The development team: Behind the scenes of ParentMail
Over ten years ago ParentMail was formed by 2 parents, who were constantly frustrated with the experience of letters from their children’s school going missing, and so created the first electronic school to home communication service.
Fast forward to today and ParentMail has over 6500 organisations, and 4.5 million parents who receive communications every day.
Our very bright development team work hard to bring you the best, quickest, most effective service. We spoke to them to give you an insight on what goes on behind making a system like ParentMail, what problems they face and how they overcome them.
These days it’s no longer enough to create a system that works solely on a computer, Rob tells us: “ParentMail needs to work on multiple devices – computers, smart phones and tablets, all of which have their own individual ways of working. People expect to be able to use whatever device is close to hand to do what they want to do. This has turned our relatively easy life into a far more complicated one, which requires a team of developers, each with specialist software skills.”
And it’s not just a one off job – every time a manufacturer issues an update to their software, our system needs to be modified in order to continue working, which means our development team need to be prepared for change and research new software to keep us ahead of the curve.
Scott Thompson, our Lead Developer, said “It’s important that we architect the software in such a way that it can deal with our new modules, scale for millions of users, and cope with spikes in demand such as when we experience periods of serious adverse weather. Nowadays we all expect software to work all the time and are unsympathetic if it doesn’t respond quickly, and this is part of the challenge and enjoyment of creating enterprise class platforms.
ParentMail is one of those concepts that at first sounds very simple, but it really is very sophisticated indeed, and we’re utilising the very latest approach used by some of the world’s biggest software companies.”
Today, 70% of our customers access ParentMail through their mobile.
Martin Nix, Head of Infrastructure & Systems, who has been with ParentMail the longest out of all the development team, told us: “As ParentMail has evolved, so has the team. In the beginning we were sending a few thousands emails per month, whereas now we’re in excess of 20 million emails a month, as well as taking payments online and creating a whole system for thousands of users to sign on to at any given time. People still expect the same reliability as they did all those years ago, now with the added pressure of a much bigger system. The more schools and parents we have using ParentMail, the more complex it becomes.”
We’re very proud of our development team and have big ambitions for the future. The team are certainly very busy, with ParentMail system updates, our new apps for android and IOS coming very soon and our Automatic SIMS Integration link being tested as we speak.