We recently had the chance to speak with Theresa Kuske from Ergodyne. Ergodyne -- based in nearby St. Paul, Minnesota -- is a leading manufacturer of workplace safety gear and, coincidentally, a client of Echidna's. Okay, so it's not really a coincidence -- that's the entire reason we spoke in the first place. Anyway, though, read on to get a firsthand account of what it's like to work with Echidna.
Echidna: To start off, could you tell me a little bit about Ergodyne in your own words?
Theresa: We're a safety manufacturing company that focuses on innovation and the design and marketing of our products. We focus on a lot of different industries, but we're primarily in the B2B channels, so we’ll deal with distribution and end users. We help them find the right solutions for their company’s needs as it relates to safety in the workplace. Our motto is actually “To make the workplace a better place,” and we do that by providing distributors and end users the safety gear that they need, as well as educational materials and training to educate them on the issues and how to prevent bad things from happening in the workplace.
E: And what’s your specific role at Ergodyne?
T: I’m a Digital Marketing Manager, so I manage our website and our CRM system, as well as all of our digital or online-related marketing — so analytics, SEO, SEM, anything in regards to that — and then any other technologies we might need as well.
E: Could you give a little background in terms of how Ergodyne learned about Echidna?
T: We ended up reviewing Echidna because you guys have a good mix of onshore and offshore, and you’re local. That was one of the biggest things about working with the team — it was nice that we have some local people to work with.
E: What was your first impression of Echidna?
T: My first impression of Echidna was that the people are very knowledgable in the digital space. One of the biggest things was that they had a lot of people and experience in UX, as well as experience developing on larger platforms and doing multiple different integrations between platforms and systems. After the first project, we were really impressed with how Echidna handled everything — as far as meeting the timeline and the requirements that we had set in the Statement of Work, and following through with what they said they were going to do, being responsive with our questions… they didn’t let days go by to answer our phone calls or emails. So overall, that was kind of our test project with the team because we wanted to do something — user research — and we knew that we didn’t have the resources to do it internally. Echidna's UX team had a lot of knowledge and experience that helped us a lot.
E: Could you explain the bigger project a little bit?
T: We were on a platform specifically built for our ERP system, which was just really hard to customize, and also really hard to move off of. We had three different sites, and now we’re integrating everything into one site, which is going to give us many more capabilities, and it’ll be a lot more efficient because we won’t have three sites to maintain with a lot of the same products and information. From an efficiency and maintenance standpoint, it’s going to be great. But yeah, the biggest struggle is just that there are some quirky things with our ERP system. The way we do things is a little bit different, and B2B is always going to be more complex, too.
E: If you could boil it down to one sentence, what has it been like to work with Echidna?
T: Well, it’s been a great experience because Echidna is a reliable partner. I work with a lot of partners, and oftentimes it’s very difficult because they miss deadlines and don’t communicate very well. So I think it’s just the fact that Echidna is so communicative and they get stuff done when I need them to get it done. That’s been really huge with the project — I can rely on them to get things done when it needs to be done. And when you have so many partners that you’re working with on a project, it’s imperative that everybody does their part. Things always come up in the process where you have issues and might need to do things differently and go back. You might start to do things one way and realize it’s not going to work well that way, but Echidna has never stopped there and said no — they’ve given recommendations to move forward, and the thing that I really like is that they say they’ll look into it and find a good solution for the issue, instead of “No, we can’t really do that.” I hear that from other partners, and it’s so frustrating because you don’t know if they just can’t do it, if they’re not willing to find another way, if we need to change our business process, or what.
E: We know that no agency is perfect, and no relationship is going to be perfect. With that in mind, what have been some of the tougher aspects of working with Echidna?
T: It’s probably mainly just been the time zones. That’s one of the things that’s been a little bit difficult — the time zone difference while working with the dev team in India. But overall they are much more accommodating than some of our other partners. We have partners on the West Coast that only meet from 9-5, so for us in Central Time it’s 11-7, so we really have a four hour window where we can meet with them. At least Echidna and the dev team in India are willing to say, “We’ll shift our hours because of Daylight Saving,” or “We’ll try to stay on until this time” if there’s an important call we need to be on. We’re actually doing testing right now, so it’s pretty imperative that we have them on the calls to fix issues right away. That’s mainly been it. Like you said, there are bound to be issues that come up, but Echidna’s good at getting things resolved or finding solutions to problems.
E: Hopefully there’ve been some good aspects, too. Do you have any favorite highlights of working with Echidna?
T: Yeah, I’ve really gotten to know everybody as friends, and we actually work as a team. That’s another really good point — I really feel like we’re a team, whereas with other partners, they’re “partners,” and there’s a line of separation. That’s probably what makes Echidna different to me in my experience. And I feel that with the dev team too. I Skype them all the time, and I would probably go visit them in India sometime.
E: So what would you say to someone who’s considering working with Echidna?
T: When we first started our project, it was hard to really put a timeline and tight estimates on stuff because we didn't have detailed requirements. So to make sure that Echidna is the right partner, really go through some discovery and discuss what the requirements are in thorough detail. That’s the one thing about this project that’s been a little bit difficult. I don’t think we realized quite how complex some of the integrations would be, so that’s kind of extended our timeline. One of my biggest learnings from this project is that it is worth it to spend more time up front and fully document and discuss everything that you are currently doing with business processes and integrations and systems. You’re going to save so much money and time down the road. You won’t have as much scope creep, either, because you’ve gone through everything and you can really get to the marching orders and get stuff done. We’ve been kind of going through continuous discovery — we had a more broad set of requirements, and then started diving deeper into these different sections, and then went through more nitty-gritty details and requirements. I think it would have been better if we would’ve gone through how everything works today, and how that interacts with other systems, and what the system we are moving to does and doesn’t do, how that fits in, and what other processes we might have needed to change to make things work. But still, we’ve overcome a lot of issues and are really close to the finish line now.
E: Is there anything else that sticks out in terms of the relationship with Echidna?
T: Like I said, I really like working with the team, and I look forward to continuing to work with the team, doing other fun projects and enhancing our system.