Reflections and Inflections on the Past 10 Years

June 14th, 2016 by inflectra

It is hard to imagine that we started Inflectra 10 years ago. In many ways it seems like the blink of an eye, but the technology industry has seen incredible changes in those past 10 years. However it’s amazing that in those ten years, much has still remained the same!

We started Inflectra as an idea to provide tools for everyone to better manage the designing, building and testing of software. The original idea was borne out of a frustration with what was available at the time (around the early 2000s). This was in the days when most companies used Excel or MS Project to do project planning, testing was done on paper (or in Word/Excel) and we all had our own favorite bug-tracker. My old services company even used to write their own bug-tracker (called WebTracker) every couple of years.

Then on one project for the US Navy we found out that there was this amazing tool called TestDirector by a company called Mercury Interactive (aka HP Quality Center or HP ALM as it is now known). This was a great tool, but was fantastically expensive, hard for us to license for our clients and only worked in IE6. We were heartbroken, we really needed something that we could use on all our teams and we wished that everyone could collaborate using a single system to get their work done.

For developers the situation was equally bleak, we coded using language specific IDEs, tracked our bugs using whatever open source (or in-house) tool we could find, communicated using ICQ, AIM or Yahoo Instant Messenger, called each other by opening up our Nokia flip-phones and managed our source code using Visual Source Safe (unless you had lots of code when it broke or slow network where it was slower than traffic on the I-405 at rush hour) or CVS unless you wanted to rename things (our CVS sages said, never do such unmentionable things as renaming files/folders).

Around this time we heard of this new crazy methodology, called ‘Extreme Programming’, where (shock horror) you didn’t have months of design, endless architecture, design reviews, and you even tested before you coded (how is that possible we shouted!). To make this possible we needed a whole new cadre of tools and ideas. Out went MS-Project, in came Scrum, iterations, sprints, continuous integration and builds. New tools such as SourceForge, Subversion, CruiseControl and the beginnings of the Agile revolution changed how everyone was doing things. However the poor old testers were still using their big old expensive tools or using Excel/Word, same as before.

So to get back to the story at hand, we founded Inflectra in 2006 on the belief that we could provide a new form of enterprise software (similar to what ERP had done for supply chain, manufacturing and financial management) that would take all the old disciplines (requirements management, source control, project estimation and planning, collaboration, testing and quality assurance as well as the general need for seamless collaboration and communication) and create a new platform for the future. This was coined a few years back as “Application Lifecycle Management (ALM)” but it’s what we’d been doing for years!

Our mission was (and still is) – to help companies efficiently and affordably manage their software development and testing lifecycle. Founded on some seed money from the founders, for the past 10 years we have built the company the old fashioned way, selling products, making customers happy, investing the profits in growing the company, adding products (Rapise for automated testing, KronoDesk for support and help desk, TaraVault for source code) and along the way meeting great people all over the world, customers and partners of ours who have used our products and tools to build great new industries and business of their own.

The world has indeed changed, we now collaborate over large distances using distributed code management systems such as Git, use instant messaging (Slack, Snapchat, Skype, iMessage), collaboration tools (Webex, VOIP) and have an incredible array of tools to manage different parts of the lifecycle (bug-trackers like Jira, Redmine, Trac), testing platform such as Selenium, and software is now no longer installed on a PC and accessed using Windows, but is instead stored in the cloud and accessed on every possible device, from an iPhone or Android to a tablet, from a desktop computer (running many different OS’s) to an embedded device.

However what has not changed over the 10 years is the need to work together and have all of the people involved in creating these amazing new futures have a common platform to design, develop, test and support these new innovations. This is what inspires us each day to improve what we do.

We routinely get calls from investment funds with money to invest, but so far we’ve not seen a need to go down that route. We’ve been able to grow the company steadily for the needs of our customers and employees first. Being based in Washington, DC rather than in a traditional tech hub has had its benefits, we’ve been able to offer something different, and have a longer-term outlook.  Consequently we have incredible people, many of whom have been with the company for almost its entire life. One of our key people was a former customer who fixed so many of our early bugs we had to make him an offer he couldn’t refuse! We offer everyone retirement plans, part-time work, no-hassle vacations and many other intangibles. I hope we offer a model for other companies.

Thanks to this stability, we genuinely get to know our customers and enjoy hearing from them and trying to understand how our software can help their businesses and communities. For example, we’ve seen amazing growth in the software industries in West and East Africa, in India, and Vietnam. We have worked with cancer agencies, hospital systems, community farms, as well as the largest banks and industrial behemoths. We have learned from all of you and we look forward to the next ten years and what they bring.

So, to all our customers, partners and advocates.

Thank you for everything you have given us in the last ten years.

Adam, Mike, Steve, Elise, Francois, Simon, James, Tara, Maureen, Jim, Denis, Alexey, Bill, Thomas, Aidan, and the rest of the Inflectra team.

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