It had to happen...check out the video above.
When I started BiteSite, I do what I always do when I start any project: I start to have grand visions of what the future would look like. I pictured a huge office with awesome furniture and gear, lots of employees, filming on big locations, and coding some of the best apps in the world. Now while some aspects of that have come true, we’re still a small startup with lots to achieve.
While we have hit some milestones we set out to hit, we still haven’t achieved others. For example, I pictured by now that we’d be in our own office or that we’d be shooting on RED cameras. But as time goes by, I start to realize more and more what’s truly important and I’ve learnt that the most important milestone we’ve hit is building the team and the most important resource we have is our people. I know it’s a cliche, but it’s completely true.
I’ve come to the realization that if we had to cut back on our rent or our film gear or the computers we use or the services we pay for - we’d figure it out. But if I lost my team and it was back to just me - that would be a lot harder to swallow. That’s why I feel it very important to talk about the amazing people that make up BiteSite.
Usually articles, blog posts, and news items center around people starting at BiteSite or moving on to their next opportunity which causes a lack of celebration for the people who do an amazing job day in and day out and stay with the team. So with that, today, I’d like to celebrate Tim Clark.
The other day I opened up LinkedIn on my phone and this came up
3 years at BiteSite makes Tim one of our longest-running employees and is definitely the most senior employee that’s still with us today.
Tim started out when I needed a motion graphic designer. I realized that my motion graphic skills were quite limited and I needed someone who could pull off some of the requests we were getting. So I put out a job posting for a motion graphic designer who could also be an all around filmmaker. I had a couple of great applicants, but Tim last minute submitted a video application. I was already impressed the effort he put in, but then was even happier to see he had the skills we needed. Today, Tim is a all around filmmaker handling everything from location scouts, to shooting, to lighting, to sound mixing, to editing, to colour grading, to motion graphics, and more.
I hired Tim based on our initial interviews because of his attitude and skill set. But it’s what I have observed over the past 3 years that really makes Tim stand out above the rest.
In corporate video, or any video work for that matter, your work can be incredibly unpredictable. You may show up to a shoot that you planned for 3 hours and end up staying for 6. You may show up to a shoot at 9am and not leave until midnight. Sometimes clients change their minds on the day, sometimes logistics change, and sometimes you just want to get that shot that’ll blow everyone away. Not to mention the physicality involved in filming. Whatever the reason, it can be a very tough job. While we pride ourselves on process and mitigating these issues, you just can’t control everything.
When I was a one-man team, I could always take care of myself, but when working with others - you never know how it’s going to go. But Tim does his job every day without a single complaint. He understands what it takes to make great productions, he understands the unpredictability of it all, and he understands what it means to go above and beyond for the customer to give them something they’ll truly be happy with. He comes in with a positive attitude, never complains, and always gives it his best.
This may sound like a lot of employees or co-workers you know, but I tell you - when you’re factoring in the physicality of some of these long shoot days - it’s not always easy to keep that attitude up. But Tim does it every day he comes to work.
There are a lot of other amazing things I can say about Tim. His technical skills, when it comes to shooting, editing, grading, animating, and more, are incredible and his willingness to constantly improve always impresses me. But it is his attitude in the face of a tough job that has really made him stand out and what I appreciate most. He is a team player in every sense of the word and delivers truly amazing work.
Since hiring Tim, our video productions have been on a steady incline in scale and quality. When I look at the productions we do today compared to when we started - I’m incredibly proud of what we’ve accomplished. None of that would be possible without the skills, effort, and above all else, attitude that Tim Clark brings to BIteSite. Thank you, Tim, for being a part of our team.
The world is full of software. Just take a moment to look around you and you’re probably surrounded with many examples. Whether it be the browser that you’re reading this in, the software you use at work, or the software that’s running inside your car, software is everywhere these days.
Most of the time, we are interacting with software built for the masses. We’ve got Instagram, Whatsapp, and Facebook for our social lives, we have Word, Excel, and Acrobat at work, and we have so much software behind so many devices we use everyday.
While these applications are incredible and improve our lives in so many ways, there are times where they aren’t quite what we’re looking for. Especially when it comes to work or running a business, sometimes the applications out there fall short in one way or another.
So what do you do?
You really have three options
- Put up with existing software and live with its shortcomings
- Wait for updates or a brand new application to come out that hits the mark
- Build something yourself
Now when it comes to building it yourself, most of us don’t have the luxury of knowing how to program a piece of software.
That’s where custom software comes in.
Custom software is software that is built specifically for you, your business, your needs, and your wants rather than software that is built for the masses. It’s like the difference between getting a custom, bespoke suit made for you versus buying one off the shelf.
Typically, because a business doesn’t have the technical knowhow to build custom software themselves, they hire another company to build them a piece of software to solve a problem they are having. The company they hire is a custom software shop and the software they build is custom software.
