What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
We previously had a command-line interface, but the new one is nicer to use because the user experience is much better. The important factor for us was that the architecture be flexible, and the plug-in-based system STX Next came up with has helped extend functionalities even further in the future. In our work, we have quite high demand around the application systems used for different shows. We’ve used the platform in very different ways, and have been able to dispose of the old tool.
We’ve used the tool for some high-level shows across different locations, including Los Angeles, Toronto, and Frankfurt. The tool does the job much better than the one we had before, and has saved us a lot of time.
We found the architecture to be so good that we’ve started extracting it into libraries which we can use with other in-house tools. This ultimately means we’re getting more worth for our money due to STX Next’s contribution. We’ve had a couple of technical requirements which called for the tool to be highly flexible, but I hadn’t really thought of reusing the code. It was a pleasant surprise.
How did STX Next perform from a project management standpoint?
The project length was 5 weeks, and we kept it short because it was our first time working with an outsourced company. We wanted to work through an Agile process in order to come up with something we could hopefully use. Requirements in the visual effects area can be quite specific, and we wanted to make sure we didn’t spend too much money on the first try. We were ultimately happy with STX Next, and plan to do more work with them in the future.
Communication was one of the things they handled specifically well. They were always quick to respond, even when we didn’t communicate everything we wanted very well. They always reached out to ask questions, and then went back to work.
There was a time difference between us of about 6 hours, but it worked out well. We had a 2-hour overlap, and we also have a German office, which made it a bit easier.
We had a main communication tool in order to keep the process formal, but they also reached out to us on Skype for quick questions or decisions.
What did you find most impressive about them?
I was surprised with how well the collaboration worked.
Are there any areas they could improve?
We demanded a couple of things, but not everything we should have, which was a problem on our side.
For example, we should’ve tried to integrate it into our existing in-house environment earlier in the process. The testing was done in week 4, and it should have been done in weeks 2 or 3. We should’ve used STX Next more as an in-house team instead of giving them small bits of work, and then waiting for the results. Again, this has more to do with how I approached the process. Their team asked for information and showed us their progress on a weekly basis, but we should've actually attempted to get the code into our system, given the small issues which came up later.
Do you have any advice for future clients of theirs?
Everything depends on the kind of relationship the client is looking for. In our case, it wasn’t a matter of the internal team being completely clueless on the technical end. We actually have developers who know what they’re doing. Generally, we know programming, and only used STX Next as an extended workforce. The model worked quite well, but I’m unsure how it would work for someone with no technical personnel in-house.
We were able to write down user stories and create a mockup for the UI. Much of the conceptual work was done on our end. If there is an in-house technical department on the client’s end, they should definitely be more involved from the beginning. It helps a lot.