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How to Control Agile Development: Progress and Costs

In the age of digital transformation rapid implementation of In the age of web development and digital transformation, rapid implementation of business cases is the key to success. The fastest to market often has a huge advantage. Unfortunately for most entrepreneurs and managers, this pressing priority has to be achieved within the often tight constraints of a finite budget. If the preference is to work with a web development team based in Munich or Germany that can put additional pressure on budget.

 

As one of Munich and even Germany’s most experienced web development agencies (we were founded back in 1999) Krusche & Company has been helping our partners navigate the past the potential mistakes and inefficiencies that many less fortunate companies encounter when managing digital transformation and new web development projects that involve an agile software development team. With Munich-based management but a nearshored agile development team, we are lucky enough to be able to offer companies a hugely experienced, German-engineered solution to web development needs while staying budget-friendly.

 

As you can imagine, that killer combo means we have built up a huge experience resource while helping companies avoid the time and budget pitfalls organisations so often fallen into with an outsourced agile software development team. I’d like to impart a little of that experience here in the hope that it might help you clearly define and avoid the most common mistakes made with web development projects.

 

How should you, as an IT project manager or product owner, define your web development requirements and make an informed choice of agile development team partner, whether in Munich, Germany or anywhere else?

Less Than A Third of Web Development Projects Meet Deadline and Budget. How Do You Make Sure Yours Is One of Them?

In an agile world where web development project requirements are frequently changed as business realities evolve, technical implementation must be equally quickly adapted. Despite these conditions for success in the contemporary dynamic digital business environment, managers invariably press their product owners with the dreaded question of “how much will it cost?”

 

Understanding the cost of any web development solution, even built to the agile philosophy of requirements evolving as the market dictates, is of course integral to being able to take good business decisions.

 

When you request a web development solution of a technical team, whether inhouse or an external partner, you can expect to be met with the simple response of “give me the requirements”. The typical mistake here is that after a long and costly two-week estimation session you are back to the rigid, pre-agile waterfall approach.

 

Depressingly, less than a third of IT projects were completed on time and on budget during the last year. According to a McKinsey study in collaboration with the University of Oxford, over half of web development projects, built according to the agile project management philosophy or otherwise, exceed budget. And not by a little. The average is by an eye-watering 45%. That’s the AVERAGE! Which means a significant chunk of web development projects come in a way over 45% beyond budget.

 

At K&C, we deal with requests from a huge variety of companies on a daily basis. From big established enterprises with thousands of employees to seed funded start-ups and everything you could possible imagine in-between. They usually have a clear vision for what they want a web development project to achieve but unclear requirements. And of course, both the deadline and budget are typically tighter than my first pair of lederhosen would be on me today! But any business decision needs to take costs into account, as well as estimated time to implementation and the overall risks of the web development project.

 

Fortunately, most web development projects are not as creative or ground breaking as the IT experts behind them often think. When done properly, web development looks more like traditional crafts that rely on experience and skill to spot and execute unique combinations of the same old well-practised techniques. By following proven methods, we know with some certainty how to implement a feature and how much effort it will take.

 

On that basis, we have developed an integrated sales and project management process that our agile software development team follows. We call this process “Controlled Agile”.



It allows for the return of quick answers to the organisation that is our client, while staying agile. For example, we received a request a couple of weeks ago for a web development project. Let’s give our client the pseudonym Bastian. We stick to strict GDPR-compliant principles too, both when it comes to agile web development and storytelling to communicate a message!

 

Bastian is in the engineering sector and sells very specific supply chain items. He wants to set up a digital marketplace where these items can be showcased by dealers. Similar to an AliExpress but for engineering supplies most of us have never heard of!

 

So let’s see how we approach Bastian’s web development project in a way which makes sure he neither overshoots his deadline or budget. As manager of a web development project, this will provide you with a strong framework against which to make an informed judgement of how likely your chosen agile software development team are to deliver your project to your expectations.

0. TOTAL AGILE WEB DEVELOPMENT

Throughout the course of our intro chat (it turns out Bastian’s a lovely guy and very communicative) he reveals that his previous experiences with vendors of agile web development teams have been mixed to say the least. For example, he had a great idea for an app. Bastian’s appears to be quite the entrepreneur! His preference was for a fixed price to be given as he was investing his own private resources and admitted to an unhealthy addiction to food and shelter that he was unwilling to compromise. You see the kind of unreasonable clients we have to deal with here!?

