We love building great software. That means doing a few things differently
At Calcey, we develop software. We are a boutique development outfit with an office in Colombo, Sri Lanka. But we are also not your typical software development company. We prefer to think of ourselves as providers of small, extended remote teams for global clients in need of software development services.
Developing software is not like selling a commodity. People matter. Quality matters. When the two meet, magic happens. To build good software, the interests of a developer must align with those of a client. Anything less is a huge no-no.
If you’re a developer just starting out in your career…
One of the best and fastest ways to sharpen your skills and grow is to work in a small team, and on a challenging project for some time. This helps you develop a deep mastery in a given area, while preventing your effort from being buried under that of a hundred others. Deep mastery equals better learning, and higher visibility equals faster promotions, all else remaining equal. Of course, when the time is right, you should choose to move between teams to learn new tech stacks and skills. This is one advantage service companies like ours have over product companies. At Calcey, we have the ability to give our developers the chance to attain deep mastery and upgrade their skills with time by moving between teams if necessary. But at a product company, developers are often doomed to work on one part of a software forever.
On the other hand, if you’re a client…
You must look to work with a small, stable team that you can get to know with time, so that everyone can quickly develop a sense of camaraderie and start working towards a common goal. An organic relationship built this way allows for developers to become emotionally invested in your product, and allows them to take ownership and drive the process forward, instead of you having to push from behind with all your might. A small, stable team is inherently better at getting people to work together than a large, sprawling one. That’s why a certain Jeff Bezos prefers two-pizza teams.
A remote extended team will also allow you to reap the benefit of working with a group of developers who almost feel like your own, without taking the financial risk of actually hiring them and sinking a significant amount of capital into it.
Simply brings these two elements together to create a system that keeps everyone happy. Developers get to work on interesting things, while clients receive top-notch projects, finished and delivered on time. It also aligns our incentives with those of our clients. As we ship more and more successful projects, our clients can grow their businesses. That growth in turn comes back to us in the form of more projects, and we get to hire more people to work on them. Basically, it’s a virtuous cycle that everyone benefits from. This model has worked so well for us that we’ve managed to grow completely organically from a 2 person startup to a 140-strong team.
Henrik Palmquist is the CTO of Nelly.com, one of the largest online fashion retailers in the Nordic region. Nelly.com has been a client of ours for the last 3 years, and has benefited immensely from this extended remote teams model we’ve staked our reputation on. Here’s how Henrik felt about his experience working with us.
There are also a few other things that you ought to know about us, which we consider key pillars of the Calcey Way.
We like to give our clients a high level of visibility into their projects. The more our engineering teams and our clients know about each other, the better, as it eliminates room for misunderstandings, and stops people from feeling like they don’t belong. Before COVID-19 took airplanes out of the sky, we encouraged our clients to come visit us in Colombo and get to know the team that would be working for them. They could have a team workshop and do a deep dive into the client’s domain or business challenge, or simply go out for dinner or on a trip around Sri Lanka. We encourage such visits and face-time because we know that is how the seeds of a great relationship are sown.
That’s not all though. Once the project is in progress, clients are free to join daily stand-up meetings and even talk directly to our project managers and developers. Here at Calcey, there are no middle men or lengthy email chains that make you want to rage-quit. Instead, we have actual, normal, and reasonable human beings who’d be always happy to get on a call with you and walk you through how your project is going, what we’d be doing next, what works, and (most importantly) what doesn’t.
Mikke, the CEO of Ancon—a Swedish firm that develops software for the restaurant industry, is someone who has visited our offices many times in the past to hang out with our developers. He was pleasantly surprised by how well our team got along with his, and had some nice things to say about us.
Straight talk all the way
At Calcey, each and every individual is encouraged to tell it like it is, politely and with respect for each other. No beating around the bush, and no false platitudes. Humans sometimes have the tendency to downplay things (or let them slide completely) in the hope of not upsetting the proverbial apple cart, but that doesn’t really help anyone. This is particularly true in our case, where we end up working with clients from different cultures with wildly differing levels of technical understanding. Being straight with the facts has helped us bridge these differences and made it so much easier to form trusting, mutually beneficial relationships.
