Evalueserve IPR&D Names 2020 “Best Year Ever for Product Innovation” by Outsourcing Their IP Intelligence Platform

partnership with STX Next
Nov 2018 - Sep 2021
Research and Development

About Evalueserve and Insightloupe

Evalueserve is the largest service provider of quality-focused IPR&D search, intelligence, and IP prosecution solutions that brings together first-rate data analysis with cutting-edge technologies. They have many different apps in their portfolio, but Insightloupe—the software product STX Next has been working on since 2018—was created predominantly for large corporations with internal R&D departments.

The goal of Insightloupe is to help analysts research patent data, which is then presented to Evalueserve’s clients—such as managers, R&D specialists, or patent attorneys—helping them decide whether to invest in a particular technological domain. Simply put, it means that Evalueserve supports and facilitates making high-stakes business decisions within the field of data analysis.

The greatest challenge of this specific business niche is that patents are typically vaguely described documents. They don’t work like other kinds of data, where typing a simple search query into a data crawler and getting results that are about 40% accurate is good enough. Researching patent information is an extensive, highly rigorous task that requires a lot of effort to avoid claiming someone else’s existing patent domain.

Insightloupe takes that hard work off the hands of analysts, who would otherwise have to do it themselves manually, by supporting an entire chain of operations: formulating the right queries, retrieving patent information from all kinds of databases, cleaning the data up, then creating an interactive report around those datasets. Evalueserve’s tool speeds up the whole process, makes it much easier, and produces results that are over 90% accurate—something automated tools can never achieve.

All of those complicated steps are invisible to the end users of the platform. The frontend of Insightloupe, which is the part we’re responsible for, is the essential tip of the iceberg that Evalueserve’s clients can see: clean data they can use to make the right decisions fast.

How Evalueserve and STX Next started working together

Evalueserve first reached out to STX Next with a request for proposal in November 2018. Afterwards, we received an invitation to visit their office in the Netherlands, where we sent a team of three: our Service Delivery Director, New Business Manager, and a Product Owner. They spent several hours discussing Evalueserve’s needs and presenting potential solutions on our end to find the right technological and business fit between our companies.

The client initially wanted to speed up the development of Insightloupe by extending their team with Python specialists. That was the original reason they had picked STX Next, the largest Python software vendor in Europe, as their outsourcing partner.

Being a Dutch subsidiary of a large Indian company, their in-house team had already been working with a mixed team of developers from both India and the Netherlands, but they were looking for backend support closer to the Netherlands. Teaming up with a Python shop based out of Poland made this cooperation for Evalueserve a prime example of nearshoring: finding more developers close to home.

However, despite the fact that Python had brought us together, the client hardly leveraged our Python expertise at all. A gear shift was imminent and the cooperation took a very different turn before we knew it.

From backend support in Python to rewriting the frontend in React

Although Evalueserve had been looking for Python support and started working with STX Next as Python experts, it became clear only a few months into our cooperation that a technological pivot to frontend was necessary. This was both surprising and challenging.

The changing project needs on Evalueserve’s part—that there was going to be a lot more frontend work than initially planned—meant STX Next had to adapt to the new circumstances and adjust the team composition in no time at all.

Which is exactly what we did. Even though we didn’t have enough React developers at hand right away, we immediately hired, onboarded, and added several to the project. They really stepped up to the task and project development carried on without a hitch.

Evalueserve greatly appreciated our versatility and flexibility on the React front:

“The good thing is that even when you guys don’t have those people available right away, you’re able to find them and get them on the project quickly.”

Jeroen Kleinhoven

Head of Digital Products @ Evalueserve

The unexpected pivot didn’t stop us from meeting the client’s expectations and supporting them with completely different team members. Our frontend people work very well with their backend developers, the latest end-of-year review showed we’d met all our goals for 2020, and the cooperation is now stronger than ever.

“The strength of STX Next is that you guys were able to quickly adapt and understand what isn’t working, what has to change, and then quickly turn it around—in a month, usually, which is fast, it’s really strong.”

Jeroen Kleinhoven

Head of Digital Products @ Evalueserve

Redesigning the UX/UI of Insightloupe

The design work we’ve delivered for Evalueserve has been extensive to say the least. What started as a simple UI inventory to make Insightloupe more visually appealing and easy to use quickly turned into a complete design overhaul and the longest Product Design cooperation we’ve had to date. We conducted individual in-depth interviews with the client’s stakeholders and used that feedback to gradually improve the platform top-to-bottom.

We introduced a transparent design system and achieved full component harmonization by changing the design tools from Sketch to Figma and creating a shared library of reusable UI elements. It was done through our flexible FTE cooperation model, where a dedicated Design Lead leverages the skills of our whole Product Design team on demand to meet the project’s needs.

“The design team helped us bridge the way that the platform looks from the early days six years ago to modern days.”

Jeroen Kleinhoven

Head of Digital Products @ Evalueserve

This newfound unity and simplicity brought the development and design teams closer together. From there on out, they were complementing each other and working in sync toward the same goals.

