Tesco.com uses agile development offshore to roll out internationally

Tesco used agile methodology, co-ordinating a team of 100 offshore developers, to roll out the Tesco.com website internationally

Tesco has used agile methodology, coordinating a team of 100 offshore developers, to roll out the Tesco.com website internationally.

The two-year project involved both multi-language and business process changes to enable the supermarket's customers abroad to buy goods in the same way as customers in the UK.

Process changes included how items are picked in store, the scheduling of delivery vans, and payment methods.

Speaking at the Business Agile conference in London, Bazil Arden, director of agile training and consulting firm Ripple Rock, which provided training and consulting on the project, told delegates how it delivered its first international site, in the Czech Republic.

The scope of the project was to enable Tesco's Czech customers to order goods online. The initial two-language website delivered by three teams in just four months.

Tesco.com built a pilot internally to show stakeholders how beer could be ordered online. "We learnt from the Czech customers and proved the broader business approach by creating a minimal viable product (MVP)," said Arden. 

This pared-down website allowed Tesco to identify how a limited-functionality international website with back-end business processes could work.

Agile development

In terms of running the agile project, Tesco used seven teams of developers in Bangalore, plus a UK team. 

According to Arden, certain aspects of the agile approach lend themselves to offshore work. "Shipping code every two weeks is difficult, but doing so tackles project complexity," he said.

He added that in spite of the time difference between Bangalore and the UK, a stable cross-functional team can be located anywhere.

A delivery rhythm was key to keeping the project on track. "Agile works best when the teams are colocated," he said, but Tesco needed to tackle offshore collaboration. "Every two weeks on a Wednesday afternoon, the teams held a conference call."

More on agile development

Managers in the development teams in Bangalore were able to answer 80-90% of the user stories that define functionality within the agile methodology.

Tesco also ran 30-minute conference calls daily, across every team, to ensure there was a common understanding across teams, he said.

In addition to these conference calls and videoconferencing, the product owners travelled regularly to Bangalore.

To reduce complexity in the project, Tesco used automated testing and deployment tools and limited the scope of each country's website.

Tesco also built a new software architecture, based on .Net. "Instead of using a single monolithic code base we now have 120+ components," said Arden.

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