Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?
There are a few examples that Daxima enabled us to accomplish business goals could never be done before. I cannot, unfortunately, discuss any of them because it would violate my confidentiality. First of all, I believe that some of the things we developed together helped us win and retain a number of important clients, which is normally what every business wants to achieve. There were numerous examples where they were able to affect things from a volume perspective, not just from a quality perspective.
They also ended up recommending a person to us that ended up being incredibly capable, and she ended up being the director of current development internally working with Daxima, and she came as a candidate for me from Daxima. It just gives you an idea. They knew I was looking for those kinds of capabilities, recommended her to me, and I ended up hiring her. Who do you know that helps you hire somebody that’s a star, and that they could have used as well?
I brought Daxima in. Daxima was not present in that company before me. I was hired as a director of IT and then promoted to CIO. I had a mandate of redoing all their IT. And that was everything, not just development, but also operational. They already had an older proprietary app that they developed some time ago. It had a lot of very good, positive things about it. They had some internal resources. We started off with a specific use case but was in an area that hadn't been done before. That was a development that considered my previous company’s intellectual capabilities in the area of immigration law, global mobility, and technology. It was a bit of a mix. That was when Daxima won that first project.
And then, later on, we kept on with Daxima. I did look at other firms. You always want to look around and make sure of what you're doing, but we had a very tight relationship in the end. Everybody talks about partnerships, but 80% of the time, it's not true. They're still very much vendor and client. This is much more of a true partnership. If there was a problem, I could get help on a Sunday at 3:00 am. If there were problems that they saw with the way that we were doing something, they would tell us. It was a supportive partnership mode that transcended a typical transactional vendor/client relationship. When you're doing proprietary application and development, a close partnership is a must.
How did Daxima perform from a project management standpoint?
Anybody who tells you that everything was delivered on time and within budget hasn't done software development. This was not a trivial application, but an enterprise application with a number of modules that ended up being more than a million lines of code. The initial project was delivered on time and budget, but some of the parts that were not well defined were not. Additionally, at times the requirements from both our internal and external customers changed, so the schedule had to adjust accordingly. Just like any partnership, it wasn't a situation where it was traumatic-free. There was some tension on occasions. I've gained a lot of valuable experience from this. I have to say that things weren't always great. Sometimes they were upset with us; sometimes we were upset with them, and sometimes we were upset with ourselves. Nevertheless, it was always from the perspective of 'we're in it together.'
I've got 20 years of IT, more than that, but I don't have 20 years of proprietary application development. I would challenge anybody that's done proprietary application development that the secret of a true partner is not that everything always goes smoothly, but that people are willing to keep on fighting for what they think is right and to do it with the best integrity you can. The secret of being successful is how you both react to it, which is you don't accuse, and you don't try to point fingers. You both accept your responsibility and accountability, and you move forward. And that was really what all the partnership was about.
We always used tools; a couple were more effective than others. They were big advocates of Asana as an agile project management tool, but we used SharePoint. They helped us lock down all of our source code and developed a coding standard for developers to follow. We also had a tool for bug tracking. I have to say, as well, that we were very immature in that area, and Daxima helped us tremendously. Sometimes they did stuff that has nothing to do with any specific project, but we had them do it because we needed to raise the maturity level of our development environment. Again, that was a partnership thing. Rather than keeping it to themselves and using it as leverage, they were constantly trying to help us become better.
What did you find most impressive about Daxima?
A couple of things were remarkable. Daxima has really talented individuals. There are a couple of people there who are just truly fantastic. They have integrity and flexibility. I can go to Upwork, spec out a job, send it over, and have everybody from the Eastern Europeans to the Indians bid on it. Sometimes that's absolutely the way you want to do it, but you're going to have to do it three times. They're going to misinterpret a bunch of things, so the part that works well is where they were willing to work with you. They weren't just order takers. They tried to understand what the business was trying to be achieve, how develop enterprise software, and they worked hard to do so by being supportive.
Are there any areas Daxima could improve?
Daxima also went through a maturity part. I would like to see them be more robust by being more hard-nosed in project management. I think that that's something they could work on. Here's a good example: we had limited internal QA staff. And that was because when they developed the original app, the developers performed their own QA. As the product become more complex, that model was not sustainable. That was a good example where they really helped us build that capability. They helped us hire a couple of people inside, but there was a part where you can always have more efficiency and be more optimal, especially when you're looking at the life cycle of development to QA. I think that part can be tighter. Where I think that they mitigate it is that they're pretty honest about it. Sometimes, I know for a fact, they had to eat some of it because they realized that they were the ones that got it wrong and they were honest and stepped up and took responsibility.
One of the things that they would probably do better at is they're not big on overhead, so they don't have many non-technical people there. The problem with technical people is that they are problems solvers, and will do everything they can to please the customer and fix the problem. That's what most developers do. Unfortunately, sometimes, they need a little bit more of a hard-nosed person to say you changed it, and that's going to push the schedule.
What tips or recommendations could you share that might increase the likelihood of success with Daxima?
Make sure that they realize that it's a partnership. It's not just about them trying to get a particular hourly price. It has to be the whole thing. Approach it with an open mind about how they want the project. Sometimes people come with a project, and it sounds perfect in their head. There were a bunch of times where we thought we had it locked down, and then a couple of their really good architect people would say: "What would happen here?" And you'd go, "I never thought about that!" You need to have an open mind. They might think they have it all worked out, but chances are there’s going to be things that don't work from an UI perspective, record ownership perspective, or functional security perspective, which is actually a huge deal.
Outside of specific phishing and email phishing attacks, the number one security issue is app code development. If you look at it, exploitations usually happen because the developers have made a mistake. You should have an open mind in that regard. You shouldn't be treating it like a transaction. That's going to give you a much better success. It depends on the company that you pick, but especially with Daxima because I find somebody on the other side willing to work with them.