Software Dev for Social Media Company
Please find below a summary covering project details and feedback. The essential facts are kept as they are, confidential information is amended.
A quick introduction on the buyer’s organisation
Social News Desk is a social media management software platform. I’m the founder and president.
What challenge were you trying to address with 352 Inc.?
Our organisation licenses social media management software to local media companies such as television stations, radio stations, and newspapers. Our original engagement with 352 Inc. was for them to create an MVP [minimum viable product] of our software product. We were a bootstrapped startup and didn’t have the internal resources to create out the software product we wanted. We had knowledge of the industry and a good understanding of what we wanted to accomplish with the software, but no means to in fact create anything. We went to 352 Inc. to have them essentially be our entire development team. They built the MVP from dicsussions with us and working through an Agile development process to create out the product exactly as we wanted it.
What particular tasks were Three Five Two responsible for?
When the work was at its peak, we had 15 resources working on the project. There were three teams at the most. They were responsible for all, including project management, design, coding, and infrastructure. I allowed them to assign the right people to me. It’s all web-based and custom-built on the MEAN stack with Mongo and Node.js. I know that in our infrastructure services, we used a combination of Mongo DB infrastructure.
A big part of what we do is indexing a large quantity of social media data across local news, and then built on top of that is a user layer which is sort of a dashboard for them to look at incoming social media streams, publish content to Facebook and Twitter, and manage their internal team.
Multiple users, permissions, and internal security structure are a big part of what our software does. We also have a feature where our television stations will find a piece of social content like a tweet or something and put that on TV. They’ll in fact use the HTML interface to put the full computer screen through a browser into a TV switcher and then out to a live broadcast, and they will in fact use our software platform to style it, put a background on it, and make it look nice for a broadcast. This is called SND on Air, and the core platform is called SND Dashboard, which is a dashboard with columns that are representative of social media streams, so either a Facebook timeline, a Twitter timeline, a Twitter search, and so on. They can view all of these incoming social media streams at once and also publish from there.
The earliest phase was six or eight weeks long, and during that time we built advanced prototyping of what we thought the product should look like. During that time, I also decided whether I was going to use 352 Inc. to create out the full product.
How did you come to work with 352 Inc.?
352 is based in Gainesville, Florida, which is where I began the organisation. I didn’t consider any other firms.
How much have you invested with 352 Inc.?
We’ve spent under $10 million.
What is the final result of working with Three Five Two?
We began working with them in August of 2010, and then in July of 2016, we took over the project with our own in-house team.
Could you share any evidence that would demonstrate the productivity, quality of work, or the impact of the engagement?
As far as our scope as a organisation, we work with more than 2,000 newsrooms around the globe on five continents. That’s a huge segment of the news market we serve. The growth of our business is obviously parquantity to the success story. We went from quite literally just an idea in 2010 to now being the premier social media management software for local news. We service 70%–80% of all local television stations in the United States, so we’re a huge market leader. We were wholly acquired in 2014 by a Fortune 1,000 Company, and that is due in large part to our robust technology and the track record that we have with how well it’s worked for clients.
How did 352 Inc. perform from a project management standpoint?
Everything was done in Agile development, so every day we had a standup meeting. As a non-technical founder, it was very important for me to be involved in the process, understand what each developer was doing on a daily basis, and be able to shape that in real time. I could change things, and they would be able to respond right away. That was of utmost value because it allowed me to shape the process and be very hands-on without in fact having to be.
We did the daily standups, and we would usually operate under two-week sprints, sometimes one week depending on what the tasks were. We would carve up a huge piece of software into small parts and set release dates. We made sure that we stuck to the schedule. I did involve my current clients in the process as well. We would do some focus groups and would release versions of test software into this beta testing group. They would play around with it and help with the quality assurance process and the feedback loop. It was nice to be able to have that feedback in real time from my clients. 352 Inc. was wonderful at taking the knowledge we gained from that process and applying it.
What did you find most impressive about 352 Inc.?
The skill level of their team is impressive. You can find a web developer anywhere but the real differentiator with 352 Inc. is that their team is invested in the success of a product. They wanted to know the ins and outs of my industry, and they worked hard to make constructive suggestions to my overall vision and business program. This attitude ends up making much better, smarter software versus a team who is just going to do exactly what I say and move on. I never want that in a software developer. I want someone to question me and give me ideas based on their experience. That helps me know the direction we’re taking is the right one. 352’s expertise in createing web-based software for startups has been the most useful to me, I really hired a strategic team who helped guide the product vision as well.
Are there any areas 352 Inc. could improve?
There could be more in-person time. I did all remotely, but sometimes it is nice to get everyone physically in a room. I think that if I had to do it over, I probably would set a few more in-person brainstorming sessions.
What tips or recommendations could you share that might increase the likelihood of success with 352 Inc.?
The beauty of working with a team like theirs is that they can really wrap their hands around a project. Now, being part of a large corporation, even though you may have the resources to do a project in-house, being able to go to a team like theirs who can focus on getting something from start to finish, get an MVP or full product out there, and really just be experts of this particular product is so beneficial. It gets things done better and faster. You can get a better initial outcome that’s usable right off the bat. Having someone who focuses on getting one thing done and becomes an expert in your project is valuable. If we have a new project, I’d consider doing it with 352 Inc. because it’s a wonderful way for me not to distract my team.