As developers, sometimes we find ourselves in a position where we can clearly see that the approach a client is planning to take won’t help them achieve their goals. When we run into such situations, we encourage our developers to actually speak up, challenge the client’s assumptions where relevant, and put forward better approaches or suggestions. This can often happen when clients don’t come from a technical background, as Joanna and Lucy, co-founders of The Oneness Movement found out. Luckily, our team was on hand to help them navigate the confusing maze that technology can sometimes be.
Whether its a simple dashboard or a fully fledged enterprise app, we approach every project as if it was our own. When an outsourced development services provider doesn’t take ownership in their work, it naturally breeds a short-termist attitude where the focus is on delivering the project, billing the client, savouring that ‘ka-ching!’ and moving on. Things like strategic fit and future-proofing go out the window.
Instead, we like to think like product owners and take the long term view. This motivates us to flag issues as soon as they arise, and suggest features and fixes which we think would be helpful over the long run. For instance, if a client tells us to build a native android app, we would always try to find out if there would ever be a need for an iOS app as well. If there is, we would always take the time to suggest the option of building a react native app instead, which suits both dominant smartphone platforms thus saving time and money over the long run. If we don’t, the relationship we have with the client will be in tatters once the client realises that they’ve been taken for a ride.
When Compare Networks came to us to help them build an enterprise sales app for the biotech sector, they probably thought we would build it, ship it, and be done with it. Instead, we naturally took ownership of the project, and helped them envision the entire feature roadmap of the product. Our developers took the time to understand the mindset of the end user and empathise with them in order to make the features of the app very easy to use and understand.
The composition of engineering teams at Calcey tends to be flexible, and is always geared to meet a client’s evolving needs. Instead of having projects transferred between teams like a weird game of musical chairs, our clients get to work with the exact same core team while a few additional specialists will be brought in as and when required. For instance, a client who comes to us with the intention of developing an MVP might only need a small team to get things started. Later, when it is time to build a functioning app, the team might need a few more engineers and designers whom we can bring into the team. Eventually, if the app has to be scaled to accommodate millions of users, the team will need the services of architects and other experts whom we will draft into the team.
That is how we helped a London-based startup, Fresh Fitness Food (FFF), evolve from a fledgling meal delivery service to a global fit-tech company that is driven by technology. After all, we were once a startup too and know what it is like to try and achieve product-market fit and get a steady stream of cash trickling through the door. Over the years, FFF has been able to rely on us to shape and develop their product, business strategy and more. As FFF’s needs evolved, the composition of the Calcey team supporting them also evolved in tandem, thus ensuring that all the development resources FFF needed were always at its disposal.
Do the right thing, always
To this day, all new clients knock on our doors thanks to direct referrals from existing clients. We consider this to be a signal that we are doing something right. It also serves as an incentive for us to safeguard our reputation in the business, because one disgruntled customer is all that it would take to bring down the house that we so painstakingly built. That is why we always try to do what is right. Sometimes, that means saying ‘No’ to a client if we feel that we are ill-equipped to take on a job. At other times, it means making accommodations to suit talented and deserving employees, who may be going through tough times in their personal lives.
This ethos of doing the right thing has helped us cultivate a pool of happy clients and loyal employees, both extremely crucial for our success. Perhaps that is why our NPS scores have been consistently high, despite COVID-19 upending the way we live, work, and move. Over the last three quarters, our Net Promoter Score (NPS) has been on the rise, and hit an all time high of 78% despite all of us being forced to work from home due to the pandemic. Achieving this kind of NPS rating places us squarely amongst some of the best software development companies in the world, and leaves us feeling very optimistic about the future.
Should you be on the lookout for a reliable and agile software development partner for your business, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us through our website. Our client onboarding team will reach out to you in no time 🤝.