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Case Studies, Software Development

Captive Team, A Magic Solution for Website Development Projects

Website developer Web Design Magic has opted for captive team as the optimum way to maintain control of client projects while leveraging the benefits of a growing relationship with Mitrais.

With four full time, Bali-based engineers on its software development team, the Gold Coast company’s business strategy of using contracted software development resources has evolved over its 10 year history.

Says CEO and company founder Daren Hawes, “By captive team, we mandate the technology and maintain project control, while having access to the high quality of Mitrais staff as well as being able to scale up very quickly for major projects.”

With clients on the Gold Coast and in Brisbane, Sydney and Townsville, the company provides web design and development services, including web programming and graphic design. It employs more than 15 full-time staff, located in its Gold Coast office and in Bali.

In contrast to WDM’s prior experience of engaging external, offshore contractors on a fixed price basis for each project, Mr Hawes said “we wanted Mitrais to be an extension of our company and not just a once off sub-contractor.

“We wanted a long term relationship with our staff and felt that by captive team we could train Mitrais software engineers, shorten the learning curve and subsequently the development time of the next project.”

He says that contracting and expecting sub-contractors to make vital decisions was not satisfactory. It is important, for WDM’s clients and the success of projects, to keep the responsibility for such decisions in-house.

“Based on this we mandate all technology platforms and simply issue tasks to our Mitrais developers,” Mr Hawes said.

As such, all management, design, interview, user interface and visual competencies are managed from within WDM. From these a functional specification is created that will eventually result in a list of programming tasks.

“We have a simple rule,” Mr Hawes said.

“Our Mitrais developers look after the C# coding and we do the rest. We found it better to work that way as we retain all of the forward facing responsibility and Mitrais engineers are simply are task-driven, focusing on getting all the ‘bits’ to work as per the specification.”

As WDM has grown its management faced some strategic questions. Did it employ more developers in-house? Did it contract and pray that the subcontractors got it right? A fundamental decision was made to retain control of projects and remove the risk of failure by ensuring that ownership of projects stayed in house. Mr Hawes says it was really hard to explain to sub-contractors what the customer required, regardless of the amount of scoping or documenting exercises that WDM undertook.

Previously the company used developers in the USA and India who worked on fixed price contracts. Consequently, they wore the risk if the project over ran.

While Mr Hawes said there was no argument about the quality of the work undertaken by these developers, timing became an increasingly important issue that would impact on project development.

“When our staff worked, the contractors slept and vice versa. We really struggled to get momentum on jobs when simple questions took a full 24 hour cycle to be answered. There had to be a better way.

“This is where the near-shore location of Mitrais and a decision to trial captive team came into play.” Ultimately, said Mr Hawes, the decision to establish an ongoing relationship with Mitrais was a combination of business strategy and financial criteria.

“We felt if we simply extended our team to Mitrais, treated their developers as our own and called them part of the team we could leverage benefits like Mitrais excellent staff, its training and the ability to obtain staff relatively fast compared to conventional business HR practices.”

Testimony to how WDM sees the contracting relationship in the long term is its commitment to the training of Mitrais engineers in the particular technology platforms and products that it has selected.

Two major website development projects called for an ASP.NET foundation and the Kentico content management system. While Mitrais boasts a large pool of ASP.NET developers, an investment in training Mitrais engineers in the Kentico CMS was a necessary prerequisite to these projects being initiated.

By using Mitrais, WDM is able to keep control of projects in house and scale up where required.

With only two hours time difference between Queensland and Bali, and email and instant messaging, it is as if all developers are in the same room.

To ensure effectiveness, day to day management of its Bali-based software engineers, WDM uses systems to monitor tasks and projects. It can easily track the duration of tasks and to be alerted if issues arise which might impact on a project.

Daily and weekly reporting helps avoid surprises and ensures total connection between WDM and the project stakeholders. “It is important for both our project managers and our clients that our Mitrais developers work with us day to day just as if they were in the office next door,” Mr Hawes explains.

With plans to expand the scope of the captive team arrangement, in line with WDM’s own growth, Mr Hawes says “it will be perfect if our customers can come back for the second phase of a website development and have the same developer.”

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