June 7, 2016

Productive Edge has been growing like crazy, and it’s getting noticed. For the past two years, we were named to the Inc 5000 list of Fastest Growing Companies, and we were recently also named to the Crain’s Fast Fifty as one of Chicago’s fifty fastest-growing companies. So, what is it about PE that’s making such an impact?

At a high level, we’re a Digital Consultancy with deep expertise in Enterprise software solutions. While we serve companies of different sizes in a variety of industry verticals, our clients tend to be Fortune 1000 companies seeking a development partner that understands the challenges of developing solutions for large organizations. The primary driver of our success has been our end-to-end solution capabilities, being able to look at client problems holistically as opposed to solely technologically. We start with understanding the business strategy driving the need for a software solution, and from there, we build out a hypothesis-driven solution accountable to a set of measurable user experience objectives.

So, now that you know who we are and what we do, you might be wondering how we do it. How do we meet the strategic needs of large enterprise clients with a hypothesis-driven approach and deliver top-quality software with a superior user experience, all while growing more than 100% year over year? It’s a tall order to say the least. Here are a few of the ways we do it – we call our approach the PE Way.

Fostering a Growth Mindset

Last year, we published an article, Making Your Startup a Competitive Industry Player, in which we talked about some of the ways we’ve grown from a small startup into a company of more than 200 employees with offices in four different countries. The basis of our growth strategy has been fostering a growth mindset within our company culture. The phrase “growth mindset” was defined by Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck – on an individual level, it’s the belief that potential is infinite, and a person is not limited by a set of predefined skills and abilities. For us, on an organizational level, this mindset shapes the way employees interact on a daily basis, eagerly sharing knowledge with one another to help each other grow and learn new skills. It also impacts the way employees view the potential of the company itself. Our team believes there are no heights we can’t reach, and there’s no such thing as “good enough.” We always want to do more and be more, as individuals, as a team and as a company.

Our Development Methodology: Distributed Practical Agile

Another contributing factor to our growth is our team’s adherence to a development approach we call Distributed Practical Agile. The last two words in this phrase may seem redundant – isn’t the point of Agile to be practical? Yes. But sometimes, ”Agile” can turn into something that’s not as “practical” as it should be. Most developers who have worked on Agile teams are all too familiar with the complications that can arise from a dogmatic Agile approach, such as elongated timelines and inflated budgets. These “failures of Agile” are glaring testaments to the reality that it can be easy to get caught up in the rules of Agile, so much that Agile becomes fundamentally un-Agile. Compound this with globally distributed teams in three different countries, and remaining Agile has the potential to become a major challenge. However, our approach to Agile has proven to be an asset our clients, and it minimizes tension among our project teams.

Making Agile Practical

We’ve created several variations of Agile to fit various organizational structures and project objectives – this is the “practical” piece of Practical Agile. We take a different approach to Agile for enterprise-level organizations with more complicated and defined processes than we do for SMBs. The variations of Agile we use are proven to achieve results for our clients and relieve tension among teams. Even so, we maintain a high degree of flexibility when approaching any project – the end goal isn’t to follow a process, it’s to achieve the best results for our clients.

Scaling Agile for Global Teams

The distributed piece of our agile methodology involves scaling Agile to involve international teams. Agile was initially conceived for teams that are co-located, with individuals working in close proximity to one another. However, Productive Edge has international offices in Minsk (Belarus), Odessa (Ukraine) and Bangalore (India). Having these international teams facilitates several advantages for our clients. For example, we can…

  • Leverage the right global talent for each project, pulling in team members from any of our international offices with the appropriate specialties
  • Work round the clock to meet project deadlines
  • Manage project costs with the right mix of on and offshore resources

To maximize these benefits, it’s vital that our Agile methodologies translate across teams that live in different parts of the world, with different cultures, native languages and in different time zones. We’ve done this successfully with many different types of projects. Our approach revolves around facilitating transparent team communication. We do this in several ways:

  • Keeping project teams small – Agile was built for small teams, and we’ve found that keeping the number of “cooks in the kitchen” to a minimum is especially helpful when working with global project teams. It maximizes focus and efficiency, and helps with cross-cultural awareness.
  • Persistent team chat – Our company-wide team communication platform is HipChat. It enables us to break down communication barriers and allows physically remote team members to instantaneously address questions as they arise, as if they were sitting right next to one another.
  • Centralized task management and information sharing – Using Atlassian tools, such as Jira and Confluence, we ensure our project teams are always referencing a single source of truth. Task delegation and knowledge transfer are systematically facilitated, irrespective of time zone or physical location..
  • Making interactions more personal – From onboarding to ongoing collaboration, we take a “one team” approach to our global family. Company-wide introductions of new team members always put a face with a name. Daily videoconferencing facilitates seamless teamwork. We use every means possible to make it feel that there are no borders separating us, because everyone is equally important to our shared success.

UX-Centric Approach

What good is a beautifully constructed application if its intended users don’t know how to use it? Whether you’re building an app to streamline internal processes or to enhance the customer experience, the User Experience of the application is the primary determinant of an application’s adoption and ultimate success. User’s must be able to intuitively navigate through the application to access the features relevant to their needs.

At Productive Edge, User Experience isn’t a box we check on the way to delivering your solution – it’s the measuring stick we use to evaluate each piece of every software solution we create. While our team of experienced software developers build solutions the right way, our UX team ensures the right solution is delivered in the end. Through rapid build and touch and continual testing, we use real user feedback to shape software solutions at every stage in the development process. This means the solutions we create not only achieve intended outcomes, but exceed client expectations.

Full-Lifecycle Software Development Capabilities

Lots of companies can provide one piece of the software development lifecycle, be it design, development, managed services, etc. However, there are downsides for businesses when it comes to partnering with these shops. When companies work with different partners for different parts of the same solution, they often end up with a disjointed and inefficient solution that costs them much more time and frustration than they bargained for – the design may not mesh with the CMS, the structure of the CMS may not work with the organizational structure of the company… the list often goes on.

At Productive Edge, we provide the full suite of services necessary to deliver software solutions – our team takes products all the way from concept to implementation, and provides ongoing support. Throughout these stages, we abide by an Agile process of continuous and rapid delivery – a small batch approach. This allows us to catch problems early and often, providing constant opportunities to course-correct or pivot entirely. The result: the right product, built the right way.

Specialization

There can be a tendency for development shops to become Jacks of all trades (and masters of none). In an industry like technology, where new solutions are being created every day, it becomes impossible to maintain expertise in “all trades.” In the same way that a patient with a bone injury consults with an orthopaedic doctor, businesses consult with specialists when they need to solve a problem. It wouldn’t make sense to consult with a development team with a wide range of shallow knowledge, but it does make sense to consult with a team that has deep expertise in the specific solution required.

At Productive Edge, we specialize in web and mobile CMS, ecommerce and enterprise portal solutions. We intentionally hire talent with expertise in each of these areas – we expect our CMS developers to be experts in CMS solutions, and our ecommerce developers to be equally obsessed with the latest and greatest ecommerce solutions. This enables us to prescribe and deliver the right technology solutions as well as know when a referral to another tech specialist may be required.

Strategic Partnerships

While we do develop software, we don’t consider ourselves to be a software company. Our expertise lies in providing customized software solutions to meet our clients’ strategic business needs. That’s why we’ve developed deep partnerships with software companies – such as Sitecore, Broadleaf and Active Commerce – to help us deliver the highest quality software solutions. These best-in-class platforms serve as the basis for the complex, highly-integrated solutions we deliver for our clients. Additionally, our close relationships with these partners allow us to stay on top of the latest updates and trends, helping our clients be first to market with the most innovative technology.

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We’re in the business of changing the way businesses do software development. We believe there’s a better way, and we’re proving it every day. You could say we’re changing the world – one software solution at a time.

For a complimentary consultation, email services@ProductiveEdge.com or give us a call at 312-561-9000

Contributors:
Wyatt Kapastin – Managing Partner

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