An Interview with Contegix’s Product Development Team
Contegix recently announced the launch of the Agility Bundle®, an automated deployment engine that offers seamless developer workflows and user experience in Drupal (or any other CMS). I had a chance to sit down with Brian Frank, Sr. Director of Product and Architecture, and Solomon Gifford, Product Architect, who have been working tirelessly to produce a top-notch product. I chatted with the project owners about the evolution of the Agility Bundle, things that make the tool different from anything else out there, and some of the lessons they learned along the way.
What do you hope to accomplish with the Agility Bundle?
Brian Frank: To provide our customers with a tool that makes their jobs easier and allows them to make a beautiful product (website) – both in form and function.
What was the moment you saw the need for a tool like the Agility Bundle?
Solomon Gifford: In 2017, Contegix acquired a company that had a first version of the tool. We saw that it was working well for that segment of the business, but there were some easily recognizable areas of improvement. The legacy tool was really a Proof of Concept (PoC), built in a short time by a single developer. It was clear to us that our clients need an enterprise product – something with an intuitive interface that can scale.
Brian Frank: Our clients helped us to see the need. Many development shops do not have an official process, and it causes problems. Especially when we are talking about small changes to copy, or something as simple as publishing a new blog page. We knew we needed an automated deployment engine with opinionated workflow to guide/run the process based on industry and CMS community best practices.
Once you recognized the need, what was the first thing that you did?
Brian Frank: We assembled a team and gathered for many planning sessions. Our team is comprised of several developers, technical experts, project managers, as well as sales and marketing folks.
In that first meeting, we started with the end in mind. We discussed the business problems we needed the tool to solve, how it should function, and so forth. In subsequent sessions, we began breaking apart the PoC tool for lessons learned and conducting client interviews. These activities helped shape our priorities and project plan.
How would you describe your feelings throughout the development process?
Solomon Gifford: We had an aggressive timeline, which definitely made me feel anxious at times. There was a lot of work to complete in order to release the product. Especially a lot of design work for me and the other developers. However, as we pass milestones and realize successes, anxiousness is replaced with excitement.
Brian Frank: For me, I felt the pressure to remain focused on our prioritized project plan. There were so many opportunities to “chase a squirrel” that would have kept us from sticking to our timeline. Thankfully, I had Solomon throughout the process to keep things manageable!
What are some important discoveries you have made along the way?
Brian Frank: [chuckles] Go on, Solomon.
Solomon Gifford: Development is slow work!
We have so many ideas of what we would like to do in future versions, so we have to force ourselves to prioritize carefully and methodically.
Additionally, our team has found that they are committing code so often that our regression tests start stacking. The previous test is not complete before it’s time to commit & test again.
Brian Frank: It is also abundantly clear how important our clients are in the dev process. We jumped on dozens of calls with customers throughout, to help determine how to prioritize. Their feedback and requests were the main driver.
What will clients find with Contegix vs others?
Solomon Gifford: We are building a product for the entire team, not just developers. With us, you can give different members of your team the access they need to complete tasks within their roles. That includes project owners, marketers, etc.
Brian Frank: Plus with Contegix, you get a full suite of managed services and flexible options. The flexibility is important. Many of the other options out there are rigid and limiting. For example, if you need 14 day retention on your backups, that is completely within the realm of possibility with Contegix.
At the end of this process, what does success look like to you?
Solomon Gifford: Happy customers.
Brian Frank: Well said, Solomon! Success is a product that our customers enjoy using and is easy to support.