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Top App Firms Interview with Emil Sarnogoev, Skalfa CEO

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In this exclusive interview, Emil shares his experiences in IT and several more things. Let’s check this success story and Emil’s thoughts on current challenges for SkaDate and Skalfa.

1.  Tell Us about yourself how you start your career in IT Sector?

I was a fresh computer science graduate — wide-eyed, hungry, clueless. Obsessive. Desperate. I ran a dating website with a friend but it wasn’t quite going anywhere, so one day we asked ourselves — why aren’t we selling copies of this? This was long before the online dating boom and the subsequent Tinder era, so the demand turned out to be huge.

The transition from a dating startup to a software company took us some time, but I never regretted my choice. Rather than hacking away miles of hurried code to outrun dating competition, I could focus on establishing robust processes — just like I was taught to! But the best part was hiring like-minded people and growing together with them.

Skalfa has become a name precisely because we set quality as the number one priority. Our customers knew they could focus on the market side of the business, trusting us with the “plumbing”.

2. Tell us in brief about your company and the leadership.

Skalfa is a rather dynamic company. Not only we have regular trained staff, we also have numerous agents and contractors who allow us to tactically complement our core skills with rare expertise. We are regularly tasked with things beyond our scope of services but there’s always a solution thanks to the ever-strong network of professionals who work with us in various capacities.

Within the company, we reward individuals who strive to do better than average, who push the last mile the hardest, who want to take responsibility. It allows us to provide excellent results without black magic and sacrifices costs and speed of development. That’s it — I just gave away our secret. In Skalfa we only hire, retain, and reward people who genuinely care about the customer.

3. What is your outlook for 2021?

2021 is shaping up as an interesting year. The economy worldwide livening up a bit, and we get many postponed projects coming back to us. Another aspect is that the world found out that it is possible to do things online that are normally reserved for face-to-face setups. We thrive in this environment because that’s how we worked from the very start. Many businesses are discovering that it’s possible to have a reliable technical partner that is not in the same building.

4. How do you assess the role of research agencies like TopappFirms in bridging the gap between clients and service providers?

This is a crucial market function, and I thank you for that. In the world of noise, it becomes obvious that quality curation services become important discovery channels. A customer who does not know how to assess expertise and trustworthiness heavily relies on someone doing that work for them. On our side, we make sure that nobody who found us through TopAppFirms regrets it.

5. Any particular technology or industry you would be targeting? How do you plan to prepare your workforce for the upcoming technology upgrade?

We target Progressive Web Apps (PWA) tech, which is particularly effective for our customers. We mainly develop business marketplace destinations and it is imperative to offer a great mobile experience unified with a configurable web app. The benefits in costs and ease of maintenance for our customers are so overwhelming; it’s a no-brainer direction for Skalfa.

6. What all services do you think you would add to your offerings in 2021?

Since our customers are becoming larger and more sophisticated, apart from development services we find ourselves providing particularly demanding project management and working with completely custom production environments. It is no longer enough to be among the best in development; it takes a tightly connected range of services to be the best in satisfying customers’ business needs as a one-stop technical partner.

7. What are the challenges you see in the outsourcing industry and how much you’re prepared to face those challenges?

Those challenges are as old as the Internet itself — trust and efficiency. It’s hard for customers to warm up to working with you, and it’s non-trivial to alter your workflow to integrate in their processes fully. One thing we make sure is that somebody who worked with us once wants to work with us again. Another thing is that our distributed team makes necessary adjustments to the workflow and work hours to accommodate the customer without the sacrifice in quality and clarity.

8. How helpful are the Web and mobile apps developed by your team, for enhancing your clients’ business?

We are proud to be tasked with mission-critical problems. When a customer opens a new direction or complements their legacy systems with our suite of products as the main destination, their objectives can’t be met without excellence from our side. We are not a trivial job shop.

9. What according to you are the best practices to attain client satisfaction?

Push the last mile the hardest. I’ve seen numerous times when companies start new projects enthusiastically only to end up frustrating their customers. One thing we remember — the customer is satisfied not when the code is done, but when it solves their needs. Nobody needs just some code. Everybody wants an accomplished mission.

10. Tell about your some successful project?

Our latest is a project for a very large customer in the USA. They are one of the biggest manufactures in the construction business, so they run their own academy of workers to provide services all over North America. We were tasked with creating an online destination for that academy. This app imported the data from their legacy systems and now accepts rerouted workflow of the entire academy. Right now, we are in the process of getting an approval from the legal team to clear a detailed case study about that. I hope that I can share a lot more soon, because it is a truly fascinated project.

11. How do you help your clients in choosing the right yet profitable platform for Web development?

Normally, customers come to us because we have a pre-built solution for their needs (all kinds of online marketplaces). Customers do not think in platforms, they want robustness and efficiency. When they see that we already have about 80% of their desired app ready, and offer competitive prices for the level of expertise we provide, it becomes a no-brainer decision. Whether a customer has legacy or connected tech environment becomes a secondary question because our products are interoperable and abstracted away from various particularities. Just showing a clear path to their success makes our target customers not think twice.

12. What is the price range (min and max) of the projects that you catered to in 2021 after COVID 19?

If you have a business need that we can solve for mere $5,000 — we want to hear from you! It is not always a question of project size; it’s how effective we can be in executing it. On the other hand, we have ongoing mid- and late-stage projects worth 6 figures.

13. Please describe the operational structure of your company- from the moment a client walks in, to the product deployment.

New customer? There’s always a project manager who is deeply submerged in your project. At the sales stage, we assess whether we are the best provider for a particular inquiry, and PMs are on top of the project details even before the white board.

First, we clarify the objectives and any blind spots a customer has in their vision. It’s interesting that there’s always something to work out even before we provide a preliminary quote. So you can say, it’s helpful to talk to us even before you make a decision to commit to anything.

When a project manager provides an informed, actionable plan to execute the project in stages, the customer already has a very good idea of the time and cost required. Before a line of code is written, the customer confirms all necessary specifications and sketches. We then set up the development, test, and production environments so we deploy every stage in a predictable manner, only updating the production when the new round of changes is ready to go.

At any time the customer has a production environment running with a tested and accepted version. This is very useful even before all stages are developed because the evolving business vision of the project and market data can inform the subsequent stages.

Indeed, we had cases when a customer changes their mind and wants us to develop further beyond the preliminary agreed scope of the project. That’s the beauty of the agile method — there’s always a live version running. It can already accept customers and that provides tons of valuable data while we work hard to spec out and develop the next iteration.

14. After service is a necessary part of development. How do you provide customer support to your client?

We have options for any kind of post-development support. We have SLAs for mission-critical corporate projects with aggressive requirements, and we also accommodate smaller customers who just want occasional help without commitments. That’s the beauty of having grown up from small/hobby projects to high-load/high-usage large systems with a lot of moving parts.

15. Android or iOS, Native or Hybrid — which platform is best to use to build your app? What are your recommendations?

It always depends on the strategic needs of customers. Some customers want to go with native apps, starting with only iOS (or only Android) to then further expand to all platforms. Others prefer “blanket” coverage on all fronts, providing a unified experience on all platforms without the additional costs. Normally, customers do want to hear what we have to say about the deployment and expansion strategy fitting particular projects. And often, they do adjust their plans thanks to our recommendations.

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