 

He was communicating with one vendor who offered him a particularly tempting fixed price web to build the app according to the requirements he had outlined. Done deal! Unfortunately, when the completed app was finally presented to him, it was, you’ve probably already guessed, a bit of a disappointment.

 

The completed app just did not make any sense from the customer perspective. One of responses to Bastian’s criticisms was “You didn’t tell us you need a password reminder function”. The change request (CR) will cost another three days. You get the idea. 


Well, what would you expect if someone offered to paint you a picture for $5…? Don’t expect the economics that shape the market for the cost of web development to work to a different set of rules to the rest of the world. No one sensible chooses the cheapest tattoo artist available when they decide they want to permanently design their own body. And yet, inexplicably, too many otherwise intelligent business and IT managers somehow think that things will work out differently when hiring a software development team. Despite the fact that a bad decision could end up costing their organisation a fortune in both rectifying the mistake and opportunity cost through the delay in being able to go to market.

 

Bastian thought he’d learned his lesson. Next time he decided he would hire an agile software development team. He’d done his research and learned about the advantages of the agile approach and building a web development project in stages, starting with an MVP that can quickly be deployed and then refined based on user experience and an evolving market.

 

In the agile approach the budget is not fully defined at the beginning, as requirements are adapted throughout the learning curve of the web development project. So Bastian and his web developer (not K&C), this time based in Munich, Germany, agreed on sprints and daily calls to discuss the progress. And again times goes by. Eventually, his budget was exceeded to such an extent that he had to abandon the project.



By now Bastian, having learned from his previous mistakes and an open minded guy, was still convinced he would find the right agile software development team but was already a little sceptical by the time we explained our “Controlled Agile” approach to him. Especially as he had secured some funding for his new, bigger idea ‑ the digital marketplace for specialist engineering supplies. He had a responsibility to his investors to get his choice of web development partner right this time.

 

Any investment decision needs to be based on time and effort required for implementation.

1. BUSINESS PLAN FOR AN AGILE WEB DEVELOPMENT PROJECT

Any business plan needs a starting point and that should be defining the variables you know with relative certainty. Bastian’s starting point was that he knows the market for the engineering supply products he wants to sell, he knows how much money is on the table in this sector and that securing even a tiny fraction of that makes for a watertight business case. He also has enough industry and digital marketing experience to have a very educated guess at what his cost per client acquisition and average sales value are likely to be.

 

What he doesn’t know is how much it will cost to build the digital marketplace according to the requirements he has. Will his own contribution combined with his seed investment be enough? How long will it take the agile software development team to build out the project as per his initial requirements?

 

In addition, any digital product owner needs to understand what is more important: rapid entry to the market and a small number of users or can a significant volume of users be expected from the very beginning? Do we show the product to family and friends for feedback, or do we go directly to the entire market and get its feedback?

Implementation strategy is a key part of any business plan, and in the age of Digital Transformation this means that often web development implementation and infrastructure strategy are combined.

 

For any mission-critical project, regardless of if it is for a start-up or an established industry player, understanding of the cost, required resources and time planning are essential to the decision-making process.

 

In order to find the right implementation strategy and prepare a solid foundation for implementation our agile software development team needs to understand the direction the business wants to go in.

 

This is achieved through a workshop session where we will ask all stakeholders to describe their vision for the final product and what end user problems or inefficiencies they are going to solve. By taking this customer or user centric approach we make sure that only MVP (Minimum Viable Product) relevant features are implemented in the first iteration to avoid any unnecessary investment in web development that might subsequently have to be re-done if the market dictates a different approach to meeting the user needs is, in fact, necessary.

 

A solid foundation for implementation can be built by understanding the vision and the business case.

2. AGILE PRODUCT BACKLOG (1-4 HOURS)

‘High level’ web development features can often lead directly to the requirement for a raft of more standard features, or epics. For example, user login requires a standard set of features for proper GDPR conformity implementation. Fortunately, our agile web development team is experienced and able to immediately build out a clear picture of standard features required around more unique specialist features. In most cases we will already have these features coded, having used them in other projects, and are able to copy/paste them in where required.

