Automated Real Estate Software – The New Trend in Investing

The value of real estate has appreciated in the last few years. It also shows great potential for growth. Hence, now might be the best time to look at an investment in property. However, if you’ve spoken to someone who already has his knees deep in real estate investing, you will realize that a lot of things are easier said than done.

It requires skill and experience to scour the market for high value properties.

Then comes landing good buyers.

Finally, there’s a humongous amount of paper work to handle.

This is where real estate investing softwares might lend a hand. They automate the entire process of real estate investing. If you would like to know more about such applications, here’s a low down on some of the common features they offer.

Lead generation –

At the click of a single button you are able to find a comprehensive list of buyers and sellers scattered across the country. The information elicited includes names and mail addresses of buyers, owners of properties, the type of property (bank owned, foreclosed, low and high equity, absentee owner etc.) and amount of cash paid.

Website creation –

Every business needs a website, especially if you do not have a physical location from which operate. Not all of us know the technicalities of writing HTML codes and designing a website. The real estate softwares can help you create targeted and user-friendly websites that you can use to showcase your business.

Direct mail generator –

Marketing is the soul of a real estate business. The more you network the more leads you can generate. The direct mail generator feature helps you setup a highly productive and efficient mailing system. You can send out emails, newsletters, posters and flyers.

There are a range of pre-made email templates you can use to send out messages to your leads. Autoresponders make sure you can keep in touch with sellers and buyers even when you are not physically present to answer their queries.

This feature is a highlight feature of most real estate software given that the savings in time and money are large.

Investing tips –

This is a section that most newbies can benefit from. Most applications include a resource library with info on the basic aspects of the trade. An open community of members can also give you an opportunity to interact and build your resource with real-time knowledge about making, building and closing a deal.

Diverse user base –

Modern-day automated real estate investing software applications cater to a varied group of investors. It includes those who buy, fix and flip properties. If you are a landlord, it can increase the convenience of managing your properties including finding tenants and repairing and renovating properties between subsequent deals. There are also features that rehabbers and builders of new constructions can use.

Contracts and paperwork –

Real estate investment also means a lot of paperwork. Most applications offer tools to generate contracts. Features such as auto-fill enable you to fill personal details into letters, contracts and other property-related documents. You can sign them online, and then email or fax them free of charge.

There is one thing – you need to be realistic. Real estate softwares are tools you can use to streamline your business. You should have a real estate business to start with and some basic know-how on investing.

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Build Your Own Tree House – Pros and Cons, Fasteners and Hardware

Tree houses are fun, bonding activities you can do with your friends or family, and can provide a unique and ideal hangout spot surrounded by Mother nature. One of the biggest differences in my opinion, between tree houses and other on-ground add-ons you can build on your property, is the fact that a house up in the trees sways – to varying degrees depending on the height and size of the Tree and branches – and so can add a unique and soothing feel.

There are several prerequisites that must be met before this particular project would be considered feasible for you. The first ones are also the most obvious:

  1. Do you have a suitable tree with your property on which you can construct your tree house? This question may be ambiguous to some, as what kind of tree exactly is considered suitable? Well, this depends largely on the size of the structure in question, as well as the expected load – number of people, furnishings, etc. The larger your tree house is, the larger your tree needs to be.
  2. How are you with heights? Now is not a good time to kid yourself or anyone else if you happen to be abnormally scared of heights! We're all scared of heights to varying degrees, but if you lack the courage or ability to comfortably work at the needed height, this project may not be for you. Granted, it can be built relatively low to the ground as well and still be called a "tree house" – in which case, this may not apply.

Now that we have those out of the way, we can get into the other aspects of building. When compared with a structure on the ground, a tree house may somehow seem like a simpler project due to the fact that some of us have grown up "throwing" little makeshift tree houses up here and there. However, it's important to remember that any halfway decent structure, whether on the ground or up in a tree, requires careful planning and implementation of standard safety code.

Here are some other questions you should ask yourself before concluding the planning stage:

  1. What will I use the tree house for? Depending on your answer, you may want a roof and walls, or you may find it unnecessary. In either case, a rail and / or walls at least a meter high is recommended for safety.
  2. How long do I want it to last? You may think that the answer to this question is obvious, but you should understand that the lifespan of your tree house depends heavily on the materials you use and the quality and number of layers of your protective stain. Tree houses, by virtue of their definition, stand within and under the canopy of the tree in which they are built. Because of this, they are more susceptible to premature rot due to the prolonged shade and humid nature of their environment. The fallen leaves and branches scattered across the deck also serve as decay-accelerators unless they are regularly swept off.

