Subcontracted Product Dev for Media Company
- Media Production
- Mobile u0026 Web Application
- 51-200 employees
It really felt like a partnership and not a vendor relationship.– Digital Media Consultant, B2B Publisher
5/5 CLIENT REVIEW
Praxent created a digital veterinary publication with gated/free-access content for users. The project team strategized carefully before committing to ClickModel prototyping, and UX/UI design.
Introduce your business and what you do there.
We’re a B2B publisher in the veterinarian industry. We were primarily print. We have three journals in print with a corresponding website, newsletter, and social media.
Opportunity / Challenge
What challenge were you trying to address with Praxent?
The project that we worked with Praxent on was a little bit out of our wheelhouse from what our in-house team had done. We wanted to take a book that has been published for almost 30 years and make it into something digital. There had been a static PDF and printed book available. There have been some various forms of digital incarnations done on Drupal and other technologies when the content had been partnered with a different media company; however, none of them had been successful.
When we stepped in as the media partner, we wanted to do it in a new, different way. We really wanted to do something that the industry had never seen before that could be used every day in the veterinary office and also extend to the human pharmacist office. That’s how we came about working with Praxent: once we found the content we needed, we needed someone to help us bring it to life, which we didn’t feel comfortable doing in-house.
What was the scope of their involvement?
A new version of the book was being published. Our basic goal was to scrap all the old technology—and my company hadn’t worked on any of the old technology, so we didn’t have a relationship with it—and start from scratch. We sat down with the author of the book and talked about what his goals were and where he’d like to see the product going in the future, which would be constant updating, long-term maintenance, or maybe at some point phasing out the book. At the same time, we wanted the product to be a partner to the book as well because we knew that’s what our audience wanted. What we were able to do was to create two sides to it: one side where you are not subscribed and a gated website that was subscriber-based. We used Recurly for our e-commerce solution. They would pay the fee, and then they gained access to the website.
We wanted Drupal to be the database since Drupal was the CMS [content management system] for our in-house websites. At that time, we wanted it built on a technology we were familiar with. It was really about having an easy CMS. In retrospect, since we never brought it in-house—we maintain a retainer with Praxent—I might have chosen something different, but it’s worked out well. We also used a few other technologies.
When we did the requirements, we thought about how it was going to work in correspondence. We had to make some tough choices. When you work in technology, you have to decide on cost, time, and quality. We made the decision that the responsive website would come out first because that would give access to everyone.
In veterinary industries, sometimes the technology is a little bit behind, so we wanted something that would be available, no matter what you had. Once we released it, it was definitely confirmed through our audience research and communication with our audience that they really wanted the iOS app; in our other digital products, iOS is more prominently used. We rolled that as our second, and then the third went to Android, which had a much smaller audience.
Some of our developers did change. Chris was really good as a project manager with communicating as we moved to this phase. Because we maintained the project manager, the handoff remained consistent, which was great. Tim [CEO, Praxent] had built out our original requirements, and I maintained a really strong working relationship with him, as did our president. He would reach out to us on a monthly or bi-monthly basis to make sure things were good and we were feeling confident as we went through the various phases. Doing multiple launches and also maintenance is a different way for a lot of agencies to work. Traditionally, they launch a project and walk away. We’ve been together for a long time, and that was from the investments on their end and ours. We maintain our websites internally, so there was a learning curve there. For the most part, it went well.
How did you come to work with Praxent?
Mickael, who was our director of technology at that time, had set out to find an agency. He brought back three agencies for me to make a decision about. I interviewed all three. The other two were the standard high-quality, very talented agencies, of course. Why I chose Praxent was because of their ClickModel prototype. I was quite nervous about that idea because we wouldn’t really see the cost or the timeline until we did the prototype. We had an upfront investment. However, after meeting with Tim and his team, I could see that they were really invested.
