Bent Ericksen & Associates
Aging software had become painfully slow Bent Ericksen & Associates (BEA) is a leading provider of employment compliance and human resources. Their flagship product, HR Director, provides a comprehensive web-based HR system for thousands of clients—and the employees of those clients rely on it for crucial day-to-day operations.
But over the years, BEA had unwittingly racked up a large amount of “technical debt”—the accretion of performance and functionality issues that creep in as
software ages. The code behind BEA’s premiere product had finally begun to show the vagaries of age—in the form of egregiously slow response times and a clunky
The lack of architectural foresight in the old code meant that it couldn’t effectively handle the software’s growing number of users. And with an important business milestone looming—annual HR policy updates for hundreds of clients—BEA needed peak performance, stat.
"I’m amazed at the difference refactoring made in our speeds. Metal Toad transformed our software’s performance in just a couple of weeks, resulting in tremendous positive feedback from our clients."
Refactoring to the rescue! Refactoring—the process of rewriting functional code, without adding new features, to improve performance, maintainability, and scalability—is the best solution to technical debt. Refactoring is an essential maintenance process to keep the software working well, and when an old system starts to bog down, it’s a sure sign that refactoring is long overdue.
Metal Toad brought two crucial perspectives to BEA’s refactoring project. First, our ethos of excellence—every time we touch the code, we do our best to improve
it—drove our adherence to code best practices. Our engineering team brought BEA’s code up to snuff with the same attention to correctness, scalability, and
performance we apply to every codebase.
Second, we took a collaborative, user-centric approach to rapidly solve the software’s most critical issues to meet BEA’s pressing business deadline.
• The core team (product manager, architect, and engineers) worked shoulder-to-shoulder to review the software and identify issues within the code
• New Relic was used to get a detailed and objective view into the software’s performance, then identify pivotal areas for improvement
• Mapping user experience pain points (slow load and processing times) to code issues allowed the team to identify and prioritize the most impactful work
• The team took an Agile approach to identify the nine most crucial elements to fix, and to then rapidly build, test, deploy, and iterate—achieving huge performance gains within a single two-week sprint
The measure of really great software is an experience that works so seamlessly, the user doesn’t even notice the functionality. So when our partner at BEA said, “I
don’t know what you guys did, but this is amazing!” we knew the refactoring was a huge success. And the numbers bore that out: the software’s performance speed improved
astronomically. Functions that were once a painful experience for BEA administrators and their customers are now quick and painless. For instance:
• Accessing a policy index: from nearly 4 minutes to 108 milliseconds
• Creating a policy manual: from nearly 1 minute to 2.75 seconds
• Selecting a policy: from 12 seconds to 0.0004 seconds
BEA now has more efficient operations, and their clients are more satisfied—laying the groundwork for increased retention. After experiencing the costs of technical debt (slower rollout of features, higher risk of problems, inevitable performance decline) the benefits of refactoring have become immediately clear: fast, well-performing software that has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from BEA’s clients. Now that BEA has seen the transformative potential of refactoring, they’re excited to make this process part of their ongoing software maintenance practice.
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