NetNames (formerly GroupNBT)GroupNBT - the Rewards of Agile
The NetNames Group is the largest and most trusted name in Europe for online brand protection and digital asset management. Established as Group NBT in 1995, the company was renamed NetNames in 2013, after the acquisition in 2011 by HgCapital. NetNames Group has supplemented its performance through a number of acquisitions which have grown its product offering, geographic reach and customer base. NetNames Group’s brand portfolio today includes Ascio, Easily.co.uk and Speednames.com.
Online, self-service capability is a critical part of NetNames' domain name management service offering. It provides a highly interactive, self-service tool, which enables users to manage domains. In the case of large corporates this can run into tens of thousands of domains.
Unfortunately Net Names existing web application needed redevelopment due to advances in technical options, and improvements in competitors’ offerings. Having had poor experiences in the past with outsourced development projects, NetNames wanted to engage a supplier who could deliver using an Agile approach, providing NetNames with continuous visibility of progress, functionality, and quality.
IndigoBlue was selected for their proven delivery record, and also because, as specialists in Agile development at all levels, they were ideally suited to engage appropriately with senior management, train the internal team taking over the delivered product, and support NetNames in a wider implementation of Agile.
Although a specification had already been produced by NetNames, IndigoBlue started the engagement by running workshops to generate definitive objectives, and used these to create an incremental delivery plan, identifying early deliverables that provided business benefit. We also and identified the key areas of functional uncertainty which needed to be addressed early; contingency planning was then based on this uncertainty.
Development occurred in 2-week sprints, with demonstrations to key user representatives at the end of each iteration. Feedback comments were incorporated, and in some cases significant changes of direction occurred. The impact of these changes against the original plan was tracked, including the use of allocated contingency to ensure that the project would meet its original time objectives.
The technology base was .NET, which is NetNames’ strategic architecture. The optimum combination of open-source and proprietary tools were selected to support continuous integration and automated unit and acceptance tests.
An additional complication was that the back-end web service interface to existing systems was being developed in parallel, without any automated testing or formal release process. Mechanisms were put in place to protect the front-end development from late delivery of web services, and to automatically detect errors and inconsistencies when releases occurred.
Handover to NetNames was achieved through the involvement of their staff in the latter stages of development, and support, training, and mentoring in the architecture process by IndigoBlue after delivery.
The key benefit realised by NetNames was achieving a solution to meet their actual business objectives, through feedback and review and engagement with end users. This would not have resulted from adherence to the initial specification. A major contributor to this was the ability to explore and refine the solution to complex areas of usability design, while maintaining control of the overall plan through clear impact reporting.
The mechanism to protect development from the impact of issues in the parallel back-end development was essential to the ultimate success of the project, which would otherwise have been overwhelmed by an external dependency.