Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?
We have 600,000 veterinarians engaging on a daily basis with this product. They were selling between 20,000–30,000 print copies, so that has greatly grown. It’s phenomenal. You were only able to sell print copies before; through this, we were able to work with some of the larger veterinarian corporations, individual small practices, and students, giving them all access to the information.
We've also built relationships on the human pharmacy side. One of the fascinating things is now you can get your dog’s medication filled by a human pharmacist. They may not have learned about that at school, so this gives them access to the information so that they can fully know that these are the right medications the same way that they would know on the human side.
The best stat for me is that we came in on time and within budget with quality. I always joked with my internal clients that you can choose two out of three: cost, time, or quality. With Praxent, I didn't have to choose; that was the most amazing part. Due to the project management, the ClickModel prototype keeping us on task, and the clear requirements from the beginning, we were right on budget within a dollar or two, launched on time that day (we could have launched earlier but wanted to do quality control since we’re a print company), and didn't have any major bugs. I appreciate Praxent so much because we were launching at the largest veterinary conference in the world on a weekend. I was really nervous about that, as you can imagine. Praxent doesn't work weekends; they’re not a 24/7 team. But, they had their developer and project manager on call for me from the moment we released until I felt like we made it through this release.
How did Praxent perform from a project management standpoint?
We did an on-site visit. We went to the project management conference that I mentioned and met with the team. We also flew down and took the key members of our team and met with them for two or three days in Austin. Tim came up once or twice, and I had him meet with all of our players. That helped to build the relationship. In addition to that, we did weekly calls with the project management where we walked through the timeline and progress reports. I loved that process. When they were developing their stories on scrum, they invited our tech people to that process. For the most part, once we grew trust with them, we knew that they understood the stories well enough, which helped us when they would tell us what the points were for something. We could trust that they were right. We totally invested, and that was the key I learned on this project: the president of the company has to be as invested as anyone else. We were fortunate because both Tim and Praxent and Elizabeth at Brief Media were invested in not only building their relationship but also making sure that the project stayed on track.
There were a few staff changes. However, if there was ever a hiccup or something, they could reach out. We did a lot of video conferencing, which I loved. Even though Jane, who is one of our developers, might be working at home, we would see her on the screen. Then, when we were transitioned maybe to one of the other developers, we got to meet that person since we were video conferencing. You can have that human connection, which I personally enjoy. If things are going right, it's much easier to challenge or ask questions if you have a relationship.
I have worked with a lot of agencies, and I have never been on a video conference with my software engineers and developers. Normally, it's just the frontend faces of the team—project managers and such. I think Praxent did this because we have technical skills. They also knew that we were quite curious. We wanted to know and understand intimately how things were coded and why it was put together that way.
What did you find most impressive about Praxent?
I felt like they listened. Early on, one of the things that we were working through with the designers was we had our own design style. Every time you work with a designer, they have their own feel and touch. It was a little off from what we were used to. One of our designers comped something up to show to their designer, and then they geeked out on the video call. Designers sometimes have egos, but he did not have an ego. It did not get in the way. He listened to the ideas and adapted. That was really nice.
All along the project, we worked with Matt [Web Developer, Praxent], who really helped us. One of the areas that I was concerned about was customer service. Launching a product like this with 70,000 practicing veterinarians in the United States, I didn't know how much customer service was I going to need. What happens if credit cards don't process? These were things I did not have experience with. Matt, who had a great deal of customer service experience with e-commerce, spent time with me outside of building the project to talk through things he had done in the past. These are just things that other agencies I have worked with didn’t do. They told me, “We’re here to do your development, not your entire project.” It’s always nerve-wracking to admit I’ve never done this before. I’m not sure how to go about it, but they made it very safe and comfortable about not being sure. I loved the fact that they would let me talk to their other client because there’s some security in talking to someone else who has been in your shoes.
Over the time that we worked with Praxent, it really felt like a partnership and not a vendor relationship. It has never felt like they were just an agency and we were the client. Tim came to our office and helped us strategize, prioritize, and work through things. We’ve worked very closely with our project manager, Chris. We loved how he worked so much that we overhauled our entire internal technology team to adapt his Agile and scrum methodologies. We took many of their workflows and decided to do them internally. We got to know them all on a very personal level because we spent a lot of time working together, and you can’t build a partnership if you’re not willing to invest.
Are there any areas Praxent could improve?
For us, the only area that we ran into challenges was when we went to the retainer part. We’re a company that maintains all of our products. We’re used to constant releases and prioritization. Once we went to the retainer part of the agreement, it became a little messy. I think that’s because we had been off to such a great start that when you go into a two-week cycle, it’s not the same as when you’re having six months and a big release. There was a learning curve on both sides. We struggled internally with keeping our priorities straight and determining what was really an issue or not with a bug. We had great clarity but then became a little hodgepodge. We had this strong sense of urgency after releasing, and we wanted everything faster. Since they had delivered on-time quality at cost, all of a sudden, we expected to see the same thing that took six months every two weeks instead. In reality, for a sprint that lasts two weeks, you’re not going to have much stuff releasing. There was a learning curve going from release to the two-week schedule, but we worked through it.