A platform for the future
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A platform for the future

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Setting new standards for collaborative offshore Agile development, ThoughtWorks helped the UK’s leading ...

Setting new standards for collaborative offshore Agile development, ThoughtWorks helped the UK’s leading
independent retailer of online train tickets – thetrainline.com – rebuild its core processing and website platform.
In what has now become one of the largest known Agile projects, a distributed team of approximately 200
people delivered a Web 2.0 solution supporting 8.6 million registered users, with speed that was fundamental
to thetrainline.com’s success in a rapidly evolving market.

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A platform for the future A platform for the future Document Transcript

  • A platform for the future Setting new standards for collaborative offshore Agile development, ThoughtWorks helped the UK’s leading independent retailer of online train tickets – thetrainline.com – rebuild its core processing and website platform. In what has now become one of the largest known Agile projects, a distributed team of approximately 200 people delivered a Web 2.0 solution supporting 8.6 million registered users, with speed that was fundamental to thetrainline.com’s success in a rapidly evolving market. thetrainline.com was established in 1997 and is the UK’s leading It introduced many innovative product and service ideas including independent retailer of train tickets online. Since its inception, ticketing at home and on mobile phones. The recent acquisition thetrainline.com has made millions of transactions and the of Advanced Smartcard Technologies and ECEBS Ltd signaled its company’s websites and call-centers account for the sale of desire to drive the adoption of the smartcard technology throughout approximately 18% of the UK’s train tickets in terms of value. the travel industry. In addition to its own website it operates retail websites for a In a highly competitive environment, thetrainline.com also felt number of Train Operating Companies which sell rail tickets online, the need to take advantage of new market opportunities and as well as providing a rail business travel service direct to a number system operational cost savings for which a whole new platform of blue chip corporations and travel agents. was required. The Situation The new platform was designed for low maintenance costs, short During its first 8 years in the market, thetrainline.com enjoyed a delivery time of new features and opportunities for significantly first mover advantage and expanded significantly, acquiring its consolidating the hardware platform with the services. main online competitor Qjump in February 2004. thetrainline.com developed a powerful range of ticketing systems, which includes “We undertook a complex, technically challenging and a core customer management and booking engine, a range of business critical programme of work with ThoughtWorks. ticket collection kiosks and printers for corporate customers. We trusted them with the success of our future business and they delivered.” David Jack – CIO thetrainline.com www.thoughtworks.com
  • The Challenge The challenge thetrainline.com faced at the beginning of the year, was the need to move away from a huge monolithic system and legacy codebase to enable it to deliver value to their customers in much shorter timescales, with reduced cost and increased scale. The key challenges included: Scaling a team from 50 people to approximately 200 people. Fundamentally re-architecting a huge legacy code-base that had been developed over many years, to enable running multiple tracks of development at the same time. Production environments were simulated to enable real-time Keeping key business customers happy while the new integration and testing of software modules under development. platform was developed. Virtualization was used extensively, while hosting the application and development infrastructure on close to 300 servers. Working Towards a Solution ThoughtWorks’ approach to the challenge ahead lay in a phased Software build and deployment processes were automated so that architectural re-factoring approach. The system evolved over a the team could manage several versions of the software efficiently. period of time, in a way that ensured maximum productivity and scalability. An automated regression test framework created a safeguard around the software, rapidly identifying faults and ensuring the The first step was to build a shared understanding of the problem highest levels of quality across the application. This also allowed the and required solution. Interactive exercises, discussions and quick application to scale rapidly and handle massive increases in traffic. prototype development fed into the project roadmap, identifying areas of technical risk and developing mitigation plans. Software development was completed in small iterations, tackling the most important, high risk or troublesome areas first. Every two A well-defined governance model, clearly identifying sponsors weeks, functionality was “showcased” to the customer to review and owners on either side enabled collaborative decision-making and re-prioritize work for the next iteration. and prioritization by key stakeholders. ThoughtWorks also planned for six-week “Release” cycles, Dedicated video-conferencing, use of WebEx and Instant each cycle comprising three iterations, until production. Messenger and regular visits by ThoughtWorks and thetrainline.com staff between Bangalore, Pune and the UK ensured open and frequent communication. www.thoughtworks.com
  • Client Benefits The Future: Quality at speed: ThoughtWorks produced a production-ready, thetrainline.com had a business critical, technically complex live, scalable and functionally rich application in less than nine problem that was threatening to restrain them in a highly competitive months. At the same time, ThoughtWorks continued to deliver market. After working with ThoughtWorks, thetrainline.com now has and deploy new features and functionality every six weeks a stable, scalable system that provides the rich user functionality it into production. wanted to offer. Shorter, simpler booking process: Users now have to Nine of the 15 Train Operating Companies’ portals powered by navigate fewer pages to make a booking, saving valuable time. thetrainline.com are live on the new system. Roll out to the other The average visit to the site now contains 46% less page views Train Operating Companies is continuing. In addition, the platform than the old site, and the average duration to make a purchase will be extended to portals for businesses, travel management is around 60% of the time previously required. companies and call centers. Supporting innovation: ThoughtWorks architected and thetrainline.com is well on track to be able to decommission developed a proprietary portal platform enabling the rapid roll its existing platform, and so make cost savings as well as go out of multiple customer portals with significantly improved after new business opportunities. More importantly, it now has functional brand and product differences. a platform which can underpin the constant innovation that thetrainline.com is committed to deliver to its current and Safe: The application now has a full set of automated tests, future customers. which ensure that the highest levels of quality are maintained, and allows new features to be added rapidly without breaking the production system. Total collaboration: Despite the distance, thetrainline.com and ThoughtWorks worked in a highly collaborative way, building close relationships and understanding, setting new standards for offshore software development teams. “thetrainline.com has extensive offshore software development experience with a number of different vendors. If you have a business critical, technically complex development project you want to offshore, in my view, ThoughtWorks is the safest option. They are redefining offshore software development and I wholeheartedly endorse their approach.” Rob Parkinson – IT Director thetrainline.com www.thoughtworks.com
  • US – Chicago t: +1 312 373 1000 email: info-us@thoughtworks.com Australia – Sydney t: +61 2 9224 1700 email: info-au@thoughtworks.com UK – London t: +44 20 7497 4500 email: info-uk@thoughtworks.com India – Bangalore t: +91 80 2508 9572 email: info-in@thoughtworks.com Canada – Calgary t: +1 403 263 3287 email: info-ca@thoughtworks.com China - Beijing t: +86 10 6407 6695 email: info-cn@thoughtworks.com thoughtworks.com