Spotlight on Jet2.com - Interview with Stuart Bass, B.I. Applications Manager

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As part of IQ Tech's spotlight on Jet2.com & Jet2holidays, we caught up with B.I. Applications Manager, Stuart Bass, at their central office in Leeds for a Q and A session...

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Spotlight on Jet2.com - Interview with Stuart Bass, B.I. Applications Manager

  1. 1. What would you describe as your Team's key responsibilities? We work across the business and we do all of the internal development at Jet2.com and Jet2holidays which is not directly eCommerce. We work with everybody across the business from Maintenance Engineers, Pilots and Crew all the way through to HR, the Call Centre and Finance. Does your team respond to requests from those areas of the business? Typically we go out to the business and bring information back from the various systems within the business. This includes everything from the commercial websites where customers book their holidays to the flying operational system (the system that ensures the aircrafts are in the right places at the right times, with the right crew etc) and the engineering systems which make sure all the aircrafts are flight ready. We pull all that information back, bring it together and we make use of it within the business. So we'll sit down with our customers directly, work with them from beginning to end and do the whole project life-cycle. We will take their requirements and turn them into user stories, from which we will design a system to solve their particular problem, to build it and then manage it with them as well. STUART BASS B.I. Applications Manager, Jet2.com & Jet2holidays INTERVIEW WITH...
  2. 2. How are responsibilities divided amongst your Team? I manage a combination of developers at various levels and some support staff as well. Also within the Business Intelligence Team as a whole there's another part who do a lot of the Data Integration; they will go out to third party systems and bring the data back in for us and present it for us in the formats that we need to solve the business’ problems. Day-to-day in our Team each of the developers will be working in two weekly scrum cycles where we'll have backlog items proposed by our product owner. We will take these to the appropriate stakeholders and go through the project planning and entire project life-cycle with them for those particular items to make sure that they get tested and delivered by the end of each sprint. What are the key technologies that are used by your Team? We are very lucky in Jet2.com, because the BI Team as a whole has not been around that long and in particular the Applications side really only started about three years ago. Because of this we don't really have any legacy software to deal with. We've got advanced Silverlight stack for a variety of our existing applications. Additionally, we are moving to more advanced web frameworks – because everyone wants to access everything on their iPads these days and our customers are no different – so as a result we've got a lot of ASP.net MVC and Web API. On the front end, we make extensive use of modern javascript/css frameworks like Bootstrap, Knockout.js, and are looking at Angular.js. We're very lucky in what we do, because we tend to build small bespoke projects to fill in gaps in systems for people. As a result of this and the fast business growth I manage over 20 projects and we get to build lots of green field sites and choose the appropriate technology to build it quickly for the end user in the way they want. So we have a range of technologies and are constantly looking for the right technology to use to build things efficiently and to a high quality.
  3. 3. How are these technologies used in the projects you and your Team work on? The projects we work on tend to fall into three categories. We have lots of Process Automation, particularly around billing. We have systems that handle hundreds of millions of pounds worth of invoicing that come through this business every year. We are also now responsible for the custom parts of the operational systems which ensure planes and people are in the right place at the right time. We also create projects which allow us to capture information which isn’t otherwise available, for example we have a system built in ASP .Net MVC, using knockout.js, to allow us to capture product information directly from hotels for use in marketing materials and in the call centre. Another kind of project we have relates more to the classic Business Intelligence, where you're reporting and helping people analyse data. We help fill in the gaps where standard tools can't help people analyse or look at the data they want. So for example we've got an advanced dashboard solution which sits on top of ASP.Net MVC using razor templates. It uses Bootstrap for general styling, Knockout.js, D3.js and other javascript graph libraries for data display, Knockout.js for data binding. It's using Signal R for up to date transmission of data and it uses Entity Framework in the back end for configuration, while collecting data from Analysis Services Cubes using MDX. Are there any skills or specific areas of technology that are essential for everyone in your Team to know? I think these days everyone needs to know Web. We will have to maintain and continue to use Silverlight– what it does is fantastic– and we'll train people in that, but the focus really is on building good, scalable and reliable web applications. I'm particularly looking out for ASP.NET and MVC. I don't have any web forms on my estate so it really is MVC and some of the Javascript client frameworks on top. Because a lot of what we do involves fairly intensive client interactions to help people do the things that they need to do, or to visualise the data, for data visualisation we use the D3.JS, which is another big library in the work we do.
  4. 4. What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in B.I? Business Intelligence classically covers Data Warehousing and the analysis services, which at Jet2.com and Jet2holidays is handled by the other team in B.I. What we are really doing is much more along the business applications. I think that within that you have got to be ready for anything and be prepared to be able to sit down and deal with people on a day to day basis; to understand the problems and the things that they need to be able to do. Communication skills and being able to work on them are absolutely key. It is no good being the most fantastic developer if there is no way you understand what people are asking you to build, or communicate that back to them. Communication skills are absolutely key. Is the work that your Team is doing very varied, depending on which area of the business they are working with? Absolutely. For example, the work we do for Finance is quite intense in terms of high volume of transactions and complicated business logic. We've got a system called PIMS for managing the hoteliers information - we've got 1500 hotels logging onto this system and managing how many swimming pools they've got, what kids clubs they have, all the details about them, so we've designed and built a system that lets our Product Team manage what info they want to collect and the hoteliers to enter it. That information then flows through to the live website and to the brochures and so on. The work is extremely varied, not least because some people in the wider business are very IT literate, and others are much less so. You have to be able to deal with them all and to be able to provide solutions to meet each of their needs.
  5. 5. Why do you enjoy working at Jet2.com? I've been here for just over 2 years. I love working at Jet2.com because of the variety. I joined as a Senior Developer and I've been promoted up to where I am now. I wasn't expecting the level of client communication there is in Jet2.com and Jet2holidays. As a Developer, I think it is absolutely fantastic that I can walk around the floors of our Head Office, or go to the Airport and see people using the software that I've built day in and day out. Most places you develop software for would not give you that kind of job satisfaction - being able to see people's lives being enhanced by the things that you've been able to do directly. For example, you can build a website and there might be millions of people out there using it, but they're 'out there'. Elsewhere, you have to create hypothetical people for your users. I don't have to create hypothetical people, I have real people. I would say that the thing that I have enjoyed the most is solving people's problems for them... and then they come back and ask for something else! TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT WORKING AT JET2.COM OR JET2HOLIDAYS VISIT WWW.ITQTECH.COM/JET2 AS A DEVELOPER, I THINK IT IS ABSOLUTELY FANTASTIC THAT I CAN WALK AROUND THE FLOORS OF OUR HEAD OFFICE, OR GO TO THE AIRPORT AND SEE PEOPLE USING THE SOFTWARE THAT I'VE BUILT DAY IN AND DAY OUT.

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