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Interview with Aleksey Zavgorodniy, CEO - Unicsoft

Aleksey Zavgorodniy Interview on TopDevelopers.co

Aleksey Zavgorodniy  linkedin

CEO, Unicsoft
Give us a quick overview on Unicsoft. When and how did you begin this journey and what were your motives to be successful in app development?

Unicsoft provides professional software development services for sustainable growth of SME and start-ups worldwide, since 2005. With a team of 100+ developers, we've delivered more than 200 projects incorporating Blockchain and AI, IoT and Machine Learning, Web and Mobile Development. We deliver our day-to-day services with transparency, clarity, and most importantly — care for our customers.

I've always dreamed of creating my own company in the IT industry. After gaining some experience as a developer, project manager at large companies, I understood I was ready to launch my own company. It was back in 2005. I had an idea, a passion for technology, and it was a great motivation. As every young entrepreneur, I lacked experience and strategic vision. However, I managed to build and scale Unicsoft, hire amazing people to my team and build friendly relationships with our partners. I started with just 3 people in my team and now there are already more than 100 people working at Unicsoft. At that time, I knew one thing - quality and personal approach makes the difference in business. Unicsoft has been always working for the prosperity of our customers. We have secured our place as an expert company in app development and worked with a range of companies from automotive and fintech to supply chain industries.
Over the past 10 years, we have been able to grow 15 times in size, and we've been able to sustain our 75% customer retention rate. Some of our partnerships last more than 8 years already.  

We've updated our brand recently, improved and modernized our website, adopted new cyber security standards, improved our delivery processes, integrated quality control system.  And we keep working and developing for the prosperity of our customers. Feedback from our customers, success and sustainable growth of their business is the best motivation for me and the whole Unicsoft team. That's the reason we come to work every day, work with dedication and care for our customers.

What is your role in the management and development of Unicsoft?

I am a founder and CEO, I take strategic decisions and make sure that we follow our mission to empower businesses to innovate. It’s very important to me that we care about every customer, every small project as I put personal approach over quantity. I also pay a lot of attention to Unicsoft culture, making sure we create and support learning and caring culture. It makes me very happy when I see people enjoying their work, feeling valued, learning and growing as professionals, and are working as a team. I've also put in a lot of effort to build every department almost from scratch at the company. Now we have very high processes standards.

Tell us about your biggest achievement in the industry

I think every single project is an achievement, especially when it comes to startups. I enjoy working with entrepreneurs, who are just starting their business. They are so motivated, they have so many ideas, so much passion for their product, they work 24/7 to deliver the product to the market. And that's where we help them to make the innovations, launch a new product, beat the competition, and win the market share.

I am very proud of our more than four years of cooperation with SOSsitter. It was a startup and now it's a profitable business. It's a full-service portal for a quick and easy caregivers hiring. It is considered as one of the most complex projects among marketplaces due to complicated payment flows and user scenarios. SOS sitter has also won the Startup Canada Social Enterprise Award 2017 for the province of Quebec.

Another product we've developed from scratch is a custom web & mobile application, integrated with Ethereum private blockchain network in order to track gold lifecycle, through smelting, processing, and trading floors, to end-customers. This solution was created for compliance purposes and helps to make sure that gold has been responsibly mined, there was no fraud or any other violations in terms of human rights, environmental, safety and political regulations. The MVP was approved by the National Mining Association.

One more client of ours is an automotive company from California that provides US automotive dealers with financial information about automotive stores. Dashboard Dealership is an enterprise-level reporting tool, allowing to analyze data from a range of sources. Unicsoft was in charge of the redevelopment of the legacy system, which was built on the outdated technology Flex. The Unicsoft team developed new design and UX to make it nice and easy to use the tool. Dashboard Dealership integrates Facebook, Google and Okta OAuth authentication. The two-factor authentication is integrated via text (SMS) service Plivo (plivo.com).
As a result, a small business was acquired by a large enterprise global company.

How do you schedule the development phases of the apps to promise the timeline to your clients?

