The Agile approach is far more than just a way of developing and delivering software. Travel company Hotels.com has adopted the Agile approach for every part of their business, and the lessons that they learned have turned them into one of the most successful hotel booking websites in the world.
Agile as a Business Approach
Stuart Silberg, VP of Technology at Hotels.com, says that “To be truly Agile, you have to get the whole business behind you.” IT services are a big deal for Hotels.com – the company has 85 localised sites, supporting 34 languages. Rolling out changes to all of the sites is an incredibly complex process, therefore managed services provider dsp encouraged them to adopt and execute ‘purist’ Agile principles.
In 2011, Hotels.com adopted the mantra “Go Faster”. They felt the need to improve their products, and speed up their development cycle. However, they knew that they had to be careful. Adopting technology for technology’s sake is not a good idea.
When Silberg joined the company, the first thing he noticed was that they were using a waterfall development lifecycle, where one code release was being delivered into production every twelve weeks. The time from idea to product release was, on average, 26 weeks, and this meant that people were trying to cram too many features into each phrase because they knew that they may not get another chance to put their idea forward for several months.
Speeding Up Old Processes
As a temporary fix, Silberg shortened the development cycle to four weeks, which meant that the time from idea to release became closer to eight weeks. This “Fast Waterfall” was an improvement, but it wasn’t fast enough for the company’s liking.
The solution was to find an experienced development team to work with the in-house team to split up the applications. The companies would then work together in small teams (pods), on two-week sprints. One team member from Hotels.com would be the ideas person, fleshing out ideas so that the other developers could understand what was required, and identify features that needed to be completed during that sprint. The other team members focused on implementing features, with daily stand-ups being held to ensure that the development process was always on track.
Communication is Everything with Agile
The move to Agile was a success for hotels.com because they were working with a team that they were able to communicate constantly with. From the process of splitting the app into smaller modules, to implementing new ideas and preparing for a move to cloud services, they were able to work closely together at every stage.
If constant communication had not been available, then the Agile methodology may not have worked for them. As it is, however, they saw a massive return on investment. They quadrupled the number of releases in a year, and saw improvements in response times and performance, as well as a reduction in the number of bugs encountered.
Adopting a new way of thinking and doing business is not easy, but it paid off for Hotels.com, and they plan to continue to refine their approach, and go even faster, over the next year.
This post was written by James Harper on behalf of dsp who are experts in Agile delivery.