Why We Release Early, And Release Often

December 1, 2015

Intellum has always been an “on-demand” software company. From the very beginning we recognized that “Software as a Service” (SaaS) offers tremendous benefits over the traditional enterprise software installation model. We eschewed complicated licensing agreements and onsite-hosting scenarios in favor of significantly faster implementation timelines, lower costs for our clients and unlimited scalability to support user and activity growth. We were a fully operational cloud-based solution before the term “cloud” even existed.


We have built our specific approach to SaaS around the “release early, release often” philosophy of software development, which calls for frequent updates and new feature releases early in the production cycle. This strategy creates a tight feedback loop between developers and users, allowing our clients, for example, to help define what our products become. This is how we ensure that we are building software that addresses our clients’ real needs and that our users actually enjoy using.


This does not mean that we devalue quality. On the contrary, we are deeply committed to maintaining high quality releases. If we don’t think something is ready for production, we won’t release it. But we have to walk the fine line between building, testing (which we do extensively) and ultimately getting updates into the hands of the people who actually use the software.


Matt Mullenweg, the creator of WordPress, captured this sentiment incredibly well; “Usage is like oxygen for ideas. You can never fully anticipate how an audience is going to react to something you’ve created until it’s out there. That means every moment you’re working on something without it being in the public it’s actually dying, deprived of the oxygen of the real world.”


So we release early, and we release often.


Consider the Intellum Exceed Learning Management System, for example. The majority of the Exceed updates occur in the background, going largely unnoticed by users. Even our Exceed Administrators are unaware of the multitude of changes that occur on a weekly basis. The solution just works and the LMS keeps getting better.


Sometimes the improvements are more substantial. In just the second half of 2015 alone we refreshed the entire Exceed LMS UI, we simplified how learning paths work and we introduced performance-based student recommendations. These developments represent significant improvements to the Exceed LMS and the positive feedback from clients has been tremendous. But improvement is change and change can be intimidating - if you allow it to be.


The thing is, a release early and release often strategy is all about change. Our clients expect us to deliver the best learning, performance and collaboration solutions in the industry. This expectation requires us to focus on two important things - improving the features that really matter and upgrading the experience of using the tools.


I believe Intellum has the best development team in the industry. Our clients sure seem to think so and they certainly benefit from our team’s ability to constantly update critical features and the user experience. Rather than fear the rapid change schedule, our clients have come to understand that having access to solutions that are constantly, often significantly, improving is what separates Intellum from other LMS and elearning providers.

Release notes are always available from the Exceed LMS dashboard and we launched a recurring “Tips & Tricks” segment this year inside Think Tank, our Intellum client user community, which focuses on how clients can capitalize on these new features and improvements.


While the second half of 2015 saw some significant enhancements to the Exceed LMS specifically, 2016 is going to see even more growth and improvement across our tools. We are going to offer our clients a completely new way to think about learning management, allowing us to further “consumerize the enterprise.”


These radical ideas are already deep in the development cycle and in true release early, release often fashion, we will begin communicating with clients and pushing the next stage out very shortly.


I can’t wait to get these ideas some oxygen and watch them grow.


Chip Ramsey

("Code Review" Icon by Rochard Slater from the Noun Project)