This quote by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, perfectly describes the importance of learning and change for an organization. To grow and learn, a child must apply learning to action, and organizations must continuously learn and adapt to grow and succeed in today’s hyper-competitive environment.
A key aspect of how we at Appirio learn, change, and innovate is to put equal emphasis on improving both our customer and worker experiences. A great example of customer-focused innovation that was born out of internal learning and experimentation is AppirioDX, our DevOps toolset for Salesforce.
The beginning: A solution springs from a need
The ideas that became AppirioDX started in 2015 when one of our consultants was working on a Service Cloud project for an Appirio customer. The customer was a dot-com era giant who had developed a rich DevOps culture to support their web development. Because Salesforce projects don’t require servers and allow most configuration using clicks not code, DevOps practices in the Salesforce ecosystem have historically lagged behind those in other technologies. This project was no exception, and inefficiencies in the workflow were negatively affecting the team’s work. The team faced problems with code being overwritten, the inability to see the history of changes, deployment errors, orgs being out of sync, etc. These issues caused confusion, rework, and stress.
Finding the time or motivation, in the middle of a project and under pressure to deliver features quickly, to improve the way your team works is difficult. But at Appirio, we believe that helping our teams be more effective is key to project success. We’re always learning and looking for processes and technologies to improve the way we work.
This customer had fantastic DevOps processes in place for some of the teams developing in other languages. Drawing inspiration from them, we implemented version control, continuous integration (CI), continuous delivery, and code quality analysis for this customer and their team. After a month of getting acclimated, the team found this greatly improved their development and delivery workflow, and they could now:
- Keep track of changes
- Have smoother deployments
- Maintain their code quality in a comfortable way
They used SonarQube to track quality issues and test code coverage. SonarQube allowed the team to acknowledge problems with the existing codebase, but enforce higher standards on any code under active development. This enabled the team to gradually ratchet-up the quality of the whole codebase as different parts were updated over time.
Application: Learning into action
Seeing the great advantages this workflow brought, this consultant wanted to apply it to other projects, so they began a project called “Continuous Integration for the Masses.” The goal of this project was to build a suite of tools and services to improve the development experience. Gradually, a network formed within the company to validate the ideas and gather support.
Appirio’s culture supports open communication, so we were free to connect with a wide variety of individuals and teams, learn their pain points, and listen to different viewpoints to determine what could make the development process better. Ideas accumulated, and a vision began to emerge of a suite of tools and processes to help reduce project teams’ pain points and to increase customer satisfaction.
The biggest challenge was still to come: Getting commitment within Appirio to build these capabilities. We rebranded this project “AppirioDX” because its focus was on improving the Development Experience, and as a nod to a parallel initiative at Salesforce called Salesforce DX. The IT team loved the ideas but were clear that building this new suite of tools and processes didn’t fall into their area of responsibility. The R&D team who built the Cloud Management Center (CMC), Appirio’s homegrown project management tool, also loved the idea but had a strict remit to focus on their own product.
Implementation: Final approval
Finally, a chance conversation with Glenn Weinstein, Appirio’s CIO and co-founder, gave us the direction we were looking for. Glenn not only supported the idea but also had the influence and organizational insight needed to make it happen. He pointed us to the Global Governance team, a small team charged with establishing processes to be used across all our projects.
Appirio’s open culture provided fertile ground for good ideas to gain momentum, regardless of their source. When a good idea with good motivation arises in an open, performance-oriented culture, powerful things are possible.
After a short period of planning, we identified an excellent team of developers in Appirio’s India office who were eager to help implement these ideas. The team began work in September 2017, and have thrived on delivering functionality to support their fellow developers. Sprint after sprint, the team has released new capabilities and worked incredibly hard to make the development experience better for everyone. Appirio leadership has been consistently supportive of this initiative to ensure Appirio is always delivering the highest quality solutions.
AppirioDX into the future
Appirio consultants are encouraged to spend a portion of each week on non-client-facing work that interests them. As a result, many people outside of the AppirioDX team have also helped with feedback and testing. On a moment-by-moment basis, people derive more satisfaction from helping their colleagues or working for a meaningful purpose than they do from money or other extrinsic motivators. We’re enormously grateful for the ongoing support for this project from so many people at Appirio.
Working on the AppirioDX team has involved some really hard days, sleepless nights, and endlessly long discussions on how to build tools that developers will love. But at the end of the day, the response to AppirioDX has been extremely gratifying.
It’s said that “A day well-spent brings a happy sleep.” There’s no denying it: The time we’ve spent working to improve our developers’ experience has brought deep contentment and ensured that we finish each day feeling satisfied and fulfilled.
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