Prototype Development for Consumer Electronics Startup
- Custom Software Development
- Willing to Refer
"We have come to consider BLStream as a branch office of our own company."
- Information technology
- San Francisco, California
- 11-50 Employees
- Phone Interview
BLStream supplemented a smart hub development team. They created iOS and Android apps with an already-assigned project manager and design team.
The team delivers project goals on time and makes recommendations to improve products. BLStream adjusted well to the new company culture and project management style. They have become a part of the in-house design and development team.
A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Below is an edited transcript.
Introduce your business and what you do there.
We are a smart hub developer based in Silicon Valley. Our first device is a smart nightlight with Wi-Fi connectivity. It can be plugged into an outlet and paired with a smart device, giving the user access to sensor readings like temperature, humidity, and smoke alarms. The color and light of the device can also be controlled. I'm the Director of Hardware Engineering for the company.
OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE
What challenge were you trying to address with BLStream?
For a startup company like ours, it can be hard to find ideal engineers in a short time. Our human resources department was under a lot of pressure, given that we had a fixed launch date, but not the power and resources to finish tasks. It was at that point that we decided to partner with an external provider so we could get access to the technical skills we needed.
What was the scope of their involvement?
A few months before the product launch, we started our collaboration with BLStream. They have provided us a team in Poland working on our Android and iOS mobile apps. We have added numerous features to the product using BLStream, as well as fixing various bugs before the launch.
We have worked with 2 Android and 2 iOS developers, 3 auto testing engineers, one quality assurance tester, and a project manager from BLStream. We have in-office engineers whom we consider to be the architects of the product. They have worked closely with our design and marketing team in considering the needs of the customer, designing the structure of the product. We have a well-defined technical structure and keep a project manager for tracking our schedule and milestones. We add the BLStream engineering resources into our development, assigning tasks to them. It's our company's responsibility to monitor the overall structure and evolution of the project. BLStream provides their highly-skilled engineers to help us finish tasks.
How did you come to work with BLStream?
We considered a number of contractors and consulting firms. BLStream was referred to us by a friend of the owner. We made some comparisons between them and individual contractors. From our side, it took a smaller amount of work to collaborate with one giant company, compared to working with several individual contractors.
How much have you invested with BLStream?
The development cost is confidential. BLStream's price has been attractive, compared to hiring the same number of engineers in Silicon Valley, in terms of salary as well as the onboarding process and human resources effort required. BLStream has been more attractive in terms of cost, workload, and schedule.
What is the status of this engagement?
Our product was launched in October 2015. BLStream's engineering team has helped us improve our product since the launch.
RESULTS & FEEDBACK
Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?
There was a ramp-up stage at the beginning of the collaboration with BLStream. We have our own company culture and project management style. For the initial 2 weeks, we maintained daily communication with BLStream in order to make sure that we understood each other and to make sure that they were fully aware of our full product story, not just the specific tasks. After this, everything worked perfectly.
We have measured the performance of BLStream's engineers' work through internal releases. We defined the scope of a workload at the start of a week and closed it out by the following Friday. We made sure that we received a release for our internal testers and quality assurance engineers. If everything turned out fine, we'd do a public release. After the ramp-up stage, it was very rare for BLStream to fail on an internal release. It only happened once or twice, because of discussion problems or other issues.
Delivering on time was an important factor in evaluating the performance of engineers. So far, we've been very satisfied with BLStream's performance.
Our internal engineers have acted as architects in order to define technology requirements like tools and coding language. From time to time, BLStream's engineers have provided useful and valuable suggestions to us in terms of various third-party services that we could use. We valued BLStream's feed-back and often took their suggestions. We've had open discussions with them and often found that their approaches were better than our initial ones.
Through our monthly fee, BLStream assigns us engineers who will only work on our project within that period of time. Unlike other contractors, who will do a set amount of work based on what they're being paid, BLStream's team has been aggressive in wanting to deliver good work. They have ownership for our product, which is hard to find.
How did BLStream perform from a project management standpoint?
We used Jira and Confluence for communication and tracking daily tasks. We also used Wrike from time to time, through which we created Gantt charts and logged milestones. We use work control software like GitHub and we rely on Jenkins for continuous integration. We use Autotask for regression testing.
What did you find most impressive about BLStream?
We have come to consider BLStream as a branch office of our own company. We give BLStream access to our internal Jira platform and collaborate with them regularly like they were a part of our family.
Are there any areas BLStream could improve?
One thing to consider for any company collaborating with a consulting firm is communication. There needs to be smooth and clear contact, and we need to make sure that the vendor is on the right track. On the kick-off meeting of a sprint, even if everyone agrees on the tasks and goes off to do their work, we can't expect to have success if there isn't proper communication. There need to be daily chats, not only through email but also phone calls, with the engineers on the other side.
There was one issue with communication which caused an issue with an internal release. We were expecting something completely different than what BLStream had understood. We figured out by the end of the first week that, even though what they were working on was great, it wasn't what we were looking for, which caused a delay, making us extend the sprint from 2 weeks to 3. BLStream is capable of doing the job and they're skilled in terms of coding, but we need to make sure that we're working on the same tasks. Our project manager's responsibility is to keep up with the status tracking and make sure that everything is working.
Service & Deliverables
"BLStream's iOS team is awesome, but the Android team is not as good, although they are still very competent."
On time / deadlines
"We missed deadlines on 2-3 occasions, but I can't blame BLStream entirely for this."
Value / within estimates
"BLStream's cost is attractive, but especially during tight deadlines, it can be more efficient to have developers come to our offices and work directly from here."
Willing to Refer5.0
"I would only recommend BLStream to friends who already have an in-office engineer resource.