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Zevi Reinitz for Livecycle

Posted on • Updated on • Originally published at

How Wilco's Sign-off Process Became Frictionless Using Livecycle

About Wilco

Wilco provides software engineers with a dedicated training platform to help them upskill through simulations that mirror real-life developer challenges. Their aim is “to empower every developer regardless of background or skill level, to unlock their full potential.

Wilco’s challenges:

With a front-end heavy product and the need to iterate quickly through fixes and new features, The Wilco team decided that they needed a way to create preview environments to accelerate their internal review process. New features needed to be reviewed and approved not only by developers from a code perspective, but also by UI designers to make sure the feature was implemented properly. It became critical to have some common ground for getting all stakeholders (local and remote) to review the same thing and more or less the steam time.

The Wilco team tried using Heroku Review Apps to facilitate this, but quickly ran into two problems:

Problem #1 - Preview environment configuration

Heroku Review Apps proved difficult to configure and maintain.

According to Tom Peri, SE Team Lead at Wilco: “We tried playing around with review apps and it was really hard to configure and it also got expensive. They were building previews for every pull request, even though we didn’t always need them. And since Heroku didn’t save the configuration, we had to manually configure it each time. When you mix in the integrations and authentications we had to deal with, the Heroku approach really became a nightmare for us”.

Problem #2 - Context switching & poor cross-functional collaboration

The difficulty in managing the Heroku Previews Apps started to impact the way that the Wilco team managed their reviews: “We would only use review apps when reviewing a really big, complex feature that required everyone’s feedback” says Tom. “We were forced to try and assess the risk of a feature to get rejected before submitting it to review. And when we did create a Review App and distribute it, the feedback came in through tickets or slack messages. It was far from ideal”.

Eventually, Wilco got to the point where they just stopped using Heroku. They knew they needed a way to manage their review process efficiently, but they couldn’t find one. According to Tom: “In some cases, we just tested changes in staging. On occasion, we even tested small changes in production but this wasn’t a good practice and it created a lot of issues.

Because the Wilco team had no way to manage communications between stakeholders before a feature was deployed, the issue got progressively worse.

And that’s where Livecycle comes in.

How Livecycle brought cross-functional collaboration to Wilco

The Wilco team turned to Livecycle to address both of the challenges their team was facing.

Solution #1 - MUCH easier preview environment configuration

What stood out from the start, says Tom, was how easy it was to set up and configure Livecycle: “I had high expectations for Livecycle going in, and I was still surprised at how quickly we got it set up. Within a few minutes, everything was working and our app was compiling on Livecycle instances. And all of those configuration issues that we had previously were no longer a problem using Livecycle.”

Solution #2 - ALL stakeholders leaving clear feedback in context

Once the Wilco team started distributing Liveycle playgrounds as a basis for their reviews, they were pleased at how clear and smooth their review process became: “As soon as the design team saw that they had pending Livecycle environments to review, they immediately jumped in and gave good feedback. The built-in mark-up tools let people leave their comments in context, quickly and clearly. It’s really helped us tackle the review-process challenges we were facing previously”.

The Results
The results that Wilco have seen since adopting Livecycle speak for themselves:

  • Less time spent configuring the PR preview pipeline
  • A standardized pre-release review process for developers and designers
  • Significantly faster feedback loops on new features - big and small
  • Significantly faster MTTR for issues that are found during the review process
  • Virtually zero unnecessary context-switching resulting from misaligned review

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If you’re part of a cross-functional product development team, click here to check out how your team can easily install Livecycle to speed up your development workflow by collecting clearer review feedback in context, from everyone on the team.

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