Problem-solving is a way of life for consulting firms. With each new client, project teams are challenged to solve business problems while tapping their collective passion for creating new, innovative products and solutions. Great software is born from a deep understanding of a client’s needs, combined with deep experience in problem-solving for a wide variety of businesses.
Chicago-based LaunchPad Lab builds custom web and mobile applications that help clients leverage technology to grow their business. The firm’s work spans a broad range of industry sectors, including financial services, healthcare, retail, nonprofit, education, IoT, and more. LaunchPad Lab takes a user-centric approach to solving problems, starting each new engagement by deconstructing the user experience aspect of clients’ business goals. Depending on the project, the team’s definition of “user experience” may expand beyond UI design and include full product design or even new business development.
Getting to the heart of a problem
Often, an entirely new direction for a project emerges from the initial user experience analysis with a client. For example, when Conifer Research came to LaunchPad, they were looking for a cloud-based media storage solution. During the initial analysis, the project team first wanted to understand the end-user’s problems—how were researchers creating and using videos? From this discussion, the project evolved into a complete video processing and data management system that drastically reduced the time to market and usability of Conifer’s videos. The solution has been so successful that Conifer is even considering licensing the software to other companies as a standalone product.
Typically, once a user experience approach has been determined, then technology problem-solving begins. However, this may also happen in parallel. For Breadcrumb, LaunchPad Lab was challenged to create a mobile app that connected to the client’s bluetooth hunting trackers and gave hunters the ability to track their arrows and blind locations. The project team collaborated with their client on nailing down the user experience, and at the same time also explored technology options. The team built a proof-of-concept to better understand the unique IoT hardware and develop the right architecture for their app.
With Heroku, one less problem to solve
LaunchPad Lab sees all technology as tools that enable them to solve specific problems. When it comes to running and managing their client apps, Heroku is the preferred platform in their tech toolkit. Because the firm’s founders had extensive experience with Heroku, it was a natural choice for their business. The platform’s flexibility allows the team to create any type of app for any use case. Freedom from managing infrastructure means the firm can focus their expertise on building sophisticated digital experiences that delight end users.
By running our clients’ apps on Heroku, our project teams can focus their time and energy on our core business—building the best digital products for our clients. Heroku is our platform of choice for every project. Ryan Francis, CEO, LaunchPad Lab
From day one, LaunchPad Lab has used Heroku almost exclusively across their portfolio of client apps. The firm not only recommends Heroku to their clients, but also actively helps them understand the value of the Heroku platform to their business.
We believe that Heroku is well worth our clients’ investment. With Heroku, we don’t have to refactor their project to include additional DevOps costs with every new app release. Brendan Hennessey, Co-Founder & CTO, LaunchPad Lab
Using Heroku, as opposed to AWS or other hosting solutions, means that a client can bypass the need to hire DevOps expertise to manage the infrastructure to run their app. They also don’t need to worry about servers going down in the middle of the night, or the latest security issues.
We explain to clients that Heroku gives you peace of mind. The platform is fully managed and monitored, which means you don’t have to hire us or DevOps staff to deal with server issues 24/7. Brendan Hennessey, Co-Founder & CTO, LaunchPad Lab
When it comes to development, Heroku’s polyglot support enables LaunchPad Lab to use the languages and frameworks that work best for each project. The firm regularly uses Heroku Add-ons to integrate cloud services and extend app functionality. Project teams also create Heroku Buttons to easily share working demos with clients or other team members. See their blog post on creating a Heroku Button to read about their experience.
The Heroku Button is a super-easy way to deploy an app. It’s particularly suited for demo apps, sharing apps among your team members, or sending a working version to a client. We look forward to discovering new ways to integrate Heroku Buttons into our deployment process. Scott Weisman, COO, LaunchPad Lab
The problem with data
Data migration is a common challenge for the LaunchPad Lab team. Usually, a CSV import is required to move data from an existing system into a new app’s database schema. They’ve developed a standard, robust process to get the CSV data into the right format and also handle errors gracefully. For example, when SimplyMerit needed to import employee data into their new app, LaunchPad Lab was able to streamline the import using a background process to manipulate the data and design a UX component to communicates to users the import status asynchronously.
LaunchPad Lab’s database of choice is Heroku Postgres. Occasionally, clients will have additional data store needs, but there’s usually a core Postgres component. If an app needs an unstructured database, the team first considers using a JSON store, and if that isn’t sufficient, they’ll consider using MongoDB. At times, they’ll use Heroku Redis for background processing and managing a simple queue.
Using Salesforce + Heroku to solve enterprise problems
Some larger clients come to LaunchPad Lab with complex business needs that require enterprise-grade services. The firm adds value with expertise in Salesforce implementation, and will help clients design and develop complete systems that tie a customer-facing app running on Heroku to any number of Salesforce products, such as Sales Cloud or Service Cloud.
The level of security and trust provided by Salesforce and Heroku offers our clients ultimate peace of mind. Ryan Francis, CEO, LaunchPad Lab
Because Heroku is part of the Salesforce Platform, project teams can seamlessly integrate apps with a client’s Salesforce instance. They use Heroku Connect to sync data in a Heroku Postgres database with contacts, accounts, and other custom objects in Salesforce. Read their blog post on Heroku Connect to learn more about their experience.
Heroku Connect makes it a breeze to integrate Salesforce data into a more open-source platform like Heroku Postgres. Brendan Hennessey, Co-Founder & CTO, LaunchPad Lab
In recent months, LaunchPad Lab has started to use Heroku Enterprise for more and more clients due to its enhanced security and scalability, as well as enterprise-grade features such as Heroku Private Spaces that offer network-isolated runtime environments, or extended SSO support. Heroku Enterprise also offers fine-grained access controls, team and user administration, and resource management across their portfolio of client apps, which helps LaunchPad Lab better track and manage projects.
From Heroku experts to advocates
Since 2012, LaunchPad Lab has become an official Heroku Partner and has since built a wide variety of apps on the platform. Heroku is not only at the core of their app business strategy, but it’s also part of their marketing strategy.
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