Agility is an enviable characteristic. The fastest land animal on earth depends more on agility than speed to catch its prey. In a successful hunt, a cheetah needs to be able to slam on the brakes and turn quickly to outmanoeuvre her prey. This ability to quickly decrease speed to make sharp turns is key to the cheetah’s predatorial success.
Like the cheetah, our primary mechanism for building the strength of our software development team is to take an agile approach. This technique guarantees that our customers can realize the value of their investment quickly, react to client demands fast, and enjoy new functionality and automation to accelerate ahead of their competitors.
In this blog, I want to let you into the secrets of our R&D team’s success; to demonstrate how our team of software developers succeed in programming and releasing around twenty new software versions per year (including PersonalEffect, Circle, and XMPie Video Services), and how – even in the era of Covid-19 and worldwide lockdown – the XMPie platform stays top of its class among the print-in-the-mix omnichannel technology providers.
1. Building Speed
Our R&D team can release new software versions fast. In 2019 we released twenty-one versions filled with new features, capabilities and quality improvements. In 2020 we’re up to fourteen new versions already. How do we manage it? We break down projects into clearly defined, manageable chunks that can be delivered independently. This way, we can release the improvements incrementally, and our customers can enjoy the value faster.
A great example of this is Circle Analytics which extracts marketing insights at each step along the customer journey. We are releasing Circle Analytics feature-sets in stages (subject to rigorous quality checks) so that customers can get value from the developments as fast as possible and put them to immediate use in their businesses. We could have waited until all the features were complete, but where would be the fun in that?
2. Adapting to Changing Circumstances
Instead of a rigid, sequential approach, XMPie’s agile development processes give our R&D team the ability to be nimble to new feature requests, spot errors, and react to priority changes according to feedback from the field. For instance, last year, a change in the taxation laws in the United States meant that tax requirements for different US states had to be dealt with differently, and our US StoreFlow customers faced an urgent challenge. We had to pivot fast to solve this problem for them, build a new infrastructure for integrating our platform with an external tax calculation system, then switch back to focus on the planned roadmap. Being able to navigate the unexpected, yet inevitable twists and turns that arise during the development process is a critical skill for our software engineers.
3. Customer Collaboration
Our project pipeline is always driven by our customers’ and partners’ business requirements; we make decisions dynamically collaboratively to maximize customer value. Each year we also meet up with our customers at XMPie Users Group events and Innovation Days. This cooperation is critical for us to understand how our customers are interacting with the platform, what new features are needed, or what makes one feature more popular than another. If you have a specific requirement, you can submit a feature request here or discuss your ideas with your local sales representative.
4. Increasing Automation
Just as the XMPie platform allows our customers to automate their marketing campaigns, we are also making use of automation tools in our software development process. By using automated methods of Quality Assurance (QA), we can verify software quality faster, meet tight deadlines, and focus on new features and deployment efforts. It’s an essential process in our software development cycle and is helping our developers to execute testing at a much faster scale than manual processes can achieve. Automation is also freeing up our development team from low-level, repetitive tasks so that they can focus on the more unique tasks that can only be done manually.
5. Interdepartmental Cooperation
Ditching silos is the way forward. It’s why we developed our collaboration tool Circle, and it’s why our R&D, QA, and Product teams have a strong culture of learning and knowledge sharing, along with full transparency and accountability. When barriers are broken down, and people with different skill sets are brought together, the result is enhanced scope, more innovation and improved business performance. XMPie also participates in global software development conferences to share best practices and learn about emerging software development trends.