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Brookes Publishing was looking for a new software development company to help with their online Ages and Stages Questionnaires (ASQ), two developmental screeners designed to help professionals (child-care providers, educators, and pediatricians) identify and address potential developmental delays in children 2 to 66 months of age. Brookes Publishing needed a firm that could both maintain the current product, and add new features.
With many top national organizations relying on ASQ Online, Brookes Publishing needed a firm that could make a seamless transition and manage a large-scale application. Additionally, Brookes Publishing did not employ any developers in-house, so they needed a software development company that could communicate technical topics in lay terms.
Brookes Publishing interviewed SmartLogic and a few other software development companies. Tara Gebhardt, Project Administrator at Brookes Publishing, explained why Brookes Publishing eventually chose SmartLogic. "We were most comfortable with SmartLogic, and we were very pleased with what they had to offer us in the interview process," she said. "We couldn’t be happier that we chose them to work with."
A large part of why Gebhardt and her team felt comfortable with SmartLogic was that SmartLogic could translate between Brookes Publishing’s language and the technical language of software development. "They were easily able to translate our needs into development language, and they relayed technical information in a way that we could understand it and present it to our executives," said Gebhardt. Communication has been one of the best parts of SmartLogic’s relationship with Brookes Publishing moving forward. Clear communications save Brookes Publishing stress, time, and money.
SmartLogic quickly got to know ASQ and started work. Below are a few highlights of Brookes Publishing and SmartLogic’s work together.
- SmartLogic started by becoming familiar with the ASQ product. "They took the time to learn about our product," said Lisa Brack, Product Support Specialist at Brookes Publishing. Down the road, taking that time helped with development. "You need to know about the product to deliver good features that will help our customers," said Brack. This knowledge has helped SmartLogic make technical decisions that focus on the product, rather than just the code.
- After learning about the product, SmartLogic addressed ASQ’s backlog of bugs, focused on getting the code to pass the test suite, and stabilized the codebase enough to start adding new features. As Gebhart explained, "We do not experience nearly as many bugs as we did previously, and when we do, they are addressed very quickly and pushed to production."
- Throughout working with SmartLogic, Brookes Publishing has been impressed with the team’s project management. "Their project management is excellent," said Gebhardt. "I never have a question about things project managers worry about, like where we are with budget. I’m extremely pleased with their transparency and the information they provide on a project management level. They update everything in real time so I know at any given time where we are." SmartLogic takes pride in constantly improving the project management process. Some of the tactics we’ve used to do this include:
- Tracking development via user stories in Pivotal Tracker.
- Using pull requests with two approvals to improve code quality.
- Chatting using Campfire to streamline communication, which can allow us to have fewer formal meetings than in a typical development process.
- Invoicing weekly, so that there are never any big billing surprises.
- Once the code base was more stable, SmartLogic began to add new features. For each new feature, Brookes Publishing relied on SmartLogic to provide feedback and guidance on the feature’s value to the product, usability, and technological implementation. Brack explained that "We can come to SmartLogic with our ideas, and it’s not just ‘Okay, we’ll build it,’ it’s ‘Okay that’s a good idea, let’s extend on it, let’s discuss it, I don’t know how that’s going to work, what about this.’" This analytical approach has resulted in better features, and a more stable and efficient technical product.
- Overall, SmartLogic has partnered with Brookes Publishing to make ASQ the best possible product. Gebhardt explained that SmartLogic exhibits ownership over the whole product and thinks ahead: "A lot of times they’re thinking ahead when we’re not, because we come from a different area and don’t know the technical implications of what we’re asking for." SmartLogic always works to anticipate Brookes Publishing’s future needs. "They want to build something that will work a year from now, or two years from now, when we add on to it," said Gebhardt.
Currently, SmartLogic is working on adding new features, as well as making improvements to the codebase to increase the ease of maintaining it in the future.
SmartLogic’s work with Brookes Publishing has resulted in a more stable, usable product that’s also easier to build on.
After SmartLogic’s work going through ASQ’s backlog of bugs, there are fewer tickets for new bugs coming up through ASQ’s support system. "They’ve also found bugs that we didn’t even know existed," said Brack. "They catch bugs before we see them, before customers see them."
Beyond just catching bugs, SmartLogic has allowed Brookes Publishing to grow ASQ quickly. "The development and delivery time has been fast and it has been wonderful," said Gebhardt. Working with SmartLogic has allowed Brookes Publishing to move forward on technical products without technical knowledge. As Gebhardt explained, the ease of communicating with SmartLogic "saves us time and money, and keeps people happy, because we can get things done and understand each other."
"We would definitely recommend SmartLogic, especially to another company who might not have on-staff developers, because they’ve been able to bridge the gap and communicate," said Gebhardt. "It is so easy and effortless working with them."