What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
A key objective of ours was to demonstrate to companies that we were tangibly making a difference in people’s health. With the work from the local developers, we had trouble generating executive reports that broke down our impact for clients. As soon as we started to get over 500 users, with the data growing under each user’s profile, the system would time out and crash.
The Alakmalak guys have created a more sophisticated system that’s able to generate reports quickly and efficiently. Reports are viewable in a pretty visual form or as a very detailed spreadsheet, which some of our clients like. Those sorts of things were proving problematic elsewhere. They’ve found ways to not only make them work, but they’ve also fundamentally helped us demonstrate the good work we’re doing on the ground with proper statistical representation.
Our app capability, particularly on the Android side of things, has grown enormously. The centralized app management and automation of email, reports, etc., make things convenient for those of us who are less code-savvy. It means we have a solid system we can use to our hearts’ content without needing the expertise to update the coding. The mobile manager is really useful.
How did Alakmalak perform from a project management standpoint?
They’ve improved a lot. The first 12 months was OK, but they’ve changed personnel in that amount of time. When we found someone that we could work with very well, we specifically requested him as our project manager. That made all the difference. After a few years, he thoroughly knows our system, and that’s been helpful.
For 12 months I employed a senior Australian coder to support them, ensure coding best practices, and make sure we were scalable. They worked on spending a bit more time on things to do them the right way the first time. He said they were doing everything very well, which was reassuring for me.
We used to use Basecamp, but we changed to JIRA. Now we can more easily narrow it down to the micro jobs we’re working on. Basecamp was becoming long strings of conversations for particular jobs. JIRA is much more detailed. We can set up Agile boards and charts to manage the time factor there.
What did you find most impressive about them?
Their willingness to work out a solution for nearly any problem impresses me. They find a way. I’m not saying it’s always the absolute best way, but I think it’s part of their culture. They have a can-do attitude.
I’m often throwing out ideas that aren’t very technical and that I’m not 100% sure are even doable. Within a matter of days they’ve worked out a way to do it.
Sometimes development is a journey where you go around in circles a few times. There have been occasional miscommunications about logic, etc., but part of that is my explanations of things. Overall, working with Alakmalak has been a good experience. I’m a big fan of them.
Are there any areas they could improve?
When someone like me who lacks their technical knowledge briefs them on concepts, they need to spend the necessary time determining the best practices for implementing them. With their can-do attitude, they don’t just say no. But that means they need to choose the best approach from the start.
The thoroughness of their dev testing is the only other thing I’d like to see continually improved. I’ve received countless notifications that something’s been fixed, but when I check, it isn’t. It’s important to thoroughly test bugs, not just the exact place the bug occurred, but also how it’s affecting other areas of the site.