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Mobile App Dev for Development Lab







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Co-Founder - Development Lab


Project summary:

Buildable Custom Software provides development and consulting services for a development lab. They’ve helped conceptualize and build out a marketplace solution for data management in the B2C environment.

Introduce your business and what you do there.

My organization is a development lab focused on the opportunities in the application market. My position runs the gambit, from project manager to launch strategist.

Opportunity / Challenge

What challenge were you trying to address with Buildable Custom Software?

Although we didn’t think it would be a challenge at first, we were trying to address an issue around the database for a B2C app development opportunity. We went through a couple of exercises to identify how to treat a data environment that was not in a database form. Additionally, we had to create a backend engine that could take that data, work within some AI layers, and output it to a customer-friendly UI.

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What was the scope of their involvement?

Buildable took part in the initial exercise to unravel what we were trying to do from a conceptual standpoint. We’d done a few dry runs in a data science environment and got oversight into what we were putting into the problem. Then, we bridged over to a marketplace solution, and we spent a lot of time with Buildable’s team to develop it.

I don’t know what technology was used. I’ve worked on a lot of projects, and I’ve stopped paying attention to platforms. One of the Achilles’ heels of the startup environment is that we use whatever technology is native to whomever we’re working with, and we've quickly found out that everyone has their own preferred platform. I know that we’re going to end up using the TestFlight platform, but that will be down the road.

What is the team composition?

Max (Founder & CTO) took part in the initial exercise. I don’t have a fixed team size. We’ve had a lot of Zoom meetings because of COVID-19, and there have been a lot of people behind the scenes that have never made it on the calls.

There have been at least six people visible in meetings, and I estimate that there are close to 12 involved in the project, including developers, designers, project leads, and project managers.

How did you come to work with Buildable Custom Software?

We’ve worked with a couple of development shops, and my partner and I always watch out for new developers.

We got a lead for Buildable from an adjunct project that my partner was working on. They knocked that project out of the park, so we thought that we were in the hands of a good company.

How much have you invested with them?

We’ve spent around $450,000 in total.

What is the status of this engagement?

The initial conversation with Buildable happened in late 2019, and we started working together in early 2020. We estimate to reach the app’s alpha phase in July 2021, and we’ll probably engage with Buildable on a legacy project as well, so we’ll be working with them for the foreseeable future.

Results & Feedback

What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?

This project’s success is measured by how carefully they listen to what we’re working on — this is something that Buildable is tremendously good at. There have been moments when something didn’t quite have the right look and feel and others where the project was drifting a bit from what we initially scoped out, and they’ve been very good at stopping and sorting things out.

Buildable has been good at understanding what we want and recognizing how far off we are from that, especially during the early stages, which was hugely critical. Once we commit to something, minor changes can be big changes on the backend. Buildable is very good at understanding that part of the development process, and we haven’t drifted too far from the calendar, either, which is phenomenal.

How did Buildable Custom Software perform from a project management standpoint?

Buildable is enormously good at placing budget-conscious bids, and they’ve done a phenomenal job of managing resources around unexpected changes.

In this type of business environment, the typical project lifecycle has an initial engagement where the parts rough out the idea. Then, they have a team retreat where all the principals get together in person to break the project down on the whiteboard. They do a few other exercises for 3–4 days to get all the features and define where they’re supposed to be for every part of the front and backend.

We didn’t have the luxury of doing that because we engaged right when COVID-19 started. We’ve had to manage the project entirely remotely, and none of us had had experience with a fully remote development process. However, Buildable has been very successful at handling that business shift.

Project management in a remote environment is one of the most challenging positions to be in. We’re trying to marry team resources that are spread across multiple projects. Buildable has managed to have our needs met without making us feel that we were losing speed, developers, or any other kinds of critical resources.

We have weekly meetings over Zoom, and we’ve had meetings over Microsoft Teams and other platforms as well. We were having technical issues with Microsoft Teams, so Buildable suggested moving to Zoom. They have a couple of project management tools and, whatever they’re using, they work well.

What did you find most impressive about them?

Buildable’s ability to listen to the client and have that development ear during meetings is impressive. We were a little off-course in the beginning, and they could tell that we weren’t satisfied with the specifications for the app. They looped back as a team and listened to us, which is something hard to do. We thought that we were doing the right work, but we had to backtrack. In the end, we got good results.

Are there any areas they could improve?

We’ve had to correct our course a few times, and something challenging for us was the calendar. The project manager was pushing for deadlines, which wasn’t appropriate in the early stages. We had a good scope of work and stack, but, when we got down to actually building it, there were places where we were drifting off.

This issue was no one’s fault, but we had to restart. The project manager wanted to get stuff done — that’s their job. However, it was a minor issue, and it self-corrected.

Do you have any advice for future clients of theirs?

One of the things that we did really well was going to Buildable with a mostly road-tested concept. We scoped out a lot of the functional parts, and we built a proof of concept (POC) with a data scientist.

Having that POC meant that we could jump in further down the road than someone who just had an idea for an app could have. That was a good place to start, but there were a lot of questions to answer about its viability in the marketplace.

When we came to Buildable, we were immediately introduced to the right people. Having a data scientist onboard fostered a lot more development in the pre-development stage than if we’d gone to them with 1–2 lines on a piece of paper.

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