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Bringing development in house

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: Agile, Software engineering

Sometimes it is only when you look back on where you've come from that you realise just what a journey you've had. This was my realisation when I look back to software development at the UKHO 6 years ago.

Our transformation

In 2012, we had a team of around 10 software engineers and we outsourced the core development of one of our biggest systems to a third party. During this time, day-to-day work involved far more paperwork and projects took a lot more time and money to get done.

Things needed to change, so we decided to bring the development of this system in house – something that really kickstarted our digital transformation.

By forming a small team to work on the system and adopting development practices such as Scrum, the wider organisation started to gain confidence in our own ability to develop software in house. Not only did this bring significant cost savings, but it allowed for a much quicker pace of change.

A software engineer presenting work to a small team on an interactive surface
Our multidisciplinary teams work together in an Agile way

Getting the right people

Over time, we began to recruit more of the people we needed to be able to develop software in an Agile way. This included expanding our team of software engineers, but also hiring Scrum masters, product owners and more specialist roles.

Fast forward to today and software development is a core activity here at the UKHO. We have 9 multidisciplinary Agile teams, with around 120 software engineers, solution architects and data scientists. These teams work on a wide range of projects - from the development of a core data platform, which crunches big geospatial data, to event-driven updates to keep mariners safe at sea.

We use a diverse set of tools and technologies that embrace both traditional vendors and open source solutions. Continuous integration and continuous delivery are commonplace, along with test automation. We also have a light Agile governance process that operates on a ‘guide, trust, verify’ principle.

Two software developers working together at a computer
Continuous delivery is common practice in software developing at the UKHO

Looking to the future

We are continuing to create a culture in which our technical specialists can thrive, and we are always looking to make improvements.

We are also continuing to grow our team of software engineers, so that we can deliver new and exciting projects as a marine geospatial information agency.

If you’d like to join us please take a look at the roles we are currently recruiting.

Graham Smith is the Head of Digital Services and Technology at the UK Hydrographic Office.

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