 

Businesses or organisations that lack extensive experience in building out web development products often fail to appreciate just how specific they have to be in their detailing of requirements. It’s our job to, within reason, fill in those gaps at the beginning. But whether from Munich, Germany or anywhere else in the worl, too many web development agencies take the approach of executing purely based on the requirements provided by the client.

 

Imagine if you went to buy a car and told the salesman the colour, engine size and other requirements you have. He recommends you a few models on that basis, tells you their price and you opt for the Volkswagen Passat. But it turns out a key isn’t included in the price quoted. “But you didn’t tell me you would need a key!” Too often web development companies that should be partners in the project fail to help their customers define a meaningful business package which will result in an end product fit for purpose.

 

Based on these experiences, our approach, and one you would be advised to demand from any agile software development team, is to first prepare wireframes with our customers. These wireframes define the whole application and a detailed set of the technical requirements that will be needed for a fully-functional end product that will meet our client’s needs. This is key to ensuring a high-end customer experience.

 

When helping our client define their requirements our agile software development team focus on customer experience. Customer experience is more than user experience. While the former just shows that the feature is fun and easy to use, customer experience places this within the framework of the product owner’s end goals. So a customer experience-centric web development process involves consideration of leading the user towards actions which are good for the business, like pressing the “Buy” button.

 

In Bastian’s mind, his requirements were very simple. When we met at our Munich office and had convinced him of the merits of our ‘controlled agile’ approach to web development, he delivered his requirements with a concise “Build me a marketplace.”

 

He was falling back into the habits that had cost him so dearly in the past. However, we weren’t about to let him get away with it this time! So, time to take the wireframe approach that has stood us and our clients in such good stead over the years!

 

We discussed that in the current environment of EU law, building a marketplace necessarily involves GDPR conformity implementation around user authentication and payment provider integration with strong KYC (“Know your customer”) functionality. And Google’s new focus on mobile means a responsive design is a must if Bastian hopes to rank his digital marketplace for relevant search terms.

 

However, harnessing his detailed understanding of his customers, we were able to design a very efficient process that meant his customers could find their required products with just a few clicks at most and often with one. This streamlined ‘one click’ ecommerce web development design will later give him a key advantage against any competitors on the market.

 

Bastian looks enthused about his future application’s prospects. But, as the saying goes ‘once bitten, twice shy’ and he urges us: “How much?”

 

At this point, we still have to resist putting a number on it, controlled agile or not. “We still need to define the specifications list your requirements will involve in more detail”, answers our agile software development team’s project lead.

 

Business users think in customer values. By sticking to best practice, an MVP can be designed to ensure a top customer experiences.

3. INITIAL WEB DEVELOPMENT ARCHITECTURAL BLUEPRINT (1-4 HOURS)

There is no point to sticking to best practice for the feature definition of a web development project without also taking the same approach to architectural design.

 

Every business is unique but the technical requirements for the web development projects they need are often very similar. On the face of it, there is a huge difference between a marketplace selling legal consultancy services and one for virtual computer game products. However, in terms of the list of technical specifications required, both projects are actually very similar.

 

Fortunately, in most cases this kind of web development application can be implemented using architectural patterns based on the same established best practice. A search is still a search, regardless if it is on a marketplace, online store or collaboration tool. The same goes for forms, tables, menus and other items. They might, however, have varying complexity. A form in a marketplace might include galleries, videos and more, while other forms can be simply text-based.

 

At K&C we have established a knowledge base repository which documents our architectural best practices. In a technical workshop session, we map the requested epics to these patterns by asking the right questions.

 

For some applications, a simple CMS optimized for high performance and optimized for SEO is most suitable. For other applications you might need a complex approval system for content creation.

 

In most cases we propose a “cloud-ready design” which allows the application’s web development architecture to be created in a way which will easily scale and deploy in any environment, either in-house or external.

 

Bastian has quite ambitious goals. He knows that in the contemporary digital economy, his application must be available 24/7 and able to cope with any peaks in demand without crashing. So he agrees with our agile software development team that the web development requirements must involve an external cloud solution.



The business case also defines the framework for the implementation. Is a simple solution enough or should it provide the foundation for future enhancement?

