Case Study for Dedicated Development Team

Cloud-based HR management system project for a Finnish Start-Up company

Customer

The customer is a young and dynamically growing international company from Finland operating in recruiting and service-oriented industries and providing HR management services including a specialized cloud-based software for customers of various size and budget: headhunters, staffing agencies, large recruiting firms, talent management companies, etc.

Objective

Being a HR management services provider, the customer understands needs and problems of their clients from the inside - to deal with them a special HR management system was built on PHP basis. With the course of time, technologies advancement and new challenges and functionality ideas rise the project was decided to move to an advanced platform and add a number of new modules to it to satisfy clientele's requirements better.

To develop such a system the customer wanted to engage an outsourcing partner. They were searching for a reliable software development provider from the Eastern European region, namely from the Baltic States or the Ukraine. In general the project has had a fixed budget, and the investors have set a fixed deadline for it to be in the market - approximately in a year after the discussion started.

Solution

The negotiations began from elaborating on the project details and requirements: what the system had already in place and what was necessary to implement. Unfortunately the current system's features were not documented in a specification, new ideas/ enhancements/ functionality vision were not clearly specified either, so it made it hardly possible to quote on the project accurately.

Initially the customer wanted to organize a tender and as the result to allocate a couple of suppliers for the project realization. Still based on high end estimations from all the applicants and negotiations results Altabel was chosen to be the only project executor thanks to the following advantages to the customer in comparison to other vendors: Altabel's total estimation and hourly rates were lower than our closest competitors from the Ukraine, more flexible and long-term support and maintenance terms, a more comfortable cooperation approach, proved recommendations from the Scandinavian, Northern and Western European customers with whom Altabel has set up dedicated development teams and has been working for years. Actually Altabel's recommendations and testimonials from start-up companies played a very important role in the customer's eyes: the client treated talking to the reference contact points in person about experience of collaborating with Altabel really seriously. The negotiations were finished and the long-term agreement was signed during the meeting between the parties in Finland.

As for the project stages, the first iteration has encompassed the system modules requirements clarification and specification creation. For this iteration Altabel's Business Analyst has been assigned on a dedicated basis to discuss, consult and document the requirements and functionality in close collaboration with the client.

With regards to technologies, the system will be re-built on basis of .NET and Sugar CMS which has sexy UI that the client likes so much. Also the application is going to be realized as an easily scalable SaaS on external clouds for small and medium sized businesses, and a third-party solution and SaaS on internal clouds for larger scale organizations. In general the application will consist of six modules: Payroll and Billing calculations and Invoicing; CRM for HR, business processes and relationships; Workforce Management; Applicant Vacancy; System Admin; Employee UI; Customer UI. From the quantitative perspective the system is targeted at saving of 8-12 working days per month per person for an organization of roughly 200 employees, number-language speaking.

At the next stages for modules development senior .NET developers, a HTML-coder, a designer and a test specialist will be involved in the project, and due to a quite burning deadline the team may amount up to 5 specialists working on several modules simultaneously to squeeze into the timeframe. Also an iterative approach is going to be applied to the project since its requirements are constantly evolving and improving aimed at creating a product which will become a guidance for industry standards. Additionally there are investors-customers who wish to buy the product and thus their preferences and ideas about features and interface should be taken into account as well.

Results

Currently the project is on the divide between specification writing finalization and the first module development start. The discussion of timelines, team composition and skill set, ramp-up plan and risks has already started in order to slide into the next iteration smoothly.

Mobile spread betting and CFD trading application project for an UK-based company

Customer

The customer is one of the leading providers of contracts for difference, FX and spread betting leading in spread betting and CFD trading. The customer transacts around 2 million trades every month for individuals in over 50 countries worldwide.

Objective

Originally the client is a large financial company with its own IT department and also remote nearshore teams engaged in implementation and support of financial market trading applications for Internet browsers and iOS, Android BlackBerry based devices. Aiming to develop their mobile products quicker and expand their market even more aggressively the customer looked for highly-experienced iPhone/iPad developers to join his distributed team and assist them in realization of a downloadable spread betting and CFD trading application for iPhone. The project a new vendor was going to be engaged in has already been in place for two years so a new team was intended to get their heads in the code and study the product very promptly.

Solution

To pre-select vendors the client set up a test project - a small-size project to build iOS application enabling users to check quotations changes, fluctuations and trends on various financial markets and posting comments in twitter. Altabel took part in a tender and implemented this trial project, and as a result the customer liked Altabel's services and business and management approaches most of all the applicants, among which there were local companies and offshore low cost location teams.

