New year … new us … come and talk

As the New Year kicks off we’re finally implementing a number of key changes to how we support, develop and grow in 2013. We’ve been evolving over the last 18 months or so to be a more agile and flexible organisation and that means we’ve been busy slaying sacred cows over the last year.

Goodbye Basecamp. Hello Podio.

Those clients who worked with us on Basecamp over the last few years have now finally migrated off the ageing platform. 37Signals have been good friends since 2007 when we first tried out Basecamp. The internal adoption story was pretty scary, no-one wanted to use a (non) project management platform and relied heavily on Inbox task-lists. It was grim. In fact, it took over a year to get majority acceptance but even recently some folks have just not liked the framework and restrictions it places.

So, time to say hello to Podio, formally. We’ve been using it heavily since Q3 2012 and the power of developing and managing your own applications as well as a close fit to Agile-DSDM model makes it a no brainer. Everyone in the business has both a laptop and a tablet and it works so well in the dual-screen environment we estimate we are 10-20% more efficient in terms of time/resource usage.

Technical Debt Elimination

(aka No More Crappy Systems that go out of date in 2 years)

In the past we’ve got caught-up supporting legacy platforms, it’s expensive, difficult and really restricts development and support. From today we are saying no to aged platform support, regardless of client. Most clients have moved across to new platforms and by the end of Q2 we’ll have the remaining clients moved to new homes. These homes will be flexible, scaleable, powerful and stable.

Platforms are being rationalised and we’re planning how to support clients until 2020 and beyond and that has entailed a lot of planning, exploration, testing and research. Key points are:

  • Server platforms are cloud-based, using Amazon AWS services and a.n. other provider to be announced at the end of Q1. After a year of heavy blooding on AWS services, we regard ourselves as experts now!
  • The default build-platform is WordPress 3.5. Older build versions are being migrated and support will cease on March 1st 2013.
  • Mobile-first. Touch-first. All builds and designs are fully responsive, baked-in.
  • Support for IE8 browsers will be phased-out by the end of 2013. Explicit support will only be provided for v9 or higher from June 1st 2013.
  • Zendesk is our new client support platform and is now fully operational.
  • Flash is now 100% unsupported, replaced by HTML5 where possible.

Eat what we cook

We completed the move 100% to the cloud during October 2012 and after 2 months testing we’ve dumped our ageing infrastructure completely. This gives us 100% location-independent working with no ties to any physical building, place or country. Plans to expand into the USA during the next Financial Year mean’t we had to lose our physical strings. Key points are:

  • Extended use of Google’s Business Apps providing email, calendaring, cloud-drives, contact management and groups. Integrated tightly with Podio for contact management, email and cloud-drives.
  • SIP telephone via Spitfire giving us full DDI, routing and soft-phone support on mobiles.
  • Podio, we’ve already covered above, provides us Agile development, CRM, Intranet, Sales & Marketing and integration with other key applications we use such as Zendesk, Mailchimp, Instapaper. Podio is cloud-based across all our client platforms.
  • Development using Development Instances on Amazon, on demand.
  • Accounting is also now on the cloud, using Quickbooks, and has been since July 2012.
  • Additional required needs are dealt with using Shared Dropboxes for file sharing, GoToMeeting and FaceTime for video conferencing, Skype for legacy-support and Evernote for archives.

And the team?

Largely the same faces…different challenges. We’ve seen some changes over the last year as we’ve moved from a heavy-bias of expensive developers (who frequently weren’t doing useful, productive or fun work) to a nimble (read: smaller) team who collaborate better together and get more deliverable product out the door.

The agile approach has allowed us to use the freelance community in a much more efficient manner, saving time, money and improving the quality of our development output. We firmly believe the future of work for many developers will centre around project-based contracts.

Happy New Year and if you’ve got any questions then drop me a line.

Martin Dower, CEO
0113 818 7808

PS: We also have a new Pinterest Brand page just launched for the New Year, have a look if you get a chance.