Caption: Open house of our first office in Huntington, WV on November 2, 2017.
Everyone is gathered around a conference table, parsing out the details of the app a prospective client wants to build, and the inevitable discussion comes up about how to manage all of the scope within the deadlines and budget limitations.
We’re all kind of dancing around the issue, not wanting to disappoint this early in the process, when one of the developers pipes up:
“Good, fast, cheap…pick two.”
Heads swivel in his direction and mouths are agape. It’s a harsh, but very true, reality.
You can build something amazing in a matter of weeks, but you’re going to pay out the nose. Or, you might be OK to sacrifice quality for something quick and dirty and cost-effective, but you’ll get what you pay for. Or, you can hire your neighbor’s college whiz-kid for pennies on the dollar, but it will take forever to get anything out of him.
That day, we believed our developer. We chuckled awkwardly, and then went through the various scenarios, trying to determine what was the most important thing to the prospect.
Was it meeting a deadline? Delivering something incredible? Or sticking to a budget? The other aspects became subordinate to that.
Later on, I ruminated on this seemingly intractable problem. Whitney Houston lamented, “didn’t we almost have it all?” Maybe, just maybe, we COULD. But how?
In college, I knew I wanted to pursue a career in technology. I also knew that lots of technology jobs were going overseas. My career path became a pursuit of what could not be offshored. I struggled to find that one aspect of the product development lifecycle that was dependent on the expert to be here, or have grown up here, or simply to understand the people here now.
I settled on user experience, in part because I was drawn to design and I enjoy figuring out what makes people tick.
But it was also because I knew that to build something that delights, you have to understand the end-user. That’s a lot harder to do if you come from a culture or way of life that is markedly different from their own.
For many years, I worked with US-based software teams that continually won accolades from customers. But I kept hearing the same refrain: “Your team’s work is amazing and meets our deadlines - but it’s just too expensive.”
Here we were back at the same spot: Good, fast, cheap...pick two.
That’s when the wheels began to turn.
To me, the best way to get high-quality development is to do it right here at home. That doesn’t mean developers in other countries are inferior. But the headaches of dealing with time zones and cultural differences have a distinct effect on the end product. Offshore development certainly is cheap, but there are hidden costs that chip away at the savings.
How then, could high-quality development work be done in the US, but not cost an arm and a leg?
Turns out, we needed to remove one pesky little assumption: high-quality development work only comes from US technology hubs and big cities.
Smart, talented, and well-educated people are building software all over the country - in small towns, on mountaintops, and in rural areas.
When I first visited Huntington, WV, I saw a town hungry for opportunity and a cohort of students at Marshall University who were intelligent, capable, and hard-working. They were graduating with bachelors and masters degrees in Computer Science, but they thought they had to leave the area to make a career in technology.
That’s when the needle in my mental compass pointed due north! I could build a business here, stateside, using this incredible talent.
Today, we have thriving offices filled with developers in downtown Huntington, and Martin, TN, delivering integration and implementation solutions to some of the most well-known financial services and fintech companies in the US.
But better still, we’ve proved them wrong.
Sorry, Whitney, but you actually can have it all!
You can develop software that is industry-leading AND on time AND meets a conservative budget.
Quality, timeliness, and value: pick all three.