West Arete
Capabilities
We build a variety of custom software for purpose-driven companies, foundations, and nonprofit organizations. The size and diversity of our team allows our clients to draw on a variety of design, programming, management, and strategy talent for their projects. We were early adopters and advocates of many of the industry's best tools and practices.
BASICS
What kind of software does West Arete build?
We build a broad range of software to meet our clients' needs. More often than not, we use web technologies, and the app falls into one of these three categories:
Workflow
Workflow apps run the internal operations of an organization. Our team works hand-in-hand with your organization to model your internal systems and processes in custom software, in order to gain higher productivity, increased visibility into operations, and greater scalability.
Advocacy
Advocacy apps are data-driven applications make an organization's research accessible to the public, and to policy makers. They are usually heavy on data visualization, computing, or data processing.
Startups
We often help new purpose-driven startup companies get off the ground by building the first version of their application with outstanding craftsmanship. We then help them to transition to an in-house development team.
Good software is more about people than technology
Our 12 years in business has taught us that software development is not a commodity. Most problems that are worthy of a custom software solution are nuanced and sophisticated enough that precise up-front specifications are not possible. Middlemen have no place here, nor do programmers who need specific instructions on what to build. Great software comes from a deep, creative connection between talented, empathetic developers and the people who work in the problem space every single day.

Doesn't this approach require a specialized team? Doesn't it require that our entire team is made of those incredibly rare and unique people who have strong design skills, strong technical skills, and strong empathy? Yes, it does. We built our company with this in mind.
Good software is more about people than technology
Our 12 years in business has taught us that software development is not a commodity. Most problems that are worthy of a custom software solution are nuanced and sophisticated enough that precise up-front specifications are not possible. Middlemen have no place here, nor do programmers who need specific instructions on what to build. Great software comes from a deep, creative connection between talented, empathetic developers and the people who work in the problem space every single day.

Doesn't this approach require a specialized team? Doesn't it require that our entire team is made of those incredibly rare and unique people who have strong design skills, strong technical skills, and strong empathy? Yes, it does. We built our company with this in mind.
Project Phases and Budgets
West Arete does not do "fixed bid" projects, which pit developers and quality against stakeholders and early assumptions. Instead, we work with our clients to select an adequate overall budget constraint early on, and then we work together within a rigorous Scrum process to shape the scope of work to fit, measuring and adjusting along the way.
1
Pre-Project Consulting: $5k - $10k
Often used as a "trial engagement" to gauge whether our teams are a good fit for each other. Our primary goal is to promote an exchange of deep insights, and to confirm a sensible ballpark budget and strategy for the entire project.
2
Research, Design, Planning: $15k - $80k
This is where our two teams dive deep into the details of the project, in order to set the initial strategy and design for each portion of the application. Our goal is to cover all areas of the proposed solution in sufficient detail to confirm the overall budget and plan.
3
Development Cycle: $80k - $300k
This is where the bulk of the implementation occurs. Despite the name, considerable research, design, and adjustment continues throughout this phase. A successful development cycle requires responding to change and feedback while still making the appropriate trade-offs to stay within budget.
4
Initial Launch and Revisions: $20k - $60k
Once the application is in the hands of its intended audience, and is in day-to-day use, new opportunities and adjustments often arise. Our team continues to tune and refine the application as it transitions to full production use.
5
Maintenance: $75k - $150k per year
Software that is truly useful is never "done". As organizations and opportunities evolve, features and tool must adapt to match. This ongoing phase often represents the most valuable growth that an application sees in its lifetime, since it is driven by real-world experience and need while using the software.
Testimonials
"West Arete has been extremely enjoyable to work with because they are concerned not only with the product in development, but also with the transfer of ownership and knowledge to our team in regard to what has been developed."
Dan Coughlin
IT Director, Penn State University
How we do it
We have more than a decade of experience employing and advocating for the best practices in the industry, so that even the most sophisticated projects can proceed without stress, and without constraining creativity or quality.
Scrum
West Arete has used the highly collaborative, highly effective Scrum process for nearly a decade. We have two certified Scrum Masters on staff, both of whom studied with one of the creators of Scrum for their certification. This project management structure is rigorous with regard to time and budget, and responsive with regard to scope and design.
Test-Driven Development
Test-Driven Development is a rigorous programming practice that dictates that the developer must write an automated test for the code, even before the code itself is written. This standard helps to ensure that all code is working as the developer intended, and it provides a robust suite of tests that help to keep the code maintainable in the long run.
Continuous Integration
All code written at West Arete goes through a rigorous continuous integration process in order to catch defects as early as possible and ensure that the application is always ready to deploy. Each code change is automatically run through its suite of thousands of automated tests on a separate build machine.
Relationship
In the long run…
We tend not to have one-off project-based relationships with our clients. Our clients get the best use of our team's talents and process when we play a fairly continuous role in our clients' custom software strategy. There is a continuous blend between research, strategy, development, deployment, and maintenance. Annual budget planning ensures that we are maximizing value within agreed-upon constraints.

Often, growth for an organization means that software development and maintenance should transition in-house. When that time comes, we specialize in offering mentorship and training, for a smooth transition to your own development team.

Other Capabilities
We also offer these services to our clients:
Code Audit
An initial trial engagement can often take the form of a code audit. Our team will review your existing code for potential improvements in the areas of security, performance/scalability, flexibility, and maintainability. We can do so collaboratively with your existing development team, or we can serve as an independent professional second opinion. This type of engagement can give you peace of mind about your existing code base, and provide valuable suggestions that could help to guide your existing development team. It is a low-commitment way to gauge the type of insights that the West Arete team could bring to your project.
Mentoring and Collaboration
Our team collaborates well with in-house development teams. Sometimes this is for the sake of transferring knowledge of industry best practices to the in-house team. Sometimes it's to mentor junior developers on the code base that West Arete built as part of an earlier project, so that they can take it over. And sometimes it's to build the applications that the in-house team simply doesn't have the capacity to handle.
DevOps / Deployment
Our "blacksmiths" team has extensive experience in clusters, cloud computing, system monitoring, and system automation. Internally, West Arete uses this knowledge to manage a sophisticated infrastructure management system that is based on chef, and is deployed across several cloud infrastructure services. We use this knowledge to manage our clients' applications, and we consult on how organizations can introduce these tools to their own internal teams.
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