Valk Solutions is reaping its first benefits: frequent releases with improved quality and transparency, by implementing VSTS
VSTS radically improves delivery process
Valk Solutions provides payment systems to a large number of retail chains, webshops and kiosks. The company’s payment systems include in-store and online Point of Sale systems, often integrated with electronic ordering and stock management modules. Until the middle of 2017, the version and release management of the software involved a wide range of manual tasks. The labor-intensive, manual process stood in the way of continuous delivery of release patches. The rapid increase of Valk’s customer base called for an automated version management system. Xpirit assisted in implementing VSTS, and within a matter of months, Valk Solutions is reaping its first benefits: frequent releases with improved quality and transparency, while the time involved has been reduced to nearly one tenth of what it used to be.
Drivers for change: increased customer base and outdated process
Valk Solutions’ customers need regular software updates. Any interruption to payment systems has an enormous impact on their business processes. If payments can’t proceed, entire transactions stop, and shoppers are likely to go elsewhere. Valk’s software quality control and delivery processes are, therefore, of mission critical importance to the business of its customers.
In 2017, Valk’s version management process proved to be outdated. A rapid increase in the number of customers meant that the old process couldn’t keep up with customers’ requirements for regular releases. A frequent succession of patches for varying implementations demanded a solution that provided transparency and minimized the time and cost of version management.
Company needed to be convinced
In February 2017, Valk Solutions’ Manager of Software Development, Joke Huizinga, called for a radical change and proposed the implementation of Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS). However, it took some tough talk to convince the company of the need for this particular change. Joke: “We needed to explain the ins and outs of version management, the risks and impediments of the old process, and I had to convince them of the benefits of the new system. In addition, I had to push the priority because there was a lot of work for customers to be done. As I could substantiate the benefits of the required investment with a very positive cost-benefit analysis I got green light to execute.”
To ensure a smooth process, Joke Huizinga involved Xpirit’s consultant Jasper Gilhuis. “It was an easy choice. We needed extra expertise and I knew Jasper from a previous project, I knew his know-how, experience and skills, and what’s more, I had seen him in action in the past, convincing hi-tech experts and nerds. He has a great deal of charisma that gets people moving to achieve results in a minimum of time. And that’s what happened. Within a matter of months, VSTS had been implemented with the old version database migrated into the new system.”
A simple press of a button
Bart van Dodeweerd, Valk Solutions’ Lead Developer, describes the change: “The process of version and release management used to involve a tedious, time-consuming process that was carried out by one person. The entire process took approximately eight hours, with activities that usually had to be carried out during evenings or weekends when shops were closed. What’s more, being a manual process, it was unacceptably error-prone. Now, this process has been reduced to a mere press of a button, taking about one tenth of the time it used to take. A year ago, we simply deemed this to be impossible.”
Why didn’t we take this step years ago?
Bart continues: “The version management process has become much more efficient. Within a matter of months, we were able to deliver our releases more frequently. The software is more stable, and more frequent releases reduce the scope of possible problems. If a problem does occur, we resolve it much faster. Moreover, we have immediate insight into which customer is using which version, we can track the status, and our quality control has improved enormously. It’s amazing where we are now, and I am glad that we met Joke and Jasper and that we got the company’s funding to take this step.”
“We’re currently in the process of adding release management, which will be followed by adding databases and back-end systems. The change to VSTS has radically improved our entire delivery process, resulting in higher quality and more transparency while reducing the costs.”