Direct access to the visual component library allows our developers to make better technical decisions based on the existing design, resulting in rapid solution prototyping and smooth code handoff while maintaining visual consistency.

During the most recent end-of-year review, Evalueserve singled out the redesign of Insightloupe as the core benefit of working with STX Next from the business standpoint. Their greatest challenge is presenting vast amounts of incredibly complex data as simply as possible, which can’t be done without great UX/UI. They also value our independence, design thinking, and the solution initiative we display through a collaborative exchange of ideas.

“That’s the added value of the design team, as well: coming up with new ideas and taking a different perspective on the ideas we have ourselves. A fresh pair of eyes always helps.”

Jeroen Kleinhoven

Head of Digital Products @ Evalueserve

Product ownership of Insightloupe and building trust with Evalueserve

Our journey with Evalueserve can be summed up in one word: trust. By showing our merit and proving we could work independently, our relationship became a true partnership over time. However, we had to earn that trust first.

In the beginning, we received specific tickets and operated under strict guidelines from the client. At the time, our role was little more than a team extension and a far cry from the largely autonomous team within their organization we are today.

One aspect of that had to do with the first Product Owner on our side, who simply wasn’t a good fit. We were committed to delivering the highest quality of services to Evalueserve and cooperating with them as smoothly as possible, so once we understood the source of the problem, we switched out the role. The current PO on the project was able to turn things around and resolve the previous conflicts.

“It’s a good thing that STX Next has more than one PO, so if needed, we could change the individual on the project because STX understood that. It had to do with trust and capability and learning along the way how we operate and the uniqueness of our business.”

Jeroen Kleinhoven

Head of Digital Products @ Evalueserve

Quickly adapting to the client’s needs, adjusting the team composition repeatedly, and achieving the right cultural fit all played a major part in Evalueserve gradually giving us more freedom and trusting us to take responsibility for our work.

It required time, patience, and understanding, but we did whatever was necessary and it paid off greatly before long.

As a result, the client has full confidence in our abilities and even sees us as sparring partners to bounce ideas off. We’re always looking for ways to improve their product, feeling no small sense of ownership over it, and we’re constantly coming up with potential solutions to make Insightloupe better.

“We had an additional complexity, because we had three cultures, three locations, and they all had to get along. You had to be quite a politician to be able to manage these multicultural dynamics, and in the end, that’s what your Product Owner did quite well.”

Jeroen Kleinhoven

Head of Digital Products @ Evalueserve

Speeding up software development and delivering more business value through rigorous use of Scrum

Evalueserve has incredible technical competencies, with top-notch code development and review practices. However, there was one thing we were able to teach them: Scrum.

A large part of our two companies learning how to work together well was making the software development process more Agile. At STX Next, we are big believers in Scrum, while Evalueserve hadn’t really been closely familiar with it before they started building Insightloupe with us. Initially skeptical of Scrum artifacts and ceremonies, they weren’t even interested in having a Scrum Master on the team at first.

Eventually, they warmed up to Scrum, then became completely sold on it based on the results they started seeing, to the point of adopting Scrum practices for their other development teams. It’s a huge point of pride for us that we were able to inspire one of our clients to improve their internal processes because of our cooperation with them.

“I think the most value was the rigor of the use of Scrum—the rigor in Agile team composition, the rigor in Scrum rituals. We came from a kind of a mixed, not that effective way; I think we’ve gained a lot in the two years we’ve collaborated with STX Next.”

Jeroen Kleinhoven

Head of Digital Products @ Evalueserve

It’s not entirely surprising, though, as the results speak for themselves:

“2020 was the best year ever from a software production point of view. The speed, the amount of value, the features and benefits we added to the platform, the changes to the way it looks. We implemented two big, major epics, and that was because the team was set up well and knew how to operate.”

Jeroen Kleinhoven

Head of Digital Products @ Evalueserve

Future plans and next steps

Evalueserve’s feedback on working with STX Next has been very positive. The cooperation is a close partnership where we bring a lot of value to the table across the board. Because of our strong sense of ownership over the client’s product, we care deeply about developing it as if it was our own.

Our greatest contribution so far has been on the client-facing features: working in Scrum to seamlessly combine React development with Product Design and deliver the best possible UX/UI to the users of Insightloupe. One of our future goals is to further simplify some of the particular subservices Evalueserve offers to their clients. With our extensive Product Design experience, we’re looking forward to the challenge.

Another thing that’s been on our minds is the unusual nature of Insightloupe. The patent-landscaping app is mostly used sparingly by analysts and only for a short while: open the app, access the report, leave the app. As such, we’re actively looking into ways to engage the users more, potentially through adding new features with increased unit testing to make using the tool effortless.

“We’re very happy and we want to continue working with STX Next.”

Jeroen Kleinhoven

Head of Digital Products @ Evalueserve

We also plan on collaborating even closer with more of Evalueserve’s team. Since our work is very frontend-oriented and we’re already greatly involved in how user-facing solutions are being implemented, we’re committed to playing a larger role in making Insightloupe the success it deserves to be. This involves moving toward the SaaS model, opening doors to working with different user segments, and generally expanding the client’s user base.

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