We aim to bring the best of new technology to arts and festival organisations and those with similar challenges.
We build websites and applications that work, last, and provide genuine business value over the long term.
We take most inspiration from the world of lean technology startups, which have produced an ongoing cycle of rapid innovation,
quality delivery and robust technical infrastructure behind the growth and development of some of the most successful technology
companies of our time. The tools, processes and practices created in the lean startup world support the delivery of high quality
technology products at the lowest possible risk and cost. To date, traditional digital agencies have been slower to respond to
the opportunities presented by these new ways of working for client work.
We believe that the arts and culture sectors have many unique challenges that are not well served by existing tools and software,
and too often have had to implement partial solutions within their own websites or databases. These frequently duplicate work done
by others and commonly do not significantly improve internal processes. We want to increase the range of open source and
commercial software available to address specific and common issues – so that the sectors can more effectively pool technical
resources and apply their energy, creativity and budgets to core business.
There is, however, already strong evidence of significant benefits from applying these techniques to projects for external clients
and stakeholders. One such example is the UK’s new Government Digital Service – often described as a “lean startup within the
Cabinet Office” – tasked with transforming the way the government uses technology. Their launch of the new GOV.UK website
was accompanied by a statement on the process from
Francis Maude, Minister for the Cabinet Office. In it, he announced that the GOV.UK project is already expected to cost the
taxpayer some £70m less than the services it replaces, with more savings to come as other departments move onto the platform.
More importantly, because of the way in which it has been built, the new system will be able to accommodate new security,
technology and user requirements much more rapidly than with previous government projects.
How we're different
Your project manager will be your lead developer. Success in technology innovation depends on the contribution of developers and technologists, and the collaboration between them and those with problems that need to be solved. We will prioritise direct communication between developers, clients and where possible users to allow us to build the best possible shared understanding of your needs.
We prioritise the evolution of requirements and solutions through collaboration and iterative development. The agile model expects that your requirements and priorities will change as a project develops, as will the understandingof limiting factors and external challenges. It therefore promotes flexible implementation and ongoing adaptive planning, aiming to plan just enough at each stage to take the project forward without wasting time on details that may become irrelevant later. It brings specialists together in loose cross-functional teams, so that everyone has a shared responsibility for the eventual successful delivery. It promotes trust through regular delivery and detailed progress reporting.
Behaviour driven development is a process where the developer team begin work on each new feature or bug by writing an automated test to verify that it behaves as expected. The test will of course fail – nothing has yet been implemented – but the process ensures that the developer and client have a clear understanding of what is expected. Then, just enough code is written to pass the test, ensuring no time is wasted on work that is not relevant to the current problem. Once the work is accepted, the automated test becomes part of all future testing, to ensure that subsequent changes do not have an unexpected impact on previously delivered functionality.
By structuring new development in bite-size chunks and automating testing and deployment, we can ship each new feature as soon as you have signed it off. By keeping each change small, we minimise the risk of triggering major unforeseen issues with an upgrade, and can react quickly in the rare case a problem does arise.
We’ll set up tools to monitor every aspect of your system in real time and alert us if things start to look unusual. We’ll talk to you about which key metrics you might find useful to monitor how things are going (error rates and page load times are a good starting point) and share them with you so you can hold us to account. Our ambition is to log all support incidents before you know about them.
The more we understand your ambitions and your users, the easier it will be for us to ask the right questions and deliver what you need. While we don’t intend to move in, we’ll suggest that one or two of our team occasionally work from your office for a day – not for formal meetings, but because we’re interested in what could happen if our staff and yours occasionally bump into each other at the kettle. And we’ll gladly give members of your staff access to view and contribute to the source code repository if they want.
We don’t believe any website or software application is ever finished. As soon as one set of functionality is delivered, new ideas will appear on the horizon – inspired by suggestions from staff and customers or changes in social media and other online services. We don’t want to see the projects we build for you become obsolete as soon as they’re handed over, so we’ll encourage you to commit to ongoing support and development contracts that allow for incremental improvements over time.
Unlike many competitors, we don’t want you to see support contracts like insurance, where you pay for staff to be available but only get to use them if things go wrong. So our contracts are different. Any unused support time will roll over to the next month, where it will be available to work on new features or improvements from your list. We can’t carry time forward indefinitely for planning reasons, but we’ll work with you to make sure there are always things our developers can be getting on with each month.
Often, our competitors place a time limited warranty (sometime as short as 30 days) on the new development work they carry out for you. If you don’t find a bug before the warranty expires, you have to pay them separately to fix it. We are so confident that our process will deliver quality code that our development rates include all subsequent bug fixes, whenever they arise, for as long as you continue to use us. Time spent fixing bugs we should have found sooner will never count against your future paid-for support or development hours. Sometimes, a bug will be because your original specifications weren’t quite clear, or because of a failure by a third party service, rather than in our work. If that happens a lot, we’ll work openly with you to discuss how to allocate time for fixes, and to think about how we can each improve our process to avoid it coming up in future. If our relationship is coming to an end, we’ll agree with you a reasonable warranty period based on the volume and significance of any new development we’ve carried out recently.
We don’t want to spend your money reinventing the wheel, so wherever possible we will use tried and tested existing open source components to assemble your system. If your requirements mean we have to make improvementsto this borrowed code, we’d like your permission to share our changes with the community. And unless it’s the major thing that gives you an edge over your competitors, if we think work we’re doing for you would make sense as an open source component in its own right we’ll encourage you to share that too, under your own name. If you’re nervous about this approach, remember that sharing code isn’t just about giving something back – the more skilled developers are working with your code, the more chance they’ll find bugs other people haven’t spotted yet, or come up with improvements you can use too. Further, a whole range of industry leading commercial tools are available freeof charge for open source projects which may help to reduce your costs. If you’re still not sure, that’s fine – it’s your code.
Our business is a technology startup. We’ve done our homework to get this far, but these are concepts we’ll develop over time. We’ll encourage our staff, our clients and the wider technology community to share their views on how we work and use feedback to make our service better.