What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
The impact of their work has been substantial. You can divide our software capabilities into two bundles which are our core software and the workbench, which is our design tool. Every customer that we present to, any information that we send out, or any project that we do involves the workbench which Blackthorn helped us to create. It is an essential part of the business and we know that because we have tried at least one other substantial implementation of the workbench which was nor successful. It has taken us five years to and get the right team together to create it. For me, Blackthorn is that team.
The product is very good. We had conversations early on about quality assurance and quality control, and they do an excellent job of that. There is always more to do and they are always willing to do it.
We have a very aggressive roadmap for development for both the core software as well as the workbench. We have a lot to do and at every step, we have to make sure that the quality is good as well as make sure that previous features that we have are not impacted in any way.
They are still on board, doing a great job. I really like the team we have.
How did Blackthorn Vision LLC perform from a project management standpoint?
They are very good and our communication has been great. We have several channels of communication such as WhatsApp, Webex, Skype, email and telephone. They use Microsoft tools and we use their visual studio web-based platform to track progress and tasks. We stay on track. Their engineers are quite good, and they keep us well behaved as well and it has been a good relationship.
We have meetings twice per week on Mondays and Fridays to ensure that they are in alignment with us and we understand what they are doing. We want to make sure they are delivering to a specific schedule based on a number of sprints that they complete towards that deliverable or milestone.
There haven’t been any issues when it comes to time difference or a language barrier. We have one person that was based in Portugal for a while, and we haven’t run into any issues.
What did you find most impressive about them?
It is a good balance of hard engineering details and flexibility. They do push back when there is something they don’t understand, schedules or if allocations of their resources are being disturbed by some request that we make. They help us enforce a degree of discipline which shows up in quality. In keeping things on track, you make sure you have the time to check the quality. It is a big part of achieving really good quality software. They stay on target and on point. Discussions aren’t arguments; they stay focused on the problem until it’s fixed. I really appreciate that aspect.
Are there any areas they could improve?
I rely on Blackthorn to make sure that our resources are being used efficiently. I can only see the final product and the discussions that lead up to that, and they seem to do a good job on that. The only downside I see is that I wish I had more downtime and financial resources to spin up more of their people. I think we have a good management structure and eventually, we will have more resources to have the capabilities we want.
One thing that could be improved is payment. We are essentially paying a fixed amount which gives them a lot of freedom in how they want to allocate people, but I don’t have complete visibility into their cost structure, but it would be helpful if I did. Overall, it has been a good situation, but there is some tendency from my managers to have more details and I can’t provide that.
Do you have any advice for potential customers?
My advice is to follow their lead. Choose a small number of things to focus on and don’t try to boil the ocean. Stay attentive to hard targets, as it’s critical for the success of the project. To create software, it’s necessary to have a good understanding of what’s needed, so you can guide the development team.