Fleet Factors improves processes, productivity after PSG engagement
Founded in 1975, Fleet Factors Ltd. takes pride in being the “first-choice supplier to the vehicle parts and refinish market” in the UK. In addition to selling hundreds of automotive parts and consumable products and providing vehicle repair workshops on a variety of topics, Fleet Factors also develops theStoresManagement system, which provides its customers with an integrated system process that shares data; manages accounting functions; and processes stock, sales, and purchase orders, all geared towards the automotive industry. StoresManagement modular applications are written in Synergy/DE on Windows.
About a year ago, Fleet Factors asked Synergex’s Professional Services Group (PSG) to help them improve their development process. The Fleet Factors development group didn’t have a team-wide process for source code control or management, and code modifications were made directly to live source files. Without a procedure in place to ensure that software changes were monitored, tracked, and tested before they were released, errors could easily be introduced and propagated. Fleet Factors wanted a formal process for software changes and a way of locking down their system.
PSG worked with the Fleet Factors development team to review current practices. They identified several areas for improvement, the most significant being source control management and testing. A source control management system is essential to ensure that code changes are traceable and to provide structure for testing and release procedures across a development team. PSG recommended a product called SourceGear Vault, which offers an archive-centric development environment that fully integrates with Synergy/DE Professional Series Workbench and Microsoft Visual Studio. Changes to the source code can be tracked to identify who changed what, when, and why. SourceGear Vault also enables a previous version of the archived software to be restored if changes introduce a problem. The Fleet Factors development team installed and configured this system, and PSG provided full training.
With the SourceGear Vault system in place, the local desktop system for each developer at Fleet Factors now has a completely private development environment. To modify code, the developer must check out source files from the archive. No other team member can modify the code in the checked-out files, which prevents multiple developers from changing the same source files. By checking modified code back in to the archive system, the developer confirms that he has completed the work to the best of his abilities, tested the changes he’s made, and verified the continued integrity of the software.
PSG also recommended building and maintaining a virtual server with a complete execution environment for the sole purpose of testing software. Following this advice, Fleet Factors configured a virtual testing server and licensed it for Synergex products. Now when software is modified, the changed software is built and released to the test area. It is eligible for release to the live production server only when testing is completed, and the software is labeled, versioned, and released on a regular schedule. This process does not preclude the ability to provide a hot-fix update to critical issues, but these are limited and are only allowed with good reason and with the consent of the release engineer. To ensure software integrity, only the release engineer can put software live.
The focus on source control management has enabled Fleet Factors to better control software development, which has reduced the number of errors and issues reported. They now have a defined process built around the source control system that ensures that nothing changes in the system until it is approved, and the software is always tested before it hits the live system. Gary Norris, Company Director, says that the PSG engagement was the catalyst for change. “It gave us the confidence and the knowledge to introduce the new changes into our business smoothly.”
The benefits of the new system and processes are obvious. “Everyone is really happy,” states Gary. “The directors are delighted with the improvements that have been made, especially from a risk and security standpoint but also for the productivity of the team. It’s a much more effective way of working. The whole process has made the team be more exact about what they do. Previously if a programming error was made, there was no way of identifying the origin, which created ambiguity. Now every program change is fully traceable with a unique fingerprint, and the development team can reflect on any issues and learn from them. Accuracy, efficiency, and productivity have continued to improve. As a result, error rates are very low, and the risk to the business is greatly reduced.”
For more information about Fleet Feet’s new source control system, or to discuss doing something similar at your company, contact your Synergy/DE account manager.