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High quality coding and clear comms deliver brilliant projects

Krasnodar, November 21th, 2016

Russian agency Starcode, is a digital production company specialised on custom web development. Having started in 2009, Starcode has successfully delivered more than 100 projects for direct clients as well as for agencies as dedicated development centre. Its vision is that high quality code together with strong customer care can bring fantastic results when it comes to digital production. Its mission is to be a professional, transparent and affordable development centre for international companies worldwide.

Starcode Account Director Anna Osipova, started at the agency as a fresh graduate in 2012, and has rapidly developed her career thanks to her clear views and organisational skills. She gives us an insight on the company’s project management tools and methodology.

Can you describe your agency in three words?

Professional, ambitious, trustworthy

What is the best way to earn trust from customers?

Show professionalism and good communication from the early stages.
1. Replay fast to any inquires;
2. Provide information that answers all of the customer’s questions – without any pitfalls;
3. Show that you are ready to take responsibility for what you are saying
4. Be honest– without it is impossible to built long-term partnership in software development

All this principles together are the best way to earn trust from customers.

What are the best practices to develop excellent customer relationship?

At Starcode we believe that going beyond of the formal business communications and following of client’s interests are key success factors for advanced customer relationship.

Can you give me an example of when you have worked with multiple tasks at the same time and how did you managed?

At the first sight, all the tasks from different clients look very urgent. I’m always trying to identify the priority of the task (some of them are not so burning as they look like), or trying to identify the deadlines. If priority and deadlines looks very similar the best way to handle this situation is to discuss with the client and find the best solution.

How do you motivate other members of the team to achieve more?

We have structured business processes inside of the company, so every team member knows what it is necessary to deliver. We are get involved in interesting projects, so everyone wants to achieve more during their work, because they are inspired by the project. Also it is very important to keep close contact with developers, frequently ask them about their problems and help them solve them, show yourself and reveal strengths.

How do you ensure you and your team delivers or exceeds customers’ expectations?

He first step is to clarify the “definition of done” with your client before starting the project. When both sides, client and contractor are pursuing same target, it is easier to be sure that eventually you will deliver customer’s expectations. To exceed expectations, we usually trying to optimise the work in the way when we will be able to meet the project scope faster than settled deadlines, if possible. We use Scrum or any other project management tools for that.

What is the communication style within your team? Do you use any apps or tools?

Starcode has invested a lot of time to check and refine all business processes inside the company. Each of us knows who we should contact depending on what’s needed.
It helps when you work with defined teams, since we have two offices in Russia. Apart from this, all of the team members are always in touch using Skype, Telegram or Slack chats, and you can contact whomever you need for any question without leaving your workplace.
Some project documents use collaborations tools such as Google Docs. This is a very convenient tool.

To track tasks and build workflow we use Jira for Scrum and Redmine for Waterfall projects, as well as working in client’s project management tools, if it is more convenient for them. For informal communication we have our closed group where we share some information about corporative life in and out of office, and it is very funny.

What tools do you use as a manager to plan your activities as well as that of your team?

I like to write down my notes and reminders in my handy notebook, which is always in front of me while I’m in the office. Some meetings and reminders I put in my mobile phone as To-Do list, and in the end I get a kind of “backlog” of tasks. Once a week I check this list for “backlog grooming”. Meetings in the office we schedule online via Google Calendar, and it is very easy to this meetings among participants and team members via e-mail.

How do you monitor and review the delegated responsibilities?

While delegating the task it is required to select the priority, objectives, what I want to see in the end, milestones of the project where I will track the status and deadlines. I will not disturb responsible people before the agreed milestones if deadlines are met.

Luckily, the high professionalism of Starcode team members allows me to be sure that delegated responsibilities are met.

How do you organize and prioritise the projects workload?

We organize our workload according to the availability of the resources. I have a calendar of designers and developers workload with start dates and deadlines. It is the most helpful instrument to organize workload for new projects. Prioritization of the tasks is based on coordination with the client or their respective deadlines.

How would you deal with an angry customer?

First of all we are listen the customer’s “pain” to understand the situation better. Based on this, we will identify the reason and will find the best way to solve this situation.

Our customer policy is based on the principle that we will avoid any kind of conflicts with our customers. In order to achieve this, we work hard on building a good relationship so that if any misunderstanding arises, we can sort it amicably.

How do you communicate bad news?

Bad news are very important news, so they have to be communicated without any pitfalls to team members. If they are connected with specific person, I’ll communicate it personally. If the news is related to whole team, we organize a stand up meeting and communicating the news. After we kindly hear for everyone who is willing to express his or her vision.

Name a challenge your team is currently facing.

Currently we are selecting new European markets to work in. It is a very interesting but challenging process. The main issue is to prove your place in the market amongst hundreds of other Eastern European web development companies. Nevertheless, our first steps brought very positive results and we expect to continue this process step by step.

What piece of advice would you give a recent grad looking to work in digital marketing?

I believe that the best option is to find right company for internship. Maybe there will be different companies, but graduate will be able to test the team and work process in such companies.

Are there online publications, professionals, industry leaders you follow?

I follow Slack channels in digital and web-development area. I also follow Tech.

What do you like doing in your free time?

I’m passionate about travelling. I like going hiking both in Russia and abroad. My last adventure is conquest of Caucasus peak Elbrus last summer. I also I like reading.

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