The Caktus Success Model

Here at Caktus, we’ve been fortunate to work on some incredible projects with our clients. For example, we built the world’s first SMS voter registration app for Libya, developed a digital archiving system for the world’s largest on-demand video provider, and created a survey tool with auto-scaling architecture to help the University of Chicago track school reform.

While working on these and other projects over the past 10 years, we recognized a set of factors that contribute to development done right, which we call the Caktus Success Model. Those factors are strategic partnerships, a sharp team, focusing on impact, and developing scalable apps. Keep reading for more details on each factor, or download our Shipping Faster white paper for tips on implementing them.

Strategic Partnerships

We look at the word “partnership” a little differently here. Rather than simply focusing on building strong external connections, we actively look for ways to break down internal silos. Our sales and marketing team is invited to sit in on sprint reviews, our technical staff contribute to content for our blog, and all areas of the business are encouraged to communicate openly with each other. As a result, we can offer a more cohesive experience to our clients and deliver applications that take into account the expertise - and expectations - of all of the stakeholders involved.

How does this contribute to our success? It removes barriers to working effectively, improves morale, and helps us actively manage scope for client projects.

Focusing on Impact

We use the Agile Scrum methodology in our work to better prioritize the features that will have the most impact for business value. Because cost and schedule are often less flexible than scope, effective prioritization ensures that the features being worked on are those that are most important to meet project objectives.

We call our approach Most Valuable Features First (MVFF), which is essentially a more approachable way to look at Minimum Viable Product (MVP). We’ve found it does more to encourage buy-in and input from non-technical stakeholders. As part of the MVFF process, stakeholders come to an agreement on what features are the most valuable to them and how high on the priority list they should go. This approach complements our Agile development process well because we receive feedback quickly and can change course if needed.

Scalable Apps

Approaching projects with the assumption that they will eventually grow or change is key to the planning process at Caktus. Maintaining high code quality and building with future scalability in mind is essential to delivering quality web apps. A deadline cannot be allowed to overrule quality work, which is why we insist on 90%+ test coverage, peer code reviews on every pull request, PEP8 coding standards, and following Django best practices.

Although it can seem like this slows things down or limits scope in the short-term, future updates and improvements will come much more easily to projects developed correctly the first time. For our clients, our focus on technical clarity and robustness from the start of the project means that they save time and money on future work. For us, it means we can take pride in our work and spend less time onboarding new developers or new projects.

Building with scalability and future updates in mind is especially important considering that your web app will need regular updates over the course of its lifetime. (Not convinced? We’ve got a blog post sharing 3 big reasons why you should update your Django app.)

A Sharp Team

The sharp team at Caktus is our most valuable asset. Our staff includes core Django contributors, as well as developers dedicated to contributing to the wider open source community. In our hiring process, we look for individuals with depth of vision and a passion for tackling complex challenges. We also strive to build a diverse team, because we find that a variety of perspectives enables us to find solutions that may otherwise be overlooked. Additionally, getting everyone together under one roof and building a co-located team increases the effectiveness of our communication.

It’s not just about what people bring with them when they join Caktus, however. One of our company benefits is a personal development budget for each member of staff and dedicated time off to attend conferences, workshops, and trainings that benefit further career growth. We also hold quarterly ShipIt days to provide dedicated time for our entire team - both developers and non-technical staff - to work on a project or skill of personal interest. Investing in our team once they’re here ensures that the individuals, the company, and our clients all benefit from their growth.

Shipping Faster

Now that you’ve seen the overview of what makes Caktus successful, read more about each factor, including the steps to take to implement each one and more on the benefits of doing so, in our free white paper.

Download Shipping Faster: Django Team Improvements
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