National IT and Data Services Provider undergoes organizational transformation through partnership with MATRIX.

“Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.” In other words, great things come from small beginnings.

For Sunny Shah, Vice President of Software Development for TierPoint, a leading national provider of hybrid IT and data center services, including colocation, cloud computing, disaster recovery, security and managed IT services, the “planting” occurred when he attended a MATRIX lunch ‘n learn seminar about Agile methods in Raleigh, NC.

“At that time, we were involved with a business case to build our customer portal from the ground up,” said Shah. “We were ramping up our managed services and had no good story to tell customers in terms of a customer portal. One conversation on led to another and we started working with MATRIX to build it out.”

What began with a single project, guidance around a UI/UX refresh, has evolved and grown into a partnership encompassing (almost) all of MATRIX’s solution offerings.

One critical factor for TierPoint in selecting a provider was a local presence. “There are many vendors who offer remote ‘out of sight, out of mind’ development,” said Shah.

MATRIX has a local office that is located within minutes of TierPoint’s headquarters, allowing MATRIX to participate in on-site meetings, greatly increasing collaboration and cross-training. “One of the key reasons we found this whole engagement successful was we could have resources on-site for a face-to-face meeting,” said Shah.

Cloud Portal Needed a Facelift

Through its professional services organization, MATRIX provided a UI/UX team led by an Architect to build a new UI design for the TierPoint Customer Portal, the company’s next generation portal for customers to manage their data-center and cloud assets.

On-site collaboration sessions led to the development of two personas and a User Interface framework that TierPoint could grow with for three to five years. Based on the success of this work, TierPoint requested a full-time local UI/UX Architect who could work with the entire product delivery team from concept to production release.

(To read the full story, see "A Better Looking Cloud".)

Integration with Strategic Applications in Azure

“Our customers trust us to protect and host their equipment in our data centers,” said Shah. The ability to have its customer portal extend into third-party services led TierPoint to launch Managed Services using Microsoft Azure to build, deploy, and manage applications through their data centers.

Integration with these products and services requires strategic architecture and updated practices. The MATRIX development staff was called on to help ensure these strategies were in place at the project onset, and updates and API changes from Microsoft Azure were expected and planned for in the TierPoint application architecture.

“It gives our customers more confidence,” said Shah. “When they log into our customer portal or talk to a customer service rep, they can see all of their services across TierPoint and third party hyperscalers such as Azure, regardless of where their equipment is located. This greatly helps them to better understand and manage their spend.”

Automating Quality

Considering the frequency of releases, automation of the applications seemed to be a good option for TierPoint. After doing a feasibility analysis based on the requirements and budget, MATRIX proposed different automation tools and frameworks. The QA Automation Framework is a constructive blend of various guidelines, coding standards, concepts, processes, practices, etc. to achieve the end goals. The framework provides the user with various benefits that help them to develop, execute, maintain and report the automation test scripts efficiently.

“For QA we turned to MATRIX’s offshore practice,” said Shah. “Cost was a factor, so we looked to control costs but still utilize a hybrid model so that we could have a local delivery manager to help resolve problems. We didn’t want to build in a silo, so we structured each engagement to fit our model of common oversight.” At last glance, Shah said TierPoint has successfully conducted about 1,000+ test cases that are automated throughout the platform.

Partnering for a Successful Agile Transformation

With an increasing budget and growth plan, TierPoint needed to develop a scalable development model or framework that could respond to business needs very quickly. Namely, an Agile Transformation.

“Agile means different things to different people,” said Shah. “If you say you are done with your Agile journey, you are ignoring the changing pace of the industry and business landscape around you. Agile is not a destination. It is a continuous evolution, developing inward processes and practices that are adaptable as business needs and market needs change.”

According to Shah, “MATRIX acted not as a vendor, but as a partner for this Agile Transformation.”

In 2016, TierPoint formally adopted the use of the Agile methodology for the development of its customer-facing platform and revised their Development Life Cycle processes to include Agile best practices.

TierPoint’s Agile adoption provided a roadmap to drive consistency and commonality across their product development organization.

“MATRIX acted not as a vendor, but as a partner
for this Agile Transformation.”

Sunny Shah, Vice President of Software Development

Competitive Advantages

With the help of the MATRIX team, TierPoint has significantly increased its efficiency, effectiveness and quality of the products and services it delivers to its customers. “We are more nimble and able to adapt our products and processes to the changing needs of clients, as well as the rapid growth in our business model,” Shah said. He suggested that the company may look to take a more holistic approach to Agile enterprise-wide.

Other benefits include:

  • Customer Focus. Customer-facing roles are more involved in planning, prioritization, product features feedback, and usability testing.
  • Engagement. Team leaders, stakeholders and product owners are more involved in the development process. With the help of the Scrum Masters, more thought is being put into the priority and order of tasks. Scope creep/ad-hoc requests are properly aligned to the backlog instead of interrupting product development.
  • Accountability. The development teams have had a shared sense of quality from the beginning and have developed a culture of teamwork and responsibility.
  • Value. The company’s morale and teamwork have improved, as has the ability for the organization to deliver value to its customers.