Foundation and Floor-shape

One of the unique beauties of a tree house is the fact that you can simply build around the various branches leaving them exposed within your tree house, enhancing the "natural" atmosphere. As with an on-ground structure, you should start with building your base and floor. You may face complications with the shape of your floor due to the limitations of suitable branches to base off of.

Because of this, there's a possibility you may have to set up for a non-square shape. This may be what you want, or this may be a problem for you. In any case, you should understand that there are some restrictions placed upon you by the particular tree you're working with. All branches used for a foundation should be able to single-handedly carry several hundred pounds, and more if you're expecting higher traffic.

Tree Wood Density and Fastener Quality

Large tree houses that weigh more than the collective weight of their occupants should be carefully designed , as various factors such as the hardness of the tree and fastener quality and design come more into play. Wood will compress where the fasteners connect to the tree to varying degrees based on the hardness of the tree in question, causing a sinking of the tree house.

Professional-grade Tree house Fasteners – Are they Necessary?

There are various tree house fasteners available on the market today specially manufactured for their unique needs. However, the question invariably arises as to how necessary these customized bolts and brackets are in comparison to normal ones found in home centers due to their price. They often cost between one and several hundred dollars each!

The first thing to bear in mind when contemplating the pros and cons of these rather pricey pieces of hardware is that trees are living organizations, and are still growing, moving, and changing shape. Therefore, your tree house and the hardware on which it is mounted must accommodate this movement. Simply bolting the beams into the tree's branches results in a fixed attachment that will force the tree to either pull the screw through the beam or try to grow around the beam.

The first of the two will result in a sudden and dangerous failure , while the second will result in an unhealthy and unnatural growth around the beam, potentially causing disease and decay to set in. Custom bolts and brackets are made with a certain allowance for tree growth, with a section of the bolt that is embedded deep in the tree's heartwood and a large shank that allows axial movement coupled with a female part that is attached to the beam.

So to answer the question of whether these expensive custom parts are necessary, the short answer is yes, and no. Yes, if you lack the know-how to find parts that will accomplish the same purpose as the professional parts do, and no, if you do, and do not require your tree house to last for fifty years. Home centers sell bolts and hardware with large diameters and lengths which can be used, but the entire shank can not be threaded.

The half or so that is embedded into the tree must be threaded, but the reminder that acts as the cushion to compensate for tree-growth must be smooth. You also need a female piece that fits around the smooth shank that has a bracket that can be screwed into your beam. This female bracket then has the freedom to slide along the axis of the smooth bolt shank as the tree grows in girth. All parts should be stainless steel as well – others may corrode to failure.

Obviously, the big tree house building companies would disagree with the above opinion, and the ideal is to buy these parts. I'm just offering an alternative for those who do not have a large budget but still want to construct a safe and environmentally-friendly tree house. There is also a chance you will not be able to find hardware that meets the criteria, leaving you with no other choice.

The professional criterion when it comes to fastening your tree house to your tree seems to be "perch, do not pin". I agree whole-heartedly with this principle and any alternative I save above should not contradict this. But not everyone looking to build a tree house is willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars, so, your budget is a primary factor in determining the quality as well as what kind you would build.

In any case, it should be a safe and fun place to accommodate whatever activities you envision. Taking into consideration the damage inflicted on the tree as well as future complications that may arrise such as those mentioned above when planning, is simply the responsible and consider course of action.

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Strengths and Weaknesses of Waterfall Approach for Software Development

One of the most famous and widely used approaches for software development is the waterfall model. Waterfall approach is an old technique that has been in use for quite some time, but in modern times agile approach is gaining prominence.

Waterfall approach, as is evident from the name, refers to a systematic approach where one step comes after the other. It cannot go the other way round. The process works like the waterfall effect that flows in one direction, which is from up to down.

In this process the life cycle of the development process is predetermined. All the steps are defined before the start of the project. The approach is predictive, where the team is well aware of the order of each step and therefore works accordingly. It starts from the requirement analysis, the design phase and then proceeds on to the implementation, testing and the maintenance phases.

The waterfall approach can be quite beneficial for those who are quite clear on their requirements. A planned approach works for them because they want fixed processes and budget. Where fixed processes are beneficial, at the same time they can be inconvenient at times. In cases where the client is not clear on the requirements and finds in the middle of the project that he/she wants to change course, this approach can prove to be quite problematic.

Another point of the waterfall approach is that the requirement analysis and design of architectural structure can consume a lot of time. Extensive research is done initially as the next phases depend completely on the planning strategy. However, the good thing is that everything is thoroughly worked out and each aspect is studied beforehand. The developers in such cases know what is expected of them.

