The story behind the creation of Axify

While Axify's mission is clear today, its creation has been far from a smooth ride. In this blog post, find out how it all started!

The story behind the creation of Axify

April 13, 2022
By Axify.io
Reading time 🕒 8 min

For over a year, the team behind Axify has been working on a product to help development teams optimize their software delivery process. The result? A SaaS solution that centralizes data from multiple platforms to observe metrics that drive better performance.

  • Axify helps developers, Scrum Masters and managers gain increased visibility into:
  • the morale of the humans behind the code
    process productivity
  • bottlenecks in the development cycle

Most importantly, Axify generates high-impact discussions within development teams. And that's what makes all the difference!

While Axify's mission is clear today, its creation has been far from a smooth ride. In this blog post, find out how it all started!

Some background on Axify's team

Axify is a product by Nexapp, a software development company based in Quebec City, Canada, established in 2014. Although Axify now has a dedicated team, we will refer to Nexapp in this post to explain the product's roots, created at Nexapp. Enjoy your reading!


A need for visibility on development teams

Being a young company, Nexapp brought in a BDC consultant in 2019 to help them implement a management framework. "At the time, we were getting coached and developing our management skills," says Jonathan Lessard, Nexapp's president and co-founder. With a red, yellow, and green indicator system, the management team monitored team morale, customer satisfaction, budget progress and service quality. "Each week, we changed colours on a whiteboard in a meeting room to get a better view. Since the core of our business is software development, we came to measure ourselves on that level as well."

If our development teams could work on only three projects simultaneously at first, rapid growth led us to manage dozens of projects in parallel. "In the beginning, any client could call us, and we knew exactly where the project was," recalls Pier-Luc Rodrigue, General Manager at Nexapp. "We needed to find a way to keep visibility on projects on a larger scale." Short of hiring full-time project managers to keep track of data, the team wondered about a way to automate follow-ups and ensure and standardize quality, no matter which teams our clients work with.

As a result of this combination of circumstances, Nexapp associates felt the need to measure themselves to improve visibility on project progress, delivery times, team well-being and the quality of delivered products.

With his passion for software and organizational engineering, our VP of Engineering, Alexandre Walsh, took the project to a whole new level: "Quality is our purpose. So we asked ourselves from what angles we could look at projects and how we measure quality. Some metrics can reveal which projects would need more attention."

This desire to use data wisely in operations to predict or react to problems more quickly led us to ask ourselves how to obtain specific metrics in real-time automatically.

The making of Axify

To meet this need, our colleague Gabriel Simard, a developer between projects, is working on a way to connect to Jira's API, the software we use at Nexapp to manage our clients' projects. The goal is to extract data. Management gives him the freedom to research and develop and try out new technologies.

For his part, Alexandre relies on science and existing theories such as the DORA group's research to imagine the early days of the concept behind Axify. "We knew it was moving toward a data culture, and the DORA studies confirmed it scientifically," he recalls.

"We've wanted to improve our operational excellence for a long time, and we figured it would come through an in-house product."

Jonathan Lessard, President and co-founder of Nexapp

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One of our many brainstorms to develop the Axify platform.

The first dashboards created by Gabriel confirm to the team that they are on to something: they are probably not the only ones who need this solution!

For a few months, we used Axify to optimize the waiting time between the end of a mandate and the beginning of a new project. "Quickly, we realized that it was unmanageable, that we weren't going to be able to develop software like that," says Pier-Luc. "We applied the same recommendations we make to our clients: if you want to be serious, dedicate a team to the project to give them the mental space to get it done."

We decided to make an initial investment of $400,000 in Axify and bring on full-time developers to the platform. This is how we added features, researched ways to extract more data and created a bot to ask team members questions about their morale.

"It took us a while, as a service company, to see the added value of taking a developer off a billable project and putting him on a research and development project," says Alexandre. Indeed, it's easy to have the reflex to put our dedicated Axify resources on our clients' emergencies. But the management team makes it a point to protect the mental load of its development team to make progress on the product.

Pivoting to a marketable software product

As the platform evolves, the management team sees the added value of commercializing Axify. So on October 1, 2020, we begin the pivot from an internal product to a marketable platform. Vincent Aubé and Tristan Ortiz-Duchesne, both developers at Nexapp at the time, took over the work started by their colleagues and revamped the user experience. "We had plenty of metrics, but the platform wasn't ideal for seeing, understanding and interpreting them," Vincent recalls.

In February 2021, the team launched a pilot program to test the product: can the platform support new users? Do the features meet the needs of other development teams?

"In presenting demos and talking to industry colleagues about Axify, the feedback was positive. They were telling us that the platform would provide value and that they would use the product on their team."

Pier-Luc Rodrigue, General Manager of Nexapp

Axify - Page - Morale overview

Human Axis dashboard on Axify

Last Fall, the team focused on adding more features to accelerate user adoption of the platform. "The first phase was for other companies to use the platform," Vincent adds. "In this second phase, we want users to use it daily."

Nexapp is no stranger to investing in technology products. After several external software and monetary partnerships, the team was ripe for active involvement in a company-owned product. But no one is resting on their laurels just yet. "You have to challenge yourself all the time," says Pier-Luc. "It's all about giving it your best shot and realigning yourself. Because for a product like Axify, the worst danger we face is losing focus and stopping to question ourselves." The advantage of having a stable company like Nexapp behind Axify is that we can focus on developing a good product quickly, without wasting too much time building the team and tying up the funding.

Axify, an answer to many needs

Raising the bar of software engineering

Our culture of continuous improvement leads us to look at best practices in software engineering. We have drawn on studies from Silicon Valley and organizational performance theories to translate science into a practical tool. Axify allows us to bring innovation closer to the daily life of development teams.

We humbly hope to use our learnings to contribute to improving the software engineering culture. However, since the science of software engineering is constantly evolving, we will never finish this work!

Inspiring the technology community

Axify is the ambitious way we have chosen to address a very complex problem in the technology product development industry. We want to inspire the community by sharing the recipe that has allowed us to move forward and deliver the same level of quality to all our clients.

Our ability to coach by example has built Nexapp's reputation. From the beginning, Nexapp's culture has led us to influence our clients with our best practices, share our knowledge, and advocate transparency. That's what Axify is all about!

Standing out from other service companies

Axify also allows us to translate our developer language into vocabulary that managers and VPs can understand. Not all of our clients are equally comfortable with the technology world we operate in. Axify takes project transparency to another level because we provide insight into the team, the processes and the technical plan.

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Dashboard of the service level expectation in the Technical Axis on Axify

Delivering more value to our clients, faster

Since we wanted to deliver more value to our clients faster, we created the platform that allows us to know what impacts software delivery. Software development is a game of trade-offs, and part of our job is to get customers to understand this world. Every little detail causes us to reevaluate the scope of work. Axify allows us to manage expectations, avoid unpleasant surprises and be more responsive to hiccups.

Indeed, most development teams with little visibility on their work only realize that they will not be able to deliver at the end of a sprint. Axify helps us better assess the probability of success of our sprints and maximize our chances of success.


 

Do you have questions about the platform, or would you like to know more about a specific use context? Contact us! Want to start using Axify now? Then, activate your free two-month trial!

We help dev teams align their perceptions with reality for better development cycles.

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