Also, within six weeks or less, I was actually able to see a working model of what our website was going to be. That was a game-changer for us. I work with veterinarians and a lot of non-techies. When you start describing something with words, everybody sees a different picture. When you show them the prototype and what we could send to our author, we can quickly make big decisions and show that we thought through our personas properly, we thought through our content architecture, or there’s a glaring problem right here. We would not have been able to do that without the ClickModel prototype. That was a risk, but it was worth it. We implemented it internally. We changed how we did our own projects. We went from just wireframing to doing HTML prototypes to get client buy-in on things faster, and it worked internally for us as well. We borrowed a lot of their great ideas.
What was fascinating about this project was that when I’m normally going out to choose an agency, I’m looking at what is their cost, can they do it, have they done something like this before, and do I trust them to deliver on time. When we started working with Tim, it became so much bigger than that: they could deliver on time, they could meet my budget, and they could do quality work. The bonus was that was that they also invested in our company. By that, I mean their project manager was attending a conference in Austin and said we should come. I took my project management team down there. While we were in Austin, we got to hang out with the Praxent team, but we also got to learn project management together. After that, Chris took time, on his own, to really invest in us and communicate pros and cons. That’s above and beyond. You don’t get that everywhere, and it totally changed and shaped the way that we worked as a company and made us much more efficient. Now, I am an Agile scrum evangelist thanks to them. I never loved waterfall anyway, but now I have a reason I can say I don’t love it.
What is the status of this engagement?
We started investigating agencies in March/April of 2013, made the decision for Praxent and worked on the prototype in July, and launched in January of 2014. Six months later, the iOS launched, and then the Android app launched. It was a quick six months once we agreed to work with them and get through the prototype. Because we had a tight timeline, having the ClickModel prototype allowed us to make some big decisions quickly. Everyone had these fun features and things that they wanted, but since we also had an extremely tight timeline, being able to see the prototype showed us at what stage could the product be good enough to go to market. It was incredible when we went to market. Since we were doing scrum, we were doing releases every two weeks to have continual updates and add features. That helped us to prioritize and stay on schedule.
Results & Feedback
What evidence can you share that demonstrates the impact of the engagement?
We have 600,000 veterinarians engaging on a daily basis with this product. They were selling between 20,000–30,000 print copies, so that has greatly grown. It’s phenomenal. You were only able to sell print copies before; through this, we were able to work with some of the larger veterinarian corporations, individual small practices, and students, giving them all access to the information.
We’ve also built relationships on the human pharmacy side. One of the fascinating things is now you can get your dog’s medication filled by a human pharmacist. They may not have learned about that at school, so this gives them access to the information so that they can fully know that these are the right medications the same way that they would know on the human side.
The best stat for me is that we came in on time and within budget with quality. I always joked with my internal clients that you can choose two out of three: cost, time, or quality. With Praxent, I didn’t have to choose; that was the most amazing part. Due to the project management, the ClickModel prototype keeping us on task, and the clear requirements from the beginning, we were right on budget within a dollar or two, launched on time that day (we could have launched earlier but wanted to do quality control since we’re a print company), and didn’t have any major bugs. I appreciate Praxent so much because we were launching at the largest veterinary conference in the world on a weekend. I was really nervous about that, as you can imagine. Praxent doesn’t work weekends; they’re not a 24/7 team. But, they had their developer and project manager on call for me from the moment we released until I felt like we made it through this release.
How did Praxent perform from a project management standpoint?
We did an on-site visit. We went to the project management conference that I mentioned and met with the team. We also flew down and took the key members of our team and met with them for two or three days in Austin. Tim came up once or twice, and I had him meet with all of our players. That helped to build the relationship. In addition to that, we did weekly calls with the project management where we walked through the timeline and progress reports. I loved that process. When they were developing their stories on scrum, they invited our tech people to that process. For the most part, once we grew trust with them, we knew that they understood the stories well enough, which helped us when they would tell us what the points were for something. We could trust that they were right. We totally invested, and that was the key I learned on this project: the president of the company has to be as invested as anyone else. We were fortunate because both Tim and Praxent and Elizabeth at Brief Media were invested in not only building their relationship but also making sure that the project stayed on track.