A waterfall approach works in a systematic order, with one step following the other and the testing phase comes in the end. If there are any big problems encountered in the testing phase, it means a long process to make the amends. The process can consume extra time and money.

We cannot conclude that one approach is better than the other, as every method would have its own strengths and weaknesses. The determination of success for each method depends on how it is being used and whether the approach suits the scope of work being undertaken. While one approach may be suitable for a particular project, it might become totally useless under different circumstances. For example, some believe that agile methods are not well suited for offshore development, as they require a closer contact and communication that is not possible in an offshore project.

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Clinic Management Software: Benefits of Clinic Software

Clinic management software is a web-based program which helps clinic owners manage their operations. It is already widely used in clinics in many regions of the world especially in the American continents, Europe, and Australia.

Here is a list of the many benefits of clinic management software.

1. It helps clinic owners simplify their business and helps them manage one clinic or a huge group of clinics.

2. It keeps and updates patients’ demographics like residence, gender, age, ethnicity, and diagnosis of patients.

3. It keeps and updates patients’ records like lungs chart, heart chart, kidney chart, weight and height charts, nutritional date, respiratory system chart and others.

4. It can print out prescriptions, patient records, billings, certificates, and others. It can also give information about patients’ prescription, medicine available, and the formulation of the medicine.

5. It completes receptions in an automated and systematized way.

6. It manages accounting needs and maintains the inventory.

7. It completes billing transactions.

8. It checks account balances.

5. It schedules multiple appointments.

6. It can send out multiple email reminders.

7. It allows patients to confirm appointment in real time with the use of a mobile phone or a computer.

8. It allows practitioners an easy and quick access to their schedule and patients’ record anytime.

9. It includes reporting tools which could quickly present, print out, or send out reports like patient visits, patients referred to other doctors, patients referred by other doctors, list of fee collection, and daily profit report.

10. It can multitask and designed for quick and easy usage which consequently lessens the stress of clinic owners and clinic employees.

11. It saves business owners a significant sum of money since clinic management software does not require expensive servers or IT support group.

12. It allows clinic owners maximize billable time and spend more time in taking care of their patients since almost all administrative procedures are supported by the software including the daily backing up of everyday reports.

13. It also allows clinic owners to spend more time in making their business grow.

14. Clinic management software general has security features like password facility to validate users, entry validation, data secrecy feature, and data access that is user defined.

Business establishments like clinics need to cope up with the fast advancement in technology nowadays. Otherwise, they will be left behind since most business enterprises are already using such software.

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What Requirements Does a Dot Net Developer Need to Fulfill?

Microsoft Dot Net is a useful software development component. It provides tools and libraries to the software developers so that they can create Windows-based applications in a more efficient manner. A Dot Net developer is a software programmer who has specific skills using .Net to develop software and computer applications. For people who are in the midst of looking for developers for your projects, there are some areas you need to take note. You are advised to look for competent programmers who can really assist you to complete your tasks successfully.

First thing first, you need to be clear about the responsibilities of a .Net Developer before you start looking for suitable candidate. Seriously speaking, the programmer is required to:

• Work hand in hand with other software engineers and architects to develop a logical series of instructions referred to as programming code for the computer to communicate with the networks, applications and databases.

• Create new software applications to suit the business needs

• Modify, repair, test and enhance existing applications

After knowing what the developer is required to do, the next area we need to take into consideration is the academic qualification. In general, a programmer should have degree qualification in computer science, information technology or any related discipline. If the programmer is not a degree holder, you may take a look at his or her working experience. If the candidate has extensive experience dealing with .Net development tools, you can consider getting him or her in. Check with the candidate whether he or she is familiar with maintenance of ASP Applications, e-Commerce solution, online education and learning, social networking sites, corporate web applications, and so on.

At the same time, a good dot net developer must be competent in carrying out all the important tasks. It is a must for him or her to have the following skills in:

• Classic ASP

• Microsoft SQL 2000 / 2005

• MS Access

• JavaScript, XML, DHTML, AJAX and CSS

• VBScript and JScript

Frankly speaking, if the programmer does not have the above mentioned skills, most of the employers in the job market are not willing to hire him or her.

Besides the skills, we should also take serious consideration on the general qualities of the programmers. They should have qualities as follow:

• Good passion in work

Having great interest in work is important. The programmers should love and enjoy what they are doing.

• Good learning attitude

Learning is a continuous process. We can’t stop at certain stage. Good developers must have positive attitude in learning. They must always grab the opportunities to learn new technology so that good applications can be adapted.

