Re-inventing Agile for ABC Online

After the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) spent almost a year trying to retool and modernise the ABC Shop Online platform, it realised it couldn't do the job alone. It brought in a small, Sydney-based web design company that worked with Auntie to re-invent the store using Ruby on Rails and a newly created version of the Agile process.

After the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) spent almost a year trying to retool and modernise the ABC Shop Online platform, it realised it couldn't do the job alone. It brought in a small, Sydney-based web design company that worked with Auntie to re-invent the store using Ruby on Rails and a newly created version of the Agile process.

The ABC selected reInteractive to help it transform the ABC Shop Online from a seven-year-old legacy Microsoft ASP platform to a more modern framework designed with Agile techniques in mind so that new products, specials and changes could be deployed in minutes as opposed to weeks.

Mikel Lindsaar, managing director of reInteractive, told ZDNet Australia that part of the challenge in building the site was calculating with the ABC how much the broadcaster would pay when being charged by the hour under an Agile design process.

"Agile is an interesting methodology. My view is that it rarely survives first contact with the customer," he said. "When you are your own client and using Agile internally, you don't [have] to specify how long something has to take, but when you're dealing with a customer and everything has a dollar value, the customer wants to know how long it's going to take."

As such, reInteractive had to find a way to take a project to a client and give them an accurate estimate of how long it would take versus how much they would spend. reInteractive started to pitch features two at a time at clients like the ABC, providing a cost estimate for each option and asking the client to choose what they wanted more.

"We've been taking the best out of Agile and other areas to try and produce something easy for our clients," Lindsaar said, adding that he prefers to teach clients about Agile throughout the process so that they can work more effectively together. "All clients are very involved in the Agile process, they arrange priority for the [project components] and we train them with how to interact with our Agile method so they know how it operates," he said.

As a result, six reInteractive staff in total, working hand in hand with project managers from the ABC, managed to redesign the whole ABC Shop Online site and push it into Amazon Web Services' Singapore-based cloud within six months. The site went live on the first day and didn't miss a beat. Lindsaar said that it's thanks to Ruby on Rails and the Agile development framework.

"We gave them a zero-downtime deployment and this was key. I'm sure [the project] can be done in other frameworks, but Rails makes it really easy. We're able to push out a production site update without anyone noticing, in a time frame of hours, not weeks," Lindsaar said.

Despite the ABC Shop's new cloud-based presence, Lindsaar assured that no credit card data is stored by the ABC and all user data, bar the username, is hash protected in Singapore.

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