Just moved in and need a name tag for the doorbell? A taxi to the airport? Are you still looking for flowers for a colleague’s birthday? Through the Ask Nestor application, employees of companies and residents of apartment buildings can call on a digital concierge. Ask Nestor joined forces with CactusSoft to create the app, and it was live in a record time of nine months.
A really immense contribution to our work
The collaboration went very smoothly. It doesn’t matter whether your developers work in Brussels, Antwerp or Minsk, but we wouldn’t have gone into business with CactusSoft if it hadn’t been a Belgian company. That local anchoring was crucial for us to feel sufficiently protected for such a large and complex project.
Ask Nestor started out as a company offering traditional concierge services or facility management. In large companies or apartment buildings, the company has a desk or an office – a bit like a hotel lobby – where the employees or residents can come with all their questions and wishes. Ask Nestor’s staff arrange a handyman if something is broken, accept packages from the postman or the courier, order taxis or flowers, have food delivered, fix a last minute gift for a colleague’s birthday … Everything is possible: the customer is king.
David Stegmann continues: “Companies today have to fight to attract talent; they have to compete against co-working offices. Concierge services like ours are a way to offer their employees something extra. We see the same trend in residential buildings. There, too, owners are looking for additional services to attract buyers and tenants.”
As the demand for concierge services was picking up, the Ask Nestor team realized they needed to work differently in this digital age. Employees or residents wanted to be able to request all these services quickly and easily via their smartphone, just like ordering food from Deliveroo or ordering a driver from Uber. They started building a digital application. The application had to stand alone and become the base on which Ask Nestor could build a new brand.
Local Presence Ensures Trust
Ask Nestor came to CactusSoft for the application development. CactusSoft was one of four or five companies Ask Nestor asked to provide a quote. The real estate company had honestly never heard of CactusSoft before, but in the end the Belgian nearshoring company was clearly the most flexible of all the candidates to develop the digital application. David Stegmann was impressed with how CactusSoft reacted to the Ask Nestor request:
“We did not receive a standard quote. They had listened very carefully to our needs. They had immersed themselves in our business. They understood what we were looking for.”
The fact that the developers work from Minsk was no problem for the real estate company. The world was in the middle of the corona crisis and everyone was used to working completely remotely. If everyone telecommutes, it makes no difference whether your developers work in Brussels, Antwerp or Minsk.
However, the local anchoring of working with a Belgian company was crucial for Ask Nestor to feel sufficiently protected financially and legally, as well as in terms of intellectual property – that really needs to be watertight. The Belgian link was also important for project management: if there was a hitch somewhere, Ask Nestor still had a point of contact close to home.
But there was no hitch. The cooperation with the team in Belarus was very smooth and structured from day one. The companies had status and review meetings on a regular basis, and Ask Nestor was able to closely follow the development process. David Stegmann was really surprised how well the developers understood what his company needed and what the application had to be able to do. An additional asset was that CactusSoft was also mindful of Ask Nestor’s budget and looked for innovative ways to do more with the same budget.
Roadmap for 2022
The contract between Ask Nestor and CactusSoft was signed in January 2021, and nine months later the Ask Nestor app was ready for launch. For a fairly complex application, this is a record time.
But what does the application do? To start with, a user has an entire package of concierge services. New residents can, for example, arrange delivery of a name tag for the doorbell or letterbox within 48 hours via the app. In addition, the app takes care of the entire communication between employees or residents on the one hand and the concierge on the other. The property manager also communicates via the app: when work is being done on the elevator, the property manager no longer has to put up notices everywhere in the building.
The application has been live since September, and Ask Nestor will continue working with CactusSoft to improve it further. The first users have sent a lot of feedback on the app and they have bombarded Ask Nestor with ideas for additional features. For example, companies want to make it possible to book a meeting room, a parking space, or a yoga class via Ask Nestor. In this way, the application can transcend pure facility management and really become the digital heart of a building. With a pool of ideas this big, Ask Nestor and CactusSoft have already worked out a roadmap for 2022.
Borders Are Blurring in the Digital World
David Stegmann is convinced that more and more companies will follow the example of Ask Nestor and turn to nearshoring their software development. He says: “We have been working together intensively for almost a year now and we have never met the Belarusian team of CactusSoft ‘in real life’. And yet we work together very smoothly and efficiently and a great deal of mutual trust has grown. Boundaries are blurring in the digital world. I can’t imagine that we would have worked more smoothly with Belgian developers than with the team in Minsk. The corona crisis has only accelerated this evolution. We already make full use of platforms such as Upwork, where you can, for example, outsource graphic work to freelancers anywhere in the world.”
However, I must repeat that the Belgian anchoring of CactusSoft was crucial for a project of this size. It involves large amounts, especially for a small player like Ask Nestor, so you don’t take any risks, and you first want to be 200 percent sure about who exactly you are going to do business with. Once that was clear, we were gone and it no longer mattered exactly where our developers were working.