What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
We stopped development before completion. The fact that Clavax didn’t understand what the major goal of the application was, lead to an application that was far from what we had in mind. It was so far from our dream that it would need a lot of reworking to get where we wanted to be.
How did Clavax perform from a project management standpoint?
We had kick-off meetings where our requirements were discussed. During the project, we were asked to test what they had developed. After the first round of testing, we provided feedback. We were told all our feedback was understood and would be fixed. But when we checked again, it was not fixed. Later we heard ‘It is fixed in our development environment and not yet on your QA server,’ so it was difficult for us to even know what they had understood from our feedback.
Where was the disconnect between you and Clavax on this project?
As I stated above, they didn’t understand that the social media integration was a key aspect of the platform. They had not foreseen any interaction with social media (except from ‘login with Facebook’) which was our main goal from the start. There were several other things that the Clavax team didn’t seem to understand. For example, they did not understand that content was more important than ownership. We tried to explain how we’d like to manage the content for deceased artists’ pages (no, Shakespeare will really not manage his own account). After 4 months they still thought that a ‘company’ was a tax-paying legal entity, they did not understand that the forum was about interaction (rather than just being a list of events). Clavax focused on creating events and showing overviews of what was on show for a given place or date. That was not what we had in mind. We wanted interaction! Not a static calendar. Explaining all these matters became difficult when Clavax proved to be very headstrong on certain topics, while not understanding what the application was meant to do.
Could we have picked up on this earlier in the process, before Clavax claimed to have completed 98% of the project? The answer would probably be ‘yes’ if we had not gotten lost in back-and-forth discussions about the format of a phone number, explaining the difference between Dutch and Deutsch, characteristics of European addresses, and so on.
Are there any areas they could improve?
When communicating with people from India, or anywhere farther east, it might be good to have an in-between person, someone who really understands the cultural differences and who could more or less translate things, for us and for the developers. Technically the platform works — there’s absolutely nothing wrong with their skills on that front — but the cultural difference was a major issue. If you have a project that requires real knowledge of European or Western culture, you shouldn't try to do that with people who don’t also have that knowledge. If I spoke of someone who worked behind the scenes, they didn't understand what that meant. It took us hours and hours of teleconferences to explain things that are basic knowledge for people situated in Western Europe.
They also could work more to improve their own communication and understanding what their clients are saying. While we sat devastated looking at our screens during the project, Clavax was pushing us with nice ideas for version 2.0 and creating the forum into a smartphone app, all while we were still looking at some web pages that didn’t do what we wanted them to do. That made us feel that we weren’t being listened to. Everything with the project went as promised, but the problem was that what Clavax promised was not what we wanted. We were a bit disappointed, and they were rather surprised that we were disappointed because they thought they were working well for us. That was a big problem.
What tips or recommendations could you share that might increase the likelihood of success with Clavax?
Our lesson learned is that when contracting development to Clavax, you need to have every little detail of the requirements written on paper upfront. For them, all things not on paper are extra features and thus extra cost. Saying that interaction on social media is part of your app, apparently, doesn’t imply that you would like to share photos on Instagram or let your friends know on Facebook that you went to a certain event.