The last year's recap seems now like it has been written in an entirely different reality. And truth be told - it was. I’ve dedicated a lot of space there to our presence at international trade shows (there were 4 of them, and we flew over 28 k kilometers to attend them!), our epic off-line parties, and meeting face to face with our partners. Then 2020 came and put everything upside down.
I remember sitting on the cushions in the chill room with my teammates and discussing whether the Mobile World Congress that we planned to attend will take place or not. It was the end of January and the first voices about some “mysterious virus” started spreading. Then everything happened so fast.
The Mobile World Congress has been canceled and on March 11, during our traditional Wednesday pizza gathering our CEO, Łukasz informed us that we’re all moving to remote work by the end of the week. Despite working in the IT sector, we were never a fully-remote company. Sure, we could request working from home whenever we liked, but the majority of us simply preferred coming to the office because of the great atmosphere and team spirit that you could almost breathe on. Also, we hire each one of our employees in-house, in our Cracow Headquarters - so we knew each other pretty well, being medium - size (50 people) software house.
So one of our biggest challenges was not how to switch to remote work (we had the tools and skills already, as we’re experienced in working for overseas clients - so maintaining the business continuity was never a real challenge) but how to maintain that atmosphere we had? In the next section, you will see what we figured out. So let’s sum up this 2020, shall we?
Table of Contents:
1.1 How were we engaged in the COVID-19 pandemic fight?
1.2 How our team size & structure changed in 2020?
1.3 How have we improved our HR processes?
1.4 How did we maintain our team spirit despite the lockdown?
2.1 How many new clients have we acquired?
2.2 How we grew in terms of technology?
2.3 How we developed our already up-and-running projects in 2020?
a) ProEst - a Cloud Based Construction Estimating Software with AI functionalities
b) Frindow - a Social Networking App for People Who Feel Lonely and Isolated
c) James Marketing Amplifier - A Marketing Automation App for the Law Industry
d) Shawarmer FoodTech Web & Mobile App
e) CostTracker - a Comprehenesive Cloud Cost Management (FinTech) Software
2.4 What evolved in terms of our partnerships?
3.2 What other forms of content have we delivered?
#1 People & Company Structure
Exactly like last year, we’re starting with what’s the most extraordinary for us - people. As for me, the person from the “inside” who already worked in some IT companies before I can say with full confidence, that it will be really hard for you to find more engaged people anywhere else than in our company.
How were we engaged in the COVID-19 pandemic fight?
When the situation in Poland became difficult, with health service struggling, our Senior RoR Developer Tomasz came with the idea of #dev16challenge.
The initiative inspired by the polish rap community #hot16challenge was about supporting polish hospitals and employees by recording a song, donating the money for the medical service (in the original collection almost 4 million zlotych has been raised!). In the special “IT world” version, we’ve nominated fellow software houses to join our initiative, so show our support and integrate each other in this weird time.
You can see the whole playlist here.
In terms of the COVID-19 situation, we’ve also joined the Tech To The Rescue initiative, which aimed to connect NGOs with tech companies, to provide them some services & guidance for free!
How did our team size & structure change in 2020?
In 2020 we’ve hired 11 new people last year, focusing strongly on the operation department of our company. That way, we’ve acquired our very first COO Michał (more about his last year's work later!), Business Development Team gained two great specialists Asia and Mateusz and my precious Marketing Department grew by two awesome, creative women, Kasia and Monika, who is also our constant HR & operations support. Impressive versatility am I right?
Our software development team also got some reinforcements, in the form of programmers Kazimierz, Szymon, Marcin, Jan, led by Project Manager Olgierd and constantly tested ;) by QA Specialist Joanna. We grow stronger and stronger - so watch out for what we could come up with this year!
The natural succession of a company's growth is working on its structure, knowledge flow, and leadership positions. This where our COO Michał stepped in! As a result of his work, we’ve gained 2 new Team Leaders: Sylwia is leading the UX/UI Design team and Milena took ownership of the constantly growing QA department. Besides our Frontend team divided into two sections: Front End Development and Front End Design. We’ve also started more regularly the process of internal knowledge exchange in topics like sales, QA, or project estimations.
How have we improved our HR processes?
2020 was the year when we’ve started to use the full potential of our open-source application Evally. This created by our Vue.js magician Szymon application helps to manage evaluation processes inside of your company. As we’ve integrated it with career functionalities, it became our number one recruitment & HR processes management app!
Another thing that we’ve improved significantly this year is our HR onboarding process. As the matter of how you greet your new employee in your company highly reflects on the fact whether he/she stays with you or not, we took lots of time to design it and implement it well into our company culture. Big congrats to the whole team engaged - our HR Manager & Project Leader Iwona, UX/UI Team Leader Sylwia, UX/UI Designer Patryk (who was responsible for the whole UX/UI research process, gathering data from our team members and translating them into a well functioning onboarding process), Monika, Ania K., and Ania M.
You can read more about onboarding here!
How did we maintain our team spirit despite the lockdown?