The cooperation was intended to be continued with staffing the client with 2 iOS developers on Time-and-Material basis as for a start. The team members were selected by means of CVs and interviews. Simultaneously business and commercial discussions were held, and one of the points here was actually a cooperation model: as mentioned before the client was thinking in favor of Time-and-Material model, still based on project requirements a more suitable approach seemed to be Dedicated Development Team, additionally small but attractive discount was offered for this type of agreement. To finish contractual negotiations a business trip to Altabel's office was arranged, and it successfully ended up with signing a DDT agreement between the parties.

Currently the team of 4 iOS developers: three senior and one middle-level, are working on the project. They have been developing, enhancing and supporting the following functionality in the application: - instant checking of the latest prices and market movements, - opening and closing positions, - comprehensive live streaming charting package allowing to analyse historical data and identify price patterns and trends, with historical and live streaming prices, - publishing of the latest global investment news from Dow Jones, - setting of stop and limit orders including if done and OCO (one cancels other), - creation of new or amending of existing orders, - viewing of pending, completed and cancelled orders, - monitoring of positions using a unique positions chart, - viewing and amending of multiple Watch Lists, - reviewing of trade and order history. One of the most critical features in the application is its security since it deals with access to CFD trading account information and transactions.

In the project SCRUM methodology is broadly used, and the whole team is geographically very distributed, sitting in UK, US, Eastern Europe. SCRUM master is on the client's side and he communicates through Altabel's team tech lead. Project progress, requirements, activities and bugs/changes tracking and management are run via the customer's internal custom system.

Results

The dedicated team of iOS specialists is successfully operating in the customer's international team and is bringing value to the project with competency and innovative approach helping the product stay on top among the competitors and hopefully continuing winning awards like in the short past: the Money AM 'Best Mobile Trading Platform', Financial Times and Investors Chronicle Award for 'Innovation of the Year (Mobile)', the Shares Magazine 'Best Online Trading Application' Award.

Next generation enterprise semantic search engine project for a Swiss Start-up company

Customer

The customer is an IT start-up from Switzerland specialized in enterprise search solutions and semantic technologies

Objective

From the product's perspective the aim was to design a next generation technology to enable enterprises perform semantic search and analysis of heterogeneous and unstructured data and then efficiently organize, classify and turn it into smart content.

For this project realization the client was searching for a dedicated team of innovative and highly-experienced JAVA developers who can enrich the project with their knowledge and expertise. Also the project start was planned very shortly.

Solution

The customer wanted 2-3 extremely experienced specialists to be assigned to their project, and Altabel preselected several candidates. The client decided to start from two dedicated team members and selected two candidatures based on CVs and interviews held; organizational and commercial discussions were conducted very promptly and the agreement was signed soon.

The team of two Senior JAVA developers was set up to work on a dedicated basis. In the project Agile approach to development was broadly used, project management was on the customer's side. Communication and technical discussions were very active during the project and Altabel's team was always providing recommendations on implementation options and technologies to the customer. Visits to the client's and Altabel's premises were arranged to make the project progress even more aggressive ans smooth.

Upon joint work of the client and Altabel's team, the targeted enterprise solution was developed - an intuitive and user-friendly engine. It is cloud-based and indexes and integrates multiple data sources of raw content including cloud-based applications and consolidates information into one single place. The solution provides a bespoke set of semantic services: semantic indexing, FT & concept search, auto-categorization and related content. The engine is available as a standalone platform which can be accessed through web user interface; alternatively the solution natively supports enterprise portals such as Liferay or Magnolia. For custom integrations there is also a full featured REST API to plug the engine on any system within an organization.

Results

The dedicated team of highly experienced JAVA developers was set up for the client on a short notice, and the successful cooperation has lasted for almost 3 years and resulted in development of the next-generation powerful Enterprise Semantic Engine providing a unique and comprehensive set of semantic services. During the project Agile approach was religiously used. With their products, the customer has become a winner of RedHerring Europe, the Jury vote at SemTech, a finalist at TechCrunch50 and the IKS Semantic contest.

Innovative AJAX-powered web CMS project for a Danish Start-up company

Customer

The customer is a start-up company based in Denmark and specialized in custom designed websites production in a user-friendly CMS of their own.

