Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?
I’ve been here for a little over two years, and of the first things my boss asked me was to turn the whiteboards into TV displays or some kind of smart solution. I tried doing this with Excel spreadsheets, but most of the staff members in funeral homes are older people in their 50s and 60s. They’re not very tech-savvy, and they’re also reluctant to make changes to the processes, so getting them to learn the tricks of expanding cells in spreadsheets would not work. The solution needed to be something easy to interact with, which was one of the big hurdles.
When we demoed the software, they were pretty excited. Our first indicator of success was whether anyone would volunteer to be a pilot location. Everyone was willing to do it, but I only worked with one person, presenting him with various updates and getting him ready for the actual pilot. I’ve had a couple of emails from him, saying that what we had was really great and that he was excited. It was quite a bit of praise coming from the type of person who doesn’t like change.
How did XB Software perform from a project management standpoint?
The most immediate comparison I have is that our marketing manager has hired a local website developer to redo our public website and intranet. Working with their developers and conducting meetings with them has been very frustrating. They can go for a couple of weeks without contact, only to send emails in the middle of the night, even though they’re a local company. At the end of a meeting, I mentioned that we’re working with a company in Belarus that has presented absolutely no problems, and here we are using a local, established group, and we’re struggling so much.
We use email and Google Hangouts for communication. I’ve had several meetings with our contact when we knew we’d be discussing several items that required a back-and-forth. Usually, I can reach him via email until around 10 AM.
What did you find most impressive about XB Software?
My interaction with XB Software is fairly narrowed to one web application. I’m hoping that I will have other projects in the future, and it would be nice to travel over there for a meeting once in a while.
Going into it, I was concerned about the language and culture barriers, similar to some other outsourced IT we have. I worried that it would be hard to get our point across. There’s been nothing like this with XB Software, and I attribute this partly to my own understanding. I can do a little programming myself, and I’m familiar with databases. I was clear about what I was asking XB Software to do, and sometimes I even gave them the new field names I wanted to use. This helped them since they didn’t have to second-guess.
Are there any areas XB Software could improve?
One difficult area in the beginning was figuring out how to pay XB Software. Because it’s an overseas company, we couldn’t integrate the cost into our normal accounts-payable system. Initially, they wanted to have bank wire transfers, but I was able to talk them into using PayPro. This was after we put our first proposal together.
If they want a larger client base in the US, I would suggest adding staff for our time zone. XB Software has accommodated me to my satisfaction, but, had I been working on a more high-profile project, I would have wanted the ability to contact them in my own time zone. Also, the payment structure for the work should be passed through a US-based entity. When I first encountered this issue, I figured that a credit card would be the default and easiest method, but XB Software was adamant that wire transfer was their usual method. Maybe they have actually made this change based on our experience.
What tips or recommendations could you share that might increase the likelihood of success with XB Software?
Make sure that there are clear criteria in place and convey them in a logical manner. People doing software development don’t operate on open-ended or ambiguous requests. In general, the best thing that a client can do is ensure that they understand their own process and requirements and make sure that the company who will provide that service is competent and can turn it around. I’ve been fortunate that XB Software has fit the bill nicely.