Posts on Software Development


SIR Data Insights - Getting Ready for the 2016/17 Workforce Data Upload

By Mike • In Software Development

SIR Data Insights - the national FE sector workforce data service - is ready for the 2016/17 SIR25 upload window. All FE colleges in England are encouraged to submit workforce data - the staff individualised record - to the online service when the upload window opens at the start of July. Independent training providers, charities and adult and community learning organisations are also encouraged to make a submission.

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Why you should develop a bespoke learning management system to deliver compliance training to multiple clients

By Mike • In Software Development

From time to time we get asked to develop a bespoke learning management system for a training provider that wants to use e-learning to deliver compliance type training to multiple client organisations. Most of those training providers are already using an established off the shelf system - either Moodle or a commercial Software as a Service (SaaS) solution.

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Working with a software development company - why your project management matters

By Mike • In Software Development

Effective project management is an essential part of any software development project and most software development companies will use a dedicated project manager to deliver the project on time and budget. Even small projects - just 1 developer - need someone to keep an eye on costs, progress and overall quality.

It also makes a sense for the client to have their own project manager - not necessarily a full-time Prince2 qualified project manager but someone from the client organisation who can put time into the project and understands the project management role.

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Bespoke software development and why you should pay for bug fixing

By Mike • In Software Development

Why should I pay you to fix bugs in software you've developed? That's a totally reasonable question that we sometimes get asked by a new client when we're discussing what happens after their software is launched. Our answer and the thinking behind it goes something like this:

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Why do some software development projects fail?

By Mike • In Software Development

Sometimes we hear about a failing software development project and occasionally we're asked to help get one of those projects back on track. The projects are always different but most seem to go wrong for similar reasons:

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Everything You Need To Know Before You Pick A Software Development Company

By Mike • In Software Development

Here are 6 things you need to know when you're looking for a software development company.

Remember, it takes experience to create good business software. You're looking for a team that you’ll enjoy working with, that will ask the right questions about how your business works and that can develop high quality software quickly.

1. It pays to write a reasonably detailed brief.

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Save money and win more business with a bespoke CRM development

By Bob • In Software Development

Two things are notable about how organisations use software to collect and manage sales and marketing information about customers and potential customers.

Firstly, most small organisations don't really do customer relationship management in any kind of systematic way. At best they store data in ad-hoc collections of spreadsheets that are squirrelled away on the hard drives of different PCs. The data's usually full of inaccuracies, it's incomplete and is often almost impossible to report on. It's very difficult to get an overview of what you've got and any nuggets of genuine customer insight remain undiscovered.

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Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity - Ignore at Your Peril

By Mike • In Software Development

What are your options if you’re a small or medium sized business with a mission critical web application and you’re worried about business continuity? You know your data is backed up every day but you’re not sure how long it will take to bring your web application back if a major failure happens. You also know that the loss of your critical online service for you and your customers for several days could have a huge negative impact on your business and its reputation.

Here are some options - what you decide to do depends very much on your budget, how you see the impact of any disaster and your appetite for risk.

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How much does it cost to develop a mobile app?

By Mike • In Software Development

Here's some guidance on cost for anyone thinking about developing a mobile app. It's based on our own experience of building mobile apps for customers who want to capture data on the move and then sync it back to a database in the cloud.

The guidance is based on two assumptions. Firstly, we build cross platform apps with Apache Cordova. It's a great solution when a client doesn't want to build a separate native app for iOS, Android and Windows Mobile. We build one application that works across multiple platforms - this means lower development costs and significantly lower ongoing maintenance costs.

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How we developed a course booking system for the Education and Training Foundation

By Mick • In Software Development

The new course booking system that SkillsLogic developed for the Education and Training Foundation is a great example of how we work with a client to turn an initial set of broad requirements into a mission critical web application that delivers real value from the day it goes live.

Our approach is essentially 'agile development' but within an overall fixed-price framework. We have to meet a set of requirements that are agreed up front but we still manage to build in the flexibility and responsiveness that comes with 'agile'.

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Should I develop a mobile app for my web application?

