Agile code breeds Holly's success

Close-knit development team key to innovation

Sydney-based IVR and VoiceXML application vendor Holly Connects is taking on the world with software developed with a mix of agile and traditional methods, without the offshoring.

Founded seven years ago by former OzEmail technical staff, Holly is backed with private capital and has found a niche in advanced, standards-based IVR platforms for carriers and enterprises.

CEO Lance Berks said the company's first big win came in 2003 when Telstra selected it over big names like Cisco and Nortel to upgrade a legacy IVR system.

Since then Holly has chalked up local carriers Vodafone and PowerTel and a number of global enterprises including Qantas, American Express, and the California Department of Motor Vehicles.

Holly claims to have developed the first pure-play VoIP and VoiceXML platform anywhere. The software also includes centralized, real-time reporting tools.

The company's vice president of engineering and products, Andrew Hunt, said all software development is done in-house and not outsourced, which is a strategic advantage.

"There are challenges to outsourcing from a delivery point of view," Hunt said. "Responsiveness, control and timeliness are key to us."

While Holly is a software vendor, Hunt said the emphasis is on business and the development team is focused around "building business".

"That requires very tight networking within the team," he said.

With 12 developers and a quality assurance team in Sydney, Holly's software runs on Solaris and Linux, and supports the Oracle, PostgreSQL and MySQL databases.

Hunt said developers can reuse a common architecture for a range of services and can lay on a new application "in a matter of hours".

"We can deliver solutions within weeks where our developers would take years," he said, adding 95 percent of the application is standard with only 5 percent requiring customization on a case-by-case basis.

To achieve these results Hunt said Holly is an "agile shop".

"We blend agile development with classic testing for speed and innovation with high quality," he said.

Holly's uses a mixture of C, C++ and Java for its applications but Hunt said the developers are "pragmatists" when it comes to programming languages.

"It's good to be part of a local company exporting software to the world," Hunt said.

CEO Berks said Holly is "all about quality" and as an Australian company it is expected to deliver high-quality software.

"Australian companies are fast adopters," he said. "It is a mature market and a great test bed for the North American market."

Of Holly's global deployments, Berks said "everything in the US" is on Linux but in Australia it's mostly on Solaris at carriers like Telstra and Vodafone.

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