November 8, 2015

Agile project management: how we deliver world class products Skyscanner style!


Taking a look at our Skyscanner for Business Travel APIs and our Analytics products, it’s easy to see the bells and whistles and the great work that comprises our innovative new solutions to power the travel internet worldwide. But how often do you stop to think about how the products we offer are created? Read on for an overview of how our finely honed dream team of experts in their fields apply agile methodology to create, validate, design, build and test new features and new products, to be part of the suite you see today.

Throughout the whole of Skyscanner, we use an agile approach to products right through the life cycle, which means getting ideas through to production and out to benefit customers as quickly as possible. The Skyscanner for Business team is no exception, and we aim to constantly tweak and innovate, building on the great products we have already available for the benefit of our partners, and for their users. We have the advantage of being part of one of the world's top travel metasearch companies, and being able to call on the knowledge of what global travel users are looking for. Combine this with the services that Skyscanner employees work tirelessly to maintain - accurate flight quotes, honest hotels reviews, transparent and fair car hire charges - and you see the building blocks that underpin the Skyscanner for Business offering we provide.

Any feature or piece of development, no matter how big or small, starts life with ideas and with research. Each of our teams (API or White Label) has a dedicated Product Manager, whose job it is to know the market and to know what our partners and their customers want, as well as a Graphic and UX designer, who helps to translate these ideas into clean, easy-to-use functionality. We love to tweak and to play around with the fantastic products we've already built, and occasionally we break the rules and go in our own direction - our B2B user base has different needs to the main site and therefore our products have a different slant, but users are at the forefront of our minds whatever we do.

However, research and ideas only form part of the puzzle - where we really get the benefit of an agile approach is in being able to see how a feature performs with those we are building it for - partners and users out in the market. We are constantly trying to improve the ways in which we can do this, through early user testing, use of mock-ups, and also having top-notch metrics that lets us spot things that work well (or not so well) early.  We're also big fans of continuous deployment and rapid delivery - or, in plain English, being able to push out new features multiple times a week to fix problems or get the newest, latest and greatest things out to customers as soon as they’re ready.

Naturally not everything goes so smoothly, so we also have systems in place to catch problems as early as possible, and in the rare case something does make it into the wild to pull it back as quickly as it emerged. Before a feature makes it out to customers, it will have been through multiple tests - both looking solely at the code for that feature, and then on to see how it works when integrated into the product. It will have been checked on a wide range of the most popular browsers, phones, tablets and desktop machines, both automatically and under the watchful eye of one of our test team. Any bug that does rear its head will find itself under the magnifying glass, for the whole team to learn why it happened, and put steps in place to stop a reoccurrence.

By using one of our products, we hope to offer partners the benefit of Skyscanner's vast global coverage, up-to-the-minute data and travel industry experience in over 50 markets, combined with the knowledge of the B2B market that the Skyscanner for Business team has built up over its 3 year history. Our partners and their users' needs are slightly different to Skyscanner main site, and we aim to provide solutions for both those who know what they're looking for, and a helping hand to those seeking a little more inspiration. Any features are researched and tested before they go out, but the ultimate test is their success in the market. Our products are in use by over 300 partners worldwide.

Why not check out our blog section for ideas and inspiration on the different ways we are powering travel sites and searches around the globe.