Clients
Lastmile

Extending Lastmile's Development Team

Retail
New York, NY
2+ year
Django
Vue
Python
AWS
Figma

Lastmile: A Stable, Growing Business in a Niche Market

Lastmile provides enterprise-scale retailers and local service providers with award-winning technology that creates unrivaled online visibility and measurable increases in local sales. Lastmile’s platform and service model are designed to solve the unique challenges of centrally optimizing up to thousands of locations across multiple online touchpoints. As a result, clients are able to go beyond the suboptimal standard of representing their locations with a single page of thin content. Instead, Lastmile allows them to dynamically showcase compelling local content to prospects across every medium that matters, including:

  • Leading Map & Directory platforms such as Google, Apple, and Facebook
  • Custom, content-search-enabled store locators
  • SEO-optimized, inventory-powered microsites for each location
  • Hyper-local social, search, and mobile paid advertising channels
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Challenge

Will Plaehn, Lastmile's CTO, met Vinta in 2016 through a community event in New York. At the occasion, Filipe Ximenes, one of our founders, led a presentation on our Python library, Tapioca, which provides powerful API clients. Years later, in 2022, while challenged with a growing Roadmap and a need for more development capacity, he hired Vinta as a staff augmentation partner to increase Lastmile's delivery output and add specific skills and expertise Lastmile did not have in-house. Vinta's service proved to be the right match, as our highly skilled and autonomous squads hit the ground running without the hurdles of in-house hiring, training, and team formation.

Our Approach

Crafting The Right Team Composition

We started with a team of a project manager and three developers. Further down the line, after building trust with great initial results, Lastmile requested an additional developer and a product designer to further increase concurrent development capacity. This cross-functional team has the skills to ideate, develop, test, and optimize entire features independently. This allows Lastmile to parallelize development of key milestones without impacting their core team’s productivity, agility, or increasing management workload.

During onboarding, we attempted to understand Lastmile’s existing work style to integrate into Lastmile's existing processes with minimal disruption. This approach allowed us to add value by minimizing additional process overhead by operating autonomously while keeping stakeholders in the loop.

This approach is possible in no small part due to the inclusion of a senior project manager who is responsible for:

  • Coordinating the Vinta team's efforts and routine;
  • Nurturing relationships with the main stakeholders;
  • Ensuring that our work meets and exceeds expectations;
  • Participating in internal prioritization meetings.

In addition, developers are also accountable for:

  • Leading on-demand pair programming sessions with Lastmile's internal team;
  • Facilitating tech sync meetings to exchange knowledge and discuss potential improvements;
  • Conducting demos;
  • Sharing frequent progress updates to promote healthy feedback loops and continuous improvement.
“Vinta’s thoughtful and active approach to communication has been critical in making our partnership successful. It’s made it possible to develop complex features across teams without substantially increasing management overhead and eliminates surprises during the dev cycle.”
– James Nash
Product Manager at Lastmile

Going Beyond Pre-Established Tasks

While we started our partnership working on specific Lastmile projects most closely aligned with our expertise, the team quickly gained context and proactively proposed quick wins. Within a few months, we were able to make meaningful improvements to Lastmile’s platform in key areas such as front-end testing, developer experience, system health monitoring, database performance, and technical documentation.

We were also able to create a positive impact by helping Lastmile implement best practices and tooling across its codebase, from its Makefile through automated security vulnerability checks to noise reduction of important alerts and an improved user experience.

“Vinta has been a valuable addition to our team, offering insightful critiques, consistently contributing new ideas, and being proactive rather than merely adhering to instructions. Even after over a year of collaboration, I still sense a distinctive edge in their contributions.”
– Will Plaehn
CTO at Lastmile

We did not solely focus on executing the assigned tasks, we went beyond. 

Vinta prides itself on creating a meaningful partnership with Lastmile and working hard to become an expert in its product and business. As a result, we were able to go beyond simply executing tasks and added value holistically across their software development lifecycle by proactively identifying risks, technical gaps, and product opportunities.

While we can work in specific lanes, we emphasize to our clients that our team's best consulting outcomes happen when granted broader access to information and operational areas. Extending our involvement amplified the positive impact and allowed us to service Lastmile at every stage of product development, from brainstorming to execution, testing, and monitoring.

Work Assignments 

Maintaining Competitiveness

Over the past year, the Vinta team focused on building upon Lastmile’s features to redefine how local content is managed at an enterprise scale.

Among such features, we can highlight the planning and implementation of a robust template system and new content management tools that granularly segment data and empower admins to thoroughly customize their customers' experiences.

Powering Up Sales with Design

Our initial team composition didn't include a Product Designer, but this changed after a year of work when we proactively identified an opportunity to optimize the product decision-making process. After a short trial, Lastmile was pleased to have a critical new skill available to their team, quickly resulting in faster flows and a higher quality user experience.

This collaboration started with an advertisement form feature redesign, which proved to be challenging at first due to the high complexity of the form's workflow variations. By bringing her expertise into the mix, our Product Designer was able to speed up the validation flow and provide a simple yet intuitive solution to the problem, creating a user experience that Lastmile's customers love.

Through that interaction, we translated mid- and long-term roadmap ideas into tangible designs presented to clients and prospects on sales pitches. Our various prototypes enabled Lastmile to gather early feedback without writing a single line of code.

Enhanced Performance

Upon identifying performance optimization opportunities for the filtering experience on Lastmile's Analytics Dashboard, we proactively volunteered to address and resolve this problem.

Our lead developer partnered with an internal developer to investigate, identify bottlenecks, and establish a reasonable floor for performance improvements that met business needs. Later on, we collaborated with more of Lastmile's internal developers to validate and document our approach for use in other areas of the platform.

Thanks to our performance optimization expertise, we improved the overall latency of dashboards by more than 50%, surpassing 85% in specific areas. 

Improving Front-End Testing 

We also introduced a methodology to enhance the developer experience in front-end codebases in response to ongoing problems slowing down Lastmile’s core team. Our primary focus was to optimize testing efficiency by incorporating a suite of test utilities rooted in the Vue Testing Library.

While this technical contribution helped promote best testing practices and established a strategic framework for delivering automated tests with increased confidence, it also increased the maturity of the team's engineering culture and the quality of deliverables.

Outcome

Over the past two years, Vinta’s partnership has helped Lastmile develop industry-leading capabilities such as dynamic local advertising and an enterprise-grade content management system. These product innovations have won them several awards, contributed to industry-leading client retention, and sustained double-digit growth.

As a software boutique, our ultimate metric for success is client satisfaction, a benchmark we're happy to consistently exceed.

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