There were a few staff changes. However, if there was ever a hiccup or something, they could reach out. We did a lot of video conferencing, which I loved. Even though Jane, who is one of our developers, might be working at home, we would see her on the screen. Then, when we were transitioned maybe to one of the other developers, we got to meet that person since we were video conferencing. You can have that human connection, which I personally enjoy. If things are going right, it’s much easier to challenge or ask questions if you have a relationship.
I have worked with a lot of agencies, and I have never been on a video conference with my software engineers and developers. Normally, it’s just the frontend faces of the team—project managers and such. I think Praxent did this because we have technical skills. They also knew that we were quite curious. We wanted to know and understand intimately how things were coded and why it was put together that way.
What did you find most impressive about them?
I felt like they listened. Early on, one of the things that we were working through with the designers was we had our own design style. Every time you work with a designer, they have their own feel and touch. It was a little off from what we were used to. One of our designers comped something up to show to their designer, and then they geeked out on the video call. Designers sometimes have egos, but he did not have an ego. It did not get in the way. He listened to the ideas and adapted. That was really nice.
All along the project, we worked with Matt [Web Developer, Praxent], who really helped us. One of the areas that I was concerned about was customer service. Launching a product like this with 70,000 practicing veterinarians in the United States, I didn’t know how much customer service was I going to need. What happens if credit cards don’t process? These were things I did not have experience with. Matt, who had a great deal of customer service experience with e-commerce, spent time with me outside of building the project to talk through things he had done in the past. These are just things that other agencies I have worked with didn’t do. They told me, “We’re here to do your development, not your entire project.” It’s always nerve-wracking to admit I’ve never done this before. I’m not sure how to go about it, but they made it very safe and comfortable about not being sure. I loved the fact that they would let me talk to their other client because there’s some security in talking to someone else who has been in your shoes.
Over the time that we worked with Praxent, it really felt like a partnership and not a vendor relationship. It has never felt like they were just an agency and we were the client. Tim came to our office and helped us strategize, prioritize, and work through things. We’ve worked very closely with our project manager, Chris. We loved how he worked so much that we overhauled our entire internal technology team to adapt his Agile and scrum methodologies. We took many of their workflows and decided to do them internally. We got to know them all on a very personal level because we spent a lot of time working together, and you can’t build a partnership if you’re not willing to invest.
Are there any areas they could improve?
For us, the only area that we ran into challenges was when we went to the retainer part. We’re a company that maintains all of our products. We’re used to constant releases and prioritization. Once we went to the retainer part of the agreement, it became a little messy. I think that’s because we had been off to such a great start that when you go into a two-week cycle, it’s not the same as when you’re having six months and a big release. There was a learning curve on both sides. We struggled internally with keeping our priorities straight and determining what was really an issue or not with a bug. We had great clarity but then became a little hodgepodge. We had this strong sense of urgency after releasing, and we wanted everything faster. Since they had delivered on-time quality at cost, all of a sudden, we expected to see the same thing that took six months every two weeks instead. In reality, for a sprint that lasts two weeks, you’re not going to have much stuff releasing. There was a learning curve going from release to the two-week schedule, but we worked through it.
On Time / DeadlinesnnThey delivered very close to deadline.
Service & DeliverablesnnThe clear requirements made it easy for them to provide that deliverable. It was easy for me as the lead to cascade that to all the stakeholders to get a quick buy-in. Because we had clear requirements and a prototype, we were able to move fast.
Value / Within estimatesnnWe were right within budget. Where costs started to fluctuate was after we’d released. We were a little disorganized on our end. We had some disagreements about who should pay for which bugs. Once we worked through that, we were back on track.
Willing to RefernnI would love to find another project to do with them.
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