Over the past 6 months or so, kCura has been working to build out its developer partner program and, at the same time, there have been talks of the kCura Custom Development team shifting focus to developing the platform, documentation, and customer experience.
Milyli has been in the Relativity customization game since Relativity’s infancy, and we’ve developed a dedicated Services team that has grown significantly over the past few months. Recently, one of the new team members – QA Engineer Deborah Mathis – sat down with Jed Cassinelli, VP of Services for Milyli (and one of kCura’s first employees), to learn more about Milyli’s history with kCura. Read these notes from Deborah and Jed’s chat to get insight into what it was like being at kCura in the early days and what the end of kCura Custom Development means for Relativity customers and for the Services team.
Deborah: I’ve heard around the office that you were one of kCura’s first employees. What was that like?
Jed: Back in the early 2000s, kCura was just a small consulting company. There was Andrew Sieja (kCura’s CEO), Mike Decker (their Head of IT), and Steve Ankenbrandt (CEO of Milyli). I was their second employee. Relativity didn’t exist yet, there wasn’t even a focus on legal, so I was mostly working on custom web apps for the financial industry. There was a decision point as to whether kCura was going to continue to do consulting or focus on a product. After that, Steve and I both ended up working at SAVO (where we also met Chuck Kinnan, Milyli co-founder and Chief Architect), but we always stayed really close with Andrew and hung out regularly with the growing kCura crew.
When did Relativity enter the picture? And how did we get officially involved?
In 2006, the first version of Relativity came out, and in 2008, Steve, Chuck, and I decided to start our own consulting company. Since we were close with everyone at kCura, it seemed natural that our first projects would be helping out kCura with Relativity development.
Our first big contribution to Relativity was in helping to bring kCura’s “Flex framework” – a development framework for custom objects that they offered their services clients – into Relativity itself. Even from the beginning, the selling point of Relativity was its flexibility – you get some core functionality, then you can customize it with whatever pieces you need. So we helped out with incorporating that framework into the product, and then it was a natural transition to start developing on top of Relativity, since we already knew so much about how to use the framework.
Actually, one of our first consulting projects was one you’ll still see in Relativity today! Back in 2008, DLA Piper needed a litigation hold tool, which we built. It was originally named Method, then renamed to Relativity Legal Hold.
So, we were actually the original custom developers for kCura – almost a decade ago?! That’s a lot of history. How have things changed since then?
Well, during the Litigation Hold project, we weren’t able to transfer customizations from one space to another, and that needed to be changed. Steve and I talked it out and came up with the basis for the first version of Relativity’s Application Deployment System. With this we could dump everything to XML, export, and import into a different space.
For version seven of Relativity, kCura asked us to step in and help them improve the API since we were using it and they trusted our skill. We worked with their developers and expanded the tool. We were consumers so we had a unique insights, but we also had the technical expertise to help them make it all happen.
And over the years since the kCD team formed, we’ve been lucky to have a really collaborative relationship with them. In the past, kCD would field requests from Relativity customers and then the projects that were too big or too sticky for them to reasonably take on – they were very busy, as you can imagine – they would bring us in for or direct those requests to us.
I’ve heard talk that kCD is refocusing on helping others develop on top of Relativity, rather than doing the development themselves. What does that mean for their custom development clients? And what does it mean for us at Milyli?
I think this is a natural step for kCura. They started as consultants, moved to product development, and kept the consulting branch because they knew how important it was to support the idea of Relativity as a platform. kCD allowed Relativity to stay flexible and put on the bells and whistles when it needed to.
Now that kCura has made it a higher priority to support their developer partners, and now that there are more out there, there’s less of a need for kCD. The APIs are better and well-documented, so Relativity is easier for people to get into. kCura can now direct their customers to developers who can best help them with their requests, while still providing great service.
As kCura has grown, so has Milyli. We have a much bigger team since we started in 2008 in Steve’s living room, so we can handle the influx of requests, big or small. We can even set up retainer agreements to handle those small things (writing scripts, creating event handlers, etc.) that will always pop up for anyone using Relativity.
One last thing: Since Milyli started out as the first and only Relativity developer partner, it sounds like more companies have entered the space. How do we differentiate ourselves from the rest of the pack?
Well, first, we know Relativity better than anyone out there – just look at the history. But also, we have higher standards. For some other companies, the selling point is being the cheapest, and that’s not our end goal. We’re software developers first and foremost, then consultants. We tell our team, “Let’s build something that we’re proud of, is useful, and is going to last.”
We also encourage the Relativity users who come to us not to be content with what they have. We help them think about what they can do better or faster and to just try it out. If someone has an idea, we’ll tell them the best, most cost-effective way to go about doing what they need to do in Relativity – even if it means they can build it themselves and don’t need us!