If you live in the UK, you likely pass an outpost of its biggest grocery chain—the third biggest retailer in the world—on your way to work every morning. Initially founded as a group of market stalls, the company is now the corner shop or local superstore of choice for millions of people in the UK and Ireland every week. And with online shopping, delivery service, account management, and more, their software teams are quickly making grocery shopping a seamless part of even the busiest lives.
Building great customer experiences doesn’t just happen in stores. The company employs more than 2,000 software developers worldwide, located in the UK, central Europe, and Asia. A central tools team in Bangalore also selects, integrates, and manages tools used by engineers across the organization, from project management to deployment. To help their distributed teams collaborate, support their cloud migration, and build better shopper experiences with shared tools and workflows, the company turned to GitHub.
Developers had been using a Microsoft Distributed File System setup for version control, but it was time for a change. As the retailer’s Senior Technology Expert put it, “We tried to evaluate multiple tools from different perspectives—features, usability, stability—and GitHub won in every way.” Of all their available options, they said, GitHub was the most widely accepted and easy to use.
Storing code is just the beginning. Today GitHub also helps the company’s developers share resources and make autonomous changes. The retailer’s Systems Engineering Manager reported, “We’re suggesting that people put their Jenkins files in GitHub. Putting developers in control makes it easier for teams to track and ship fixes.” The retailer’s developers host all of their documentation as GitHub Pages as well. This repository can be accessed by anyone with company credentials, a feature handled by GitHub’s SAML authentication. When access changes or an employee’s account is suspended, the team can quickly and automatically enforce permissions with GitHub APIs.
Easy access management is especially crucial because the company onboards between 300 to 500 new developers every year—who can all see and contribute to each other’s code. Known as “innersourcing,” the company partnered with GitHub to drive innovation through transparency and other open source best practices. GitHub provides the collaborative platform their team needs for a successful innersource culture, including tools to open code up for feedback, improvement, reuse, and learning opportunities.
Through innersource, the retailer’s Senior Technology Expert feels that the group will rally around higher quality, more innovative code with faster release times. “In fact,” the Senior Technology Expert explained, “we’re asking our teams to make all their repositories public within the organization as soon as possible so that developers can view each other’s code as well as give suggestions and comments on it.”
Just like in the checkout line, speed is an important factor in every part of the retailer’s organization. The Systems Engineering Manager pointed out that administrative overhead time has dropped since adopting GitHub, even with only three people supporting the development organization.
The Systems Engineering Manager and his group have also been pleased with GitHub Support, “We message GitHub if we run into a major issue, and when we ask for support, we get a very quick response. We occasionally need support, but when we do, we’ve been very satisfied with the experience.”
As the group finds better ways to work together, the Systems Engineering Manager sees GitHub as an opportunity to improve the developer experience enterprise-wide. “Having used SVN and Team Foundation Server in my previous organization, I’m seeing teams and people quite happy to use GitHub,” the Systems Engineering Manager said. “GitHub is an enterprise solution, first of all, but it’s also an open source solution that people can use in-house. Our developers love GitHub because they get to be part of a community.”
Jess Frazelle works on Kubernetes full-time. Previously she maintained Docker, a software containerization platform used by thousands of teams.
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