4. INITIAL ESTIMATION (0,5 - 1 HOURS)

By understanding which technological components we are going to build out in addition to those we already have from our work on previous projects, we can now make an accurate initial cost estimation for the web development work our team will have. In our ‘lesson learned knowledge database’ we save all historical data of implementation efforts during previous projects and expert estimations. That database means huge budget advantages for lucky K&C clients!

 

We simply list the different implementation components like search, form, multimedia gallery needed and detail the implementation effort and resource they require.

 

Then we add the resource that will be required for support activities like devops, quality assurance and project management.



By doing this we can very quickly arrive at an uncannily accurate initial estimation -- typically within 30 minutes.

 

So Bastian understands that the web development work that will result in his full marketplace application will cost a total of €90K. But by removing features which are not essential to the MVP he can launch to market, he can keep within his budget of €45K.

 

The project can start.

 

By referring to architectural implementation patterns, business features can be estimated in a short time frame. No time-consuming and costly research is required to estimate the budget. Typically, these estimations have a variation risk of just +- 15%. The budget is defined and business decisions around web development projects can be made.

5. CONTROLLED AGILE DEVELOPMENT

Now we embark upon agile software development with continuously integrated budget monitoring.

 

Additionally, our agile software development team employs an iteration-based approach for faster delivery. At the beginning of each iteration we estimate user stories that have to be implemented. These estimates should be made by a different team to that which made the initial estimation. In this way, there is a second opinion on the estimation of the resources required.

 

As an extra bonus, the management understands the view of the product owner and of the agile software development team. In the event of any major discrepancies, the reason for variation must be isolated and resolved. A little like an academic grading system for test papers!

 

In our example, the product owner is surprised that the team estimates a feature requiring significantly more effort than in the original estimation. The reason for the discrepancy turns out to be that the team lacks developers with significant experience in the skills required for the implementation of the chosen payment system. So the decision is made two swap in a developer from another K&C agile development team who has the relevant expertise. This means the original estimation can be kept.

 

By comparing initial estimations and estimations of refined user stories we can find valuable insights. Here are some factors that can cause major discrepancies: frequent change of requirements resulting in new skills needed and possibly lacking in the team, choice of architecture, or the web development project has been ‘over-architectured’.

6. TARGET PERFORMANCE COMPARISON

Throughout the course of an agile web development project, regular lining up of the original estimate and the actual resources required to implement each element of the requirements should be a habit at the conclusion of each sprint. Instead of artificial ‘story points’ which are often difficult for the client to understand, we compare the real resource spent developer days and the costs per hour. These are a good indicator of the skill level of the team.

 

Bastian is surprised that the actual spend is beginning to outpace the expected budget. On further analysis we highlight that not all features needed for the MVP have been identified.

 

However, the positive is that we now have a very clear idea of what will be required over the rest of the project.

7. REFINING OF THE PRODUCT BACKLOG

We now understand precisely when and at what cost the project is going to be completed.

Bastian is happy that he has full understanding of his web development project’s progress and what the costs will be. He again prioritizes the MVP’s features so he will stay within budget. And he has a detailed progress and cost report that he can present to his investors.

 

Within a couple of short weeks, the product can go live! And that is the Krushe & Company agile approach to costing and executing web development projects large and small. And why we make sure our partners’ digital projects fall comfortably into the less than a third of those that become a reality inside both budget and deadline.