The many forms of custom software
Custom software comes in many forms and is sold by many different types of companies. When it comes to the software itself, custom software shops analyze the problem and decide what’s the best technology to use. They may recommend a web application, a mobile application, a desktop application - or even recommend that custom software is not the way to go at all. While custom software is typically built from scratch, sometimes custom software solutions involve integrating existing applications.
If this is getting a little confusing, let’s look at an example of a good candidate for custom software. Let’s say you run a plumbing company. Today, you get appointments by having people call a phone number. The appointment leads to a service call that you fill out on paper and give to one of your plumbers. They complete the job, fill out the paper service call, come back to the office and file the final report.
You might think to yourself that it would be great if a lot of this was digitized and automated. You go to a custom software company, educate them about your workflow and they build you a custom mobile application for your plumbers who can receive service orders on their phones, fill out the reports on their phone, and have the data automatically sync to a back-end office application that you can view. They may even build you a web application that allows your customers to book online. That would be a great candidate for custom software.
Who sells custom software
When it comes to the companies that offer custom software services - there are a whole bunch and they call themselves all sorts of names. To make things more complicated, sometimes companies that are focused on other offerings may offer custom software solutions as a side service. For example, even though Marketing agencies are focused on marketing activities, they may still offer custom software services since that may play into their strategy. Below is a small list of types of companies that may offer custom software services:
- Custom Software Shop
- Custom Software Services Company
- Software Firm
- Software Consulting Agency
- Software Consultant
- Software Freelancer
- Digital Agency
- Marketing Agency
- Web Design and Development Shop
- Mobile Development Shop
- Software Solution Firm
All these types of companies and more offer custom software.
When it comes to the service of custom software, typically companies do a lot. Among other things, they will analyze your problem, make recommendations, strategize with you, implement a robust development process, design the UX and UI, implement the code, and deliver the final product. In most cases, they will also maintain the software. By the end, if you’ve dealt with a good custom software shop, you’ll have a good sense of what it’s like to run your own software company.
Some great companies local to Ottawa that do custom software include Industrial, Netfore and BitHeads (Not to mention BiteSite :)). Outside of Ottawa, there are amazing companies like Thoughtbot and TWG.
Now that you know what custom software is - what is the big deal? We’ll be writing more and more articles on this subject, but custom software is all about solving a problem. By solving that problem, your company may get the edge on a competitor, your company may run more smoothly and efficiently, or your company just may experience more joy at work. Whatever it may be, it’s all about identifying problems that can be solved with software.
So are you a business owner? Spend 10 minutes thinking about your business and the challenges you face. Ask yourself could something be done better? Could you picture yourself using software to solve it?
If so, custom software might be the answer.
When I started BiteSite, I was really excited to see what I could do with the company. As a business owner, I found myself constantly looking for milestones that led me closer to running a 'real' business. I remember when I registered the business name, I remember when my friend got me a Freshbooks (http://www.freshbooks.com) trial for my birthday, and I remember purchasing the bitesite.ca domain. Each step along the way - I felt more legit.
But the ultimate was when I made my first hire.
Building the team was always a huge importance to me and still is. Even though it went against business sense, I was adamant about hiring an employee rather than a contractor. I wanted the sense that this person was really part of BiteSite and would help shape the company. That first hire was Ryan O'Connor.
I met Ryan at the University of Ottawa when I was teaching a Ruby on Rails course there. The first thing that struck me about Ryan was the way he helped others. Although becoming rarer these days, programmers can sometimes develop an ego and Ryan was the complete opposite. He clearly understood things better than others but never let that get in the way of helping someone out.
We were lucky to have Ryan say yes to working at BiteSite. He was taking a chance as the first employee of a new startup. But he did join us in 2015 and has been killing it ever since.
Ryan has brought so much to BiteSite. He brought strong development practices from automated tests to up-to-date frameworks, he helped create a welcoming mentoring atmosphere to new employees, he embraced our 20% Free Time Fridays and developed a lot of amazing stuff. On www.internationalsafety.com alone, he brought some stand-out features like e-Commerce, the Activity Feed, and real-time Task updates. He has become an incredibly strong developer in Ruby on Rails and React - but overall just an outstanding engineer, employee, and person.
The biggest thing an employer can ask for of his/her employees is trust - trust that they'll do the right thing, trust that they'll express themselves, trust that they'll do their best - and with Ryan, we had that in spades.
Today is Ryan's last day at BiteSite and it was amazing to have the chance to work alongside such a great individual. He starts his next adventure at one of our former clients, Splice (http://www.splice.co). I know he'll do amazing things there and wherever he ends up in life.
Thank you, Ryan, for all that you've done in helping me realize my dreams.
When you run a business, you may inevitably hit a point where you decide that software can help. Whether it be a website for marketing purposes, an app to help with automating workflow, or a solution to give you an edge over your competition, software can solve many use cases and bring many benefits.
