A while ago, we sat down with Ravi Verma and Janie Purvis of U.S. non-profit Agile For Patriots for a little chat. The organisation provides free Agile training, certification, practical experience and ongoing mentoring to military veterans and their spouses. Prior to our collaboration, however, their work had been seriously hampered by the increasingly poor performance of their website. Lola Tech offered a combination of pro-bono and discounted hours to help migrate the site to a stable, highly available platform, improve the user experience and provide ongoing support and maintenance.
Ravi (R): Agile For Patriots is a Dallas-based non-profit, and we focus on helping military veterans and their spouses build careers in the Agile industry. Participants in our programme gain new skills in agile value delivery, agile leadership and enabling high-performing agile teams. We’ve been doing this for four years, and we’ve always relied on word of mouth and our website as our shopfront. So when the site started malfunctioning, it was a really serious issue for us.
Janie (J): Like Ravi says, the website was and is our shopfront - we don’t spend anything on marketing, so we have to make sure that what little online presence we do have is professional and, most importantly, functioning. We knew there were lots of legacy issues with the site - it had been built in WordPress and, essentially, it was a story of too many cooks and not enough oversight.
R: Because we’re a charity, we’d never been able to afford the rates of professional website developers, so we’d tried doing everything ourselves. We realised we needed help, and that’s when I reached out to Lola Tech. I knew them from a previous collaboration, and when I explained our situation to Inge, they immediately offered to work for us at a fraction of the usual rate.
One of the best parts of working with Lola Tech was that they are a truly Agile Partner. They got us started quickly by understanding our business outcomes and helped us get clarity on our most urgent priorities.
J: It really was a host of legacy issues - poor performance, memory leaks, inability to remove stale or misleading information, or add time-sensitive updates… the lot. Our participants were affected by this as well because they use the website to showcase their learning to prospective employers. The way we work, we provide each cohort of students with access to the site so that they can apply what they learn in a real-life environment. We then ask each student to contribute to creating a webpage for their cohort using our domain, to use as a work portfolio in job interviews. It makes for great practice and we are also frequently blown away by the amazing work the students do.
R: That’s true. It’s definitely how we wanted to continue, but we also realised that this kind of unmanaged access to our site was causing a lot of the problems we had with it - pages not loading, plug-ins not working, the site actually crashing, and much more. It also affected participants because they struggled to showcase their talent to prospective employers. Because we did not have a technology partner to help us, we found ourselves begging and pleading with previous students to help us keep the site available, performing and accurate. This was a huge distraction that prevented us from focusing on our mission.
R: One of the best parts of working with Lola Tech was that they are a truly Agile Partner. They got us started quickly by understanding our business outcomes and helped us get clarity on our most urgent priorities. Then they immediately swung into action, diagnosed the root causes of our problems and recommended a step by step approach to implement a migration from the legacy site to the new website. Their recommendation was to migrate the site to AWS.
Next, they worked on the most pressing issues - the site crashing, enquiries not reaching our inboxes and user management. We like to call the latter cohort enablement - because that’s what it really is. It enables our students to apply their new skills in a sandbox environment and at the same time gives us the tools to securely manage access to the site in the long term. This was extremely important because we were about to launch our next cohort and we could not afford for the site to be down at any time during this process.
J: Yes, I think for me the enquiries were really the most important thing - right after ensuring the site remained live, of course! The team set up a JIRA service desk for us, which professionalised our process for receiving and managing veteran enquiries and applicants. We no longer have to worry about emails getting lost in our inboxes - we now have full visibility of all enquiries and can assign and file them as needed. Gamechanger.
We no longer have to worry about emails getting lost in our inboxes - we now have full visibility of all enquiries and can assign and file them as needed. Gamechanger.
R: We’re excited to finally have the technical capacity to work more efficiently with veterans and their spouses. The hope is that we can help many more students gain new skills and go on to find fulfilling jobs. Having a functioning, efficient online presence helps immensely with that, and as you say, it gives us back valuable time to focus on our mission - improving the lives of military families.
J: I agree with Ravi. Nowadays, no organisation can function well without having its backend tech in order, and it definitely feels like things just run more smoothly these days.