Objective

From the product's perspective the goal was to create an innovative website system for the client that differentiates among dozens of other CMSs and beats all other update modules very emphatically. That time the existing tools suffer from the same weaknesses: difficult to use, require a minimum amount of programming knowledge, possible to "get to" destroy too much on the website. So the client's project aimed at addressing and beating these shortcomings, and the CMS was intended to provide advanced user experience by using cutting-edge technologies for its implementation allowing user to make changes "visually". To reach this goal special things should be implemented in a CMS from scratch: - possibility to edit text directly on the website as user see it in the browser, - possibility to add text, images and dynamic content such as slide show or galleries directly on the website, just like in Word or other traditional text tools, - not requiring knowledge of HTML, but still offering the same flexibility as traditional tools.

The challenge of the project was to develop such an innovative product and deliver it quickly to the market. The customer, almost one-man company, being a technical expert himself, had a number of ideas about approaches and technologies to try out and assess if they suit to reach the very project goal; also he wanted to take an active part in the development himself. At the same time initially he planned to work under a standard waterfall model.

Solution

Initial discussions on the approaches and technologies demonstrated to the client Altabel's competence and readiness to participate in the project. Still the sticking point was an approach to development prefered by the customer, actually a waterfall (fixed price) model. In fact the vision on the functionality was too raw, there were many ideas to verify in the process and quite a lot of changes were expected on the go, and the client himself wanted to participate in development too. Waterfall approach does not accommodate such opportunities at all. So it was finally decided to leverage Agile approach in this project.

For this purpose the dedicated development team had to be established promptly, approximately in a month. To get acquainted with the outsourcing partner, conduct interviews and grab a better feeling over candidates and future team members the client visited Altabel's premises in Eastern Europe. Personal interviews were successful - as a result 3 JAVA specialists were selected for the DDT as a start point. Also business and agreement negotiations were held during the visit. After the meeting, the terms and conditions were finalised, the agreement signed and the project development started shortly.

During the project duration of around 9 months the dedicated dev team size varied from 2 to 5 JAVA specialists. Altabel's team developed use cases for the project, data model, the core business logic and web part of the Content Management System by using latest technologies and tools like DHTML, AJAX, CSS, jQuery, Spring, Java, which provide the fastest way of development, best performance and maintainability. The solution included: Content Management System, Customer management application, Templates management application.

The project management and testing were handled by the client's company; also the client actively participated in the solution architecture design. The communication between the customer and the dev team was very intensive the whole project long: requirements, functionality, approaches, best practices and then changes were discussed by means of modern communication tools.

Results

The dedicated development team was set up for the customer within a short period and successfully dealt with a challenge of creating a really innovative web system, actively participated in requirements and functionality elaboration, architecture design and trying out various latest technologies and approaches. The dev team did their best to leverage Agile approach as much as possible pivoting on every customer/users demand. In the result, the CMS has user friendly interface, looks and acts as a normal office application, and is expandable with modules system. Today hundreds of satisfied customers use this CMS and further expansion is expected, even being listed among top 5 companies in Denmark in web design.

Support project for a Belgian middle-size company

Customer

The client is an international supplier of cutting-edge software solutions for travelling with more than twenty years of expertise in the sector. A lot of travel agents, tour operators, brokers and airlines use the customer's B2B and B2C services every day designed for comparing and booking of hotels, flights, transfers, holidays and rental cars. The company is now an important international player on the European and Asian market.

Objective

From the products' perspective the goal was to support the existing solutions while they are ported to a newer platform with more popular and advanced technologies.

The challenge of the project was actually that the inhouse team of the client was short of time to take care of both the ongoing solutions maintenance at the necessary level and to simultaneously get heads into development for a new platform almost from scratch. So the strategic decision was taken by the customer to re-focus the internal team on new systems development and thus outsource the support of the current ColdFusion solutions nearshore.

Since the customer's products are already in the market and are used by hundred thousands of people online, these systems cannot stay without user support even for a short while, so the team to be taking on the CF solutions support was planned to get into the project very promptly and the start date in fact was quite burning; to be able to meet these requirements the team should have quite fresh experience with ColdFusion which is, by the way, not such a widely used and popular technology nowadays.

Solution

The project was decided to start very aggressively time- and teamsize-wise, namely right from 4 ColdFusion specialists at once and from their 6-week trip onsite to Belgium for knowledge transfer. Additionally, the cooperation specifics was that the nearshore team engagement was expected for this very support project purpose only, so the cooperation duration was strictly limited to this, actually it has constituted half a year.

To meet the customer's needs and timelines Altabel has made maximum efforts and the DDT creation was pacing very briskly: the CVs were prepared and reviewed and the video skype-interviews were held intensively, simultaneously the agreement terms and administrative stuff were negotiated actively, and the trip preparations were initiated.

