The world’s largest online marketplace for books uses Agitar’s Agitator coupled with test-driven development to improve the development process and prevent site downtime.

Fast Facts

Industry:Online book marketplace
Challenge:Prevent site downtime, which was costing the company as much as $150,000 a month in lost revenue. Improve quality in the development process.
Solution:Test-driven development coupled with Agitar’s Agitator and Dashboard enterprise developer testing product.
Benefits:A dramatic reduction in site downtime. Up to 20% less time spent debugging, scrapping and reworking code by engineering. A significant reduction in the number of bugs that survive to QA, making the development process more efficient.

AbeBooks™ is the world’s largest online marketplace for new, used, rare, and out-of-print books. The AbeBooks websites handle more than 20,000 book sales each day, more than four million visitors each month, and nearly two million book searches daily. With its websites as the sole "store fronts" with booksellers and consumers, each and every failure translated into missed orders and revenue. Such highly visible, measurable losses hit the bottom line hard, while calling into question the company’s stability and reliability.

Jayson Minard joined AbeBooks, a $120 million a year company, in 2003 at a time of rapid growth. As the new CIO, he realized almost immediately that the company was experiencing severe growing pains. Some of these growing pains were seriously threatening the company’s reputation with customers and partners. Site downtime was causing as much as $150,000 a month in lost revenue, which created internal friction between AbeBooks’ development and QA teams.

"Developers often have a blind spot when determining what to test. Developers often think about what they designed the code to do. They don’t think destructively the way an outsider would."

The Solution: Agitar’s Agitator Coupled with Test-Driven Development

With software bugs jeopardizing the company’s overall viability, Jayson knew new tools and technologies would be just as critical as a new mindset regarding quality. In his mind, the development process mapped directly to AbeBooks’ bottom line, so Jayson set out to improve the quality of programming done by his staff.

"I realized that a huge philosophical shift was in order. In order to assign accountability—without scaring off everyone—I decided to make quality a priority across the entire organization with two different groups, QA and Engineering, taking the biggest steps and playing the biggest roles," Jayson said. "I wanted to send a clear message to everyone: developers are required to produce quality. Whether an error is found or not, whether code is working according to specification or not—this is development’s responsibility."

Agitar’s Impact:

AbeBooks went from losing up to $150,000 a month in downtime to the company’s first quarter of $0 downtime revenue loss. The first quarter of 100 percent site uptime happened within six months of Jayson’s changes. Simply put, AbeBooks was able to measure the impact of the software quality in real dollars before and after deploying unit testing. After institutionalizing unit testing using Agitator, AbeBooks saw measurable quarterly losses due to downtime plummeting to zero. With these numbers clearly backing up the decision to embrace unit testing, quality software is now a top imperative from management all the way down to the engineering group.