Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?
You can only appreciate what we’re getting out of this by knowing what we suffered from before we found them. Our success with Synergo Group is best exemplified in Cristi; he is the safety valve of the relationship. He’s the person standing in the middle between me and the developer. The developer is driven by the code and functions and I’m driven by my business goals and the user experience; Cristi is standing in the middle trying to understand what I want. He’s a developer himself, and he combines both what I want and what his team can do.
We tell them what we want to be developed—whether it’s a filter or a piece of code—and the team proceeds to give us an estimate. Once we approve it, we can trust that it will work out to that amount and that the code will be clean. I also asked for some sort of a communication system so that my users can communicate to each other through the site rather than through email. My previous developers handed me something like a Word file that delivered messages instead of a real communication system. With Synergo Group, I can explain what I want and I get it right away. If I tell them to edit or add something, I can get it the next hour.
With other companies, our experience is that you spend days or months trying to explain things. I ended up developing interfaces myself to show them what I wanted and I still wouldn’t get it. I felt like I was working with incompetent people. Synergo Group is so much better. Synergo appreciates what I want.
Two years ago, my website would have been a normal startup website. The way it was developed was very simple, very easy. Now, I think my website is scalable. I think I am ready for the next big move. If you were to tell me that I would have 10 million visitors per month, I would say that I can handle that. I have a professional website. What you see here are people who are trying to push you to succeed.
How did Synergo Group perform from a project management standpoint?
Cristi’s project management strategy is that it’s important for us to be comfortable, and if we stress each other out about hours or budgets, the pressure will make it hard to perform. At the same time, he doesn’t want me to be stressed. One time I told him that I had to raise my flag. That’s his system, the flag. If I have any issue or if I suspect I’ll be running into cash flow issues, he tells me to just “raise the flag” and he’ll slow down. We had this really great strategy about slowing down and speeding up flexibly depending on how my cash flow was working, and it worked out really well. They’re very nice people to work with. We’re happy.
Synergo uses JIRA for project development and tracking, which is absolutely wonderful online software. Every single task has a ticket with a time tracker and communication system. Tickets are marked as “In Progress”, “Blocked”, or “Ready for QA” and can be assigned to different users, including me. I cannot explain how convenient project tracking and management has become because of JIRA!
What did you find most impressive about Synergo Group?
We’re paying $35 per hour. We were paying around $20 before. The $15 increase is not little, but if you go look on the market, you see companies charging $200 per hour and I am pretty sure that what I am getting is the quality of that $200 per hour firm. I’m not exaggerating. This group positioned themselves well. They’re smart and they know what they’re doing. They decided they weren’t going to serve the big corporations and charge those high rates, but they also weren’t going to give away their work like freelancers on Upwork do.
Synergo Group knows their market segment and they know that there are a lot of people like me that want quality. I understand that Synergo conducts their business in ways that are similar to a freelance model: the management is in one place and the developers are somewhere else. Nevertheless, they’re really good at handling their communication amongst themselves and I never felt that distance. It works really nicely. Cristi is just a really nice guy; he makes you feel comfortable. I’m really looking forward to working with Synergo for many years to come.
Are there any areas Synergo Group could improve?
Sometimes, my co-founders and I would get into an argument about Synergo’s model. Cristi believes that you can’t really fully conceptualize a project in the early stages. No matter how much time and effort you spend to fully plan the work, there will always be surprises. For example, we had a one-year exercise for our other project, the app we’re doing. We developed a long specification document that would explain everything about the app, but Cristi was resistant to giving a precise estimate. He thought that no matter how much you think it’s going to cost, you’re probably going to miss something that may cost you more.
You’re never going to estimate things precisely. This might bother people. Sometimes, I think he had a point because, to be honest, in the middle of the project you will always discover that you missed something and it will cost you. Cristi believes in this model of thinking, and I don’t know if he’s right or wrong. I trust him and I’m comfortable with him, but my co-founders were upset that he wouldn’t give a more precise estimate. I should mention that we negotiated the estimate that Cristi provided for the classified website. We were confident that the job would cost less, but in the end, Cristi was right. I think it is the nature of this business and maybe we, as startup clients, are resistant to accept it.