• Some “intelligence”

Honestly speaking, intelligence is something very subjective. What I mean here is the “personality” of the person. Being a programmer, he or she must be smart and sensitive to respond to all changes. It is important for a programmer to be open-minded and willing to take new challenges from time to time.

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How Has Technology Changed Art?

We all are witnessing the changes being made in the art these days. Technology has the power to change anything. It is changing the traditional art into digital art.

Amazing digital art has taken place of traditional art. Digital art is exploring itself in many different ways that one can imagine. Different software is developed to increase the presence of digital art.

Photoshop Artists are one of the most common digital artists who give an amazing look to a picture with the help of imaging software and different applications.

These applications are developed with the help of technology. Anyone can be a digital artist having knowledge and proficiency in Photoshop.

Difference between traditional artists and digital artists is that traditional artists use paint and cement for their art and digital artists use imaging software and applications in their art. Some of the applications have the power to create 3D art work.

Technology has taken art into a new level of creativity. Let us talk about how technology has changed traditional art into digital art. We know that internet is ruling the world with its power. So, artists decided to present their art online with the help of internet. This is possible with use of technology.

You must have seen art galleries and attended painting exhibitions in your life. These doesn’t work well these days so artists find a way where they can get more attention and more praise for their work. Most of the artistic stuff is now seen online and is circulated to the art lovers.

There are some places where exhibitions are held and we do respect them. But presenting paintings, sculptures and art work online is in trend. Some of the artists are also showing their art on the basis of card swipe panel or coins.

How this work – when you enter coins or swipe card in the panel, the panel shows you some of the art work for a few minutes and then gets closed and if you want to see it again or explore more, further you need to swipe your card or add coins into it. This is how artists are using technology.

How digital artists are using technology for their art work

Digital artists already in touch with technology are aware of the systems that are in trend and use them to create their art work and sell them online.

Some of the professional digital artists are earning a lot of bucks by selling their art work. They can also design the ones that you want and are also ready to make any modifications you need.

They use different software to explore their skills and made it more impressive. They are using technologies that offer new ways to express their art work in a realistic way for much more time.

They are using different types of media and mix them to provide a more creative art work. Their 3D art work looks as real as it is present live in front of you.

Technology not only brings changes in education, medical field, industry and business but also brings a huge change in the art work and the artists as well.

Technology opens different paths for the artists to enter into for a good earning. They made their profession more powerful along with their art work.

In our busy lives we hardly get time to meet each other and our loved ones. How can it be possible to see exhibitions and galleries? So technology has brought this change in the art workers to show their skills and talent to people from anywhere in the world.

Technology is getting advanced and making more useful for the common man as well as artists. Technology has provided us with several things that we should be thankful. One of them is digital art work.

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Computer Viruses Problems and Solutions

We all are now aware with the term Computer Viruses

Let’s understand this simple definition: Computer Viruses can be considered as small software application which tends to take control over computer operation. The computer virus may delete contents from the hard disk and even take a ride on e-mail programs to become pandemic. Computer viruses be in various formats like in form of images, audio or video files. They may spread while downloading files from the Internet. Sometimes they may be purchased along with the pirated software too.

Let’s concentrate on symptoms of Viruses

There can be difficulty in accessing any disk or drive. The system might be running slow. Sometimes it may freeze. You may see distorted menus and dialog boxes. Any program may disappear on its own without any action. Sometimes you may see some new icons on the desktop. Application will not be running smooth. You may get error of any system file missing. Your windows may restart automatically sometimes. If you see this kind of symptoms on your system, then install any latest version of anti virus which you think compatible with the Operating System you have. Scan your system for the Computer Viruses. Even in severe condition you may need to format your system completely.

Let’s see what we can do to remove a Virus

You need to apply a Computer Viruses removal tools for the purpose. Sometimes you may find specific problems which are associated with some unwanted software programs which carries Computer Viruses You may get those viruses again in your system after uninstalling those programs. So you should be very much smart while choosing for the Tools for Computer Viruses removal.

To remove virus, follow these steps

1. Visit the Microsoft website to get latest updates from Microsoft Updates.

2. Perform regular scanning of your system with any updated Anti- Virus.

3. Download, install, and then run the Microsoft Malicious Software Removal Tool to remove Computer Viruses the system.

Preventive measure for Computer Virus

Its highly recommended you to keep your Operating systems updated. If you are not online don’t forget to check for Windows updates frequently. This is important because the Virus creator always tries to make use of any void in your Operating System to install their software Computer Viruses. If you are online user then make sure that your web browser is also an updated one. Try to use the most compatible and latest of the Web browser may be from any one like IE, Firefox, Opera or anyone else, because the Virus writer always tries to find mistakes in your browser.

