HQ: Stuttgart, Germany
Offices: Distributed Development Team
Products: JIRA Studio
We were quite pleased when Frederik Pfisterer of Mambu reached out to us wanting to do a case study. His exact wording was “…we do love our JIRA Studio and it has helped us getting our product to market in less than a year… as an enterprise solution it would not ship in such short period if not for JIRA Studio. Our first check-in was less than one year ago and we are launching the product next week.” With such enthusiasm for our hosted development suite, we knew we had to jump at the opportunity to talk with Frederik.
Mambu is an online software application for microfinance organizations. It’s an easy, affordable way for organizations to manage their portfolios and clients. Mambu helps these organizations provide essential financial services to the poor around the world. For those unfamiliar with microfinancing, just think of it as the means to provide financial services to low-income people who typically don’t have access to banking and related services. It also empowers poor people all of the world to operate small businesses in their communities.
Not only were we excited to learn that our hosted software was helping build software that will benefit small businesses around the world, we were also humbled that Mambu had looked to emulate Atlassian. Frederik said, “Atlassian has defintely inspired us, looking at your company philosophy etc. We took quite some time researching Atlassian and basically looked up to you guys to see how things are done. Even in the Mambu self management tool, there is quite a bit of design elements borrowed from my.atlassian.com! You have a ton of videos and can look up pretty much anything about your company. That’s exactly how we’d like to position ourselves.” After all, ‘Open company, no bullshit’ is our first company value. In short, Mambu values Atlassian’s transparency.
Mambu also wanted to make sure our readers know they are hiring. They are looking for senior developers, and due to their distributed set-up, it doesn’t matter where in the world they are located. They are an international startup; out of the 10 people currently at Mambu, there are about 6 nationalities represented. Have a look at www.mambu.com and get in touch with them if you are interested.
Tell me about Mambu
We offer a SaaS service to microfinance organizations worldwide. Microfinance is the concept of offering small loans or savings products to people who usually don’t have access to financial services because they don’t have access to banks. Depending on what numbers you belive, about a 100K microfinance organziations around the planet offer financial services to the poor. We are the first real online SaaS application for those companies. It’s basically banking software in the cloud. We manage loans and savings accounts in the application.
The project started as a research assignment at the beginning of 2009, still in grad school at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh. Out of the research, we found that all banking software for microfinancing is too expensive, or the software itself is pretty crappy. What they really don’t need is worrying about servers or all the stuff that comes with on-premise software. So, we thought it was a fantastic offering by taking the technology burden from them and offering a hosted SaaS solution. Then we went ahead and worked all of 2010 on the prototype. Incorporation was December of last year. We took up some investment funding and are just launching into the market now.
We are a distributed team which is where JIRA Studio comes in so handy. We have 10 employees in Germany, 4 developers in Romania, a guy in Seattle, and a few other places.
How did you learn about our hosted software development suite?
We spent quite a bit of time researching tools like JIRA Studio. It was the only one which was completely integrated with what we needed – a wiki, issue tracking, code control, and even build management which we don’t use yet but we’d like to start using soon. We looked at various tools which ranged form general project management tools like Basecamp and others.
Did you use anything prior to JIRA Studio?
We did experiment with other wiki products but nothing really pleased us. We obviously had SVN for version control. Nothing for issue tracking. JIRA Studio really brought everything together and it just made sense. We were exposed to Atlassian prior to this project. I used JIRA on a college project. We tried Media wiki that was locally installed. It didn’t work for us at all.
Why did you choose SaaS?
Setting up your own server on the internet takes time and maintenance and taking care of backups, etc, etc. Having that all managed for us made the most sense.
What’s your development process?
All sorts of set-up related information goes in the wiki. We also use it for rough requirements gathering: If you are in the raw drafting mode, then you would start a wiki page and refine it into chapters and then eventually split them up into issues and reference the wiki pages from issues. The issues get resolved and estimates are allocated into sprints. After it’s tested by QA and the release is done, then we start with the next sprint and new issues. We do use GreenHopper – it is one of our favorite tools.
How has using a hosted service impacted the way you develop?
It’s tough to say because it’s just the way I expected it to be. I don’t know how on-premise software could deliver what we expect from JIRA. We didn’t put any thought into not using online or web-based tools. SaaS is just the future and is the natural way of how things will progress. There will be additional security at some point – maybe use one-time passwords to send to mobile phones for additional security. So, there is stuff you could do if people are scared about security.
Largest advantages of a hosted dev suite?
Managing a distributed team. Once everyone is used to it and contributes with comments, it just becomes natural. It’s almost just the same as sitting together in a room and using a whiteboard… especially GreenHopper. It’s our sticky note whiteboard where we throw up all the issues and plan our next sprint.
How would you say JIRA is different from other issue trackers?
The adjustable workflows are pretty cool. You can change the workflow and adapt it to the way you work. There is no testing step in the default workflow, so we added that. Since we have dedicated QA, that was really beneficial so they could see all the issues which are in the testing stage.
Advice for smaller dev shops considering JIRA Studio?
Don’t be scared about the initial investment. When we started, I was into keeping the money tight. My partner was much more straight forward about investing. So, we bought the service, and he was right. It’s so hassle free, you don’t have to think about it. If we move offices, you don’t have to worry about domain names and IP addresses. You don’t have to mess with the servers.
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