Agilifying the Release Cycle of a Business-to-Business Service
Customer needs are nearly impossible to predict when developing new products. However, if your product development process is agile enough, you may be able to respond to customers’ arising demands on short notice. The importance of reaction time much depends on the business and the competitive environment. The tougher the competition and the lower the cost of switching service providers, the more pressed you are to react in a timely fashion.
For several years, we’ve been helping energy management company Enegia to maintain their competitive edge in the digital channel. In late 2014, Nordcloud came along to co-create a new cloud-based reporting platform EnerKey. During our collaboration, we’ve been lucky to witness and grasp several opportunities for structural change in the development process.
Nordclouds experts have participated in renewing the architecture. The changes towards a micro-architecture have enabled splicing the back-end development to smaller sections which can be independently developed. This has consecutively sped up the front-end development as well.
Automated testing is another must-have feature. It enables the confident delivery of new features in short intervals. After its launch in mid-2015, the service has landed on a smooth development flyway.
There were seven releases in 2015 – 32 in 2016.
The speed of development has far exceeded earlier expectations of quarterly releases. And there is no going back. Senior project manager Kimmo Kinnunen from Enegia describes the situation as follows: “We’re now able to move things quickly from designer’s desk to development and production. There is no need to revisit old ideas ten months after inception and try to recall what we were thinking. The pipeline goes so fast, and we will focus on improving production features rather than redefining designs before a major release.”
Nordcloud’s software architect Mikko Kärkkäinen has been working on the project for over two years. He attributes the vices of the current process to several development decisions. “Our thinking is focused on doing the minimum viable thing. Starting with small releases and doing consecutive releases that extend and augment the MVP. Behind small releases, we have a microservice architecture that is the enabler for developing small, individual features. And of course, there’s test automation and continuous integration in the development environment that help to get these smaller tasks done fast” Mikko says.
Smaller, more frequent releases force everyone to think differently. But it is also more rewarding as the individual development tasks are completed, and even released in a matter of days, not months.
Transition is not only about replacing outdated technology but also exploiting the benefits of speed: “We’re finally able to address customer requests in a more timely fashion. If we decide to prioritise a new feature, it can be a matter of weeks to its release on the new platform and with the current process. If the release of a new feature after its design and development is delayed by several months only due to slow release cycle, this will negatively affect the return-on-investment” Kimmo recounts.
About the Company.
Enegia is Finland’s leading energy industry expert.
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