Leaner, quicker, smarter
Agile at Anytime
We’ve come a long way since our humble beginnings with only one developer. As the Anytime team and user community has grown, we are adapting the way that we work.
Like many startup businesses, we have gone through something of a step change in the past few months.
Left to right: Phil Radford, Nick Smith, Buddy, Wendy Radford-Gaby, Becky Bassett, Vanessa Glossop, Tom Grant
As the system and user community grows, so do the questions on how Anytime can help our users to process and manage their bookings. Whilst we remain focused on camping and holiday businesses as our core offering, the level of feedback and feature requests have been fantastic over the years.
We manage hundreds and thousands of lines of code. We write new code, we revisit old code and find new ways of improving it, and we clear out bugs in the system when they appear. We juggle feature requests that come from customer discovery as well as those borne from our own ideas about better ways to design the software, whilst keeping up with the ever changing requirements of the internet. All of these need to be balanced. We also need to think about the impact of development on all our customers and on our communication in terms of sales, marketing, training and updating our knowledge base.
We welcome Agile
Agile is an umbrella term for a spectrum of work flow practices that all follow the same principle of working in small cycles known as iterations (usually two weeks).
Anytime adopted Agile this year with the help of a Cornwall based Agile business coach, Matt Hosking. Utilising Agile means we try to match our team’s capacity to work with a predetermined and time estimated set of tasks that the team here have all agreed need to be completed within that iteration.
It works for us as it’s a lightweight, efficient, but constantly moving workflow methodology. It allows for flexibility along the way – as there can often be setbacks, especially in the digital age. Agile allows us as a team to accommodate change at any point in the iteration or development process, yet still feel that we are moving forward and able to deliver value in short yet meaningful loops.
Before every iteration takes place, we move to our board. We review all our candidates, suggestions from our user community, and our backlog. Our backlog is development to the system we know we need to do.
Every card on the board is a story, a story of development on how it improves the Anytime community. These stories vary by the scale of the works required to update the system. We have epic stories that take us months to complete, down to short stories that can sometimes take a few hours.
Within every iteration cycle, we look to balance the variety of stories to keep the workflow moving forward.
Every morning we stand up to review our progress within the current iteration; pushing all new code to a testing account for the team to learn and review.
Quality Assurance & Testing
Because Agile breaks our workflow into two week chunks, we are always testing as we go, leading to high-quality releases. If something isn’t quite ready, we will push it back into the next iteration; not done means it isn’t shipped.
Not only are we are continuously planning, testing and deploying code, we are then retrospectively reviewing the success of the past iteration. This means we are also always measuring our processes and eliminating time wastage.
Speed to market
Your requests, or user stories, become as real to us as they are to you. User stories form the backbone of the Agile plan. We assess them, size them up and prioritise them just like any other wish list.
We work out how many tasks we can get done in our two-week iteration and plan them in, a prioritised to-do list drawn up by a team with a drive to get things done. This means we can always react and pivot quickly which leads us into very regular development and release cycles – adding more value to you.
User feedback is immediate
With software as a service in an online environment, both delivery to, and feedback from, the market is immediate. The emphasis on getting shippable features or system tweaks into your hands frequently means the whole Anytime project is guided largely by you, the market. This keeps our software relevant but equally as important, it increases the possibility that together we’ll find the next big thing, that killer feature to keep us all ahead.
Change in development cycles used to be a no-no. But now we review progress daily in a brief morning meeting or stand-up. With stand-up, we have the chance to let our team mates know if we have any blockers to our workflow, and how we might break through them to keep focused and on track. We constantly inspect and adapt to change, always ready to modify what we are doing – it’s never too late.
A bonded team
Getting things done becomes a process involving every individual at Anytime. Everyone has a voice, everyone is empowered, everyone has opportunity to contribute to the task at hand. It also means that we are all accountable and motivated. It is a truly strategic and collaborative environment with everybody interacting daily with business direction.
So, behind your software that you use every day there are real people breathing life into it, discussing your request round a candidate board, moving it into our agreed backlog or prioritising it into the next iteration of work, then executing, testing and releasing it.
The really cool thing about working this way, is that we avoid the burnout rate so often associated with the software industry and every two weeks you get something of value.
Our emoji magnets on the board don’t always represent the emotions we experience towards the development work we are working on!
The future is bright
We are constantly working hard to improve our service to you and we have some new and exciting projects that we are currently planning for the New Year and beyond. These include designing and deploying a new availability chart, working on the UX look and feel of the admin area, improving speed and building relationships with OTAs to help you collect more bookings.
By working in an Agile way we believe it will provide us with the best working environment to deliver these changes.