By Mike • In Software Development

Should you think about building a mobile app to sit alongside your web application? Here are some reasons why it might be a good idea:

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Real world DevOps - a better way to develop and host software

By Mike • In Software Development

DevOps is a way of working that builds closer collaboration between software developers and the team that manages the software after it's gone live. It's related to 'agile development' and is partly a response to agile's tendency to increase the frequency of software releases.

In many IT organisations - especially the bigger ones - teams are traditionally separated into different functional areas. Developers write code, testers do quality assurance and the tech services or operations team looks after hosting. DevOps is different - it encourages multidisciplinary teams and it gets software developers much closer to the day to day operational management of the software they build.

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The Education and Training Foundation’s New Course Booking System

By Mike • In Software Development

The Education and Training Foundation’s new course booking system - ETF Booking - has been designed and developed by SkillsLogic.

The Foundation supports the FE and vocational learning sectors with a range of continuing professional development courses and other programmes. It works with other training providers to design, market and deliver training courses to FE lecturers, private training providers and others working in the work based learning sector.

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Building a FE College Financial Benchmarking Tool with Power BI

By Mike • In Software Development

Detailed financial information about FE colleges is published annually by the Skills Funding Agency and the Education Funding Agency. The latest available data - for the 2014/2015 academic year - is here in MS Excel format.

There is a lot of data - the workbook contains almost 400 columns - and that makes it seriously difficult to compare colleges in Excel without quite a bit of further work, particularly if you want to use charts to make the comparisons easier. There is a separate MS Excel benchmarking tool that makes comparisons easier but it's published later and the current version is for 2013/2014 data.

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Visualising Skills Funding Agency Learner and Qualifications Data with Microsoft Power BI

By Mike • In Software Development

There's a lot of Skills Funding Agency data freely available of the web - much of it derived from the individualised learner record (ILR).

Microsoft Power BI is a good tool for making sense of what can be quite complex data. It's straightforward to build simple interactive visualisations that highlight patterns in the data and make it easier to spot trends. And sharing Power BI dashboards is also easy - at the moment Microsoft lets you share dashboards via a public url for free.

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Data warehousing and analytics - bringing data to life at Together Housing

By Mike • In Software Development

Musgrave Analytics and SkillsLogic have been working together to develop a state of the art performance management framework for Together Housing Group. The end result is a set of dashboards that gives all staff across the Together Housing Group a consistent view of the the numbers that are used to track performance.

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Software consultancy - supporting Birmingham Changing Futures Together

By Mike • In Software Development

Birmingham Changing Futures Together is a city wide project that aims to support people with multiple needs. It's coordinated by Birmingham Voluntary Services Council and brings together a network of supporting agencies who together will deliver joined-up targeted support to more than 1000 clients.

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Thinking long term - what kind of bespoke software are you building?

By Mike • In Software Development

Our experience at SkillsLogic is that there are two broad categories of bespoke software, each with their own challenges.

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Smart data dashboards - helping the FE sector understand its workforce

By Mike • In Software Development

We've made good use of Google Charts in our development of the new Staff Individualised Record (SIR) data collection and reporting system for The Education and Training Foundation.

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Software Project Rescue - Get a Difficult Project Back on Track

By Mike • In Software Development

From time to time SkillsLogic is asked to help out on a software development project that isn't going to plan. Most of these projects seem to get into trouble for one or more of the following reasons:

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What does bespoke software development cost?

By Mike • In Software Development

SkillsLogic's project portfolio includes both small developments that might take one developer just 2 or 3 weeks and much larger multi-developer projects that are delivered in phases over many months. Our biggest software development projects are long term commitments that last several years (and include both ongoing technical support and hosting). It is possible though to give some examples of the kind of work we do together with ballpark figures. The cost of bespoke software development varies - by definition it's bespoke - but these examples should give you some idea of the likely cost of your project.

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Analysing FE Workforce Data - Supporting the Post 16 Area Review

By Mike • In Software Development

The post-16 area reviews are part of the government's plan to restructure FE and sixth form colleges. The idea is to make post-16 providers more financially stable and efficient. Providers are going to be encouraged to collaborate more - that could mean more shared services and in some instances, college mergers.