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How to Make Your Web Solution Rock: 7 Areas to Check
Web
4 Time-Saving Ways to Test Your Cross Platform Mobile App
Web,Outsourcing,Other
Angular 5.0.0 – A Better Version of Itself
E-book
Top Tools for Cost-Effective Web Development — eBook
Web
A secret formula of an agile dream team
Web,Amazon Web Services
CLOUD DEPLOYMENT: YOUR APPLICATION’S OPTIONS
Web
How to Motivate Your Dedicated Team to Work with Legacy Projects
Web,Our cases
White Label: A Customized Software Solution from a Business and Tech Perspective
Web
Cost efficient technologies
Web
Scaling software solutions - how it works
DevOps
How to setup Kubernetes cluster on AWS
DevOps
Docker: Virtualize Your Development Environment Right
Web
When Microservices Help Make Future-Ready Products
Outsourcing,Other
How to Ramp up Your Team Wisely
Outsourcing,Testing
How the QA Team Tests Your Project
DevOps
How We Manage Our Infrastructure with Chef
Our cases
Reformation of Deployment Cycle for Bosch Classic Cars Portal
Our cases
Fast and Lightweight Mobile Application based on PhoneGap/ Cordova
Our cases
Drivelog.de — Web Marketplace for Car Owners and Service Providers
DevOps
Use case: how to build and run Docker containers with NVIDIA GPUs
DevOps
How We Use Ansіble for Configuration of Our Environments
Web
Angular 2.0 vs Angular 1.4. What fits you best?
Other
Big Data: Why Your Business Needs it ASAP
Web,Outsourcing,Other
How a Company Can Benefit from White Label: K&C experience
DevOps
How to Build a Rancher & Docker Based Cloud
DevOps
Setting Up: Traefik Balancer In Rancher Cloud
E-book
Determining Approaches to Mobile App Development
Web,Other
Dedicated Teams for Web Development: Choice Criteria to be Checked
Web
Angular 4 vs React – what to choose in 2017
Outsourcing
The BPM in the Microservice Environment
DevOps,Outsourcing,Other
ROCKET.CHAT as an internal messaging system and helpdesk platform
DevOps
Monolith, Microservices, Serverless... Which Will You Choose and Why?
Web
JQuery vs. Angular: Ad Astra per Aspera
DevOps
How to start services on Linux
Web
Advanced Technologies for Marketing Automation
Web,Outsourcing
Node.js vs. Angular.js – Two Sides of the Same Coin
DevOps,Outsourcing
AWS DevOps: A New Way to Run Business
Web,Amazon Web Services
Vue.js 2019 - not Angular / React
Web,Outsourcing
Migration from Angular 1 to Angular 5
DevOps,Outsourcing,Amazon Web Services
Information Security with AWS DevOps
Other
Europe’s Big Payments Directive PSD2
Our cases
The Platform Providing Event Organization
Web,Outsourcing,Other
Golang vs. Node.js
Our cases
VAIX - Fault tolerant infrastructure for 24/7 high-load machine learning service
Web,DevOps,Our cases
Our case: Marketplace for gaming goods
Web,Outsourcing
Angular 6 Will Be A Hit
Web,Outsourcing,Testing
Web App Security 101: Keep Calm and Do Threat Modeling
Web,Mobile,Outsourcing,Other
All You Wanted to Know About Chatbot Platforms
Web,Amazon Web Services
What's New In React 16.3.0 - 16.4.2 | K&C React Dev
Web,Outsourcing
ANGULAR 6 versus REACT 16.3
Other
GDPR: Smart Practices
Web
Fintech Apps - A Lucrative Solution for Customers and Businesses Alike
Other
Swimming with Sharks
Web
Node.js 10.0.0: Everyone’s Favorite Got Even Better
DevOps,Outsourcing
Rancher 2.0: A Quick Look at the New Version
Our cases,Amazon Web Services
CLOUD SOLUTION VS. BARE METAL SERVER: WHEN AND WHY
Other
I’m Tired of Blockchain Hype, Are You?
Web,Mobile,Outsourcing
Progressive Web Apps and Why You May Need Them
Other
Don’t Treat Me Like a Fool: The worst thing you can do for your business
Web
Web App Security 101: How to Defend Against a Brute Force Attack
Other
How to Convert Your Business to an Amazon-Style Market Leader
Web,Outsourcing,Other
JavaScript & WebSockets: How to Build Real-Time Applications
Other
Culture eats technology for breakfast
Marketing
Аudience-based Marketing
Other,Marketing