If I would be asked to describe our team in one sentence, I would say that we’re the perfect mix of experience, professionalism, and hard work, sprinkled with a pretty big portion of optimism, laughs, and epic parties! So when the lockdown started we encountered a challenge - how to make that amazing atmosphere alive?
We’ve tried several different options: Discord channel integrations, get-togethers on zoom, and video-coffees on hangout. As it was all working fine, we’ve also taken every opportunity in the breaks from government restriction to meet with each other offline! As a result, throughout this year we had 3 team polish mountains hiking excursions, which was our employees bottom-up initiative (yep, that’s that team spirit I was talking about all the time), one official team integration near the Bagry lake and 2 online company events - Halloween and Christmas Eve. See the photos & video below!
#2 Business Results
2020 was the year when most of the marketers, business development specialists, and business owners had to shift to the digital world - and the same happened in our company. What were the results of our work?
How many new clients have we acquired?
Counting everything together (entirely new partnerships + upselling to our previous clients) we’ve acquired 11 new projects in 2020. Most of them have been coming from the USA and Western Europe. When it comes to industries they varied greatly, from fintech to media, at the social ending. As for the year of the global coronavirus pandemic, I think it’s pretty good - but be sure that we aim for more! ;)
How did we grow in terms of technology?
Even though our core expertise is still Ruby on Rails, as the advantages of this mature technology are ever-growing, and we have 12 Senior RoR Devs on board (which is uncanny in the software development world) - it doesn’t mean we don’t constantly explore new possibilities!
How we developed our already up-and-running projects in 2020?
We cherish long-term partnerships very much. Just like in marketing - writing one blog article or creating a website 10 years ago won’t do the work for you forever, making software and leaving it be is not enough.
To give a better head-start to our new potential partners, we’ve introduced a free 2 hours Design Thinking Workshops service to them. During those workshops conducted by our Business Efficiency Specialist Asia, you will get a feeling of how the cooperation with us looks like. But it’s not dedicated to people without any app development experience only! If you feel that you are “stuck” with your software, and don’t see it fulfilling your business goals - we can help you out as well! Just request a meeting with Asia, and together with her, you will come out with some kind of solution.
Our Clients trust our expertise and eagerly develop their software with us - some of our cooperations like the one with AppleSeeds last for +10 years already which is crazy! So if you want to read more about what’s new in our partners' apps - read it below!
ProEst - a Cloud-Based Construction Estimating Software with AI functionalities
Last year, one of our construction industry partners from the USA was named one of America's Fastest-Growing Companies 2020! We have cooperated with ProEst for over 5 years already, and we’ve developed their web application remotely from scratch.
When there is a need, we gladly visit their office in San Diego, yet this award shows clearly that outsourcing some of your business areas offshore and running a successful business come hand in hand. By doing that you have more time & space in your mind left to focus on things that you are truly good that like business strategy, sales, marketing, or else. Leave the tech to the people, who are doing it for years!
Frindow - a Social Networking App for People Who Feel Lonely and Isolated
Our London based partner Marcus and his web application Frindow got noticed by the biggest British media! Unfortunately, the recording is no longer available on the official BBC website but he was talking about the lockdown and how it affects our feelings of isolation. And that there are people out there, who feel lonely whether there is a pandemic or not. We are very proud that we’ve created such a socially responsible application!
James Marketing Amplifier - A Marketing Automation App for the Law Industry
The biggest and most interesting feature we’ve had during working on this project in 2020 was InDesign Server integration. Due to very lackluster documentation, it’s been a very challenging process, but in the end, we’ve been able to create a robust system that applies customer data and styles automatically to documents and other resources prepared by the James Marketing Amplifier team.
This saves a ton of time for the JMA staff, as all of the previously done branding work manually is now automatically via the use of templates and style presets. It also allows new customers to receive branded documents instantly - their content is getting branded at the moment of joining the portal, without having to wait for their manager to do it by themselves.
Shawarmer FoodTech Web & Mobile App
Additionally, on Shawarmer we’ve integrated our system with services like Talon.one or Clevertap. This allows the Shawarmer marketing team much greater flexibility and control over the promotional offers and events.
CostTracker - a Comprehenesive Cloud Cost Management (FinTech) Software
In 2020 CostTracker has entered the next phase of its development journey. An impressive amount of 4 (!!!) new integrations with the best accounting systems have been developed - QuickBooks, Sage, Xero, and 24SevenOffice. We’ve also introduced a new Invoice Module to the app and integrated it with the previously mentioned accounting systems.
As when it comes to financial services, data security is ALWAYS a very high priority. That is why we’ve also implemented a Two Factor Authentication to the app. Considering other things worth mentioning, together with CostTracker team we have also established Single Sign On and set up a (closed) REST API. Currently, we are starting our work at implementing AI OCR functionalities, to make invoices reading & processing as much automated and convenient to the app users as possible!
What evolved in terms of our partnerships?
In 2020 we’ve received 3 new 5.0/5.0 reviews on our Railwaymen Clutch profile. As the result, we’re one of the few companies here, who have a 5.0/5.0 general rating, simultaneously having over 30 reviews submitted!