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Want to use Gmail instead of MS Outlook?

By Mike • In Software Development

Did you know you can use Gmail to manage all your email accounts? Maybe you’ve got a personal Gmail email address and you’re using Outlook for your separate work email address. You can, if you want, manage everything through Gmail - ideal if you prefer Gmail’s browser interface and its iOS and Android mail client apps.

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Why you should hire a Software Consultancy in 2016

By Mike • In Software Development

Why not hire a software consultancy in 2016? Maybe you’ve got an idea for a new software solution or you want advice about upgrading existing systems or perhaps you need help with an IT project that’s in trouble?

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Get Support for an Existing Bespoke System

By Mike • In Software Development

Do you want to find a new software consultancy to pick up the support of an existing bespoke system? Making the switch to a new supplier will be easier if you start thinking now about some of the issues the new supplier will face:

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Generate More Online Enrolments with Facebook and LinkedIn

By Mike • In Software Development

Are you using a learning management system to deliver courses online? Do you want to increase your online enrolments? Here are some Facebook and LinkedIn ideas that might make a difference. Both social networks have well documented application programming interfaces (APIs), with tools and support materials that make them relatively easy to integrate with third party web applications and apps. With a bit of effort you can get some quick wins that will boost your enrolments and seriously raise the profile of your brand and courses.

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How Your Software as a Service (SaaS) Idea Can Make Money

By Mike • In Software Development

Do you want to make money selling Software as a Service? SaaS makes it easy to connect users with software but there are pitfalls along the way that can make it hard to turn a profit. If you’ve got an idea for a SaaS business then this short overview of three basic SaaS business models might help.

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Building an Enterprise Android Tablet App - Lessons Learned

By Mike • In Software Development

Could you use a bespoke tablet app instead of paper forms to collect data? The latest mobile app development platforms and the availability of low price tablets make it easier to build, deploy and support bespoke enterprise mobile solutions. A bespoke tablet app that syncs data back to a central web based application can be a cost effective solution for any organisation looking for faster data entry, improved data accuracy and better management information reporting.

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SkillsLogic and Musgrave Analytics to Develop Workforce Data System for the FE Sector

By Mike • In Software Development

Sheffield-based SkillsLogic and Musgrave Analytics are to develop ground-breaking new software that from September 2015 will be used to collect workforce information from the Further Education sector.

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5 Reasons Why Bespoke Web Development Can Be Cost Effective

By Mike • In Software Development

It can make sense to build a bespoke software solution. If you’re looking for an online solution that goes across different departments, or you’ve got some unique business requirements or you want capture data from large numbers of external users then you might find that a bespoke web application is more cost effective than an off-the-shelf system. Here are 5 things to consider:

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Ideas for Working with Software Development Companies

By Mike • In Software Development

Some of my recent consultancy work has got me thinking about the important things that clients need to do when they start to work with a software development company. The advice below is largely common sense but I think that for the non-technical client in particular, the process of commissioning and implementing complex business software is challenging and it is often easy to overlook the obvious.

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Online Audit System Development for Food Manufacturers

By Mike • In Software Development

Audit Trail Technologies’ groundbreaking new online auditing system has been designed and developed by SkillsLogic.

Audittec.com will make it easier for organisations to meet the requirements of audit compliance and at the same time save money. Audit data is captured with a tablet app and then synchronised with a cloud based database. The data is accurate, it’s timestamped and it can be supported with notes and photographs. Non-compliance issues are automatically escalated and the system tracks issues that still need to be closed out. The savings on paper and printing costs alone can be significant.

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Developing the Saffron Allergen Web Portal

By Mike • In Software Development

SkillsLogic has developed the Saffron Allergen web portal for Sheffield based catering management solution provider Fretwell-Downing Hospitality.

The web portal gives customers up-to-date and accurate allergen and nutrition information. Data is pulled in real-time from the menus in the back-end Saffron database and then presented to customers in a clear, easy to understand format. Changes to ingredients and menus in Saffron are immediately presented back to customers who are about to order food.

