Reed.co.uk and Bitcoin – using agile to drive innovation

CIO for Reed.co.uk Mark Ridley explains how agile development has helped the firm quickly adopt Bitcoin

Agile development has helped Reed.co.uk quickly adopt Bitcoin without concerns about whether the payment method will dominate the market in the future.

According to Reed.co.uk CIO Mark Ridley, the recruitment company does not take payment from job seekers, but sells subscriptions online through a store-and-basket system to firms and recruitment agencies to allow CV access and job posting.

The company’s payment structure is made up of an internal system for dealing with processing vouchers, and a third-party payment system for credit card transactions.

Many creative firms – such as Google and Spotify – allow developers and other employees flexibility to promote innovation.

Reed.co.uk sets aside every other Friday as part of its project sprint cycle to allow employees to work on their own ideas for projects, which are then pitched in front of the product team, developers, and marketing team.

During one of these sessions, a Reed.co.uk developer presented his ideas for integrating Bitcoin in the website payments system, following research he had been doing around the subject.

“There are pretty much three rules we have for pitches. It has to be either something which is somehow beneficial to the company, if it’s not that it should be something that’s for personal development, or it could be something we’re going to open source," said Ridley.

“It’s a really nice way of getting very fast bits of work done, and that’s where the Bitcoin piece comes in,” he added.

This rapid development and deployment process meant Reed.co.uk’s Bitcoin system was ready after three Friday project sessions. The company has integrated Bitcoin payment by converting currency to pound sterling at the point of transaction.

Why implement the Bitcoin system?

“Whenever we’re doing something we’re looking at the investment it takes to do it, but the investment was very low," said Ridley. "Are we expecting a flood of people to come in and pay us with Bitcoins? Probably not, and certainly not in the first instance, but that’s not really why we did it.”

The reason behind implementing the project was to support developer Alessandro Di Lello, who had put in his own time and effort to researching Bitcoin integration, and to support Friday project time using company resources, Ridley explained.

“Alessandro and I are quite passionate about the change Bitcoin might bring," he said. "It might not be that Bitcoin is the actual currency that wins out in the long run, but certainly as a proof of the theory behind that type of currency, it is incredibly powerful.”

According to Ridley, the Bitcoin market is gradually stabilising and gaining traction for legitimate use, and it is important to support and adopt these innovative trends while they are still in their early stages to push forward innovation in the space.

“It’s actually becoming something that’s not quite so scary, so what we actually wanted to do was give that community another voice of support.” he said.

“There’s almost no reason for you not to do it. Because it’s pretty easy to put it in an existing payment mechanism, you can do it with very low risk to the company.”

Like every new technology, it can take a while before it is widely accepted, and it is often the early adopters who get the ball rolling.

“There are loads of successful technologies we have now that we wouldn’t have without people taking the first step. So it might not be anything that goes anywhere, and we’re comfortable with that,” said Ridley.

Size matters

So why doesn’t every firm do this?

Many firms can struggle to quickly integrate new technologies, or replace old systems with new ones. This is especially true of the financial services sector, as changes can lead to increased failure and incur costs.

There’s almost no reason for you not to do it. Because it’s pretty easy to put it in an existing payment mechanism, you can do it with very low risk to the company

Mark Ridley, Reed.co.uk

But Ridley explained reed.co.uk would be worse off if it did not adopt these technologies in an agile manner, but being larger does make things more difficult, as projects need to pass through legal and finance processes.

“Operationally there are those other things you have to get through and actually the development side is almost the more trivial side. 

“You can’t really just have an agile development team and not have an agile business. If your board doesn’t understand what you’re doing, or if you project managers don’t understand it, you actually have this point at which somebody’s not talking the same language and you have to translate. It causes issues,” he said.

Agile development at Spotify

At the 2014 OpenCo, Spotify head of labs Gary Liu explained size can often matter when it comes to how agile a company can be.

According to Liu, startups can often develop more quickly as their size means they are able to adapt a lot quicker than some larger firms.

“We still refer to ourselves as a startup because the reality is that fast moving culture, being able to change directions, being able to fix mistakes, being able to fail and pick ourselves up very quickly – that part of startup DNA is still incredibly important to us. We have to be fast moving,” he said.

“I don’t think big companies are doing anything wrong, but at that size you have to find different ways of moving fast,” he added.

Liu explained this may involve money, or splitting into smaller teams and bringing in experts to tackle a problem in a more agile manner – without trying to prevent growth.

“You have to grow to scale. When you get into 190 countries, when you become a truly global company, you need people – you need resources. So growth is an inevitability,” he said.

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