We have experienced developers and certified Project Managers/SCRUM Masters, who are able to estimate the minimum and maximum terms of any task or project. The minimum and maximum terms are evaluated with taking into consideration the risks of changing requirements, the possibility of adding new tasks from the client side, as well as the circumstances of superior force, etc. Generally, the tasks are divided into sprints, during which the client is guaranteed full transparency and accountability of the team (Redmine project management and issue tracking tool, reports, calls, standups on a daily /weekly / monthly basis). We communicate to a client every issue with possible timeline change and provide reasoning of the delay. In most cases the reason for the deadline delay is changes made by the customer without previous estimation of Unicsoft team.

In order to build an optimal development process, Unicsoft uses a particular set of tools to properly separate, track, update and report on issues, improvements, and visual design. Usually, our clients are happy with quick team setup, agile development, and planning. We also guarantee team transparency and regular reports, stand-ups. There is always a dedicated manager, who helps to deliver the project fast and seamless. Unicsoft team is very responsible and we always work hard to make sure we deliver the project on time and of high quality.

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

We always try to see the bigger picture, understand business objectives, carefully study end-users, business strategy, and plans for the future development of the business, priorities of the business as for today, etc. Usually, after we get an understanding of client needs and problems that they are trying to solve we assess the technology that may help to provide the solution in the most effective way. A good example may be provided with a mobile app - if client requires something that can be implemented without native mobile development we propose to build a hybrid mobile app that will run on any platform, usually using react native technology, but if analysis implies that native apps will be crucial for success we offer to create two apps - for iOS and Android. So basically we keep in mind two main things - how to achieve what is needed from our app and how to minimize costs while doing this. This applies to almost all our projects when we choose the technology platform.

Which would you suggest for a successful and profitable business progression, Native or hybrid apps? How do you define the factors that influenced you to make this choice?

Depending on the project objectives and overall goals, when deciding to build an app as either native or hybrid app, there are a variety of factors to consider. Hybrid apps are usually more suitable for startups when there is limited time for development and there is a need to fasten time to market. These apps can be easily deployed across multiple platforms. Such a solution would be cheaper and faster to build. Other advantages also include one codebase to manage, easier to scale, hybrid apps let you retain the same ability to access device features. However, there are some cons of hybrid apps, they are slower than native apps; performance is probably the largest disadvantage of hybrid apps, access to low-level hardware features is limited or even unavailable. Cross-platform development would also take substantial work.

Regarding the native apps, more mature companies and complex projects choose such technology. However, the cost would be higher and it will take longer to build a solution. There are very convincing benefits of native apps, they are fast and responsive, it's easier to tap into the camera, microphone, compass, accelerometer, etc, and those apps offer a better user experience. Definitely, using native apps you will need more than one codebase.

Choosing between native vs. hybrid apps depends on business needs, app requirements, budget, timeline, user experience, and user needs. At Unicsoft we usually outline all the strengths and weaknesses of each before jumping into development for our clients and help them to choose. We've gone through the process of building each of these kinds of apps.

How do you scheme your pricing model? How do you fix your budget?

For large and complicated projects, the time and material model of work with monthly invoicing is preferred. The client receives the invoice based on the efforts during the previous month. We provide an estimate for the client with some price range and detail description of costs and scope of works. There are about 3 options for the client to choose: minimum project development cost with limited functionality and additional features development costs.
It's very difficult to predict everything, especially when the project is very large and complex. With time and material model, the client is provided with reporting on a weekly basis. We also analyze spent hours and development progress on a monthly basis. We always keep an eye on the budget and when the project is very close to the upper maximum estimated budget we notify a client and make the review and analysis. We communicate with the customer, do the retrospective and decide together how to proceed next. The client always has the information on the hours spent.

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

More users and end-customers prefer mobile applications. There are expectations that business has friendly and easy to use mobile application. The number of mobile users in the world is growing, and the number of website visitors by the mobile phone is also going up. Every second project is willing to create mobile application. A business wants to enter new markets, attract new target audience in such a way. When it comes to sports, health, personal finances, communications, education, and so on, people prefer to use mobile applications. And that's where an app increases sales and number of loyal customers. We help our customers to increase sales, gain customer loyalty, create creative marketing campaigns, and build a business from scratch.

