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"They’ve made everybody feel comfortable, which is important."
Underscope provided development expertise for a custom ordering platform with both web and mobile versions. They trained in-house teammates in React and they continue to support redesigns and updates.
"They’ve made everybody feel comfortable, which is important."
Sep 3, 2019
The team has provided valuable development and strategy suggestions, and their effective training has improved in-house efficiency. Customers can expect Underscope to take a leadership role and work easily with others.
A Clutch analyst personally interviewed this client over the phone. Below is an edited transcript.
Introduce your business and what you do there.
We’re a fast-casual restaurant founded in Boston with over 70 restaurants across the US, and in Switzerland, Germany, and Canada. We primarily focus on healthy food options catering to certain dietary needs, such as gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan options. Our food is sourced from local farms as much as possible, based on the available options of a given area.
I came on board almost two years ago to help build out a plan for our digital strategy. My role has primarily been determining what we should do as the next step and where we want to take the company.
What challenge were you trying to address with Underscope?
We looked at a lot of off-the-shelf products and solutions and we considered building something in-house. With that said, we decided to build a custom ordering platform with web and mobile versions. In that process, I hired a whole bunch of teams, one of them being Underscope. They came on board in the development process. We started the process last summer, and we originally planned on building native apps, but we also considered React Native and React.
What was the scope of their involvement?
We initially hired Underscope to serve as a consultant and help train our team on React and help with React Native. They had React Native developers who joined the team and helped us build the ordering app. We also used Ruby on Rails on the backend.
We had one in-house teammate familiar with the technologies, but we didn’t know which direction to take, in terms of using MobX or Redux. They helped us understand which would work better in the long-term. They also brought overall suggestions on how we should build the repository, just to simplify the development experience. We had an internal team of 10 developers and we wanted to make sure that everyone could work with the codebase as quickly as possible. They helped us meet a very tight deadline to get everything done, train everyone, and launch.
We’ve made a significant number of updates since then, rolling out features like company accounts, Apple Pay, and program promos. We have a few more planned for the next 6–12 months, such as gift cards and scan to pay. They’re also restructuring our website, to adapt to the new platform and make the whole process seamless.
What is the team composition?
We had a consultant on their team. The overall team size has changed, but we had an initial team of one consultant and two developers, and they grew that to one consultant and five developers. We shrunk the team based on need and budget following the app launch. Right now, we have around three resources from Underscope on our team.
How did you come to work with Underscope?
I was initially shopping for someone who not only had the expertise but also was willing to work with an existing team. The time zone was also an essential factor, and most of the teams I looked at were on different time zones to ours. I also had my development team interview them to assess their level of comfort and see how well they could work together in the long run. When there are a lot of folks with different personalities in one room, chances are that some people are going to have a hard time blending together.
One of the biggest things that convinced us to go with them, apart from what I’ve mentioned, is that they were easy to work with. They were very open about exploring the different ideas we had in our initial calls, specifically in the areas we didn’t have that much experience in and were going by what we’d read on different blogs. When we first decided to use React Native, we decided to build it using MobX. It made it quick and easy to build an app, but many people were recommending Redux to us. We were still not sold on why, but we talked to Underscope’s team and felt comfortable with their feedback.
Ultimately, we chose them based on location, feedback, level of comfort, price point, and the general feeling that they would be a part of our team, and not just another consultant we would be working with. That made the whole process seem seamless, and it’s why we’re still working with them.
How much have you invested with them?
We started off paying $20,000–$25,000 per month, and it was at one point as high as $30,000 per month.
What is the status of this engagement?
We started working with them in October 2018 and the engagement is ongoing.
What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
It’s been great working with Underscope. They’ve helped us become more efficient in terms of development and everyone is trained on the React base. They’ve also provided valuable solutions and served as leadership consultants, defining whatever roadmaps they were assigned.
Part of the plan was to streamline some of our processes and gain more control over the overall experience. We streamlined some of the costs associated with working with other third parties, and that’s made things a lot more effective for us. Having our own apps to manage has been great and we’ve become more connected with our customers. Our App Store and Google Play reviews have gone up significantly, and we’re using those as our basis to improve the experience.
How did Underscope perform from a project management standpoint?
They’ve been upfront in terms of what they can do within a specific timeline and open to communicating any technical recommendations, or what could and couldn’t work overall. They introduced us to different tools that had worked well for them in the past, helping streamline some of our processes. They also adapted the tools we had in place already. I mainly focused on designing and developing the backend and leaned on Underscope to define the frontend UX, as well as for any development expertise we needed in order to build the app.
We used Jira to manage the project. We were initially doing one-week sprints, in order to push things out quickly, and we’ve transitioned to a two-week cycle now. It was recommended to us, in order to not push out too many releases for the app. We use Slack for communication with the team, and we have daily standup video calls through Zoom. We talk through multiple Slack channels and groups, and we use GitHub as a source code repository. We use Bugsnag to track all our bugs.
What did you find most impressive about them?
Their consultants are very helpful in taking on the leadership role, and not just leading on how to build the platform, but making people feel like a part of the project. They’ve made everybody feel comfortable, which is important. If my developers aren’t happy, it’s never good.
I wanted to make sure we’d all be part of the process, and Underscope has worked well with all other developers, not just people within their own team. They worked well with other developers, with my QA team, as well as with the project manager from our side. The overall experience was great, and I would highly recommend them for any other projects we have. If I go to another company, I’ll definitely be reaching out to them.
Are there any areas they could improve?
It’s been good overall. I got very comfortable with some of their resources, which were very valuable resources, but they had to transition to other projects. I think it was a bit of a stress on my end early on. We had some deadlines to meet within a specific time, and they weren’t offering other resources. We needed a bit more time to plan it out and identify needs, but I brought it up with them, and we worked out a plan to keep each other aware of any changes.
For me, it was more about the context within which it was happening, and getting people up to speed within a given timeline. Most of the people they suggested and added onto the team were experienced expert developers, so, although they didn’t lead the project, they were big-time contributors.
Do you have any advice for future clients of theirs?
It depends on what people are going to be using them for. Underscope did a great job in spending the first few weeks to get everybody up to speed, setting up the environment, building a repository, and overall working through it. Then, they also worked in defining the architecture. Whatever the project is, it’s good to first understand what the needs are, explain them to Underscope, then integrate them into the system slowly. Some people took more time for that than others, simply due to not having as much experience in this type of project. It’s important to plan for that and make sure that, when they get on board on the project, they can lay out a plan and get things defined early on.
We had to kick things out by December, which was an unreachable date, so we finally set for March. A lot of things happened before that, and things were hectic, but we got through. It helped us to get Underscope onboard early on. They have good developers, and they can integrate well with the client’s team.
They also did a lot of training, which was especially useful for people not familiar with React. That was really useful, and I’d recommend it if the budget and timeline allow it.