We’re very thankful to our clients for sharing such a positive word about us - this is our fuel, to create even more awesome things in the future!
Another partnership that we’re very proud to be a part of (only 7% of the companies applying to get accepted!) is Digital Knights! This year they've started a separate project called Pangea.
Through this platform, you can request guidance in choosing the best software house for this project. How does it differ from looking for a company on your own? The Pangea owners (who are very experienced in the app development world) narrow down software houses to the ones that match your needs the best and help you to pick the one and only to start your project with. We’re part of this platform, so if you want to make your software house choosing process smoother & faster - you can find us there as well ;)
Another great thing was our partnership with Talent Alpha.
It's a SaaS platform that is transforming the way organizations around the globe measure and manages Tech Talent by creating a digital representation of their talent genome. It also easily allows them to scale up and down their IT workforce using the Human Cloud.
Our experts started to share their expertise inside international startup incubators. If you’re a member of in5 Dubai - you could already meet our Business Efficiency Specialist Asia! Through mentorship, we want to help our partners to develop as best software as possible - so feel free to reach out to us about this option here.
Last year we also qualified for another edition of the Go to Brand European Union program 2020 - 2022. Thanks to it, we got extra resources to promote our company and visit international events, when they’ll be back. So I hope that we will be able to see face to face soon!
Last but not least - we’ve been recognized as the leading Ruby on Rails development company by the TopDevelopers.co website. You can see the whole list here!
#3 Marketing Growth
This was a very busy year in our marketing department. Having all of this time usually taken by preparing for the events available, we’ve decided to take much more attention to our digital company presence. When I’m writing these words, I’m not allowed to reveal everything - but believe me, something huge is coming up on next weeks!
What’s new on our blog?
Last year was a complete record for us in terms of our blog publications. We’ve published over 70 (!!!) business, technology, product design, quality assurance, marketing, etc articles on our Railwaymen Blog to make custom app development far less mysterious. Of course, our marketing KPIs have risen along with that, but what we cherish the most is that you read that content regularly, signing up for our Newsletter and deciding to contact us directly.
Every article we published last year was written by us. Let me be frank with you for a moment - in 2019 we’ve used some external copywriters, yet the results of this content were really poor. No entrances, no quality, no heart, and soul - which is perfectly understandable, when you’re not employed in the company you are writing for. And in the highly competitive B2B software industry - this kind of quality will simply not work.
So I want to thank all of our team members again: both those who experienced their debut, and those who continued to deliver us awesome content for yet another year. I know it is not easy to focus on delivering a high-quality article, working on demanding projects for our clients at the same time. So kudos - you simply rock!
And if you are curious what 10 articles were the most popular ones - check it here!
What other forms of content have we delivered?
One of the best ways to explain why you are the right person for the job is to show your portfolio. In 2020 it grew by 3 new case studies of the applications that we’ve recently released. You can check them all below:
Frindow - a social networking app for people who feel lonely and isolated (CLICK)
James Marketing Amplifier App - marketing automation web application for law industry (CLICK)
Launchmatic - advanced screenshots generating online web tool (CLICK).
What else happened is that we’ve started the previously mentioned Railwaymen Newsletter. So if you are looking for a source of app development knowledge that is 100 % written by the in-house software development experts (no freelance copywriters at all) - sign up below!
Now we want to share it with you!
Other stuff - when the pandemic began, we’ve created & published ou r 14 Examples of Industry-Dedicated Apps that Make Running Business Much Easier in a Crisis ebook. It got a pretty warm reception from you, and as the lockdown is still present in most of the countries - it’s still accurate! Besides, to enable you to have an easier understanding of our company culture & achievements, Kasia created our Get to Know us a presentation, available to download here. I personally did a little shift in our marketing department, and as a Growth Hacker (with content marketing still deep in my heart <3) built our Construction Industry Landing Page from scratch. You can see it here!
We’ve shared a lot of knowledge with you in 2020 in the form of our TechTalks. 5 of them (all with English subtitles thanks to Kasia & Monika) arrived on our channel last year - you can see the whole playlist here!
Summary & Plans for 2021
It was a year that no one was expecting. So I will try to be careful while writing about our plans - after all, the change is the only sure thing in the world. Our plans for 2021 can be summarized in two words: be brave. Explore new technologies, online events, marketing channels, software development tools, and everything, that we haven’t even considered in 2019, yet in 2020 they’ve become part of our new normal.
And I strongly encourage you to think the same considering your business this year. Maybe you’ve never believed that your app idea is worth turning into reality. You probably thought that the pandemic will last 3 months and end (like many of us did) so you don’t need to invest in technology. Be brave, and make the first step towards custom software whenever you’re ready. It starts with a simple message and then, we will explain to you everything you need to know, so worry not - with the right people, your software will be made while you’re sleeping! ;)
Ok, that’s everything from my side - if you liked that article, I would appreciate it if you’ve added me to your LinkedIn network. Here's my profile. I share important app development knowledge here from time to time so it’s a nice place to stay up to date. Cheers and talk to you soon!