Growing an Innovative Technology Team

May 11, 2016

As businesses and software development have changed, so has the discipline of growing a technology business. Industry best practices in software development are increasingly well understood.  Agile, Test-Driven Development, Continuous Deployment, DevOps Pipelines, Cloud Computing: methodologies like these are discussed and adopted by many people and companies. We can stand on the shoulders of giants like Martin Fowler, Ken Schwaber, Eric Ries, the Etsy team and many others. However, the fun and the challenge of adopting these tools and processes lies in going much deeper than the books and buzzwords to truly achieve the promised productivity gains. We take pride in our ability to work as a team to innovate and uncover what works best for our business.

Technology Innovation that Focuses on Business Results

In recent years, the Blueport technology team has tripled in size. In the not-too-distant past, our small team was able to get by with legacy technologies like Classic ASP and Visual Source Safe and with mostly ad hoc processes. We had never written a unit test or automated functional test or established continuous integration. We were able to accomplish some great things for the business, but we knew that we could not scale the team without significant changes.

Today, the Blueport team has written hundreds of unit tests, established TDD within our newer code base and gained productivity and predictability with Agile. Our deployment process is largely automated and we run a substantial private cloud infrastructure. We’ve upgraded technologies across the board, and constantly evaluate new choices. We have an open, transparent road map tied to business metrics and objectives that are validated with detailed user research. We strive to ensure that every line of code written matters to users. To do this, our software development process must not be narrowly defined as writing code, but rather has been broadly defined from the point of knowing what to build, when and why, all the way through to how to test it, deploy it and roll it out.

To get to this point, we have tried, failed and ultimately succeeded with different processes, technologies and team configurations. We’ve added people, yet seen our pace of development accelerate on a per-person basis. We love new ways of working, and never think we have it right. In fact, we are certain we have only begun to scratch the surface of what we can do, and believe that we have lots of runway left to further accelerate our progress.

Work that Makes a Maximum Impact

Throughout this evolution, our real measure of success has been the impact we have had on our clients’ businesses. Clients on the Blueport Platform have seen dramatically higher revenue per visitor, conversion rate and customer satisfaction. Furniture retailers on the platform have made the mental shift to understand the power of online and omnichannel retailing as well as the critical importance of technology. We have established ourselves as the leader in the industry and we are poised for growth.

Furthermore, we’ve done this because of our focus on our people:

  • We consider any and all ideas, because they are the foundation for innovation
  • We believe we can’t achieve our mission by simply working harder,
  • We must commit time, money and training to learn to work smarter
  • We believe that developing people and their careers is essential to their productivity, and therefore our success
  • We prioritize learning, and are not afraid to make mistakes if we can learn from them
  • We act as a team, supporting each other to create the best possible product
  • We like to come to work. A fun, lighthearted atmosphere and a sense of continual forward progress is a powerful combination

Looking Ahead to 2017

By the end of the year, we expect that our technology team will nearly double. In 2016 and beyond we must expect our pace of change to accelerate if we hope to keep our pace of development increasing. We are looking for the innovative people that will help us create the next several years of acceleration. If you have all the answers figured out, you may not be for us (we can read the books too). But, if you have tons of questions, if you believe in acting fast, if you care more about the quality of the outcome than who gets the credit or the blame, if you prefer basing decisions on data, and, most importantly, if your idea of fun is trying new things just to see how they might work, then we want you here. Come have some fun with us!