Enhancing an international donation platform
With a network of over 15 000 charities Stewardship, a London based organisation, facilitates donations of more than £70 million yearly. The organisation operates as a donor advised fund, taking donations from givers and claiming their tax rebate under the UK’s Gift Aid scheme. It then makes onward donations to charities at the request of the original donors.
Stewardship currently operates several platforms including Stewardship Online, a website allowing full account management, and Give.Net, which allows fundraisers to create pages to raise funds for charities of their choice. Some of the organisation’s services are available to approved 3rd parties through the Stewardship API offering and the IBIS Desktop is used to operate and manage all of the internal processes for the organisations’ donation business.
Saratoga partnered with Stewardship to provide maintenance and deliver enhancements to these core business systems.
Stewardship previously worked with an offshore development company, but decided to make a change due to several unsolved challenges. The challenges Saratoga needed to address and overcome included:
Inflexible team structure: Working in the charity sector Stewardship could not afford to maintain a large team for extended periods, preferring to scale the team accordingly to the fluctuating work.
Inefficient development approach: The previous development company used a waterfall approach and preferred to get fully developed specifications from Stewardship. This meant Stewardship’s already limited resources had to write detailed technical and business specifications for the development team.
Cultural differences: The previous development company was based in Eastern Europe, with English as their second language. This lead to difficulties during development as there was little understanding of the business and the approach to work was generally different. The team would often not provide advice when better solutions existed and only worked according to the
Workload of key resources: The excessive workload of key Stewardship resources, in developing specifications and deploying releases, was a major difficulty for the organisation.
Saratoga created a small, flexible team to work on maintenance and development with Stewardship. The team used a Scrum methodology and Agile approach, allowing them to be highly involved in analysis, design and planning, and supporting better processes for the organisation.
The flexible team structure allowed new resources to be included when the workload was higher and to scale down during quieter periods.
Saratoga built a cloud based platform which enabled Stewardship to do alpha testing without demanding internal deployments by Stewardship’s stretched IT team.
Due to proximity to the development manager of Stewardship, as well as having English as a first language, better communication was an immediate benefit. Improved communication was also facilitated via weekly planning sessions, reviews and retrospectives.
Proactive and early involvement: By using an Agile approach and being involved early on in the process Saratoga assisted in analysis and design. Stewardship no longer wrote detailed specifications and the specifications were instead developed with Saratoga. This reduced the strain on Stewardship’s resources. Technical advice provided by Saratoga also lead to better solutions to business problems.
Better turnover on bug fixes: Improved communication and processes lead to better turnover on bug fixes and updates.
Improved releases: By using a cloud based alpha testing platform, the workload for Stewardship’s stretched IT team was significantly reduced. Instead of making several internal releases as fixes are made, all fixes can now be made while testing on the cloud with only one final release to the UAT environment.
Flexible team structure: Allowing the team size to scale according to the workload has enabled Stewardship to get maximum value from development expenditure. Instead of supporting a large team during quiet periods or deprioritising important work due to a small team, the flexible Saratoga team adapted to the organisation’s needs.
Improved planning: Using a Scrum methodology allowed for better planning and estimates, providing Stewardship with a plan for releases and prioritising the most important work.
“I have enjoyed working with Saratoga. The management team worked closely with me to establish the right team and structures, flexing and adapting as the project progressed. The developers have also worked with us in an open partnership, understanding what we’re trying to achieve and delivering solid technical solutions to meet our needs.”
– Grant Owens, Systems Development Manager at Stewardship.