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In the business world, time is money. The more efficiently you can work, the more productive you can be.

Saving time and creating efficiency is as important as your bottom line. For example, if you can introduce a process that saves 80 salespeople 1 hour a week, you are gaining the bandwidth of two full-time salespeople every week.

There are many ways to bring efficiency to your business, from streamlining your processes to using the latest technology. Whatever approach you take, make sure that efficient practices are at the heart of your business model.

These scenarios align with actual agile metrics, which are described at a high level as their application differs between organizations:

  • Lead time: The length of time it takes to plan something.
  • Cycle time: The length of time it takes to implement something.
  • Throughput: The quantity of something, such as tasks, tickets, stories, epic, etc. over time.
  • Defect %: The number of defects vs. non-defect, deployable project artifacts.

Client Example: Decreasing the cycle time for a report will decrease its cost:

  • Company X is spending ~$50/hr on a salaried engineer to run a report every day manually, and it takes 2 hours to build. 
  • The actual cost for that report is $100, so we plan to build a feature that runs this automatically in a minute, and costs $0.0001 to run. 
  • In this scenario, we’re not cutting costs or time because their costs and time are still the same for that salaried employee.

At SUMO Heavy, when we talk about cost savings, we’re thinking about how to achieve the same result with the same level of accuracy, in less time, and with fewer defects, for fewer dollars. We typically don’t approach this in terms of human resources but rather tooling:

  • Can the client purchase a similar tool for less money?
  • Can the client utilize reserved or spot instances in their cloud billing to save money?
  • Are there infrastructural changes that could save money? 

Client Example: Cloud Infrastructure:

  • Client has a TechOps team with deep knowledge of cloud infrastructure and network, so they switch to Tyk instead of running Application Load Balancers.

Spell it All Out

One way to streamline your business is to develop clear and concise briefs for all of your projects. While this is one of the most valuable things you can do, people will literally do anything to get out of planning and documentation.

A good brief will outline the project parameters, the deliverables, the timeline, and the budget. It will also identify the decision-makers and key stakeholders involved in the project. By taking the time to develop a clear brief, you can save time and money by ensuring that everyone involved in the project is on the same page from the start. You may often hear this is “not agile,” but that’s not the case. Strong planning can and should be a part of your agile framework and does not magically shift you to being a waterfall organization.

The SUMO Heavy approach is to describe it as a ‘balance of power’ as it is a partnership and not a hierarchy:

  • Business: Responsible for initiatives (milestones)
  • Product: Responsible for epics (features)
  • Engineering: Responsible for stories (the deployable pieces of a feature)

This structure ensures that the business, which comes up with the overarching ideas, has measurable expectations such as “decrease the amount of time it takes to do a quarterly business review for a client”. Additionally, it holds the business accountable for being more than a delegation machine and brings them into the reality that projects take time. Suppose the business representation isn’t willing to spend time describing what they want in a project. That feature likely doesn’t have enough justification for being worked on in that case.

It also ensures that the product managers are writing complete features. They can be phased, iterative, etc., which still fits within agile frameworks, but expectations should always be written.

Finally, engineers need to provide feedback, document architecture, approach, etc., and track what they’re building.

Put Processes on Auto-Pilot

Another technique to save time and money in your business is to use automation tools. Automation can help you automate repetitive tasks, such as sending out email marketing campaigns or social media updates, so that you can focus on more critical tasks. 

Two examples that come to mind are tools to Extract, Transform, and Load (ETL) and Reverse ETL. Instead of manually exporting and importing CSVs between systems which is time-consuming and prone to error, implement the following:

  • ETL: Implement a custom or off-the-shelf to load information from your eCommerce, content management, marketing, and customer relationship management systems into a data warehouse for reporting.
  • Reverse ETL: With all your data in one place (your data warehouse), you can now load information back into your other platforms. For instance, you might want to load marketing information into your eCommerce system user profiles or customer relationship management data into your marketing systems.

Rather than integrate systems, create a central data warehouse and use that as your hub. This will allow you to swap tools more easily when the time is right.

Take Advantage of Templates and Collaborative Tools

By using pre-made templates and tools, businesses can reduce the time necessary to create a website. In addition, online tools such as Google Docs or Slack allow companies to keep track of their work and collaborate with others more easily. Collaboration tools, such as online project management platforms like Jira, and video conferencing software like Zoom, can help you save time by allowing you to work on projects with team members from anywhere in the world.

Use the Cloud

Cloud-based services (like Google Workspace, Office365, and Zoho) can help you save time by allowing you to access your files and applications from anywhere, and they can also help you save money by reducing your need for on-site hardware and software.

Invest in Productivity Applications

Task management apps and time tracking software can help you stay on track and get more done in less time.

Upgrade your Hardware

Investing in a new computer or upgrading your office’s network can help you work more quickly and efficiently.

Take Advantage of Open Source Software

In addition to investing in automation tools, another great way to save money in web development is to take advantage of open source resources. Open-source resources are free and can be used for various tasks, such as website design or development. You can save significant money on your web development project using open source resources. 

But remember – sometimes free resources have hidden costs. Companies considering open source software should always consider what it takes to invest in open source. For example, vulnerability and static analysis monitoring tools like Checkmarx, Mend, Snyk will be vital to ongoing security monitoring. These tools serve two purposes:

  • Scan packages for known vulnerabilities (CVEs)
  • Scan code for detectable vulnerabilities and bugs

Many enterprise organizations will choose only to allow specific open source licenses, which adds tremendous complexity when one library can have hundreds or thousands of sub-dependencies.

Finally, another great way to save money in web development is to use cost-effective hosting options. Many great hosting providers offer affordable plans, so be sure to shop for the one that best meets your needs. You can save significant money on your web development project using cost-effective hosting options. Even cloud vendors offer incredible savings through reserved and spot instances, which is another reason to carefully plan ahead.

