Please introduce your company and give a brief about your role within the organization.
We develop digital services and mobile applications for state-owned companies and large businesses. We have been working on the Russian market for 8 years, and in the last 2 years, we have started working in the international arena. At the moment, the company employs more than 60 people. We have the entire cycle of IT production competencies from business and product analysis to complex backend and big data analytics.
At the moment, I am mostly engaged in determining the strategic vector of development, working with key clients and partners, as well as rethinking and reengineering our key processes.
What is the story behind starting this company?
The roots of our company do not sprout from the IT market. We started with the design of reports and infographics. We got closer to IT and development towards the end of the second year of Proscom. Having accumulated a certain portfolio of completed works, design expertise, and contacts with clients, we tried a new niche for ourselves — the development of interfaces for analytical systems. The principles of data visualization are very similar for infographics and interfaces, so we were able to re-use our strengths to enter the interface market. In the following years, we followed the same tactic, carefully groping for nearby niches that would allow us to rely on what we have already learned to do above the market. By the way, analytical solutions still make up about a third of our entire project portfolio.
What are your company’s business model–in house team or third party vendors/ outsourcing?
We are an outsourced product team. Our business model, no matter what market products we wrap it in, is to sell team time. At the same time, there are two main advantages for clients of working with such an outsourcing team. Firstly create digital products in a stream and what a product company encounters 1-2 times during its life cycle is a daily practice for us. The second advantage is the ability not to increase direct and indirect personnel costs. As I said earlier, we work a lot with large businesses and state-owned companies. Among their requests for the development of digital products, tools that work “inside” prevail. These are not customer-oriented applications, but applications that automate internal business processes, allow employees to perform their work more efficiently, and interact with each other. For such solutions, the costs of initial development significantly exceed those for product development. This means that the team that is required at the development stage will have nothing to occupy after the launch. And here outsourcing is quite appropriate.
If we talk about our resources, it is always strictly in-house. We do not outstaff people, we always take on a full-fledged layer of work. This means that we must manage quality, which is impossible with an intermediary model. We invest a lot in the culture, motivation and development of our specialists.
How does your company differentiate itself from the competition?
On the one hand, since we provide a complex service, you can choose some strong side, like UX expertise, and try to shout loudly about it. On the other hand, we work in a market of perfect competition. This is a classic "red ocean". There are no clearly marked monopolists here, you can't play in the hard specialization. Your product or service can still be made in any configuration by one of your competitors. In this context, you have to constantly be in good shape, monitor both the quality of the design/development and client service. The ability to play for a long time and establish connections with your key customers becomes really important.
At the same time, we also have differences. Having a very limited opportunity to stand out “outside”, we directed our attention "inside" the company. We devote a lot of time and resources to working with the team, creating the most comfortable conditions for our people. We had a hybrid work schedule with a flexible start of the working day even before the pandemic. Our guys have the opportunity to take a nap on the couch or hammock in any of our offices in the middle of the day to reboot and increase their productivity. The offices have fresh fruit and refrigerators with Red Bull. In the evening, you can use corporate bicycles. In general, we do everything to ensure that our clients receive a team that is motivated, involved, and interested in creating effective solutions almost more than the representatives of the client himself.
In addition, we had many clients from the educational, public and HR sectors. We have accumulated a good expertise there and we can quite say that we understand and see many pitfalls, which allows us to make hotstarts for projects in these industries.
What industries do you generally cater to? Are your customers repetitive? If yes, what ratio of clients has been repetitive to you?
At the moment, we are working in two industries — Software Engineering and Information Design (infographics, presentations). In our current project portfolio, regular / returned clients occupy approximately 50% (by budget). The trend is more likely to decrease this percentage. At the end of last year/beginning of this year, we significantly strengthened our sales direction, aiming at attracting new customers from new niches and industries. Actually, in this context, the decline in the share of regular customers is a justified consequence.
Please share some of the services that you offer for which clients approach you the most for?
The maximum volume of requests comes to us for the creation of analytical systems/solutions. This is also connected with our history. As I said, we started with data visualization and, in fact, custom analytical solutions are one of the first services that we started providing. Accordingly, we have good recognition in this segment. We are moving towards some diversification, offering customers design systems and the development of a wider range of services. But it will take time for these services to gain a foothold in our portfolio.
What is your customer satisfaction rate according to you? What steps do you take to cater to your customer’s needs and requirements?
Some time ago, we made a special service to receive feedback from customers during the implementation process and after the completion of work on the project. But in the end, we got the following picture. Our contact person on the client-side is most often at a fairly high level (IT directors, product managers, C-level). And they don't have much time and desire to give dedicated feedback (whether it's bots or people). The very fact of requesting feedback reduced satisfaction. As a result, we abandoned this practice and are now trying to catch less formal signals in the process of working interaction. In general, during the operation of the feedback service, we received high ratings (more than 92% of NPS). Now, given the percentage of customers who return for repeated sales, we conclude that the indicators should not be much lower. In fact, it is not so difficult to ensure the proper level of satisfaction on small volumes (and we are still not very large). I think this issue will become acute with our growth.
What kind of support system do you offer to your clients for catering to their queries and issues?
We don't have a formal support system. As there is no need for it. Most often, on the client-side, there is an operation service and a product team, to whose department we transfer the digital services developed by us. After the transfer of the system and all the necessary documentation, it is maintained already on the client-side. They rarely come back to us with questions about individual corner cases. But so far, the scale of these issues does not require a separate system/processes.
What kind of payment structure do you follow to bill your clients? Is it Pay per Feature, Fixed Cost, Pay per Milestone (could be in phases, months, versions etc.)
Previously, we almost always worked with Fixed Cost, estimating the labor costs for the implementation of the estimated complexity of the project. But today, a somewhat modified (with an additional set of restrictions) T&M (Time and Material) model is becoming more and more relevant.
Do you take in projects which meet your basic budget requirement? If yes, what is the minimum requirement? If no, on what minimum budget you have worked for?
We do not consider projects below $15-20 thousand. This is the minimum limit within which you can conduct a brief analysis of the audience and the market, collect the MVP of the service, and test product hypotheses. And in this case, we will always recommend that you first try to build a prototype using no-code technologies and return to us for industrial development after the initial tests.
What is the price range (min and max) of the projects that you catered to in 2020?
The minimum figure was around $25,000, the maximum was about $500,000.
Where do you see your company in the next 10 years?
It is more appropriate to speak about our volumes not in terms of a ”strategic vision", but about some of the desires that we strive for. We definitely want to enter the international arena and have already started testing marketing and taking the first foreign projects. We want to become international experts in the Software Engineering market. We want to become suppliers of methodologies, processes, and infrastructure for the effective development of complex custom services for the IT world. But to even get close to these wishlist, we still have a lot to do.