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IT Consultancy in Sheffield with Digital Direction

By Mike • In Software Development

During the last 10 months I’ve been lucky enough to work with 37 different SMEs across the city as part of Sheffield’s Digital Direction programme. They’d all applied for IT support from the programme and my role was go out and meet with them and do some initial IT consultancy to establish their exact IT requirements.

I visited 37 companies - mostly small businesses with less than 20 staff though a few were larger. The number of companies by category is:

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Recruiting Again - Web Developer Vacancy Sheffield

By Mike • In Software Development

We have another vacancy for a PHP web application developer to join our team in Sheffield - either as a permanent member of the team or as a contractor.

We're looking for someone with good PHP skills and our ideal candidate is someone who's comfortable working directly with clients and who's got a track record of web application development with PHP & MySql or PostgreSQL. .NET & MS SQL Server skills might be handy too.

Please get in touch if you're interested. We're easy to find in the centre of town and we're always happy to meet people informally for a chat about what we do and the kinds of roles we have available.

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The Foundation Trust Network and Data Analysis

By Mike • In Software Development

SkillsLogic and Musgrave Analytics have designed and developed the Foundation Trust Network’s new web based data collection and analysis system. This new web based system makes it easier for the Foundation Trust Network to catalog, analyse and then report on the data they collect from their members.

NHS Foundation Trusts submit large amounts of data to the FTN - either as spreadsheets or in response to online surveys. Extracting data from those spreadsheets and storing it in a way that makes it easier to analyse and query has until now been a time consuming job.

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Software Developer Vacancy in Sheffield

By Mike • In Software Development

Our Sheffield software development team is busy with new work and we're now recruiting again.

We have a vacancy for a PHP web application developer.

We're looking for good analyst developers who have strong PHP skills - our ideal candidate is someone who's comfortable working directly with clients and who's got a track record of web application development with PHP & MySql or PostgreSQL.

Please get in touch if you're interested. We're easy to find in the centre of town and we're always happy to meet people informally for a chat about what we do and the kinds of roles we have available.

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SkillsLogic Software Development Team Grows Again

By Mike • In Software Development

Say hello to Matas, the latest member of our Sheffield software development team. Matas is a computer science graduate from Vilnius University in Lithuania and he’s joined us as a web application developer.

Most of Matas’ work is PHP and PostgreSQL database development and at the moment he’s working on one of our bespoke projects - getting to know the client, turning new requirements into new features and generally doing a great job.

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Tom Graduates from Sheffield Hallam University

By Mike • In Software Development

Here's Tom McLellan from our Sheffield software development team looking very smart at his graduation yesterday. Congratulations Tom - he got a First in Interactive Media with Animation. And Tom got a prize - The Brightest Spark for Games Development & Design!

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Visualising Data

By Mike • In Software Development

Johan Oldekop gave a good talk about visualising data with infographics at the Showroom here in Sheffield yesterday evening. Johan’s from Sheffield University’s Institute for International Development and his event was part of the 11th Annual ESRC Festival of Social Science.

The event was about how academics might use infographics to bring the results of their research to a wider public audience. Johan talked about his research into conservation by local communities in Ecuador and showed us the infographic he’d designed with a colleague that they hoped would make the research more accessible to a non-expert audience.

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The Best Way to Share Project Plans

By Mike • In Software Development

In the past I’ve always planned software development projects with Microsoft Project - but only for producing nice Gantt charts to show tasks and the dependencies between them and never really for resource planning (I always found it too complicated).

The snag with MS Project though was that it was hard to share project plans with team members who didn’t have their own copy of MS Project. The easiest way to do it was to copy the Gantt chart view to a .gif or .jpeg and then email it to people. It worked but of course it was only a read-only snapshot and it was out of date as soon as the plan changed (mine changed a lot).

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SkillsLogic and Musgrave Analytics

By Mike • In Software Development

SkillsLogic have teamed up with Musgrave Analytics to deliver end-to-end online data collection and analysis solutions, particularly to organisations in the health sector.

Musgrave Analytics are based in Sheffield and specialise in data visualisation and reporting solutions. They’re particularly strong in the health, regeneration and manufacturing sectors where their data visualisation tools help stakeholders understand and interpret complex business and economic data.

