Digested read

Novoda partnered with technology company Glovo to help develop and implement their mobile platform team strategy. Implementing the systems, tooling and structure needed for a booming business to deliver value safely and fast and transitioning from a ‘high-touch-human’ process to a scale-friendly, future-proofed ‘platform team’ approach.

www.glovoapp.com

Key Themes
Scaling Mobile Teams • Mobile-Centred DevOps • Continuous Deployment • Mobile Platform Teams

The growing pains of a burgeoning business

Digital or not, if your business grows, you’re going to experience growing pains… That growth/pain relationship isn’t so complicated to comprehend. How big and fast you grow, though, and how fast you react to the first signs of pain seriously impact where you end up. Success or failure awaits.

So spare a thought then for those businesses experiencing ‘hyper growth’. Those organisations getting bigger, faster than most, repeatedly evolving through cycles of serious change. Each cycle creating more complexity than the last. It’s hard out there for a super successful scaling business!

Glovo is one such business, and we’ve had the good fortune to work with them through several of those cycles of change.

A Glovo delivery rider cycling through the city

Glovo’s meteoric rise on the local delivery scene

Glovo is a Spanish technology company connecting retail, food and restaurant partners with users – and the 75,000 independent couriers who serve them – in over 1,500 cities across Europe, Western Asia and Africa. A big business, getting bigger by the minute.

They’re on a mission to help as many people as possible access everything they could want or need from their neighbourhood, and get it directly to the door. They’re also deeply committed to making their tremendous growth as socially-responsible and eco-friendly as possible. A mission that chimes greatly with Novoda’s own good intentions.

Raising a round whilst raising the bar

Novoda had been supporting Glovo on their mobile engineering efforts for some time already, but this story starts early in 2021, as Glovo completed the largest venture capital raise in European history. A €450m capital boost intended to drive their 24-month plan for super-accelerated growth.

Core to Glovo’s plan was their intention to expand their engineering team from 50 to 350 people, including a healthy uptick in the number of mobile engineers on deck.

For those who have yet to experience it, it’s worth noting that when you boost a team from 50-350 fine folk, you’re not going to experience one type of scaling challenge once. Instead, you’ll hit an assortment of hurdles – some you’ll have to jump more than once – as your team leaps from 50-100, 100-200 and onwards.

Building a team that big and fast is an ambitious and challenging exercise. Novoda was invited to lend a hand in mobile engineering’s messy middle, where people and systems met.

Three happy glovo employees laughing and talking

Mastering mobile’s middle ground

Super successful, multi-platform, multi-language, multi-country mobile experiences don’t scale for free. Plenty of pain awaits the unprepared.

When the complexity of delivering constant, consistent, quality app releases at speed overwhelms the existing (often bootstrappy, high-touch) means of testing, deploying and monitoring mobile apps at scale.

Hard times come fast if you can’t anticipate and mitigate that breaking point and get automating. Speed, quality, cadence and team health all suffer. And the probability and impact of those risks scale along with the business.

When this make-or-break moment came for Glovo, they were ready—teaming up with Novoda to help transition from a ‘high-touch-human’ process to a scale-friendly ‘platform team’ approach that took much of the complexity and risk in deploying mobile apps, out of engineers’ hands.

Conquering the continuous 

We helped sensemake, assemble, and then participate in a high-performing ‘platform enablement team’ for Glovo’s four core mobile applications. Moving from a manual release approach run from a single engineering laptop to a fully automated process that ensured Glovo could:

  1. Accelerate their progress, increase quality and reduce risk – the holy trinity – all whilst handling the huge pressures and uncertainties of serious scaling at speed.
  2. Maintain an impressive release cadence whilst enabling an increasingly large team to contribute to core codebases without treading on each other’s toes. 
  3. Drastically reduce the possibility of human error in the deployment process, having taken eight human touchpoints down to just four. Whilst setting themselves up to comfortably transition to a fully automated dep

The contribution from Novoda to the Glovo mobile ecosystem has been remarkable. They accelerated us into a position where we could comfortably create a mobile platform team in house.

Elisa C.
Global Head of Engineering Strategy & Ops @ Glovo.

Developer productivity’s up. Automation and platform team services are allowing engineers to focus fully on delivering new value for the business, free from the anxiety that a labour-intensive, manual release process brings. Now, everyone can concentrate on shipping new value for users rather than worrying about the shipping process itself.

Developer productivity’s up. Automation and platform team services are allowing engineers to focus fully on delivering new value for the business, free from the anxiety that a labour-intensive, manual release process brings. Now, everyone can concentrate on shipping new value for users rather than worrying about the shipping process itself.

A mobile phone showing a screen from the Glovo app

This team was fundamental in helping us scale but also enabled all our product teams to deliver more efficiently and with less bugs.

Brian R.
Senior Director, Platform Engineering @ Glovo.

Novoda provided the training, coaching and hands-on support needed to ensure optimal implementation. We also delivered support for complex workflows and the rich customisable functionality that off-the-shelf deployment solutions cannot provide, but a technology company at this scale needs.

Someone holding a mobile phone using the location functionality of the Glovo Rider app

Their work was instrumental in freeing up the rest of Glovo’s technology team. In 3-6 months we’d gone from manual to everything being automated. Super helpful and impactful’

Roldan G.
Staff Software Engineering @ Glovo.

The all-important team dimension

No matter how much automation you bring to your core systems and processes, shipping real value to customers on mobile will always be an inherently human process. The adoption and effectiveness of tools rely on good people collaborating well and committing to doing good work together. Thankfully, good people were easy to find on both sides of this scaling story.

They’re pretty awesome. I really loved working with them during the whole process. It seems like they can crack any solution.

Roldan G.
Staff Software Engineering @ Glovo.

The process improvements we’ve implemented together have positively impacted team health too. Automation reduces anxiety, distraction, and complex (sometimes challenging!) team interactions. Automation creates confidence, and that’s something Glovo has in spades.

The gift given by experience

We’ve done some great work in collaboration with Glovo, and they’re thankful for our impact. But we’re just as grateful to them. It’s a rare opportunity (and a privilege) to ride the rocketship of a mobile-native business scaling at serious speed. A scaling school not everyone’s lucky enough to attend, and one that’s taught the Novoda team an awful lot along the way.

Wrapping up

Glovo’s platform team is mainly made up of their own engineers at this stage, as it should be. Though we continue to support them with the increasing demands, their success brings for their people, processes and products.

A portrait of Richard T, a mobile platform engineer at Novoda

Working with Glovo has been a fascinating experience. We’ve learned a great deal that has furthered our own approach to scaling CI tools and processes for organisations operating at serious scale.

Richard T
Mobile Platform Engineer at Novoda