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Turn Your Basement Into a Virtual Shooting Gallery

An indoor shooting simulator is easy to add on to most projection based home theater systems, and in most cases is an inexpensive way to add hours of entertainment for the whole family. People of all ages enjoy playing the wide range of games that are available for the system, everything from “Baseball Challenge” to “Elephant Hunter” will keep your family and friends entertained. Utilizing a shooting simulator is not only a great way to add excitement to your home theater room; it is also a get way to keep your shooting skills sharp.

System Basics:

There are a few basic requirements for adding a shooting simulator to an existing home theater. The simulator runs on a normal Windows based computer, software is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. The image is broadcast through a projector to a screen, which most projectors and home theater screens will be suitable for use with this simulator. Now all you need to add is a basic simulator package, which includes a rifle, case, camera and five games. Installation of the simulator will only take about thirty minutes to setup and install the new software and hardware. Now you are ready to start enjoying the very best of simulated shooting. To recap the items you need: computer, projector, screen and a simulator package.

Benefits of Indoor Shooting:

There are many advantages to adding an indoor shooting simulator to you home theater room, these are just a few.

Convenience- having the ability to practice your shooting skills from within your own house, cuts down on drive time to the range and you can fire up your system anytime you want.

Cost Savings- ammunition is expensive! You will save a lot of money practicing your skills using a true to life replica laser firearm verses using live ammo.

Safety- using a laser firearm is a much safer weapon to practice will and it’s a lot better for your hearing.

Shooting Variety- with a shooting simulator you have the ability to practice your skills on a wide range of software titles. You can practice shooting skeet and with just a touch of a button you can switch over to another game and practice your marksmanship on simulated popup targets.

Entertainment- Gather you friends and family, challenge them for the highest score or for bragging rights.

Packages and Software:

With this system, there are many packages of both hardware and software available. Looking for a portable package or maybe a complete package if you don’t have a projector, computer and screen? Those packages and more are available. There are over 35 software titles currently available, which can be purchased separately or in 15 game packages. Software titles are being added, so you will always have the option to buy the latest games on the market. Do you have the best Halloween party on your block? There is a Halloween software package that will insure your party is unforgettable. Do you have a young hunter or marksman that could benefit from “Hunter’s Education” software? It is an option on this simulator. Teach them everything from ethical shooting to animal anatomy, with the hunter’s Ed package. Looking to hone your archery skills? This simulator has packages available for you bow enthusiasts. There are several optional firearms which can be added to the system, to maximize the skill development and enjoyment of the simulator.

Adding a shooting simulator to your theater room is easy and a cost effective way of increasing the entertainment value of your room as well as improve shooting skills. If you would like some more information on the shooting simulators or have any questions please contact me through the website.

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Schedule Slippage – Root Causes

“The single most important task of a project: setting realistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations based on inaccurate estimates are the single largest cause of software failure.”- Futrell, Shafer

Introduction

With global and competitive market, it is very important to launch a product or service in the market on time, ahead of competitors. Definitely, timely launch depends on on-time-completion of the product development projects. Project planning has lots of challenges to overcome in order to finish the project on time – right from schedule predictability, envisioning future/possible risks and coming up with mitigation plans.

This article talks about some of the challenges, often faced in the Software Product Development industry that causes the schedule slippage.

Schedule slippage: Delay in the project completion from its initial estimated date of completion.

Each project plan will have a planned completion date (NRA, RA), and a bounding box or upper limit in schedule. Nowadays, it is a common practice to have three dates associated with any project plan:

  • Non-Risk Adjusted (NRA) date: Project completion date assuming no hurdles – Ideal conditions.
  • Risk Adjusted (RA) date: Project completion date assuming some risks will come on the way and will need extra time to attend to them.
  • Bounding Box (BB) or upper limit: The upper limit on the project plan before which the project has to be finished under any circumstances – Generally decided by the top management based on product/services roadmap and launch in the market.

Under ideal circumstances, any project is scheduled to complete by NRA date. Considering some risks that may come on the way and would eat some time off the schedule, the project should be over by RA date. If the risks were not envisioned and hence not planned well, then project may get delayed and would complete after RA date. Project completion crossing the RA or upper limit is neither good nor expected out of a well-planned project.

Root Causes

As we always plan for a project to get over before RA date, seldom is the case it happens as expected. There are multiples reasons for schedule slippage, right from improper planning, lack of resources to unplanned requirements and rework that eat away vital time off the planned schedule.

A typical project development process – Each project will have a team (development, testing and other functions) that will work through a process (requirement analysis, schedule estimation, design, implementation and testing) to deliver a product to the customer/end user. Each entity that participate in the project – directly or indirectly affect the schedule.