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Online Video Training & Campylobacter

By Mike • In Software Development

If you got a nasty tummy bug back in the Spring then there is a pretty good chance that it was caused by a bacteria called Campylobacter. In 2010 there were more than 700,000 cases in the UK and it costs the UK more than £600m a year - that's more than Salmonella, Listeria and E.Coli combined. Campylobacter kills around 200 people a year.

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Work Experience Student Develops a Work Experience App!

By Mike • In Software Development

Taylor, our star work experience student from Westfield Sports College in Sheffield, has developed a fully working online version of his work experience booklet. It uses the jQuery Mobile framework so it works across platforms - it looks good on an iPad.

Taylor's verdict on his work experience - "it's great but I should have been paid!"

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Sheffield Software Development Team Grows

By Mike • In Software Development

Tom McLellan joins our Sheffield software development team.

Tom's just graduated from Sheffield Hallam University with a First Class Honours degree in Interactive Media with Animation. We're lucky because we get a great PHP developer who can also do front end design - skills that are always in demand on our projects.

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Waterfall vs. Agile Software Development

By Mike • In Software Development

What's the difference between ‘waterfall' and ‘agile' software development? And why should you care if you're thinking about buying or commissioning some bespoke software?

Waterfall means more detailed upfront specification work and longer stretches of development followed by testing at the end. The good thing about waterfall is that it starts with a lengthy period of requirements capture and design (if it's done properly). The downside is that you can end up with complex documentation and if you've got the requirements wrong (or they change), then you've probably got more development work to redo.

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More about Data and HR

By Michael Jones • In Software Development

Another article about recruitment, data and HR, this time at Google:

How Google became such a great place to work

The Google HR department - or People Operations (POPS for short) - collects and analyses data about employee behaviour and job satisfaction, everything from optimal lunch queue size to the shape of tables in the cafeteria (long narrow tables encourage people who don't know each other to talk together).

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Databases, Recruitment and LinkedIn

By Michael Jones • In Software Development

I read a couple of articles this week about data mining and recruitment. There are companies that mine large amounts of recruitment data, do some analysis and then discover interesting things.

For example, recruiters typically don't want to employ people with criminal records but it turns out that the data suggests that in customer call centres at least, the people with criminal records perform better. Another one was staff who apply for jobs online - the data suggests that applicants who've installed alternative browsers - Chrome or Firefox - perform better than their colleagues who still use Internet Explorer.

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Software Developer Vacancy

By Michael Jones • In Software Development

We're looking for a full-time analyst developer to work as part of our development team here in Sheffield.

The successful candidate would be involved in the design and development of both our project based solutions and our own products. There's also an opportunity to be client facing - we're keen to find someone who'd like to meet customers and who can be involved right from the start in the design of new applications.

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We're Hiring - PHP Developers Wanted in Sheffield

By Michael Jones • In Software Development

We're looking for PHP developers at the moment - permanent staff and also freelancers (ideally Sheffield based). We want people who are good team players, problem solvers and have a good working knowledge of PHP and web application/database development. We're particularly interested in people who've got recent experience of building large scale web applications with MySQL or PostgreSQL.

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Shopping at Waitrose, schools and online games

By Michael Jones • In Software Development

Usually when I'm at the checkout in Waitrose in Sheffield I get one of those little green tokens that you put in one of the three charity boxes near the exit. You read the label on each box and then use the token to vote for the local charity that you think should get a donation. It's a nice idea - it's always interesting to see which box contains the most green tokens and I guess it's a very effective and very visible (and tactile) way of making the customer aware of Waitrose's support for the local community.

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Starting Projects

By Michael Jones • In Software Development

We're just about to start a new project and it's got me thinking again about the right way to start any reasonably sized project. Prince2 calls it Project Initiation and in Prince2 the Project Initiation Document (PID) is a collection of documents that typically covers:

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Contact Us

SkillsLogic Ltd,
Cooper Buildings,
Sheffield Science Park,
Arundel Street,
Sheffield,
S1 2NS

0114 383 00 93
info@skillslogic.com

SkillsLogic is a software development company

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