Please describe the scope of their involvement in greater detail.
They had a plan for integrating all of our legacy systems, which was a holy grail for us. We always saw this as a goal for the distant future because there hadn't been a company that could do this for us. After a year of working with them, we were able to deploy our unified sign-on. Our members can log in and go from one site to another, being logged-on automatically. It sounds simple in the frontend, but it was a complete nightmare in the backend.
Their team created an identity provider which received the information and distributed it to all of our systems. We worked with a great project manager who not only understood the technology, but was able to translate it into layman's terms. Our company is small, so our team is involved in everything. As such, when we ask a question, we want to know the full answer. He was able to do that and was very patient with us. There are a lot of competing interests within our company, so working with someone like that was important.
How did you come to work with Unleashed?
We had a different web manager working for us. Unleashed was the current developer for a similar institute. We had a close relationship with that association because of their similarity to our operations. We underwent a brainstorming meeting with their institution, by which they shared some of the solutions that they'd employed in the online area. One of the companies that had done work for their websites was Unleashed. We had interviews with around five or six Virginia-based companies.
Could you provide a sense of the size of this initiative in financial terms?
We work within what they call a growth package. We currently have 80 hours per month with them, which come up to around $10,000. We used to have a 40-hour package, which came to $5,800 per month, but because we launched an e-commerce store last year, there were a lot of issues which needed to be fixed.
We needed to add extra functionality every month, while still being strategic and pushing the envelope. We were trying to address immediate issues that came up with Magento going down and so on. We realized that 40 hours per month would not be enough.
What is the status of this engagement?
We've been working with Unleashed since 2012. The relationship is ongoing, which is important for us as a company. We're small, but we do a lot. People are always surprised by how many people are actually on staff, based on the extent of what we do. We have few resources, let alone ongoing support for web development. It's not an area which always shows a return-on-investment, so it can be hard to justify, especially in a company where everyone is trying to save.
There was a big effort made on my part to convince the leadership that this is an area in which we need to continue to invest. Unleashed has had to step up to the plate and convince us that they have our best interests at heart. The relationship has evolved over time and we've come to realize that we need to be told when we're wrong at times. We're not the experts in certain fields, so when a red flag is detected, we need to be told about it. We've had some rocky times because of loose communication about our goals to them. In the last two or three years, the account has been handled differently.