SUMO Heavy Helps Clients Trim Their Bottom Line

“Before you go and spend $250k on a platform, spend $20k on us, and we can help you make a decision.”

Our approach with all clients is to evaluate, evaluate, and evaluate. When we do this, the client can spend their money more efficiently, has a plan, and can be more creative. We help clients uncover hidden roadblocks.

Client example: Choosing the right platform

  • A client had a multi-store install of Magento 1.x Enterprise, serving multiple websites, stores, and store views (each store had at minimum 4 store views) because they wanted to save on licensing, which was per server. The install received enough traffic that it warranted numerous servers. Financially, running on one install across four servers was beneficial, rather than four servers for each site. For their clients, it was terrible because any significant increase in sales that put pressure on the database could break their SLA for all other clients.
  • To solve this, we painstakingly migrated each website to its own Magento 1.x Community install (validating every migrated record), ran on just a few servers, and saved tens of thousands of dollars per year in licensing alone.
  • Additionally, the licensing being per-server was not cloud-friendly, and they could now scale horizontally without the mess of licensing.

What Does SUMO Heavy Do to Help Clients Save Money?

Service/Tool Utilization

We begin by evaluating your current platform or toolchain to determine if they meet your needs. For example, are you using enough of the features of your current platform to justify that cost?  If you’re currently on Magento, could you look at Shopify as an adequate replacement? Or, if you’re running WordPress and don’t have a backend team, maybe a solution such as Webflow or Contentful may streamline your workflow. 

What is your server configuration? Are your cloud resources right-sized? Are there reserved/spot instances that you can take advantage of? We take a deep dive and uncover these answers and make recommendations. 

Client Example: Snowflake

  • Many organizations use Snowflake for their data warehouses because they’re a leader in that space, but most only use a fraction of its full features or misuse it together.
  • Snowflake has a complex billing mechanism, accounting for hourly costs for running the instances, storage, query time, and more. For a client building their first data warehouse, we assisted in evaluating Redshift and Postgresql, which came with cost advantages over Snowflake for small warehouses.

It’s all about the right tool for the job at the moment you need it. Don’t overcompensate — some tools will get you very far, which you may not need to switch off. For example, if you’re outgrowing Postgresql, you will now before the need strikes. You will have time to plan and move to the next platform. Not every company is moving billions of records, demanding an HVR / Snowflake integration. It’s OK to start with something modest.

A Tear Down of Your Business Process

We take a top-down look at your business processes to evaluate and recommend how you can streamline and be more efficient. We implement better business, product, and engineering processes that result in a better-informed organization. This allows for faster-to-market solutions that mitigate context switching and results in streamlined efficiency. 

Client Example: Product development lifecycle (PDLC)

  • Client was planning too many things at once, constantly changing their minds
  • We discussed and showed why context switching prevents features from ever being built
  • Through various exercises and conversations, we built a PDLC that includes business, product, and engineering
  • Since then, the client knows where all work is, how long it takes to complete projects and can plan accordingly

Sometimes, it’s necessary that we ask the question of build vs. buy: are you spending time and resources building something that already exists and is not specific to your business? It’s important to note that “buy” is more or less an equivalent of “use something readily available”, and can be a free product. For example, when looking at content management systems, using WordPress, Drupal, and AEM would all fall in the buy category.

Examples

  • A client handed off a project where the previous team had built a custom React router that the standard React router could already handle. We recommended they switch back to the off-the-shelf solution, saving time moving forward as new features were added faster than could be built and tested internally.
  • Another client was building a headless React frontend for Shopify that was no faster than Shopify itself. This took an incredible effort, and these resources could have been used elsewhere to help other initiatives move forward. That’s not to say that building a headless solution is the wrong one, but sometimes we see teams build something for the cool factor rather than determining that it’s actually needed to solve a problem.

Are You Using the Right Tool for the Job?

Teams misuse tools all the time. In other instances, clients do not follow our recommendations and wind up with months lost building or using the wrong tool for the job.  

Client Example – The Wrong Tool

  • A client needed faceted search results on a poll management tool
  • SUMO Heavy recommended Elasticsearch
  • The client spent six months trying to build this in Snowflake, which resulted in 6 lost months of go-to-market
  • The client also lost money paid to the data team, who was working on a way to build a data structure in Snowflake to achieve the same result.
  • The client is now considering Elasticsearch for the long run.

Client Example – The Wrong Platform

  • SUMO Heavy evaluated services based on the client’s needs
  • SUMO Heavy recommended Contentful as a good fit.
  • The client stayed the course with a hasty decision on another platform; now, deadlines are being missed resulting in lost time and potential income, and some features cannot be implemented.

How SUMO Heavy Helps Your Bottom Line

None of this makes us unique. We don’t have secret algorithms or complex processes. Our ‘secret sauce’ is our people and approach. You could hire a six-figure consultancy to prepare a nice deck and hand them a check. They might turn around and pass your project over to their juniors without enough experience to properly architect and run it. 

We don’t ever hide our limitations, and we always ask questions. We also always think about the future. Many companies don’t realize how much time they’re wasting by designing only for the needs in front of them and not building in a manner that’s extensible for the future.

Our work is good because we’re not getting paid hourly. So we require team members on the project with strong backgrounds in planning and implementation. We don’t want to rebuild things repeatedly – we get no benefit from that, and there’s nothing to show for all the wasted effort.

It’s more about the things we don’t do. We don’t tell you what to do. We work with you, we compromise, and we offer solutions. We don’t nudge your team out. We never come in with the expectation that we will take something over.

We help your team get more out of what they have. It’s all about the approach and care.

Photo by Dmitry Demidko on Unsplash