What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
For us, the most measurable statistic is user growth over time. Between our launch in February 2014 and now, we have grown to somewhere between 27,000 and 28,000 users. Considering our niche audience base, that is steady, significant, linear growth. Our site also has over a hundred thousand page views per month. Our audience – which is roughly the top one percent of craft beer drinkers – loves our product. We often get positive feedback from them on how much of an improvement our platform is to what was available before our launch, as well as its ease of use, its aesthetic appeal, and its problem solution.
How did ThinkLions perform from a project management standpoint?
They were great from a project management standpoint. Having all of my interaction be with the project managers rather than the developers themselves was very effective, because I do not have the technical knowledge necessary to convey specifics about individual tasks or features. Our method was that I would come up with the concept of a solution to a feature or functionality problem, write out the necessary associated requirements, and then I would meet with the project manager to lay out all of the above information. Then they would take that information, translate it to the technical language and/or set of tasks that the developers needed, and begin churning out the actual code. Although sometimes we would communicate via email, we largely kept our communications within project management software, specifically Asana. We briefly used Jira, but our collaborative work was done primarily through Asana.
What did you find most impressive about them?
They filled a specific need for us, making it so that I did not have to worry or learn about something new and highly technical and allowing me to focus on other parts of establishing the company. ThinkLions became our technical partner, and was instrumental in the foundation and growth of our end product. Additionally, we were able to engage their services at a time when we did not have the capital to afford a full-time, in-house developer. As a solution, they were cost effective and scalable, both of which were essential for us at the time.
Are there any areas they could improve?
A fundamental part of the development work for us was the monthly quality assessment, which was essential to the ultimate success of the product but took a lot of time on my end. I spent a significant amount of time on the monthly Q.A., and I think it would have been more effective if that service had been built into the cost of the initial part of the development.
Do you have any advice for potential customers?
The first is just general advice for anyone engaging an outside contractor, particularly in the development sphere: Make sure that you know what you want to build and that you clearly define the goals and the requirements of that build. You know your product and the market better than anyone else, and it is not fair to go to an outsource firm and expect them to understand any of the above as well as you do.
The second piece of advice is to make sure to use whatever project management software (or software in general) that is going to make them the most efficient. In our case, we pushed to use Asana because it was what we were already using, but ultimately I think it hindered their workflow. In retrospect, I wish I had listened to their request to use Jira, in order to cut down on the amount of time they spent learning the software that we preferred.