How to Become a Leader in Your Market
Web,Other
SSR or CSR for Progressive Web App
Web,Outsourcing
Angular 6 vs. Ember 3
Outsourcing
SCALED AGILE FRAMEWORKS: YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE TO WHICH, WHY AND HOW
DevOps
Security in Kubernetes and How Your Company Can Benefit from It
DevOps
DevOps As DevSecOps – Full Integration of Threat Protection Without Compromising Deadlines or Budgets
Web,Other
JAMSTACK IS THE NEW FACE OF STATIC SITES
DevOps
Guide for Hashicorp Consul/Vault with Kubernetes
Testing
What Is Quality Assurance and Why You Need It Immediately
DevOps
DEBUGGING AWS LAMBDA FUNCTIONS
Other
The Power of the Holistic Business Analysis
Other
Angular vs. Vue vs. jQuery vs. React vs. Ember
DevOps
Kubernetes backup with Heptio Ark (Velero)
DevOps
What to Choose: NFS or CEPH?
Web,Mobile,Back-end,Amazon Web Services
Serverless Architecture for Modern Apps: Stacks Providers & Caveats
Web,Mobile,Back-end,Amazon Web Services
Why Enterprises Choose Serverless Architecture
DevOps,Amazon Web Services
Kubernetes at the Forefront of Secure Microservices Future
DevOps
How To Launch Kubernetes Federation on Google Cloud Platform
Web
All You Need to Know About Web App Security Now
Web,Outsourcing,Testing
QA for CxOs: How to Hire and Outsource
Web,Amazon Web Services
ANGULAR 7 OR REACT For Your App?
Web,Outsourcing,Testing
Sicherheit für Web-Anwendungen - dank Threat Modeling
Outsourcing,Testing
Die Rolle des QS-Teams in Software-Projekten
Outsourcing
Agile entwickeln mit festen Budgets | K&C Software München
DevOps
KUBERNETES-BERATUNG: SCHRITT FÜR SCHRITT ZUM HEPTIO ARK (VELERO) BACKUP
DevOps,Outsourcing
KUBERNETES ALS FÜHRENDE MICROSERVICE-ARCHITEKTUR IN PUNCTO SICHERHEIT
Outsourcing,Amazon Web Services
FUNKTIONEN VON AWS LAMBDA DEBUGGEN
Web,Mobile,Amazon Web Services
SERVERLOSE ARCHITEKTUR FÜR CLOUD-BASIERTE APPS: TECHNOLOGIE-ANBIETER UND GRENZEN
DevOps
DevOps als DevSecOps – Integrierter Schutz vor Bedrohungen ohne Termin- und Budgetüberschreitung
Web,Mobile
Wann eignen sich Progressive Web Apps ?
Amazon Web Services
Auswahl Cloud-Provider ohne Vendor Lockin
DevOps
Cloud-Trends 2019 - Hybrid, SAAS und PAAS | K&C Beratung
Our cases
CLOUD-LÖSUNG VS. BARE METAL SERVER: WANN MACHT WELCHER ANSATZ SINN?
Outsourcing
SCALED AGILE FRAMEWORKS: HINTERGRÜNDE UND AUSFÜHRLICHER LEITFADEN
Amazon Web Services
Hybrid Cloud Consulting Services in Munich
Web,Amazon Web Services
Your Expert Angular Developers in Munich | K&C Development
Web,Amazon Web Services
React Developers Munich
DevOps
Kubernetes-Cluster absichern mit Hashicorp Consul/Vault
DevOps
DevOps Consulting – Our Business Is Automating Yours
DevOps
Serverless Architecture Consulting Services
DevOps
Is Serverless Architecture the Future of Web Development?
DevOps
Your DevOps Transformation Consulting Partner
Testing
Test Automation Case Study: Cucumber, Selenium and Jira Xray
Testing
Agile Test Coach - Ensuring Code Quality & Transparency
Testing
Qualität + Transparenz durch Agile Test Coaches
Other
ANGULAR, VUE, JQUERY, REACT ODER EMBER?
Web
Pros and Cons of Serverless Web Development
Web,Amazon Web Services
Your Guide To AWS Cognito For Serverless User Authentication
Web
Serverless Application Developers: Our Tech Talent, Your Success
Web
Why Serverless Development For Start-Ups: Lower Costs, Faster to Market
Web,Amazon Web Services
Vorteile durch Serverless Development für Startups: niedrigere Kosten, kürzere Time-to-Market
Web,Amazon Web Services
Serverless vs. Hadoop & Containers In The Evolution Of Big Data & AI
DevOps
Kubernetes Consulting – Take Control of Your K8s!
Testing
Fallstudie Testautomatisierung: Cucumber, Selenium und Jira Xray
DevOps
Kubernetes Beratung – Übernehmen Sie die Kontrolle über Ihre K8s!
DevOps
Ist serverlose Architektur die Zukunft der Webentwicklung?
DevOps
Serverless Providers: A Comparative Analysis of AWS Lambda, Azure Functions & Google Cloud Functions