The power of collaboration: helping cinch to build a ground-breaking online platform in record time

May 20th, 2021 Written by Hiren Joshi

In 2020, cinch rapidly accelerated its plans to put Britain in the driving seat, by providing a new way for people to find, buy and change cars, completely online. And the ambition was clear – cinch wanted to make car buying and ownership a faff-free experience for millions of customers right around Britain. In just nine short months, cinch has become the UK’s fastest growing online used car marketplace.

To pivot quickly and transform the traditional car-buying and ownership model online, cinch asked Infinity Works for support. While our mindset was already attuned to the fast-moving cinch culture this project was not without its challenges. The cinch team were clear in their intent for an easy customer-facing experience that managed inventory, created a checkout-to-order journey, with financing and delivery options to suit the customer. Because the project kicked off in April 2020 at the start of the national lockdown, all collaboration would have to happen remotely. How did we do it?

Key decisions, well-considered

With ambition to deliver the new online platform at speed, it was essential to get the big decisions right at the beginning. The original cinch website performed well, it required development work in-house and a dedicated team to manage the infrastructure. The team decided to switch to Amazon Web Services (AWS), which meant less time provisioning the infrastructure and more time building features. In addition, AWS has a wide user community that provides ongoing support and information.

Singing from the same song sheet

The cinch team realised they needed additional resources on the project before recruitment drives or necessary in-house upskilling targets could be met, so Infinity Works were asked to provide support. Because of the lockdown situation, none of the cinch engineers could meet their counterparts at Infinity Works, so we decided to form blended teams to bring people from both organisations together. To facilitate better collaboration, we established three core principles at the outset to help the teams get up and running – and driving in the same direction – swiftly:

  1. Each squad was autonomous.
  2. Inter-squad communications took place on Amazon EventBridge, with data stored for future reference and analysis.
  3. Everyone was asked to automate whenever and wherever possible.

A strong, collaborative engineering culture emerged between two businesses with a single-minded focus. In the beginning, we introduced ‘mob programming’ with the whole group working on the same task. This made the teams more productive and virtually eliminated miscommunications and misunderstandings. We also built a walking skeleton – literally a bare-bones initial implementation. Most of the code would be thrown away, but writing it helped us establish what our automation/application pipeline and infrastructure would look like. We all knew where we were going and how to get there.

Better functionality at lower cost

At the end of the project, cinch successfully launched new, highly automated services on an exceptionally scalable and robust platform. Traffic soared as soon as the website went live, hitting over one million requests per minute – 16 times more than during any previous peaks. Surprisingly, as the site got busier, the website got faster. There’s more functionality than before and the overall cost of the service was far less than expected. As a result, the cinch tech team can now work smarter, creating flexible cross-functional teams without the constraints of infrastructure management.

 A perfect foundation for rapid growth

This year, cinch is seeing exponential growth as it evolves from being a start-up to being a scale-up. Its workforce is expanding at a great pace, too. And when it comes to delivering the best customer experience, the team has already expanded on car sales by building new customer propositions that take the faff out of vehicle ownership. For example, they recently launched cinchCare, a market-leading product that provides scheduled servicing, warranty and roadside assistance for less than £35 a month.

This was a successful project delivered at pace to very tight timeframes. The collaboration between the cinch team and Infinity Works was second to none, with AWS as the perfect cloud partner. Setting core principles and ways of working at the outset helped to build the right collaborative culture across the joint cinch and Infinity Works teams. This was a true partnership working in action. 

Written by Hiren Joshi