Few experienced software professionals would dispute the need for an injection of confidence when commissioning external resources to develop a cloud-ready application to serve the mission critical areas of hospitals, aged care and community care.
It is challenging enough to expect that third party software engineers can cut the code and release a production version of the software to rigorous standards in a tight timeframe, let alone have them understand the complexities of the application to manage compliance and competency in this increasingly demanding area of an aging Australian population.
So, it was cause for celebration at the Queensland company ThoughtWare Australia Pty Ltd when its i.on my Care software was named the first cloudready application to be available under an exclusive partnership between NEC Australia and the aged care industry’s peak bodies.
ThoughtWare CEO, Ms Sonja Bernhardt, said the company chose to contract the programming for the latest version of i.on my Care to Mitrais in the interests of affordable risk management.
"We were becoming highly reliant on some key resources in our onshore team and that was a risk that needed to be minimised. We needed flexibility and resources, skills and knowledge beyond the minds of just a few people," she said.
i.on my Care also helped ThoughtWare to win the IT in Aged Care 2010 award for the best system to be deployed in an aged care facility catering for less than 150 clients. The software was implemented at Victoria’s Alphington Aged Care Centre whose satisfaction with the application subsequently resulted in Mitrais being commissioned by ThoughtWare to develop the next version of the software.
Sonja Bernhardt explains that "with the product growing and technology needs progressing we knew we needed access to a wider range of skills. We learnt that Mitrais provided access to a pool of people and we could tap into experts in specific fields on an as-needed basis.
"Captive team to engage Mitrais services made logical sense in terms of money and access to skills," she said.
Did she have reservations or concerns about contracting? "For our clients there is always some risk in ensuring continual and accurate systems operation, so reliability was an initial concern.
"I was also worried about putting 'my baby' (the software) in the hands of others. Our two top technicians expressed concerns that it would take ages for anyone to come up to speed in the application.
"But to my delight our Mitrais resources were not only coding but releasing to our standards and process within less than a week. Soon after they were releasing entire modules of code on their own without any input from us.
"Now even the very complex parts of our system have been successfully navigated and understood by Mitrais," Ms Bernhardt said.
Mitrais quickly became part of and is regarded as an extension of the ThoughtWare team. Australian and Bali based team members use Skype, email and web meeting rooms for communicate.
The over-riding benefit of the relationship with Mitrais is the growth of the ThoughtWare development team, with reduced cost and reduced risk.
"Specifically, we experienced an also immediate reduction in the stress that accompanies a software development project when it became obvious that Mitrais engineers knew what they were doing and therefore the solution was going to be ok.
Additionally, ThoughtWare noted a greater transparency in the development process as Mitrais gained more knowledge of the product and processes.
"Consequently, we are seeing greater innovation in how the application works," Ms Bernhardt explains.
Even the small two hour time difference with Bali is a benefit to ThoughtWare as it extends the working day on Australia’s east coast and can be highly useful at critical times to resolve development issues.
"In achieving these benefits by entering a captive team arrangement with Mitrais, we also dispelled a common perception, and it just that, a perception, that by contracting you lose control," Ms Bernhardt said.
She says i.on my Care has been designed and built on latest leading-edge technology and to international standards. It is the first application addressing compliance and competency to be offered in cloud-ready form under an exclusive ICT partnership which NEC Australia has established with Aged Care Association Australia and Aged & Community Services Australia.
Now that i.on my Care is making a mark in the industry ThoughtWare is looking rapid growth. The flexibility of being able to upscale or downscale Mitrais resource arrangements in line with market changes is seen as very attractive.
Before the captive team arrangement got underway, ThoughtWare specified its skill needs.
Ms Bernhardt said the resources proposed by Mitrais were already a good fit.
"It was great to see CVs of people who not only were qualified in the technologies we needed but had experience. We then proceeded to web meeting room interviews and early training to analyse the real skill levels."
"So hiring was very easy when compared with the typically drawn out advertise-short list-interview-hire process. Plus, we knew if it didn't work out Mitrais would provide other resources."
ThoughtWare uses web tools to manage support tickets and development tickets. The development tool CVS Dude clearly identifies the work tickets, version control and work status. Which engineer works on what module is assigned via that tool. Software is checked out and in and the entire process is managed smoothly with known work tickets and delivery timelines. Additionally Mitrais provides ThoughtWare with a weekly progress report.
The scope of work which Mitrais has undertaken covers.Net SQL product development, maintenance, creation of new functionality/modules, modifications to existing code and support centre analysis.
While to end-users i.on my Care is simple, it is a sophisticated multi-functional solution that has complexities in areas such as security, bidirectional messaging and highly sophisticated reporting. Mitrais was able to investigate and begin to master all these areas.
A key part of the system is ensuring it is compliant, not only with coding standards but for the industry of choice. Therefore careful application and thought is required for system modifications and new module developments.
ThoughtWare had previously contracted more than a dozen small standalone software projects to developers in various Asian and European countries but it was the company’s satisfaction with the outcome of software testing undertaken earlier by Mitrais that convinced it to proceed with captive team.