Cars.com Moves To Agile Development Approach To Spur Continued Innovation

July 26, 2011

5:12 pm

Anchored in Chicago since 1997, Cars.com has been providing consumers with a complete set of tools, research and listings they can use to find the right new, used, or certified vehicle. Cars.com has 13 million consumers a month, so this is no small task. Cars.com employs a large team of developers to make this happen and keep products up to date.

Recognizing the Problem
Spurred by internal employee feedback last year, Cars.com executives realized that the team was struggling with long delivery cycles via a waterfall approach which lead to continuous resource contention. Looking to maintain overall employee satisfaction, the company took action on the employees’ suggestions to move to a more agile development approach. The company also took action as they realized Cars.com needed a process shift in order to get things out quicker to market – in short, they needed to get things done faster.

Implementing Change
So Cars.com looked to energize the enterprise and generate the appropriate minimal framework. After creating the Cars.com “minimal agile framework” the team launched the pilot program which one Cars.com employee described as:

“It was like turning all the lights off in a hallway and running as fast as you can to the other end, while figuring it out as you go.”

Coaching Through Transition
The company encouraged the team by providing solid coaching through the pilot and the associated discomfort with the new framework. Some of the changes also resulted in new roles for employees, but coaching helped employees get through it. With time, the uncomfortableness would subside as the rest of the organization learned the new framework. The company relied on coaching to help the teams get through the transition period.

A Product Lead Organization
The changes also moved the company from being a project lead organization to a product lead organization and changed from a “push” down approach to an approach where everyone has a voice as the product is developed. The “push” has changed to allow teams to “pull” out what needs to be done, according to the company. This empowers employees and offers a more grassroots feel which has lead to excitement around the organization, creating a positive momentum. Today, Cars.com has not changed the technology they are developing but has changed the way they develop new and innovate products.

Speaker Series
To support and promote their transition to an agile development environment, Cars.com is kicking off a speaker series in August with notable guest speakers. The speaker series shows Cars.com’s continued commitment to the Chicago technology community as they look to offer compelling discussions for developers, designers and technology enthusiast to attend.

What: Cars.com Speakers Series with Marty Abbott
When: August 4, 2011 from 6 to 9pm CST
Where: Sub 51, 51 West Hubbard, Lower Level, Chicago, Illinois
RSVP:
http://carsdotcomspeakerseries.eventbrite.com

Editor’s Note: Cars.com was a title sponsor of our special Tech Cocktail birthday event on July 21st in Chicago and VP of Technology Kayne Grau joined us on our special innovation panel discussion. They are looking to fill a number of open engineering and developer positions.

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Frank Gruber is the cofounder, CEO and Executive Editor of Tech.Co (formerly Tech Cocktail). He is the author of the book, Startup Mixology, Tech Cocktail’s Guide to Building, Growing, and Celebrating Startup Success. He is also a startup advisor and investor to startups. Find Frank Gruber online and follow him on Twitter at @FrankGruber.

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