Could you share any statistics or metrics from this engagement?
As we are a startup, we don't have the time to identify benchmarks formally and then collect the data from our own situation. I'd say it's primarily from my experience at other companies when I can judge how long a task would take and whether the approach is smart or not. Then, I can judge whether ELEKS proposes a smart approach or the easier approach, which might cause more problems later.
I don't have a fixed number of benchmarks, but my own assessment is that they come with a good approach, they have a very disciplined way of developing, but you cannot assume this all the time. In terms of tools, you should really use issue trackers and bug trackers and test servers, so you see that they are used to industrial-grade software development and not just small hobby projects. I think that's also an aspect of quality.
I cannot give you any benchmarks or numbers, it's just my own assessment. Also, we have some advisors who are involved when we do a recruiting process. When we want to take somebody new into the team, their assessment is in line with mine, so it's not just my subjective opinion.
The feedback we've gotten from users has been great. The product is very successful in the market. It's difficult to reduce this to a certain feature because ELEKS is really our core supplier. Customers are delighted because we promised them we can get them their event registration site up within one afternoon, and it is actually like that. That's why they are very impressed because, so far, they were only used to IT [information technology] projects that took half a year or a year and, in the end, it still doesn't look and work as they were expecting it. In our case, we can really fulfill our promises.
How did ELEKS perform from a project management standpoint?
There were no issues with delayed or defective pieces of work. Of course, sometimes things take longer than originally planned but, in our case, this was because we were extending something – the scope was changed – so we really cannot blame them. In particular, when there's something going wrong, which is very rarely the case, then everybody is on board and working around the clock to fix it. That's also not something that I can usually rely on because we're not in the same room, but I need to have a trusting relationship with them, and that's definitely the case.
For the most part, they were able to meet the deadlines that we set unless we had changed the scope on them. Furthermore, what I would really like to emphasize is not only checking off the list of features, but also their ability to really identify with the product and understand it. If there is something that is not working as expected outside of their control, then still we are all on board and fixing it. It's close to having an internal development team.
In terms of project management tools, we're using JIRA. That's where the features and parts are clearly defined and then can be managed according to tasks and backlogs.
Sometimes, we do the strict sprints, where you decide what should be done within two weeks, and then you test and evaluate everything that's done after two weeks. This wasn't appropriate for our way of working, so now we're working independently and deploy something three times a week and then only once a week, just when something is ready. Actually, this was proposed by ELEKS as a more suitable approach. They proposed this and they were right. The development process is much smoother right now.
What distinguishes ELEKS from other providers?
The special thing is ELEKS adjusts to the expectations of the customer – they are open. Usually, they get a long document of what has to be done, then they make estimations, then they develop it for a few weeks and deliver it. In our case, it's really like working with an internal development team. We are in touch constantly through Skype and video conferencing. As I mentioned, everybody has a video camera on his desk.
I assume it was very unusual, but it was no problem to get into this state of working. I think the team members are actually enjoying it because it's a little bit different. In terms of the teams, they're very flexible and the management is very open to this. I think that's what is really special about their service – their flexibility, the openness, and the level of quality. One advantage of using such a supplier is you can scale the team much more easily than doing your own recruiting. Especially in markets like ours, in Munich, it's difficult to find talented developers. They have a pool of them, and they allow me to interview each of them before they join the team. But, from what I've seen, no matter whom I've interviewed so far, there's always a certain level of quality. That's also something special. I can trust that they have done a good pre-screening.
Is there anything ELEKS could have improved or done differently?
The quality is very good, and the relationship with the management is also very good. What you can always talk about is the price – they're not very cheap. They have been announcing for some time that next year they have to raise prices because exchange rates have changed, and so on. Of course, things can always be cheaper, but it's about the trade-off between quality and price. They're not the cheapest in the area, but that's acceptable for me because they deliver.