QTB: thetrainline.com - 'Scale at speed'
About 18 months on from the first ThoughtWorks QTB that I saw about offshoring, on Wednesday night I attended the latest QTB in Manchester titled ‘thetrainline.com - Scale at speed’.
The presenters were thetrainline.com’s CIO David Jack and the Managing Director of ThoughtWorks India, Mahesh Baxi.
They took us on the journey that thetrainline.com have taken while working with ThoughtWorks to re-architect part of their system to allow them to quickly deliver new functionality on the 2,500 websites that their portal technology powers.
These were some of the key points that stood out for me:
The argument for doing this that I’ve often heard is that you end up playing catch up with the old system and eventually end up in the situation where you need to re-write the re-write but in this case David suggested that re-writing the whole system was not an option for the business.
James Shore describes this as ‘voluntary technical debt’ and I think we need to at least consider whether it’s more important to get quick feedback on our work by getting it into production quickly and perhaps taking some shortcuts along the way. David was quick to point out that at some stage you do need to address that technical debt otherwise you’ll end up in a world of pain.
I’m not sure how exactly you know where to draw the line with respect to this because it would be very easy to just get into a hacking culture until you get to the stage where it’s almost impossible to add any new features to the code base.
I’ve not really come across a good low level metric which allows you to accurately tell how well a team is doing. The best measure seems to be just looking at whether a team is consistently delivering valuable features to their users. That’s often considered a bit wishy washy so it’d be interesting to know if anyone has a better way to measure performance that works well.
The rotation included having subject matter experts from thetrainline.com going to India and working with the teams and David suggested that you still need to have a big commitment to a project if you want it to be successful even if it is being done offshore.
I guess the ultimate is to have continuous delivery as described by Timothy Fitz in his blog post.
Overall this was quite an interesting talk to attend and gave me a bit more insight into some of the similar and different challenges that are faced by projects operating across multiple time zones.