From the development process, we can identify the items that can cause delay in the execution of the project – for example, misinterpreted or unclear requirement adds up to completion time, unavailability of development tools or resources can prolong the project duration. Various processes like schedule estimation, detailed design and product development if not executed skillfully, may significantly blow up the project cycle.

For better understanding all these possible causes that may result in schedule slippage are categorized .

Let’s have a detailed look at the root causes of schedule slippage category wise.

1) Schedule Estimation: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

For a project to be executed on time, it is very important to have it planned very well. Any mistake in project schedule estimation reflects as delay in the project completion from its deadline. There are several factors that contribute to improper schedule estimation:

· Underestimation of technical complexities: At the start of the project, many of the team members may not have thorough knowledge of technical complexities and hence their estimation would be incorrect. Sometimes it may so happen that the person giving estimates for a particular task is having no idea about the technical challenges involved in carrying out that particular task. You might hear, towards the mid/end of the project life cycle when the task is not finished on time – “Oh, I didn’t know that this feature also requires 5 more tasks to be done!” or “I was thinking this task to be so simple, but I under estimated it!”. · Lack of Design/Big picture: It is important to have a bigger picture / overview of the complete project to understand how a particular module/feature would fit in to complete project. Product or system level design helps in understanding the interfaces among other modules and the required coordination for product assembly and hence, a better insight into the work involved. Often, estimates without focus on detailed design tend to deviate more from the actual time taken for finishing the job. · Integration Testing: While making a project plan, testing also needs to be accommodated in the schedule. At times, the unit testing or testing done by individual contributors on their module is taken into account but not the system level testing. Toward the release, when all the individually tested modules are brought together, a system level or integration testing is a must. Having the time for integration testing not accounted in the overall project schedule will cause delay in the project completion.

· Unplanned dependencies: Project planning is not only about breaking the project into minute tasks and managing them. A well-planned project schedule also needs to consider certain unplanned dependencies. Some of these are:

o People: Optimum utilization of human resources calls for same set of people working in multiple projects. A person may not be available to work for currently planned/assigned project due to extended/unplanned work in another parallel project. Another issue related to people could be unplanned/unexpected attrition that will affect the project plan. Time is also lost in mentoring of new member by a senior (more experienced) person which goes unaccounted if not planned.

o Tools & Equipments: Project can be delayed if team is waiting for release of upgrade or procurement of any vital tool (hardware or software being used in the project) or if the equipments required for development and testing are not available. “We had a 3-months project for validating our existing solution on new product platform using customer DUT (device under test). We had to wait for the DUT for nearly 1.5 months as it got stuck in customs. After getting the DUT, we realized that it’s been damaged partially during transportation. As a result we had to ask for another DUT and whole project took more than 5 months to get finished.” – I am sure that such cases will be quite familiar to many organizations. Other reason for timely unavailability of tools / equipments is that they are shared among various projects to reduce the operating cost. Any unplanned dependency on their usage or wrong assumption about availability of these shared resources would cause delay in the program. Team members might have to work on shifts to optimize the usage of shared resources which can cause reduced work hours and/or productivity loss and results to schedule slippage.

“I was waiting for Matlab license to be released by another person in the team but he left the office without doing so and I lost 3 hours figuring out what to do?” – is it something you faced before?

o Other programs: If multiple programs have deliverable dependencies, then delay in one project will have cascaded effect on other projects, which directly or indirectly depend on its deliverable. “We got delayed because we had to wait for a critical UI component from the framework project team” or “We didn’t plan for bug fixes for a component which was supposed to be delivered defect free for our usage” are the common scenarios for delays in program which are dependent on other program deliverables. Parallel programs may affect the schedule of your program in a different way as well – Sometimes, management changes the priority of the programs running in parallel. If your project is considered as a low priority one then there might be lack of resources assigned to your project that may result in schedule slippage.

· Beta releases: How many times we seek feedback on our product during development? And how often we allocate time for it? It’s important to plan beta releases if we desire to have our product validated by expert users or lighthouse customers during development. Getting feedback from beta customers becomes important especially when their requirements echo that of a mass customer base. Process of giving workable releases to customers, collecting their experience, having their feedback analyzed, and then incorporating in the final product version takes significant time.

· Risk mitigation and plan B: Every project will have some or the other risks. These risks can be of varying severity and probabilities. While making project plan, it is important to treat the risk individually based on their severity and probability of occurrence. If high probable risks with higher severity are not planned with their mitigation plan (or plan B), they will have huge impact on schedule deviation from planned one. As in one of the previous examples quoted, getting a DUT on time for validation was a risk. Had there been a mitigate plan (plan B) like – Validate with other DUT or if DUT is not available here, let one developer travel to customer’s place and finish the validation on time, the schedule slippage would have been avoided.

