Transition to microservices without sacrificing engineering team culture
Part of Workfront’s mission as a provider of enterprise work management software is to accelerate organizational success. James Hammond, Workfront’s Director of Engineering, is responsible for accelerating the success of their own development team to ensure that outcome for their customers. That means both modernizing the codebase and keeping engineers functioning their best.
James is working with his team to break their current monolith software structure into a microservice model. He is also fully aware of the teamwork and coordination required to accomplish this seismic shift in their application, and knows it’s critical for the team to have transparency throughout the process.
To get this level of coordination and transparency, James needed more objective data around the teams’ effectiveness and how they worked together as an organization. He needed to both improve the engineering capabilities and continue to advance the team culture.
Who we are
Workfront is a platform for enterprise work management designed to connect people to work and accelerate organizational success. It was founded to help companies get things done, to help people do their best work, and to help organizations bring their dreams and visions to life.
Workfront by the numbers
Founded in 2001
in Lehi, Utah
A commitment to the cause
“We exist to help people do their best work”
James Hammond, Director of Engineering, Workfront
Pluralsight Flow delivers the insights and transparency required
The engineering organization turned to Pluralsight Flow to afford managers and other tech leaders insight into team workflow and effectiveness. “We looked at it as a managers’ tool,” James says.
But that exclusivity didn’t jive with the company’s culture of trust. Managerial access to Flow data created an unintentional imbalance between leadership and the team’s biggest asset—its engineers. There needed to be transparency for everyone, if they wanted to maintain the culture they relied upon.
“It was important for us that everyone from the CTO down to the newest engineer in the company had access to the exact same data, the exact same views,” James says.
The team has responded by embracing Flow, and their newfound ability to track themselves and understand how they can improve. “It just feels enabling to have more data to be able to make decisions,” senior engineer Clint Goodman explains.
The other key factor of Workfront’s rollout was the emphasis on utilizing data properly. Leadership committed to using data as a way to understand themselves and their team workflow better in order to help identify roadblocks and handle them quickly. The mindset is this: Flow is not just a leader product. It’s a team product.
“In a sprint retrospective, we were discussing how we are blocked when others don’t review our merge requests,” Goodman offers as an example. “We were able to pull up Flow, point to a number, and identify that we indeed did need to make a change in our response time. We could make goals to unblock us.”
In this way, Pluralsight Flow enables Workfront’s entire engineering team to make data-driven decisions and increase their ability to measure effectiveness of those decisions.
The key benefits of Pluralsight for Workfront
“Everyone has access to all the same data, from our CTO to our individual contributors.”
James Hammond, Director of Engineering, Workfront
Creating collaboration for the transition to microservices
Workfront aimed to advance a world-class engineering org and reimagine their software entirely, while recognizing each member as a proud contributor. Data, he understood, allows engineers to improve their craft and strengthen their teams.
Flow has granted Workfront’s engineering team the visibility it needed to accomplish all of it.
“It allows you as a leader to obliterate roadblocks for the team and to set them up for success,” he says—by teaching and mentoring to overcome obstacles, celebrating successes, and learning how to become better leaders.
Workfront’s teams can now go into sprint retrospectives to see the nuances of their development, and if processes they’re developing and improving are bringing them closer to where they need to be.
“If we are progressing towards building a world class engineering organization, we’ll also be improving the habits that enable us to transition to our goal of breaking down the monolith,” James says.
Even during unexpected circumstances, James and his team can approach their goals with confidence rather than by guesswork. For example, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit, James immediately knew his developers were still progressing at the same clip at home as they were in the office. They didn’t skip a beat.
“I am really proud of my engineering teams,” James says. “We’ve built a culture of excellence, based on transparency, and given our engineers the space to grow, to be better. Because we can do our best work, we enable our customers to do their best work.”
Progress through data
“Pluralsight Flow is one of those tools that helps us know where we’re at and empirically determine how to improve.”
Clint Goodman, Senior Engineer, Workfront
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