What was the scope of their involvement?
I worked very closely with them. I was essentially the product owner, and I was very clear and upfront with Mobomo that I wanted to be very involved. This was not something where we just wanted them to go off, spend a couple of months, build an app, and come back. I was actually asking them to be transparent to the point where it might be uncomfortable, because often in those relationships, you want to put a little bit of a wall between you and your client just to make sure that they don’t see all the internal machinations. I really pressured Mobomo to open things up and allow me to be part of it, because this was a very important initiative for the organization. They were really great about that.
As much as that might have made them uncomfortable—and I think in their shoes I would’ve felt that way as well—they were incredibly collaborative. They worked with me to set up access to all the different tools that they were using to track development, as well as different collaboration portals so that we could have real-time communication. We also had various meetings each week, whether it was sprint planning, briefing the weekly test cases, or the general check-in and progress update.
They also facilitated all of the different design meetings that we had. We did some customer interviews, focus groups, and surveys, and then built out a whole persona and user journey, including user flows and all of these different pieces. They facilitated every piece of that, and then through mockups and wireframes, we were able to do different design reviews. I think what we got out of that was a really great design and a very clear understanding of what the specific user stories were. We could then move forward in trying to address those user stories through the app and know what key pieces needed to be there.
What were critical features in the app?
We questioned whether we needed an app or a mobile responsive website, but we already have a mobile responsive website. We have 200 locations around the world. Historically, the way it would work is you would walk into a center, be greeted by a volunteer, and you would come and sign your name and give your biographical data and the reason you’re there.
You would have this whole line of people behind you, and at the end of the day, some volunteer is going in and typing that information into an Excel spreadsheet. Then they’re sending that Excel spreadsheet to a regional level to be combined with 40 other spreadsheets before combing at the national level. Our app would eliminate this, making it really easy for people to check in. Through the app, they wouldn’t have to tell us who they are every time. Then all of this data can be pulled together on a backend in real time. Before, this had been done quarterly at best.
That was the key thing: having a user create a profile, knowing what center they’re at, and allowing them to select the services they’re there for. Easing this process for service members and then automating all of the data aggregation—that was the key functionality.
Were there any features built afterwards?
There are a couple other pieces of the app itself that they built as well. In addition to being able to check in, you’re able to use your position in the world to find locations of centers near you. That way, you could explore them, understand what events are occurring there, what programs they offer, where they are, and then email that info, find their Facebook page, call them, and use your phone to navigate to it. You can actually just open up the app and use whatever native maps application you have on your phone and add the center as a favorite, so you can always track and know the latest info about what’s being offered at that location. Then, more broadly, you could explore programs around the world. Not every program that we offer to service members and their families are provided at every center, but they’re provided at different locations and some are even provided virtually.
How many resources were assigned to your project?
There were 6 people, including 2 developers, a designer, a tester, infrastructure, and a project manager. There were a couple moments close to launch when they brought in a few other players to help with the infrastructure tuning and optimizing. There were also times where we were sprinting to the finish line, and they were able to leverage developers in different locations in order to be developing 24 hours a day. That was really cool because they have some developers in India, some in Argentina, and then some here in D.C.
Did you ever have a situation where you didn’t have access to the resources you needed?
That was never an issue at all. We had to be respectful of different time zones of course, so I can’t ask the developer in India a question at 11 a.m. my time. But apart from that, we always had the right people on the team.
At one point, one of their team members left the company for reasons unrelated to my project. Momobo was immediately able to bring in someone else who was very capable and picked things up without any issues.
We did have an infrastructure issue during late testing stages, and they pulled some people in and worked weekends for a bit. They were even willing to give some of that to us for free, because they realized that there were things they could’ve done differently. They wanted to make sure we had a good outcome and that we were happy. They were equal partners in success of this app.
What are the data integrations for the app?
We challenged them with creating an app that was very lightweight and that relied on data to be resident elsewhere. We had 2 locations that are the respective primary sources of truth. We actually have a custom Ruby on Rails CMS built and managed by a group called Threespot, a D.C. agency. It’s actually multiple CMS instances, 60 of them in total, and each of them have specific biographical data about our locations, like the address, the type of location, the hours of operation, Facebook, email, phone number, etc.
That information is all resident there, and it was important that Mobomo was able to pull that into the app so that users could see the location, understand the location information, and ultimately be able to find that location and check into it. Then, the app also serves as a bridge between our custom CMS and our Salesforce instance, which stores each user’s data, like biographical information, consumption habits, and which services or programs they’re checking into. The app is pulling and pushing info from both data aggregations.
They worked with 2 different vendors, which I think is really great, that all 3 of them have these working relationships, as opposed to competing. Mobomo navigated that very well, as did the other 2 groups.
How did you come to work with Mobomo?
I’m pretty sure that I found them through Clutch. We had some recommendations from our board as well as some vendors that we have on contract that would’ve loved to help us with app development. Then I just started searching on Google. I was looking for digital agencies in the D.C. area that were very design-forward. Knowing what I know about the mobile app space and how competitive it is, it’s really hard to rise above the noise. I wanted people who were going to be thoughtful about user experience, design, and just the overall experience of what that app is going to be. After looking around, I think I happened upon Clutch and found them. That’s what actually got me to their website.
We did send out RFPs. Since this would be our organization’s first time building a mobile app, we wanted to actually get some input from out there in the world and see what people were thinking about. We had 12 different groups that we invited to respond, and we narrowed that down to 6 and asked them to send us a quote. Mobomo was the winner there.
Price is always a factor, but we didn’t just go for the lowest price; we were looking for the best value. That said, Mobomo was very competitive.
What really made them stick out to us was their experience with groups that we thought were really relevant to us. They built an app for the U.S. Navy and we really liked that they were tied into government and military. They also had a great process for how they approach app development. They spent a lot of time talking about how they were going to approach this from the user experience and the design first. Some of the other groups that we spoke with were more about system engineering or data integration. I really appreciated that they were focused on this more holistically as a beautiful product. We didn’t want to gold-plate or over-engineer a solution just for the sake of creating something massive that would require work year after year.
How much have you invested with Mobomo?
They came in under budget. One of the challenges we gave them, because we realized that we were burning a little light as far as overall spend, was to see how low we could come in while still being on time. For us, I think the price is a bit higher than a traditional project going from zero to an app, because we had a range of data integrations that upped the complexity. We spent right around $300,000 for the app.
What is the status of this engagement?
We started working with them in November 2016, and the iOS app launched in April 2017. This was the initial contract, and we had an option to extend for Android development as well as additional releases throughout the remainder of the year. We did extend the contract and they’re currently working on the Android development as well as additional features and functionality for both versions. We see them as somebody who’s going to be a continued partner for us.