While outsourcing stories that grab the headlines typically involve global giants and multi-billion-dollar deals, nearshore success can be found at all levels, as was shown in a case study presented at the 2014 World Outsourcing Summit in Orlando, Florida in February.
Based in Austin, Texas, Builder’s Digital Experience, LLC (BDX) is a company jointly owned by 32 constituent homebuilders, but serving over 800 different new home builders in the United States. In addition to serving these customers and owners, BDX runs the official site of the National Association of Home Builders.
From Texas to Costa Rica
BDX operates seven different websites on behalf of its customers, the flagship site being www.newhomesource.com, attracting over 1.2 million visitors per month. After working with teams in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Bangalore, India, BDX chose San José, Costa Rica-based EX2 Outcoding to handle the rapid site development and ongoing maintenance of their properties.
”I have 25 people on my team. Ten located in Austin and 15 in Costa Rica,” said Lee Pointer, Director of Software Development for BDX. “The team’s composed of mostly dot net developers, quality assurance people, and some user interface builders. Most of our growth projected for 2014 is indeed going to be down in Costa Rica. So what can we do to ensure the quality of our software? We practice agile scrum for the most part as our software development methodology. We do typically three-week sprints. I do have a chief architect and my business analyst with me in Austin where we interact directly with the management and business stakeholders.”
In any size operation, but especially smaller ones, it is important to get the right balance between in-house and outsourced roles and responsibilities. In BDX’s case, while customer-facing roles are handled from Dallas, Costello finds it important to also have an on-site presence in Costa Rica collocated with his outsourcing partner.
“My Development team lead and QA (Quality Assurance) team lead are in Costa Rica. I always find it very beneficial to have those team leads down there,” Pointer says. “Boots on the ground—folks that help lead those groups on their day-to-day activities. Mario and my QA manager, they do things like oversight of the team and the peer code reviews we set up; some of the best practices, things that are common in software development like continuous build integration and web version control systems. We did change management where we do a lot of testing QA testing and we have a web ops team and a development ops team that actually promote those builds and deploy them all the way to production.”
Keys to Success
This tight integration between business partners allows for agile deployment of new platforms. Familiarity among colleagues from both partners, as well as shared knowledge, are keys to success. Recently, BDX launched their New Home Source Professional platform, geared towards professional real estate agents and brokers. Due to upcoming industry events, BDX and EX2 Outcoding were under an incredibly tight deadline with no room for errors.
“Basically what we did was create a site for real estate agents within a short deadline. We need to get this operational in six weeks,” explained Mario Granados, technical lead with EX2 Outcoding . “We have all the knowledge for the other sites, like Home Source and Move, but we wanted to add more features exclusively for real estate agents, and we wanted to add a new protocol for single sign on capability, to let the agents log into our sites use their own password. So this was real interesting because we knew what we had but we needed to do some changes. Changes to the branding, changes to the data, changes to what we show. We focused on setting a schedule for all this work and meeting that date in six weeks.”
“So it was a short period of time,” adds Pointer. “We had to get something ready for the International Builders Show, which comes up once a year. It’s our biggest marketing event of the year. So six weeks to deliver a re-platforming of our site and to add a bunch of new functionality so it could be demonstrated at the International Builders Show was a heroic effort. We worked really hard, we worked long hours. We worked smart and we were able to it deliver on time. I feel like because of our (best) practices and the talent we have on our combined team it was a success. Today we have over 20 MLS (Multiple Listing Services) and broker partners, and over 70,000 registered users. Those are all real estate agents. We are expecting that roll to go over 100,000 by the end of the year.”