVD (in case you have very large number of products).
- The Data format: You need to decide what data you wish to make available, some of the points to be decided here are 2D data vs 3D data, GA or schematic vs to the scale drawings, dumb 3D models vs parametric models etc.
- The Technology: At a high level there are two main approaches to solving this, “Pre-Cooked” and “On-The-Fly”. In the Pre Cooked method, data for all configurations of your products is as the name suggests, are kept in repository, and is delivered on demand. This option is good if the number of unique configurations of your products are on a lower side say up to few hundreds. The “On-The-Fly” method generates the necessary data in real time using certain master models. It can very easily handle any number of unique product configurations that you may have
To summarize, Electronic Product Catalogs can greatly help your business and give you an edge over the competition.
Why your business needs Custom Software Development
The quest to evolve digitally has prompted many tech enterprises to invest in new software/technology solutions to explore the market in terms of revenue and make public life easier. However, when an organization announces a brand-new investment, it is flocked by already available options in the market by players of the tech industry.
Is investing in already existing solutions an excellent way to get a foothold in such a competitive industry? According to industry experts, not always. Tech businesses should be encouraged more and more to invest in their custom CAD software development. Having a personalized asset in your digital arsenal is so much needed these days. They can be efficient and adjustable, which will turn out to be beneficial for business in the long run.
Although investments of that kind tick off many business owners due to the cost aspect, it is always worth the investment if done the right way.
Here is an outline of how custom software development is highly recommended for your business.
The intention behind custom-made CAD software is to target the specific requirements of the organization. Every business needs tailored digital solutions that focus on individual business needs and addresses particular issues. Having custom-made CAD software gives one a competitive edge in such a fast-growing market.
Easier to Scale
As your business grows with time, your needs will change, and consequently, your business solutions will need an update. Readymade software solutions usually work for small-scale companies. However, custom-made software that can grow and scale your business processes is highly recommended if you don’t want to be held back by purchased software & features and want to succeed at your own pace.
Integration with other software
Custom CAD software facilitates easy & smooth integration of your product with other software in use or already existing in the market. It prevents integration issues, and it is tailor-made to fit within any business’ software ecosystem easily, that too without errors.
A subcontractor in home construction industry would prepare quotation by marking up the home layout in a pdf document, followed by listing out various material and overhead costs. Such manual approach was affecting the turnaround time and accuracy/consistency of the quotes.
Prescient developed the solution in multiple phases as given below:
- First phase of the solution focused on creating 3D schematics and modifications with pdf as a background. This form of digital markup helped speed up the material calculations.
- Second phase was about improving the material calculations for better utilization while honoring various constraint. This helped creation of optimal quotes in consistent manner.
- Third phase integrated the materials catalogs including standard sizes & pricing. This helped in keeping the costing more up to date.
- Fourth phase added enhancements to various workflows, as per user’s feedback to enhance usability of the overall application.
Independence from 3 rd party developer
An essential point while purchasing readymade software is that it depends on the organization that has developed it — from cost to terms and conditions of use. In the event of any unfortunate mishap or bankruptcy, the developing company might stop updating the product. Such news is not pleasant for your business as you will be in dire need of another provider with their own set of terms of engagement.
Potential for future innovations
Innovation drives every competitive business scenario today. Competition breeds innovation. More innovations mean you have more chances of addressing varied consumer interests. When organizations buy expensive and ready-to-deploy software applications from reputed vendors, it often limits their likelihood of innovation. Custom software drives more experiments and helps grind out innovative concepts faster without being dependent on outside technology vendors to do it. It builds an exceptional market competence as your brand is recognized as a precursor rather than a latecomer in the innovation arena.
The modern market demands every technology implementation to go hand-in-hand with business objectives. Business firms need to have a clear idea of use cases that particular technology could solve. With custom software, firms can address such use cases and work on them without any restrictions, as long as they want it. Although they need to carry out the maintenance themselves, it provides benefits worth the expenses on a larger scale.