feature assisted the client in the building of a fully interactive one-page web app that would help its users run searches and do automatic comparisons.
"feature's work was definitely outstanding, and we're looking for the next project to do with them."
feature’s contributions helped get the client’s business off the ground, earned them $1 million in sales within eight months, and keeps their sales growing with time. The software they’ve helped create has been called the best software in the industry.
OPPORTUNITY / CHALLENGE
What business challenge were you trying to address with feature?
We had some cloud-based software that handled super-large amounts of data that we wanted to make available to our customers. We had done some internal R&D [research and development] to get the basics of the software figured out, but we knew we needed to have some pros come in and put everything together. We needed the software to be production ready for our clients.
Please describe the scope of feature's involvement in detail.
One of the things that we do is analyze hundreds of millions of pages of unstructured business documents – usually engineering diagrams or architectural drawings for commercial buildings. We have a platform in-house that can extract valuable data out of all these documents.
The key, however, is to make it easy for our customers to use that data. We can pull out all the data that we want, but we wanted it to be available in an easy-to-use web-based interface. We had worked with feature before so we knew they were a great company. We put together a one-page web app that was fully interactive. Our customers could run searches, get results, drill in, and do some automatic comparisons, and they could do all of that in .net and on the web. I developed a demo on iPad, and customers asked me to make it run on Windows.
How did you come to work with feature?
Initially, it was through a referral from a friend. He said I should meet the people at feature.
Could you provide a sense of the size of this initiative in financial terms?
We've spent somewhere between $200,000 and $1 million working with feature.
What is the status of this engagement?
We are still doing a little work on the project, although the primary work has been completed, and we have been delivering it to customers for many years now. Nonetheless, there are still some aspects that we continue to work on. This particular project is in a maintenance mode.
RESULTS & FEEDBACK
Could you share any statistics, metrics or other feedback from your work with feature?
From a business point of view, the project was very successful. We created a brand new type of product for the industry, and it went from zero from its introduction in early 2012 to about $1 million in sales in about eight months, and it's been doubling ever since.
All of this is anecdotal of course, but we've often been told that this is the best piece of software in the industry for this type of data. We're very proud that we've gotten some patents and won some innovation awards.
How did feature perform in terms of the quality of its work and from a project management standpoint?
feature's work was definitely outstanding, and we're looking for the next project to do with them. They were very technically competent, and they kept up with the latest technology. This was the early days of Hadoop, and I think we started that whole R&D on our side in 2008. We were on the cutting edge. Things that feel normal today – in-memory databases, single-page apps – we were already there, developing a real product that real people used.
Our customers, of course, don't care about Hadoop or machine learning. They just want to know where their next campaign should go. I would say that we were informed about what was possible in the industry and had the good judgment to know when to use what. Looking back on it, I don't know whether we were just lucky, but we happened to pick the right kinds of technical solutions for the kinds of problems customers were facing. Hadoop is not the answer to everything. It just does a couple of things really well, we put it in place and, for that particular purpose, it was good for us.
We actually managed the project ourselves. feature was a development partner, but I can't comment on their project management because we don't do things that way. feature was fantastic as a partner.
What distinguishes feature from other providers?
feature is one of my favorites, although there are other good people out there. One of the things I value most in our relationship with feature is their honesty. They're honest about where they can provide value and where they can't. Whether something I think is a good idea or a bad idea, or whether someone on my team is going in the right direction or not. I value that kind of input, which made for a very efficient project.
Everybody was happy. The people were happy doing the project, and we delivered high value to the customers. We didn't waste a lot of time with politics or whatever.
Is there anything feature could have improved or done differently?
There are aspects of their company that we didn't use. I did not use their project management. They only had their current designer at the time, so I can't really say whether that could be improved on or not. I just don't know. I wouldn't want to go any faster. I wouldn't want to go any slower. Everything was just right.
I hope the project wasn't just luck because I want to do another one with feature. I'd like to have something constructive to say here, but I can't think what it would be. As feature has become more successful, they're busier and busier. But, that just means we've got to schedule out the work. That's not really something to improve. It's just because they're in high demand.