Describe the impact this engagement has had on your business.
As far as the work goes, it was appallingly low. They oversold the team and the firm, and then seriously under delivered. In terms of delivering initial work, they delivered nothing acceptable. They burned a lot of hours and churned out many iterations, but there was ultimately zero useable work product.
My partner and I both have deep experience building and launching software products. The team simply wasn’t good, and I don’t think that they were capable of comprehending that they weren’t. They’re really more graphic designers than UX people. They post a lot of visually appealing designs on Dribbble, but when it comes to fundamental UX, they don’t have a clue. Based on our experience, I don’t think they’ve ever worked on complex products before (beyond the standard fare of e-commerce and basic fin-tech). The result is a pretty serious lack of self-awareness that didn’t fare well when confronted with criticism.
EL Passion got defensive when we gave them feedback, but the whole reason for working with a firm is that they should have a resolution path, including staffing changes. The project manager should be able to deal with something like this, and, if they can’t, whoever’s running the shop should. It may also be that they just don’t have the talent.
Working with El Passion was a truly bad experience, and it really had a detrimental impact on our business. We had customers that we’d promised to show the product to, and we had to basically start over. It put us out by 3–4 months behind and broke every timeline and commitment we’d made to potential customers.
Our engagement with El Passion had a devastating impact on us as a startup.
How was project management handled?
We had an intensive 1-week kick-off session. Then, they used Slack, and we had regular design calls. We had rapid-iteration design sprints using various screen-sharing platforms — everything you’d expect, just without a good outcome.
Is there anything that the vendor did well or that you would consider a strength?
EL Passion followed the form of how a design engagement should be approached. They followed many best practices, but I don’t think they fully understood them. At some point, their efforts seemed academic or theoretical.
Their lead designer had some talent, but was probably oversold and ultimately out of his depth on a project like ours. The lead designer was really undermined by his PM and junior designer and El Passion’s scheduling regime.
In what specific areas can they improve?
El Passion’s ultimate failure was at a management level. Failure of technical team members happens all the time, and we just swap people and find the right fit. But that requires a management team that is client-focused and self-aware, which El Passion certainly is not. The management team, both at the project management and CEO level, fundamentally lacked the self-awareness to recognize that there was a problem. They were incapable of taking client feedback and doing something with it.
The other problem is that, in addition to overbilling/hyping the resource they have, they sell their resources out so tightly that there were no options when team members didn’t work out. El Passion management mentality is that this is the client’s problem: if we didn’t like the team (that we’d given a chance but didn’t deliver), we could wait three months. They’re trying to have 100% of their staff on projects 100% of the time, but it leaves them zero margin for error while still keeping clients happy.
What advice do you have for clients with similar needs to yours?
First, realize El Passion is really only focused on El Passion. It’s a very self-absorbed culture. If you happen to have a project that is in their sweet spot and they can reflexively churn it out, you might be ok. Or if you’re a big enterprise customer that is going to spend hundreds of thousands per year with them, they may work with you. But our experience as a start-up working with them was that if something goes wrong, there’s zero recourse. The management team has zero client focus and did nothing to back us up. That’s a real risk with this team.
Second, don’t rely on their representations of team quality, or that they have a firm standard of quality. Test your ACTUAL team members before they start the project. El Passion has real quality and staffing issues, and they try to pass of C-level players as A-levels. Even though they have strong reviews, every team member needs to be put through design challenges and be made to demonstrate their skill, especially the mid-tier (but actually very junior) ones.
Third, realize that El Passion is a team that only performs well on cookie-cutter projects or low-sophistication, thick wallet clients. If your project is complex or outside the mold, and you’re looking for quality and value, steer clear of El Passion.
Fourth, assume that El Passion is WAY overpriced. If you’re focused on Poland (I’d look outside Poland), there are better shops with better talent for less. Start by getting out of Warsaw.
Lastly, take caution in relying on Clutch reviews. El Passion had 31 reviews with an average rating of 4.9 stars equates to a heavily-reviewed firm on Clutch. There aren’t that many firms out there with as many reviews, especially with that high of a rating. Not enough of the negative experiences make their way into the Clutch reviews. It really undermines the credibility of the Clutch platform when you don’t get a realistic perspective on how these firms are really performing.