When BrainStorm, the preferred training provider for thousands of organizations around the world, came up with the idea of an innovative SaaS-based QuickHelp platform for professional growth, they faced a lack of in-house development capabilities. To build their flagship product and be able to affordably scale their engineering capacity, BrainStorm looked for a trusted IT staff augmentation company to partner with.
Being a pioneer in the industry, BrainStorm was among the first eLearning companies to build their solution on Microsoft Azure. Back in 2011, when Azure had just come out and cloud competencies were still rare, this decision triggered new challenges for the company. To address the talent shortage and future-proof their new platform for further innovations, BrainStorm decided to work with Intellias. We were a good match for the project with our abundant experience in cloud solutions, strong software engineering culture, and flexible staff augmentation services.
Our collaboration began with a small web app project involving four developers. Throughout this project, Intellias proved a reliable partner with a great cultural fit and the right mix of skills, expertise, and maturity. The success of this pilot program gave BrainStorm the confidence to move to full-scale product development.
Our team’s success story
Intellias mature engineering environment, advanced technology services, and culture of continuous innovation allowed us to promptly respond to BrainStorm’s technological needs. Our experts in Microsoft .NET and the Azure stack became vital contributors to efficient development of our client’s cloud platform. QuickHelp is entirely hosted on Azure Cloud and uses a variety of Azure services, resources, and technologies.
Being a client-centric company, Intellias took a flexible, collaborative, and process-oriented approach to project management right from the start. This allowed us to quickly establish workflows and operations as well as achieve transparency and accountability in our relationships.
As the QuickHelp platform was rapidly gaining market traction and required our deeper involvement, the team continued to steadily grow each year in both its size and span of responsibilities. Bit by bit, BrainStorm delegated the entire delivery process and all project management functions to Intellias, leaving only business requirements engineering on their side. We went from team augmentation to full project delivery and became BrainStorm’s single development center. Our team took charge of full-cycle software development, quality control, requirements analysis, release planning, recruitment, team composition, and team trainings.
The initial version of QuickHelp was delivered by two project teams of 15. The comprehensive architecture that Intellias designed became the cornerstone of QuickHelp’s success. However, we continued to provide digital consulting to BrainStorm on necessary improvements to the solution architecture and process optimizations.
After the core processes were up and running, another challenge surfaced. BrainStorm’s strategic goal to roll out the second version of QuickHelp required conceptual changes to the system’s logic and UX as well as refactoring some parts of the existing code or reworking it completely.
To cover a growing pipeline of requirements for the next version of the platform and meet tough deadlines, Intellias doubled the team size. Each of our three teams were assigned a team leader responsible for overseeing the team’s dynamics and efficiency.
We decided to temporarily switch from Scrum to Kanban to focus on completing specific features rather than committing to several tasks at a time. This marked a major shift in our team’s mindset. We realized that even when working to a tight schedule, with the right process in place, our team could deliver on the project requirements quickly and efficiently. The successful and timely release of the new version of QuickHelp gave BrainStorm momentum to win new customers and retain existing ones.
After moving to a new set of technologies for the second version, including React, we conducted rigorous team training sessions to avoid possible competency gaps and make the shift seamless. We also provided post-production support for both versions of QuickHelp, fixing issues, handling change requests, and implementing improvements.
As BrainStorm’s business was growing fast, the ability to scale the engineering team became an essential requirement for the software production process. Team scaling naturally brought about the need for changes in terms of methodology, project planning, and engineering practices.
From Scrum to LeSS Huge
Being highly adaptable to meet our clients’ objectives, we adjusted our methodology to provide more flexibility in scope changes, streamline team deliverables, and orchestrate the work of all stakeholders. To scale the Scrum process, we customized the LeSS Huge framework to better serve cross-team needs. This helped us establish a well-coordinated SDLC process across the entire BrainStorm development organization.
Project planning and requirements management
Our team started conducting a deep requirements analysis several sprints in advance so we could build an architectural runway to meet the product’s future requirements. We also automated many project management processes to facilitate communication, documentation, and operational activities.
Our next big step was transforming the organizational structure into Development, Product, and Technology organizations and launching engineering guilds. The Intellias team initiated the shift from a full-stack development approach to multi-dimensional specialization that would ensure the team’s cross-functionality and efficiency. To support this move, we established guilds, or Communities of Practice (CoPs).
Focused on specific areas of interest, guilds are an effective mechanism for consolidating, sharing, and cultivating knowledge within a field. Our guilds cover:
- Architecture & engineering
- Data management & storage
- Quality assurance
- Frontend & UX
- Business & system analysis
Each guild is guided by a dedicated coordinator who takes ownership of their area’s success. The coordinator’s role is to define strategy, metrics, and KPIs related to their guild’s function, introduce modern engineering practices, and encourage the guild’s core contributors to input their ideas and suggestions.
Setting up guilds helped us promote engineering excellence within the BrainStorm development department, adopt a more data-driven SDLC approach, and add fresh blood to the team by growing proactive tech leaders and hiring specialized professionals for certain functions.
From day one, our team embraced the DevOps ideology and built the development process with DevOps principles in mind, optimizing the infrastructure, automating workflows, and improving overall operational efficiency. With the arrival of BrainStorm’s new business model along with a new product with a microservices architecture, Intellias solution operations services have become an indispensable part of our cooperation.
Each development team is responsible for their CI/CD pipeline and can deploy features as they become ready without the help of infrastructure engineers. Our CI/CD pipelines are refactored with built-in Quality Gates that run a set of automated tests on each update, helping to resolve issues before they affect the system. Our deep Infrastructure as Code (IaC) automation speeds up provisioning infrastructure for development, testing, production, and scaling.
Since the beginning of our cooperation with BrainStorm, we’ve established good rapport with our client. However, our partnership goes much deeper. Over the years, we’ve also developed a close relationship with BrainStorm, sharing their values, cultural code, and work ethics. They trust us completely and treat Intellias engineers as part of their team. We participate in BrainStorm’s culture-sharing projects and support their cause initiatives.
What started as software development staff augmentation with BrainStorm has grown into a trusting, long-lasting relationship and has resulted in establishing a scalable software development organization for our client.
At the early stages of the project, Intellias expanded BrainStorm’s development capabilities with professional teams and provided the potential for further IT staffing augmentation to cover new business opportunities for our client. We also provided BrainStorm with outcome-robust mechanisms to streamline the development process, resolve inefficiencies, and ensure successful delivery.
Throughout our cooperation, we’ve provided project visibility through transparent planning and explicit priority setting. This has given BrainStorm a high level of predictability to build their business and ensure they keep their promises and agreements with customers.
Intellias has built a high-functioning software delivery center for BrainStorm with five world-class project teams totaling over 50 senior IT professionals. As our client continues to see their business expand both in terms of numbers and geography, Intellias is committed to supporting BrainStorm in any way possible to scale their success.