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Fostering a culture of continuous improvement with Pluralsight

The Challenge

For over 60 years, Aaron’s has been a household name for affordable furniture, electronics, and appliances. But what’s less known about the retail giant is how it's revolutionizing the lease-to-own experience by modernizing customer interactions.

Part of what differentiates the Aaron’s experience is the company’s approach to continuous learning. “Continuous improvement and continuous delivery are very important to us,” says Kevin Leclair, Director of Software Engineering. “One of our primary objectives in leadership is to always be looking for ways to help our teams hone their craft and continuously deliver value to customers.”

In the beginning, Kevin says they used ‘deploys per day’ to track the engineering team’s progress. They ultimately wanted engineers to have shorter feedback loops so they could learn, iterate, and rapidly improve their skills — while also supercharging the amount of value getting in the hands of customers in a safe and sustainable way.

While 'deploys per day' was their core metric, Kevin recognized that it was more of a lagging indicator. “There are plenty of levers that can be pulled that influence 'deploys per day' — earlier indicators of how the team is doing,” he explains. “But it’s difficult to surface that data, much less derive meaningful insights for the engineers. And that’s really when Pluralsight Flow came into the picture.”

“There are limited platforms that provide workflow and process improvement data like Pluralsight Flow. We use it to surface insights that drive continuous improvement.”

Kevin Leclair, Director of Software Engineering at Aaron’s

The Solution

“Now, team members don’t have to speculate about whether they’re doing well, because it’s visible. It takes the bias and guesswork out of knowing how well we’re doing,” Kevin explains. “Performance is no longer an abstract concept. Engineers can visualize their progress, see the impact of their work and how they’re bringing value to the team, and understand how they can continue to improve in their career.”

Because Flow surfaces early indicators of team health and performance, Aaron’s engineering organization has been able to visualize and encourage positive work patterns, and identify and remove bottlenecks. Now, the team primarily uses the data to tighten feedback loops and improve the delivery process.

”Flow makes positive behaviors visible and makes the impact of those behaviors obvious,” Kevin says. “For example, when an engineer is in the habit of making large commits, they can see how large the merges are, how it’s harder and stressful for others to review and provide feedback for all of that code...but when they’re making smaller commits, the surface area of those commits is smaller, the risk is smaller. They get feedback earlier, code gets into production more quickly, and so on. With Flow, engineers can continuously see these patterns and their effects.”

Kevin says making these patterns visible have created a continuous improvement mindset on his team. His engineers have started thinking about their work differently and breaking it into smaller pieces.

"Instead of thinking about how to deliver A-Z, engineers are thinking about how they can deliver A-B. Then, they get that in the customer's hand, get feedback, then deliver B-C, continuing on that journey until they meet the end goal," he explains. "It’s faster, it’s less risky, and the engineers are consistently generating value for customers and receiving a ton of feedback throughout the process.”

The key benefits of Flow for Aaron's

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Increase in commits per day

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Increase in coding days per week

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Increase in impact to codebase

“Now, team members don’t have to speculate about whether they’re doing well, because it’s visible. Pluralsight Flow takes the bias and guesswork out of knowing how well we’re doing.”

Kevin Leclair, Director of Software Engineering at Aaron’s

Foster a culture of continuous improvement with data