Three ways to innovate with Deerwalk

Posted by Jeff Rick on February 27, 2012

Three ways to innovate with deerwalk

Here at Deerwalk I am constantly asked the question, "What is the best way to work with Deerwalk?” The answer to this question always comes back with the less than satisfying answer of "It depends." However unsatisfying as this is for the folks asking the question it is the truth.

Here at Deerwalk we have three basic types of engagements. I classify these in to the following categories:
1. Staff Augmentation
2. Standard Services
3. Defined projects

Each of these categories works well for some clients and will not work well for others.

Staff Augmentation

In order to cover this category I need to explain something about myself, I was one of Deerwalk's first customers. In the spring of 2010 I was having lunch with our now Chairman, Dr. Rudra Pandey, as we were reconnecting after several years. I was talking about my start-up that a group of us were trying to get off the ground. We had built a fully functional prototype and were coming to the realization that we needed more "traction", which meant a full beta. This was going to take considerable effort and the two engineers working on the project, myself and Robert Woollam, were not going to complete it in time. Rudra mentioned that he had some contact with a company that was trying to help out start-ups in the Boston area while employing engineers in Nepal. He wasn't working with the company but provided an introduction and we soon had four engineers that worked alongside Robert and myself. The project from a technical perspective was a success although the company ultimately was not.

In my mind this type of situation is perfect for staff augmentation. It consisted of a small group with strong technical leadership and an ability to work closely with the team. Robert and I talked daily with the team and they were an extension of this small group. This also works well when the client has needs that may change or a project may not be well defined. That being said this type of engagement is the hardest for the client to work with because it requires a strong technical leader who is willing to spend the time getting the team up to speed. In this type of engagement communication with the offshore team is nearly constant and can require off hours work.

Standard Services

At Deerwalk we offer a set of standard services and products. Our products are delivered in a Software as a Service (SaaS) model, for example our Makalu and Everest products. An example of a service is our data mapping service. A project of this type generally involves a client who needs to have data translated on a regular basis from one format to another. This is often health care data but really can be any kind of data. In this type of engagement we typically will get the file format specifications for the client and produce a Data Standardization Document (DSD) that describes the data mapping. We then work to test mappings for validation with the client and once everything looks good we setup a schedule for mapping the data and execute on that schedule. These types of engagements require a small amount of involvement from the client and no real technical leadership. When the client has a problem that fits into these standard services we are highly effective in delivering them.

Defined Projects

The final engagement type and the type that works best for most clients is the defined project model. This type of engagement starts with client coming to Deerwalk with a problem, new feature, new product, etc. Sometimes these problems are very well defined and in other cases they are not well defined at all. Deerwalk will take these requirements, fully document them, and then pull together a Statement of Work (SOW) that describes the effort required to get the project done. In some cases where the client has a large problem that needs further definition it will take the form of two SOWs, the first to work with the client to build full requirements and then a second to do the actual work. That being said 90% of the projects Deerwalk has done have done only require the one SOW. So you may be reading this and thinking, "Ok this sounds like any other contract job" but there is a critical difference with these SOWs. For projects of this type Deerwalk writes fixed price SOWs. This means we provide an SOW that defines how much and how long the project will take and then if more engineers are needed or more time is required Deerwalk absorbs these costs. Is provides us with a motivation to deliver the project on time and provides the client with the peace of mind knowing what the final cost will be and that their partner is just as motivated to get the project done as they are.

Once the project has started Deerwalk holds periodic meetings, generally once a week, with the client to review status, look at current version of the work, get feedback, etc. This type of project works really well for clients as they communicate almost exclusively with onshore project management, they have onshore technical leadership to work with and they don't need to monitor the productivity of each member of the team as the project goes on. Deerwalk really likes these types of projects as it allows us to get a really good idea of the scope of the project, take some risk of the schedule on and deliver a really great result to a really happy client.

This is a high level rundown on how we work with clients but I will say we that every client is different and we do end up tailoring the engagement to each client.

Hope this helps and provides some clarity around how Deerwalk works.