But as you start to navigate the world of software you may be faced with information overload and have trouble deciding which route to go.
When dealing with business problems that can be solved with software, generally your solutions fall into two major categories:
- Existing Applications
- This includes apps like Shopify (https://www.shopify.ca/), Pagecloud (https://www.pagecloud.com/), or Freshbooks (https://www.freshbooks.com/). There are so many existing applications out there that can solve your problems for low monthly fees. We sometimes refer to the companies behind these apps as “Product companies”.
- Custom Software
- Custom Software involves hiring a team to build a piece of software specifically for you and your needs. We sometimes refer to the companies behind these pieces of software as “Services companies”. BiteSite falls into this category along with TWG (https://twg.io/) and Thoughtbot (https://thoughtbot.com/).
In this article, we explore some of the biggest pros and cons to choosing custom software as opposed to the alternatives.
PRO #1: Custom software solves your specific problem
The number one reason businesses choose custom software is that none of the alternatives truly solve their problem. Existing applications may come close, but may be missing one or two key features. A lot of times this happens when businesses are in very specific niches or have complex workflows that are not common. They’ll try what’s on the market and end up not satisfied with anything out there. Product companies typically develop software that suits large markets with common issues. If you find yourself in a smaller market that’s not served by existing applications, custom software is a great way to ensure that your chosen solution actually solves your specific problem.
PRO #2: Custom software is optimized for you
When exploring existing applications, they may solve your problem, but they may also solve 100 other problems. There are a few issues with this. First, all these extra features can clutter your experience and get in the way of what you really need. Secondly, all the extra features may actually be overwhelming leading to a frustrating user experience. And third, you may be paying for a lot of functionality that you’ll never use.
With custom software, in general, the features that go into the product are completely dictated by you and your business. This way you can ensure that only what you need goes into the product and nothing more. Furthermore, with a reduced feature set, you get the added benefit of quality over quantity.
PRO #3: Custom software teams are hired to work for you
When using existing applications, they may be incredibly powerful and feature rich, but consider for a second that they may also be serving hundreds of thousands of customers. 95% of the time the app may work great, but there may be 5% that doesn't work so great. So you call up the support team and you make a request to add a feature. The problem here is that your feature request might be competing with hundreds of thousands of other customer requests. While product companies will do their best to address your problem, the reality is they may not get to it for another year or more.
With custom software, you can be sure that your voice will be heard and that the features you want will be prioritized because you'll have a more direct line to the team and the team is generally serving fewer customers. The extra money that you pay for custom software gives you dedicated resources to solve your problems.
CON #1: Custom software is expensive
One of the biggest and most obvious reasons to NOT choose custom software is cost. Existing solutions can cost as little as $10/month, whereas custom software can run you literally tens of thousands of dollars a month. The best custom software is rarely a small 1 to 2 week project. Building custom software requires a solid understanding of the business and their problems, robust software practices, and dedicated resources. This all adds up pretty quick.
CON #2: Custom software takes longer to get up and running
Custom software is typically developed from scratch or at least from a basic framework. When it comes to features, not a lot comes for free. Thus, building everything to your expectation can take a long time. Even the most basic features we take for granted may take some time. For example, you may request the ability to allow users to log in. Simple enough right? Well, what if people forget their password? Ok, let's add a 'Forgot your password?' feature. Well, what if people want to delete their account? Ok, let's add the ability to delete your account and so on and so on. Each one of these features may take a significant effort to design and implement. With existing applications, you can be up and running in literally minutes.
CON #3: Custom software can suffer from lower quality
When talking about the pros - I mentioned that a reduced feature set can lead to higher quality. This is a result of the team spending more effort on fewer features. However, there is another factor that works in the opposite direction.
Generally, Product companies have way bigger teams. With services companies, you may have a team as small as 1 to 10 people working on your project. With product companies, you may have thousands or people working on a single product. Granted, typically product companies are working on products that are more complex, but having a larger, more diverse team can lead to higher quality software. This is not a certainty, but the best product companies in the world are typically doing some of the best work in the industry. That being said, service companies like TWG (https://twg.io/) and Thoughtbot (https://thoughtbot.com/) are really pushing the boundaries of software as well. And is some cases, product companies will acquire service companies because they are so strong in their field.
So, what should you do?
There are many more pros and cons aside from the ones I’ve discussed here, but the important thing is to choose the right tool for the right job. There are situations where existing applications are definitely the way to go, and there are other situations where custom software is the answer. Even though BiteSite is a custom software service company - many times we will forward potential clients onto existing applications because it makes more sense for them.
Deciding can be tough, but there is one saving grace: existing applications are generally cheap to experiment with. You could pay $10/month to try out a cloud product or even sign up for a free trial. If you’re not happy with it, you can start to explore a custom software solution. No huge loss.
The important thing is to do a little research up front before diving deep. And in my experience, people from both sides will give good advice even if that means directing you away from their business.