Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?
We’ve done very limited marketing so far, but the levels of user engagement for Teknocrat’s beta-testing has been very high. There’s been pretty high involvement. There’s a lot of stickiness to the app, to the site, whatever you want to call it.
Their 2 main guys are Chris Rickard and Mat Hollingsworth. Chris, I think, is a bit of a technical whiz and Mat is more of the UX/UI. He’s willing to argue with me in a polite way about what he believes will be a better user experience. If I’m saying I want it to be this, he says, “Yeah, but I really think there’s going to be some flaws when people take it up.” He’ll fight his case and I’ll fight my case. Ultimately, it’s my decision, but I appreciate the fact that they don’t just do what I ask, especially if what I ask for is stupid and it’s not going to be that viable. They won’t just do something because I asked for it and then that’s just my problem. The inoutput team takes responsibility [for the project] because they actually want to see it succeed. They’ve got the experience to say, “Yeah, this is the best practice that’s out there at the moment.” Then they’ll send me a link to where I can read up more about it and make a more informed decision.
Apart from having that project management side—which is absolutely crucial—they’ve got not just the technology but the user experience front of mind. And they’re good at it. That’s a pretty rare combination. They did an exceptional job of giving me exactly what I was looking for. I enjoyed working with them and I’m still working with them.
How did inoutput perform from a project management standpoint?
As I mentioned, we’re on a bit of a hiatus at the moment. Before every sprint, they would break it down very thoroughly into individual tickets, each ticket being 1 little piece of work. Then they would give me a work estimate in terms of how many days or half-days of development. In terms of the actual budget—which obviously, I want to know—they would do fact-finding before leaving it to that stage. They would see exactly what I expected out of a project and then give me some options. When they did their first major bit of work, they gave me a 3-tier estimate based on budget: “Here’s the basic, here’s the intermediate level, and here’s the Rolls-Royce version if you want it, if you can afford it,” and gave me the choice.
They’re very organized. They’re very detailed. Nothing slips through the cracks. They would be the ones reminding me of certain things that we discussed weeks before. It’s usually the opposite. When I engage other developers or development agencies, whether they’re in-house or outsourced, I would have to remind them, “How’s this going and what happened to this?” There would be a lot of things slipping through the cracks.
The inoutput guys are meticulous. They take meticulous notes. They update everything on Confluence inside Atlassian just to make sure that we’re all on the same page. They really do project manage. Apart from the development side of it, that’s almost more important to me because then I know where we are at all times. I know where I’m going to be in 2 or 3 weeks with them, which I think is very rare for a dev agency.
What did you find most impressive about inoutput?
I was impressed at how they kept me informed and gave me real visibility on everything. I’m not having to chase them to say, “Where’s this thing I was expecting?” That’s never happened. They’re probably 90% on time. The 10% they’re not on time, they’ve told me and given me forewarning, which I think is extremely professional. I always appreciate that. If anything doesn’t get done on the current sprint because of time constraints or budget constraints, it will roll over to the next sprint. They deliver everything.
When you outsource something —whether it’s software development, or marketing, or whatever—that’s always a worry as a business owner. Someone would give you a fixed price or estimate, saying you’re getting something. But not that many people break it down into line items, nor are they willing to pull back the curtain and let you see what you’re getting for your money. They’re just hoping you’re going to trust that they’re really going to do a lot of work.
Having been in business for 20-odd years, my experience has been that it’s not the case, not really. It’s rare that you pay for something and then you go, “Wow, that’s amazing. I really got a lot for it.” I’m not saying that inoutput necessarily offers amazing value; I think they’re good value. But what I think is amazing about them is the fact that they’re always very transparent about every bit of work they’re going to do for us. I think they’ve got really tight internal systems and the processes. They make sure that everything that gets done gets tracked time-wise, ticket-wise. They’ve given me this level of visibility which just engenders trust.
Are there any areas inoutput could improve?
I’d probably say cost-wise, they could be a little bit more affordable. Cost and value aren’t necessarily always the same thing. From the perspective of having seen millions spent on development inside another company that I was running years ago—which wasn’t my company —I think they’re a far better value than what I’ve seen elsewhere. Back when I was COO of a recruitment company that spent $3 million on dev, I’m guessing that inoutput would’ve done the same job for less than half the price. For a small operator like me, I probably could’ve cobbled together a cheaper solution for what I’ve spent on inoutput. Then again, I would’ve compromised on quality. I would recommend them to a startup because their mentality is that they can take a project from nothing and take it to fruition, but I’d make sure it’s a well-funded startup.
I can appreciate the fact that if they’re working with larger outfits, their pricing structure is very appropriate. It’s a double-edged sword. Compared to a lot of software companies that would serve large outfits, they’d be far more cost-effective based on my experience previously. But because this is a small operation—Teknocrat is a startup—for a startup level, they could maybe be a little bit more cost-effective. Maybe they need to employ a bit of a sliding scale, which maybe isn’t that fair to the larger end of town. At the same time, I’m not from the larger end of town, so I don’t really care whether or not it’s fair for them.