THE CLIENT

Drum Cussac (DC) is owned by Root Capital – a private equity company that buys and builds businesses with social and ethical value…

DC specialises in senior executive travel protection. The company’s all-encompassing risk-management service also provides, through specialist partners, full medical services where – and wherever – they are needed.  For complete enterprise-wide risk management, DC’s scope can also be broadened to cover expatriate workforces, contractors, visitors, assets, vehicles and temporary or permanent facilities.

The scale of this operation is hugely impressive. DC protects over 11 million lives and literally thousands of worldwide assets and facilities. At the core of this truly global service, the company has developed a fully-integrated IT capability. With deep operational security and a global footprint, this is a genuine, best-in-class resource.

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THE NEED

DC already has a successful history in app development. Operating across iOS Android, Windows Phone, Blackberry and multiple other platforms, the company’s current range of apps provide reliable and very resilient connectivity for clients in some of the most remote parts of our planet.

However, DC is very aware that strides in technology and the changing demands of the executive travel industry call for constant evolution.

GPS tracking functionality is a particular case in point. This is now a key tool in pinpointing a client’s precise location anywhere in the world.

And, given the extreme geographies and political climates in which many executives now have to operate, locational accuracy can be a genuine ‘life or death’ consideration.

THE BRIEF

Committed to being at the forefront of development, DC has been heavily investing in the next generation of native apps. Robust and with a highly advanced specification, the technical brief for these apps was extremely challenging:

  • Fail-safe functionality and connectivity were the No.1 priority. Even under acute signal degradation, this app had to work and provide a fast, dependable, real-time lifeline.
  • Efficiency was also a key consideration. Tracking can make exhausting demands on battery life so it was essential to work with technology partners who have a deep understanding of optimising native app performance.

As Chris Hall – the Group CTO of Root Capital – candidly admitted: “We were looking for a team with an exceptional track record of delivering performance from native apps. Experts who could identify with the needs of our clients and go on to create something that would meet – and often exceed – expectations… now that is a big ‘ask’.”

THE SOLUTION

2016-07-14_154528To find that ‘exceptional’ partner, Hall turned to Clustre’s innovation community. We introduced him to a multiple award-winning team of developers, designers and testers and, right from the start, they made a deep impression…

“Their commitment was obvious from the first meeting. They had a genuine desire to look beyond the ‘bare bones’ of our brief to see exactly what we needed to deliver. And, to be honest, we deliberately gave them a brief that wasn’t totally nailed down. We wanted to challenge them and draw out all of their experience. So, to some degree, we left them to flesh out the spec and come up with inspired solutions.”

Time was a major factor. With just six weeks from project start to App Store readiness, precise scheduling was absolutely critical. In the first week, the development team presented Hall with a detailed breakdown of the week-by-week delivery deadlines. And, in his turn, Hall responded by committing to make rapid decisions that would keep the project ‘on track’. It was, to use Hall’s own words, “a solidly collaborative approach to app development.”

Beyond technical excellence, this app had to be designed so that every bit of valuable information and every crucial area of functionality were appropriately presented to the user. To achieve this, the Clustre firm took a step back. The team needed to understand all of the implications and the possible (but very real) risks to users in order to flesh out a frictionless and intuitive experience…

In particular, they studied the two different contexts for using the app: (a) preparing for a potentially risky trip, and (b) managing risk while on the trip. To be truly successful, the app had to balance those use cases seamlessly in its user experience and visual design. A failure to do so could have truly devastating consequences. 

Above all, this project had to be a mutually supportive collaboration. “In the third week, our development partners needed an API so the app could talk to the back-end,” Hall explains… “but this protocol was still being built by our internal development team. This could have derailed the whole timeline but they just worked around it without any dramas. They built their own stub-server and provided an API spec for what they required. That was really pragmatic – a true partnership.”

THE RESULTS

The app is now built and being comprehensively tested by the DC team. The feedback – even at this early stage of beta testing – is universally positive. For Hall, this is justification of his ‘low touch’ approach to app development: “I gave Clustre’s App developers the freedom to get on with what they do best. My involvement was limited to a detailed catch-up and review session every week – this left me free to run this project in parallel with other Root Capital priorities. It was a perfect division of time and labour.”

This relationship is certain to build as Hall discusses future enhancements with the team. He sees this as a natural development of such a close working partnership: “This project was always seen as the first phase of a continuous development programme.

They have architected the main structure so we can add further refinements for minimal cost… it’s a really efficient use of time and budgets.”

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So would Hall recommend this specialist team to management colleagues looking to build equally time and business-critical mobile apps? His answer is instant and emphatically positive – but interestingly, this response is not purely based on the team’s development performance…

“Trust is what I value most in a working relationship. Trust in a team’s ability to deliver and, just as importantly, trust in their integrity. During discussions about future developments, this Clustre team have twice turned down the opportunity to profit because there were other firms better placed to deliver a solution. I really respect such honesty – it’s rare and refreshing.”

As testimonials go, that is as good as it gets.

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