Upon a positive decision on the team members the contract terms were finalised and sealed with signatures. The team successfully went to the client's premises for knowledge transfer and consulting. The trial period was passed, and after getting back home the dev team continued working remotely.

The project scope has encompassed: functionality extension and enhancements, functionality implementation possibilities analysis, fixing of the problems reported to the tech support dept, refactoring, tests preparation, etc. The customers' practices and processes have been adopted and included usage of the internal customized project management and bug tracking tools as well as the internal communication tool, submission of daily and weekly reports and plans.

Results

The dedicated development team was set up for the customer under aggressive conditions like: urgent start, rare technology fresh experience requirement, 4 developers at once, long-terms onsite stay, relatively short project duration. Still Altabel met the necessary timelines and requirements, and the customer got the services on time, so the cooperation has proved its purpose being established for one project purpose only.

Mobile content management solution for a Norwegian-based Start-up company

Customer

The client is a Norwegian-based start-up product company with representative offices in the Northern and Western Europe and Middle East, and they are one of the largest mobile application providers in Norway. The client's product portfolio consists of a number of mobile applications in the area of information management for various mobile platforms (one of them was the winner of the prestigious GSMA Global Awards). The product portfolio positions the customer as one of the world's world leaders in contact management, contact information handling and contact quality.

Objective

From the products' perspective the goal was to create innovative mobile solutions that handle contact information in an effective and comfortable way for mobile phones' users.

For this purpose the customer needed a solid software development services supplier with extensive experience in .NET, its server and web parts; later potentially - with mobile development for various platforms popular that time like Symbian, J2ME, BlackBerry, then iOS and Android. The project complexity level called for highly-experienced specialists on board who were capable of not only innovative development itself according to the specified requirements but of communicating out the product features and programming approaches with the customer directly and of building up a product development strategy along with the client's management.

Solution

The project was decided to start small and grow gradually but quickly and flexibly. The initial team was planned to consist of two .NET developers of high expertise level, one - for server side, the other - for web client. According to the customer's technical requirements, a number of candidates was provided. After the CVs's review and interviews the client decided on the first team member to start the project ball rolling. Also for knowledge transfer purpose the selected specialist went to a fortnight onsite trip to Oslo to the client's headquarter premises - this helped to get on project rails sooner and grab the project understanding more aggressively.

After the trial period the client was satisfied with the competency level and work speed of the developer and in some short time the second dedicated developer was added to the team. Now the core .NET Dedicated Development Team (DDT) amounts to three .NET developers plus one Maintenance and operations specialist.

Besides the core .NET team, the customer also requested for assistance with mobile development. Firstly, Altabel's Symbian expert was engaged for S60 development on a full time dedicated basis, then J2ME/BlackBerry specialist was also added to the team with workload of a flexible mixed manner, i.e. initially it was a full time job, after the pre-agreed period it was switched to a Time-and-Material (TM) approach to meet the client's requirements even better. When the interest of users towards Symbian, J2ME and BB based devices dropped, the client directed their eyes on the platforms gaining popularity those days, namely iOS and Android. These platforms capabilities for implementing the necessary products features were initially investigated, and the decision about launching firstly iPhone and then Android development was positive. In terms of cooperation model the implementation for iOS and Android platforms has been arranged in the same fashion as previously; as for now it's mostly customization tasks of low volumes.

Additionally, periodically before releases, demo-shows and on important milestones Altabel's testers have been involved in the project for quite short periods to perform testing of the web part and mobile clients on various mobile devices.

During the whole cooperation life Altabel's developers communicate with the client representatives directly by e-mail, skype, telephone to provide prompt response as if they work next to the client's team. The client can easily control the schedule of the development and keep track of the development progress via a web-based project management tool JIRA and by regular project meeting and weekly reports. Altabel's Team lead is also entrusted with partially product ownership responsibilities. The whole team is always open for functional and technical discussions and provides their recommendations to the customer; also they take active part in elaborating the products and business development strategy along with the customer's management.

Results

The cooperation between the client and Altabel has been in place for almost four years; during this time the team size has constituted on average 3-5 developers: it started from 1 specialist and in the peak time it counted to 8 persons; now it makes 2 dedicated team members. The assistance provided by Altabel has been in the spheres of .NET, mobile (Symbian, J2ME, BB, iOS, Android) development, Maintenance and operations as well as testing. Various cooperation approaches has been combined for the client's convenience: the core DDT plus Mobile and Testing resources on TM basis upon request. Altabel is now responsible for the products development as well as for the whole applications infrastructure maintenance and support of these products, and takes active part in discussions aimed at elaborating the products and business strategy.