2) People: Ultimately, projects are executed by people who may not be skilled or talented. Hence, looking for perfection in projects involving human beings may not be a feasible thought. Certain unpredictable and hence unavoidable issues under this category are:

· Poor leadership: Before thinking of project execution, it is project planning that actually would set the platform of success. Execution of the project depends on its team while planning is taken care by the project leader. The project leader is expected to have enough technical know-how to understand the project goals and to the details of the tasks involved. Poor leadership and superficial knowledge of assignments often results in invalid effort estimation and ad hoc task delegation causing stress and possible delay in project execution. People leading the team are also responsible for keeping the team spirit and motivation level upbeat. Poor personal commitment due to lack of motivation results in loss of productivity and may cause schedule to slip. Another reason that adds up to delay in projects is inability of leadership team to track the schedule progress and take the correction action.

· Attrition: If the project duration is large and job market is hot, it may be difficult to retain people in the project till its completion. Attrition may further delay the completion especially if the person leaving the job was in critical path. A person leaving the organization would leave a gap in the project that a new person may not fill immediately, which in turn causes sudden reduction in the task force.

· Learning curve: When ever a new person or team member is included in the project, he or she may require some time to understand the project to keep in pace with other members. Learning curve is needed for new team members, joining the team either due to attrition or due to any specific technical competency requirement. · Context switching: In smaller organization or groups where people work on multiple projects simultaneously, it is important to have some buffer for context switching. A person planned to work in project ‘A’ for two hours after a gap of two weeks, would take more than scheduled time to complete that task. Gap of two weeks and the fact that he or she was involved in other project would require some time for the member to get back to the context of current project. · Global development teams: In an era of globalization and outsourcing, it is common these days to have development team distributed over different geographical regions. Project plan needs to account for different time zones and working culture. You might expect an input for your task on Monday morning your time but it may be Sunday late evening for that person and finally when the input arrives, you might be on your way to home after work.

Sometimes schedule estimation might go completely wrong if you have not understood the work culture of the region your teammate belongs to – “In my previous work, I was given a task to be completed with a heads up that its very critical task and needs immediate attention’. When I asked my project lead how many days/hours I have for it, I had been time for 2 weeks for high priority and ‘immediate-attention’ work.” Definition of ‘urgent’, ‘high priority tasks’ changes with culture and region.

· Communication Issues: People communicate differently. If important issues are not brought to the notice of the team members, or are not escalated on time, the entire project may suffer. Often fear of embarrassment stops team members from reporting issues faced during execution leading to more time being spent on that task that can easily be executed additional help.

3) Customer Involvement: These issues are quite serious if customer or end users of the product are involved in the development phase. Understanding customer’s priorities, defining your expectation from their involvement needs to be clear and in agreement with both the parties.

· Expert user testing: In the beginning of the project, expert user testing cycle needs to be planned. Process of giving builds or releases for testing and collecting their feedback, analyzing and incorporating them in your product takes significant time which, if not planned, can delay your program. · Timely feedback: “I got feedback from customers for features, delivered in development milestone-1, after milestone-5 towards the release. These feedbacks are critical but now I am worried how to incorporate them without affecting the schedule.” It sounds like a common problem. Incorporation of feedback from customers needs to be planned well taking a commitment from the customer. · Product requirement specification review: Having a product requirement review planned and executed will keep you on right track throughout the project. Reviewing the requirement specification will avoid requirement related defects fixing which otherwise would have delayed, the project.

4) Ambiguous Project Requirement: For any project to be initiated, the first thing is to have requirements for it. In the product development life cycle, requirement phase acts like a foundation. Clear requirement or vision for the project navigates the team to success. However, requirements may not be clear at the time of estimation and may result in delay in the project completion. Issues related:

· Evolving specs: If you are making a product based on a standard which is not yet matured or still evolving, you are more prone to have this risk. Frequency changes in the specs will change the requirement for the project during different stages of product development and team will continue to work on something that is not yet evolved. This results in rework that would delay the project if time for dealing with these changes is not accommodated in the schedule. “We developed an algorithm and hence measurement that was based on certain industry standard. Towards the release of the product, the specs changed and our measurement was no more valid. We had to redo the algorithm to reflect the changes in the specs. This caused our product release delayed by 2 months.” · New requirements: Sometimes new requirements are added as the project evolves towards completion. Implementation of new requirements is not planned at the beginning of the project and hence is not accounted in schedule. Adding new feature without revising the schedule may result in delay.