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

From my experience, I can say that the best practice would always be respecting your customer, build a partnership based on trust, truly care about your customer, understand them and put your customers in the first place. We always communicate with our customers a lot, make sure we are on the same page and it gives us understanding whether our customers are happy. I make sure that Unicsoft employees are happy. If I found any of my employees tired and is not in a good mood I recommend him to take a vacation or rest a few days. We are people caring brand and we always put people in the first place.  

How do you update your business system to be in pace with the technological advancements?

As time goes by, the technologies develop faster. There will be less time to differentiate, integrate innovations, and the competition will increase. Being a modern software development company is really a multifaceted amalgam incorporating many factors and technologies. To us, it is mandatory to have the knowledge and expertise in the latest technologies and business processes, use agile methodologies, and have practical experience within the industry the client works in. We constantly update our business systems and technologies; apply new tools, and new business approaches. We learn from our clients, competitors, industry leaders, track innovations, make research and test it. Unicsoft is flexible in terms of innovation and all employees bring their ideas to help us develop and learn together.

In the year 2019, we've already accomplished an analysis of popular programming languages and technologies. We also completed the analysis of trends in software development. Based on those researches we are currently making the internal transformation of the company. We added Machine Learning and Blockchain to our stack. Within the last 2 years, we also moved our focus in the technology stack from PHP to Node.JS, Native mobile, and more to React native.

What are your thoughts about AR, VR and Internet of Things (IoT)?

Virtual reality (VR) offers the possibility to create a virtual or a copy of real-world environment to simulate the feeling of physical presence. This environment is a manmade image, however immersive. Augmented reality (AR). Unlike VR, which is solely inspired by the environment, AR actually is the real world, complemented with computer-generated content. VR can be used by businesses to improve client experience and the workflow within the team. However, due to its real-world integration, AR is by far the most prominent one that enterprises can benefit from. The trend of creating augmented reality tools exploded after the release of Pokemon GO. The technology got picked up quickly by many famous brands — such as IKEA, The New York Times, MTV, and more. It's growing at an impressive pace. The advantages of implementing augmented reality for companies would be creating a buzz, attract a broader audience, improve personalization, increase the quality of communication within the team, improve the quality of product testing and the speed of a customer’s journey, increase customer retention rate, and creates a memorable experience for users. Augmented reality allows for an extensive range of use-cases in various industries serving a multitude of purposes (improving treatment quality in healthcare; shopping experience enhancement in retail; stressful situation modeling in military, etc). AR development doesn’t require advanced hardware and can even be done with medium-level technical skills.

In our day-to-day work at Unicsoft, we experience first-hand the huge potential of IoT solutions. IoT devices are already a huge part of our life and work. Not just offices adopt smart technologies but people eagerly use smart home solutions. The user today demands complex solutions for IoT-connected devices. And, in response, startups and enterprises are launching innovative IoT products. We currently observe high demand for developers of complex embedded systems.

Devices will improve and get smarter every day through machine learning and artificial intelligence. Cities are already transforming into smart cities. Security of IoT will also improve significantly in the near future. The development of IoT will require new privacy and security legislation.

What do you think will be the future of Mobile technology?

Mobile technology is driven by customer expectations and competition. The speed of data transfer will keep increasing, there will be more integration with the world, social media, messengers, etc. 5G technology will allow devices to download information in seconds. Mobile operators will sell more traffic and less talk time. There will be even more communication via messengers.

Mobile has already become an integral part of every industry. The technology is never going to stop developing. The future holds more connected devices to our phone and it communicates seamlessly with virtually every device. The freedom of the cloud drives business to use a multi-device approach. There will be more use of sensors, navigation, solutions for healthcare and cybersecurity. Future means more gamification, more AR, and active growth of the gaming industry.

However, active development of technologies also means the rise of cyber crimes. More lawbreakers will use online tools instead of offline. The challenge for the mobile technology would be to improve cybersecurity.

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