Britehouse Digital helps PAYM8 reach its business agility objectives

Building an agile software development team proves to be the key to a successful agile implementation

Britehouse Digital helps PAYM8 reach its business agility objectives

Most IT project implementations ignore the inter-team dynamics of having the customer’s own software developers collaborate with the implementation partner’s developers. This often negatively impacts productivity – and the quality of the solution that is delivered.


In fixed scope waterfall implementations, team relationships are less of an issue because the project blueprint is decided up front and, usually, riveted into place. Agile implementations, however, change with each sprint as the most recently delivered software opens up opportunities not considered or available before. The considerable advantage of agile software development is that it keeps the organisation at the forefront of its market.


However, the constant state of change called for makes team management essential to ensuring that agile implementations deliver optimal results.


For PAYM8 Secure, a provider of PCI-DSS compliant payment gateway services, Britehouse Digital’s structured approach to team formation would be the one of the most important factors in their achievement of the business agility they regard as their differentiator.


The need


PAYM8 specialises in m-commerce, e-commerce, financial collections, and payment gateway services. Using state of the art technology in Visa and PCI certified environments, the company offers access to a single platform with corresponding application and product expertise enabling companies to offer their own m-commerce, e-commerce, and on-line payment collection solutions using PAYM8’s technology.


Getting to this position has not been trouble free.


As PAYM8 general manager, operations, Ilze van As, puts it: “We had two legacy platforms that had been developed outside of PAYM8’s environment close to a decade ago and were over-engineered, complicated, and cautiously revered by even the bravest developer in our team. 


“Even so, the platforms had served us well in supporting and reinforcing the value of our products. Our clients were happy to use our products and were asking for additional ones.  However, enhancing and expanding our product suite on the existing platform proved close to impossible and became a burning issue for the business. 


“We wanted agility. We wanted speed.  We craved savvy user interfaces and technology that we could be proud of.  We needed to be able to change business direction easily, without losing grip on our software strategy.”


But, identifying the appropriate technology options and then finding a partner who could help implement them affordably and efficiently was not a simple exercise.


“Without fail, the first impressions we had of all our potential partners were fabulous,” van As says. “Their sales pitches were all very well thought through and initial consultations made us feel we were on the right track. But what stood out about Britehouse Digital (then 3Fifteen) was their practical persistence and an early show of commitment to the process we were going through. 


“We had pretty much decided on a different vendor when we were invited to the Britehouse campus for a day long workshop about agile software development. Consultant Nathan van den Berg showed exceptional patience when taking us through the concept of agile and addressed our uncertainties with a good dose of book-knowledge and some quirky humour. Also, it was obvious from the start that Britehouse Digital consulting services general manager, Michelle Ramnath, could keep any pack of cowboy-coders motivated.  We walked away from that first session enlightened, excited, and sure that we had found the right fit for PAYM8.”


The answer


From a technical perspective, when the Britehouse team began to investigate re-factoring and bug fixing in the existing code, they found that more than 50% of it would need to be changed.


In addition, user interfaces were outdated in appearance and technology, difficult to maintain and, in many cases, not compatible with all available browsers. This was impacting user experience. Merchants need to be efficient for their customers.


Lack of intuitive functionality in the PAYM8 system called for intensive user training. New product features took too long to implement. An absence of customisable reporting options and dashboard features slowed access to transactional information and analysis.


As the problems mounted, so PayM8 sales came under increasing pressure.


To complicate matters further, the continuous evolution of payment technologies, including social media, meant that PAYM8 needed to continuously update not only its products but its own business model.


This meant that a lengthy, fixed scope implementation of a new system would be outdated before the final blueprint was approved. Agile software development was the only sensible solution.


However, the Britehouse and PAYM8 development teams came from different work cultures, had dissimilar organisational structures, and followed varying software approaches.


“It was very clear that we first needed to form a cohesive team and introduce simple proven processes before we could expect the team to be highly effective and produce good quality software,” Ramnath says.


“We started by creating a product vision so that the entire team understood the required outcomes. We then defined team rules of engagement that set out acceptable behaviours and boundaries for the new relationships we were forming.  Our next step was a flight plan, representing a six month roadmap, so that we had visibility of the ‘bigger picture’.


“Clients often try and skip these processes. We were fortunate that PAYM8 gave us two weeks upfront to lay the foundation for productive team formation and, therefore, for future team and software development.”


The strong collaboration ethic that is a key element in Britehouse teams was pro-actively inculcated within the combined team. Planning sessions were highly interactive, with each team member taking turns at facilitating. This encouraged more participation and discussion. Decision making was democratic. When consensus could not be reached by team discussion, a vote was taken. This encouraged and empowered team members to be accountable for their tasks, actions, and decisions. Pair programming led to better quality code and promoted cross-pollination of skills and knowledge.


“Getting to a point of a self-organizing team is the ultimate goal and a true measure of success in an agile project,” Ramnath says. “As we progressed further into sprints the team started functioning as a cohesive unit, collaboration and interaction levels were high, and we were seeing a steady increase in productivity. We are currently enjoying a harmonious environment and many tasks are voluntarily being done as team activities rather than as individual tasks. Team behaviours and output have become more predictable.”


Introducing continuous change to an organisation is no simple task. Ramnath says that Britehouse managed it by being keeping their intentions transparent at all times.  “Also, we had active involvement from our product owner and sponsor throughout the process, ensuring that the rest of the business supported our initiatives.” 


For PAYM8, the process brought about a complete mindshift.


“By the end of the first sprint, we had learned a language that we never knew existed,” van As says.  “By the end of the second, we were sold on agile, buying sharpies and sticky notes and arguing about 2 or 3 pointer-cards. 


“It was exciting to see the transformation of our own team and Michelle continues to be exceptional at placing people in our environment who understand what we’re about as a business. That’s an extraordinary capability considering that PAYM8 is not your typical organised banking institution. We just move so fast.


“Most surprising was the way in which the Britehouse team embraced our evolving business-as-usual and the non-stop enhancements to our existing platforms. Small improvements made massive differences in the legacy environments and added a great deal of value to our existing product suites.”


The business benefit


PAYM8 now has an agile payment platform that can accommodate all existing and any future payment models and technologies, maintaining its competitive edge.


Based on the success of the virtual team model, PAYM8 has made a strategic decision to outsource the entire development team to Britehouse Digital, ensuring the sustainability of its software development needs. 


Van As says that unexpected project benefits included trust and transparency. “Incredible care and sincere interest was shown by a large, well-known organisation to a small, close-knit team who believe they can change the world of payments. Our development team now consists of committed people who are passionate about what they do. We continue to have inspiring conversations with Nathan about a million books that we have not yet read and software strategies that I hope I’ll remember to Google some day. Best of all, we at PAYM8 know that we can finally capitalise on the opportunities we have and focus on taking product to market, because we have experts taking care of our software.”

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