· Untold expectation: Requirements from the customers may be of two types – implicit or explicit. It is important to have the requirements well documented. Implicit requirements needs to be better defined and documented to avoid any confusion towards the end of the project. Customers may not describe their requirements related to system performance, memory issues, user interface quality and usability but they are very keen on providing feedback in those aspects once the product is given for expert user testing. If we are not clear about such requirements, out design might not address them. Addressing them towards the end of the project may call for design changes and extra work that would delay the project.

5) Unplanned Tasks / Reworks: Bounding box for the project is set by higher management and often lack buffer for unplanned task(s). Having more of unplanned task that creep up at different phases of project can cause schedule slippage. The unplanned tasks or rework may arise due to:

· Sustaining work: In smaller organizations, some of the project team may also be responsible for sustaining / customer support of existing products. These unplanned tasks, which come on event basis, related to customer support are always of high priority. Excess or prolonged sustaining work may take resource out of the planned project causing a potential threat for schedule slippage. · Defect fixes: Defects are bad as they degrade the product quality and consume extra time/effort to fix them. It is good to have testing of the intermediate releases of the project to find and fix defects sooner in the development life cycle. If the fixing-cycle for such internal-milestone defects is not planned, then either the project is either going to slip or product is going to be of poorer quality. Poor programming skill of the team, not adapting to modern programming practices and having ad hoc development processes may lead to higher number of defects which would take more time to fix then planned and cause slippage.

· Task spillover from previous milestone: Tasks that are not completed in previous milestone, due to whatever reason (inefficiency, vacation of the team member, resource crunch etc), will have to be completed in the next milestone thereby increasing the load on the team. If adequate buffer is not planned, these tasks spilled from previous milestone over to next, can delay the project. · Requirement change / refinement: Requirement changes during the product development will result in rework of what has been previously done with first version of requirement(s). Addressing changes in the requirements needs extra time and effort and may cause schedule slippage. In some cases, the requirement from customer is misunderstood resulting in wrong system design and implementation. Additional, unplanned time is lost in correcting the design/implementation which causes schedule slippage.

Conclusion

On time delivery is the challenge software development companies are facing globally. To have a complete control over estimated schedule, it is very important to identify the elements in the development cycle that cause schedule slippage. This article uncovers and explains the root causes of delay in programs using examples from real world. Having an insight to the root causes will help the program managers to make good decisions to avoid future schedule slippage.

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8 Criteria to Choose the Best Antivirus Program For Your Needs

There is no best antivirus program in general. You can make the best choice of your antivirus software depending on your goals, your needs and your environment. In order to choose your best antivirus software you should look at vendor information, independent antivirus certifying agencies reviews, as well as other sources. Here are the essential criteria for the right choice.

1. Compatibility
Antivirus program has to be compatible with your PC configuration. Your PC must meet hardware and software requirements of antivirus solution.

2. Range of Protection
Antivirus software should protect your PC from as many threats and on as many viruses as it can: viruses, worms, trojans, spyware, keyloggers, adware, rootkits, password stealers, phishing attacks, spam and others.

3. Effectiveness
Antivirus protection delivery by antivirus program should be effective and efficient. You may find and compare test results released by independent antivirus certifying agencies: Virus Bulletin, AV Comparatives, ISCA Labs, Westcoast Labs and others. If some antivirus solution was scored by these agencies high and consistently near the top, then you really can not go wrong with this top rated antivirus software.

4. Easy Installation
Good antivirus program has a prompt and easy installation. Interface should be clean, easy, and intuitive to use.

5. Easy to Use
Most users want to "install and forget" their antivirus software. So the best antivirus solution should have default configurations acceptable for most users. And at the same time good antivirus program can be easily configured and tweaked by advanced users.

6. Features
The best antivirus programs have the large features set that may include:
– list of compatible versions of Operational systems and platforms,
– amount of used system resources,
– using of proactive protection without false positives and with effective utilizing of system resources,
– availability of laptop battery saving mode,
– bootable rescue disk,
– silent gamer mode, and other available options.

A comprehensive features set adds strength to antivirus solution.

7. Update
The best security solutions have Automatic Update option and automatically perform updates every hour or "as needed updates" to keep virus definitions and program code up to date.

8. Support
The best security programs have a comprehensive online and offline technical support. The program vendor should provide online knowledge base, FAQs, tutorials, user forums. The best sellers provide 24/7 support so you can ask your questions by phone, email or chat at any moment.

The best for your needs antivirus program delivers you the best security and usability with a minimal outlay of your time, money, or your PC system resources.

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