Perforce Helix Enables Stepstone to Keep Up with Customer Expectations

StepStone, one of Europe's leading providers of total talent management software addresses the challenges of multiple developer sites using Perforce Helix.

What Were the Benefits of Perforce Helix?

Dramatically sped up release cycles

Able to keep up with customer expectations

Fantastic branching and proxy support

We've now got a solid, central repository that links all our developer teams,

regardless of location and enables us to meet rapid release timescales efficiently and quickly. However fast technology changes, with Perforce, we can keep up with market demands."


Development Environment at a Glance

  • Company name: StepStone
  • Headquarters: Harpenden, Herts, UK
  • Industry: Software
  • Type of application: Software and services for the Human Capital Management ("HCM") sector
  • Number of customers: More than 1,600 organistations
  • Customers: Global customers include Aviva, Deloitte, Deutsche Telekom, Lufthansa, McDonald's, Telefonica, ThyssenKrupp and Volkswagen
  • Number of users: 97 (developers, business analysts, QA and release teams)
  • Number of development sites: Operates in 16 countries


Customer Profile

StepStone, one of Europe's leading providers of total talent management software addresses the challenges of multiple developer sites using Perforce Helix.

StepStone is a leading international provider of human capital management (HCM) software and services. Its technology and services helps organisations attract, retain and develop their talent. StepStone was founded in Norway in 1996 and listed on the Oslo Børs ([email protected] STP.NO) in 2000 and the London Stock Exchange (LSE: STPS) in 2008.

StepStone operates some of Europe's largest talent networks which match employers with potential employees and provides a complete suite of HCM software solutions. Through its extensive talent network in Europe, StepStone has privileged insight into the needs and demands of today's workforce, allowing the company to develop highly innovative HCM solutions.

StepStone's comprehensive portfolio of software and services enable organizations to implement efficient HCM processes. These services include; attraction and hiring, post-hire talent management, performance management, compensation management, skills and competency management, career and succession planning, training, and development management.


Development Challenge

In today's economic environment, IT Directors and CXOs are demanding IT affordability, shorter implementation cycles, and scalability more than ever. Fortunately, all of this can be delivered by the Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) model, the benefits of which include rapid access to new technology and the ability to roll out IT services to extra users easily.

StepStone is an example of a company that has the flexibility to react quickly to user and market demand using SaaS. Although the company is best known for its online recruitment services, or "job boards," the other side of StepStone's business is concerned with delivering talent management software solutions via SaaS, ranging from candidate screening and performance management, through to career and succession planning and even retirement.

However, while the SaaS business model provides some very clear benefits, customers are more technology savvy these days with the prevalence of Web 2.0; they are very aware of new technology developments and, not surprisingly, expect these to be reflected in StepStone's products.

In keeping up with market demands, StepStone is both helped and hindered by the fact that its developers are based in multiple locations around the world. On the one hand, having teams in Germany, Norway, Poland, UK, and Vietnam gives the company access to considerable, flexible developer resources on an around-the-clock basis. On the other hand, this approach could make it difficult to ensure cohesive working across all teams, if not managed correctly.

Fortunately, StepStone's software developers have addressed these challenges by using version control. By providing efficient tracking of a project's progression, regardless of how dispersed the developer teams may be, Perforce Helix enables StepStone to dramatically speed up release cycles and keep up with customer expectations.

Nigel Reed, Head of Software Engineering, explains: "Perforce Helix enables us to connect everyone to a central repository to track and manage code, wherever our developer teams are based. In turn, this supports faster release cycles."


Centralizing Version Control

Prior to the implementation of Helix, the company had been using Helix to manage code for several years, although different Helix systems were used in various teams. When Reed took on the role of Director of Software Engineering, he saw the benefits of connecting everyone to one central version control repository and initiated the migration process.

StepStone researched the market thoroughly before making a decision. "We looked at what version control systems were available, including open source options, taking into account the availability or lack of technical support, and how well they integrated with third-party vendors. A lot of our developers are working in a Microsoft environment and open source versioning doesn't lend itself well to that. Helix has considerable third-party vendor support and as there's such a wide range of plug-ins available, we've been able to use Helix off the shelf. The support for developers' desktop tools — Visual Studio, Java, Perl and Eclipse — has been particularly important to us."

Nigel Reed also cites performance as a key factor in choosing Helix. "Compared to some version control packages, Helix is a hundred times faster. Other products performed acceptably over remote links, but Helix was still two or three times faster than the nearest competitor. This is a big advantage for us: it would have been impossible to have got everyone on a central repository and efficiently linked remotely without Helix."


Migrating to Helix

The process of bringing Helix on board took place in the first few months of 2008 with a single pilot group to test how well developers would handle the switch. Administrators were trained on Helix and in turn trained other developers within StepStone. At the beginning of 2009, around 75 employees were using Helix, including approximately 50 developers, business analysts, and QA and release teams, all of whom needed access and visibility to current projects. Although Helix is primarily used for managing code, it is also being used to publish and share some of their documentation. The online job board side of StepStone will also make the transition to Helix upon completion of its own pilot.

Now that Helix is well-established within StepStone, what is Nigel Reed's verdict? "Helix is known for its performance and has lived up to its reputation. Standardizing on Helix has represented a real change in terms of the functionality available to us, particularly for branching and proxy support."

The Helix proxy is a self-maintaining proxy server that caches versioned files for re-use on any local network with remote access to Helix Core. Any number of proxies can be quickly deployed without requiring additional hardware or software. Says Nigel Reed, "The support for proxies has been fantastic. It is very easy to set up a local proxy and it doesn't take hours: you just install it and it works."

The branching feature — which includes a revision graph tool that visualizes who has changed what and where — has also proved its value to StepStone. "The branching function is so well handled within Helix that we can have a more robust strategy for managing code lines. For instance, we will have code lines open for the various releases. When the release goes out, we can still carry out maintenance, with separate code lines for patches."

Although switching to Helix has inevitably presented a learning curve for developers, Nigel Reed believes it has been worthwhile. "Helix is the 'Rolls Royce' of version management and its functionality has enabled our developers to perform actions that were not possible before. For instance, they can now execute a three-way merge, so Helix has added to their skills and experience."

"We've now got a solid, central repository that links all our developer teams, regardless of location and enables us to meet rapid release timescales efficiently and quickly. However fast technology changes, with Helix, we can keep up with market demands."