2017 - Year in Review

As 2017 is drawing to an end, it’s now safe to say it has been crazy globally, but also a good year for Melon, locally. 

Our strategy for seeking and building long-term partnerships and teams is starting to pay off and has affected all aspects of our company. What made us and other software development services companies successful is continuously reconciliating the needs of top developers on one hand, and quality projects and clients on the other. Below we’ll provide a brief overview of some key takeaways from both areas.

The fact we’re most proud of is that two thirds of our new business came through client referrals. Historically this has been our strongest side, but never so firmly as in 2017. Converting our clients into ambassadors of Melon’s engaged, flexible and open attitude leaves room for little else to ask. That’s why we don’t steer away from going that extra mile for most projects. This channel for new projects is particularly valuable for several reasons:

- Establishing trust from day one, which we all know is the key condition to building a long-term collaboration;

- Referred projects’ basic parameters (technology, application type, scope, etc.) often fall into the “golden zone”, as our current projects.

- Increasing familiarity and comfort level with our agile methodology.

As a midsize software development company, we would ideally have our ongoing pipeline spread evenly over development teams. This would provide optimal utilization of resources, visibility for planning purposes, as well as a fine balance between our ability to pay due attention to the project and a limited risk for Melon. In 2017 we’ve made another step towards this goal, slightly increasing average team granularity and project longevity. Our top ten clients now represent just over sixty percent of our revenues. 

Another shift we’ve noticed in the last couple of years, which is more and more becoming the norm is that our developers are elicited to step in as consultants, rather than just technically implementing client requirements. The widely used agile methodology practically coerces the team to work and discuss topics other than task distribution and updates. The meetings include talk of business logic and exchanging opinions about the end-user experience. Also, most of the projects now start with a discovery phase where our team would perform business analysis together with the client and then produce a functional specification (often in the form of Jira user stories), system and database architecture, UX wireframes, cost/time estimate and project plan. Clients are much more likely to agree to this seemingly more expensive approach, which undoubtedly saves effort and funds in the long run. The understanding of the software development process matured on the clients’ side, as well.

In terms of employees, it’s no secret that the entire industry in Bulgaria, and not only, has been shell-shocked by the new dynamic in turnover due to unprecedented demand for talent. For Melon, it’s flat organizational structure and individualized approach to employees has always been a trademark feature, even at a 150+ headcount. We believe that although mistakes are inevitable, and some process is always missing, in the long-term the people-oriented approach builds more quality relationships between employer and employee than any process-oriented approach. Melon’s management learns from past mistakes and as a result the number of employees leaving because of our fault or being attracted by a competitor has declined by more than 50% in 2017.

A conscious decision was made to focus more on employee experience and provide an internal capacity to take full control of it. A part of this was controlled and sustainable expansion of our team. Still far from perfect, the main lesson we’ve learned is that nothing replaces dialogue whether you’re resolving issues or seeking improvement beyond the status quo. Several policies and processes are now in place which should minimize, if not eliminate, the stupid mistakes. Melon now has clear rules for work-from-home, training, performance evaluations and many of the social benefits. These should provide a basis for our new team and a thought-through recruitment strategy for sustainable, quality-focused growth in the next few years.

Once again, we’re proud of this year’s achievements and look forward to building engaged, coherent teams and delivering meaningful solutions, continuing our perpetual growth for the past 15 years through being smart, nice and making things happen.