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IHG Builds Hotel App The Agile Way

InterContinental Hotels Group's mobile app hinges on alliance between product and developer teams.

from the app based on customer feedback and set up the interaction pattern design, photos, and graphics. Then they hand over designs to the developers to code and deploy. Because each group knows the strengths and weaknesses of the other, it's easy to resolve conflicts and keep improving the app.

The power of rapport
A key part of this process is simply talking to each other, Keen says, adding that developers like to work alone but IHG's daily meetings -- some last only five minutes -- help them feel more accountable for the product.

"Developers like quick discussions that let them know where they stand," Keen says. "They can then go back and think more deeply about a problem."

These interactions also build rapport among groups, which Keen says is usually thought of as the "softer side of business" but is still essential. Having this kind of close tie to business goals is a big reason to have staff developers on the job.

"When you're shipping developer duties off to India, there's no relationship or accountability," Keen points out. "They'll just do what the instructions say."

Connecting old to new
As they use agile techniques to update the IHG Mobile app, Keen and Prolizo also must contend with the arduous process of replacing aging legacy systems (its Holidex reservation system was built in 1960) with more modern systems and connecting them with mobile services via APIs.

Developers spend a lot of time building APIs based on what use cases are most pressing, says Keen. He recognizes that IHG is not alone in efforts to replace legacy systems or get them connected more smoothly with mobile services (or both). Home Depot, for example, recently said it has budgeted a whopping $1.5 billion to connect its supply chain and other back-end systems to its web and mobile services.

Keen says IHG will continue to refine its aging reservation, booking, and purchasing systems for mobile. "One thing mobile does is force you to make these connections," he notes. "No matter how great your team collaboration is, you can't just think about the app itself. We've all got legacy systems to deal with."

Can the trendy tech strategy of DevOps really bring peace between developers and IT operations -- and deliver faster, more reliable app creation and delivery? Also in the DevOps Challenge issue of InformationWeek: Execs charting digital business strategies can't afford to take Internet connectivity for granted.