For founders who want to launch apps, ‘being non-technical is not a limitation’ – TechCrunch
Based in Warsaw, Poland, Intent assists a wide variety of companies with everything from product design and UX to development and deployment of connected devices. It caters to diverse sectors, with customers such as sleep tracker ŌURA, trivia game HQ, Tomorrow Health, Samsung, Mercedes-Benz and Nike.
To get a look at how Intent tailors its approach to client needs and how the company helps clients get their products from inception to the market, we spoke with Wojciech Borkowski, its head of business development, and CTO Peter Tuszynski.
As a development shop, how involved do you get when helping clients validate ideas before they bring their apps to market?
Our service goes beyond being a typical dev shop, as we align with clients to be “think partners” — this is the methodology we use when approaching any new project. We help clients to validate ideas, as their success is crucial to the outcome of a project. We act as a second pair of eyes and assess the project and its assumptions through our frameworks and techniques, such as design sprints and lean canvas.
We only accept a low percentage of clients who approach us, because we are highly specialized in delivering digital solutions where a physical device is present.
It’s important to have a battle-tested process for product validation. Our clients are often very focused on the hardware side, which requires us to be more diligent when working on the software/firmware side of the project to ensure everything will work together smoothly.
Can you describe the intake process for new clients? How do you assess their requirements, and what information do you need before you can share an estimated project timeline and budget?
We apply our own processes partially or fully depending on where the client is at with their product development. Our PM and UX teams also conduct workshops, as we typically work with net-new project types and things that we haven’t done before.
We need to understand the budget, project objectives, and timelines to help the client navigate the project and get it to fit their requirements. This is done through workshops and a few methodologies that we use to get us and the client aligned in terms of knowledge and project scope.
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What’s a ballpark quote for the average project, and how frequently do you communicate with clients once the work is underway?
Each project is different, but the majority of projects fall into the six-figure range.
We have developed different ways of working that we apply based on the project type and client expectations. We deploy a range of tools to keep clients up to date, and this is typically accompanied by different meeting types, such as developer dailies and weekly or biweekly demos and planning sessions, which follow a scrum format.
What percentage of your clients are non-technical people who have an idea, but no coding experience? How much of a limitation is that for launching an app?
Around 50% of our clients are non-technical founders starting a net-new project, which means Intent acts as a “think partner”, or, in effect, a CTO for their project. Many successful startup founders have no technical background, but do possess great product, sales and marketing skills, so being non-technical is not a limitation when working with the right technological partner.
We not only act as a partner, we can also help them build their own internal team, even going as far as hiring a CTO.
As a consultant, is helping clients avoid scope creep part of your role? If so, how do you help manage their expectations?
Yes, that’s why we emphasize understanding their customer personas and user journeys. We then work with the client to scope out their MVP using industry-leading workshop methodologies and processes.
We’re very diligent in prioritizing the features that make their way into the prototype, and we actively avoid reinventing the wheel by using many ready-made components that we can quickly integrate into the project without spending much time doing custom development.
What’s your average timeline for delivering a working app after you’ve signed a contract? What do you need to accomplish before you can share wireframes?
Each project is very different, as we try and prioritize the development of brand new ideas that take us out of our comfort zone. That said, we can typically build an MVP for any product within four months.
Do you also oversee the QA process? Can Intent help clients navigate the approval process for app stores?
Not only do we oversee the QA process, we deeply believe in engaging QA engineers from the earliest days of the project so they can get a head start on designing the overall testing strategy and creating test cases.
Additionally, our staff has a deep understanding of the approval process for a given app platform, along with the guidelines that must be followed. Our engineers regularly attend conferences like Apple’s WWDC or Google’s IO, where they get to meet and talk with folks who are responsible for the approval process so they can give better support when any unexpected issues arise during the application submission.
Do you provide any marketing services?
We don’t offer pure marketing services to clients, but can help them figure out personas for their client types, which in turn helps them identify the best distribution channels.
Do you work on both hybrid and native apps? What can you tell us about the benefits and drawbacks of each, and when do you encourage clients to go hybrid?
We work on both native and hybrid apps. Since we specialize in building apps that talk to various peripheral and connected devices, native technologies prevail. However, we have working experience with nearly every hybrid stack out there (React Native, Flutter, etc). In fact, we maintain some of the most widely adopted open source Bluetooth Low Energy libraries for ReactNative.
Every project is different and a lot of the work we do is net-new, meaning it hasn’t really been done before. There isn’t a silver bullet stack we recommend to our partners. However, our team has found Flutter is great for deploying prototypes quickly. For apps that require the native look and feel, especially on iOS, we tend to lean towards a native toolchain.
Have you ever turned down a client? Are apps you won’t work on, e.g, games, dating, etc.?
Sadly, we only accept a low percentage of clients who approach us, because we are highly specialized in delivering digital solutions where a physical device is present. The industry of connected devices is still maturing, which means we had to coin our own term, “PxD,” which we describe as the “intersection of physical and digital.” A good cultural fit is also a big factor on both sides, as no one wants to butt heads throughout the project.
Who owns the source code once the project is complete? How is the source code managed?
The intellectual property rights of the project and code ownership belong to our partners. We do not practice vendor lock-ins. We found the best way to retain a client is to deliver outstanding work backed by years of experience.
Typically, we use Github to store all our source code and integrate it with continuous integration pipelines so that each piece of code our engineers commit to the repository is automatically tested and built. For some specific projects, we have aligned with our partner’s setup, which include Gitlab and self-hosted git repositories.