How Gusto uses Runway to stay focused on empowering work.

company
Gusto's modern, easy-to-use HR platform creates a world where work empowers a better life.
headquarters
San Francisco, USA
industry
HR software
Mobile Team Size
15+
Platforms
iOS (Swift), Android (Kotlin)
Release Frequency
Weekly
Integrations
GitHub, Jira, Bitrise, Bugsnag

There are lots of choices out there for platforms that help you hire, pay, and support your employees, but Gusto has always stood apart in some key ways — one of which is their ability to make working folks’ lives a little easier and more delightful. Gusto provides over 200,000 growing businesses with modern, intuitive, and delight-inspiring payroll, benefits, and HR services, and Gusto’s team is obsessive about constantly improving the experience in ways both big and small.

Mobile factors heavily in ensuring a smooth Gusto experience.  The team was receiving constant feedback from employees who are paid through Gusto that they wanted the ability to view paychecks and manage payroll themselves, from anywhere and at any time — and it was clear that specific flows on web were being heavily used by customers on their phones. To address this obvious need, along came Gusto Wallet, a payroll-focused app that created the perfect touchpoint to meet employees where they lived day to day.

Since the beginning, Gusto’s mobile team has taken pride in making Gusto Wallet a first-class experience, choosing to develop natively on both iOS and Android. Today, the growing contingent of mobile engineers is split between the two platforms and embedded into various product teams. The entire mobile org collaborates continuously to ensure feature parity, solve shared foundational challenges, and align on interface choices that keep things feeling native and natural whether customers are on iPhones or Android devices.

Challenge

Overhead and wasted time, as releases were tying up key mobile leads and senior engineers

From the outset, Gusto’s founding iOS and Android engineers had the depth of experience and know-how to not only develop a top notch product, but to also put together a well-structured and fairly smooth release process. Some amount of automation was taken care of with their CI workflows, and they had concocted a handful of manually-initiated scripts to take care of other bits of manual busywork as well. Quite early in the team’s life, they were able to maintain a brisk weekly release cadence.

But soon, Gusto’s mobile ambitions grew at the company level and with them, the demands on the mobile team itself. A desire to grow far beyond the basics of those early flows adapted from mobile web meant that the team needed to start laying groundwork to support a rapidly scaling product being worked on by a rapidly scaling team. Crucially, the broadening scope and importance of mobile within the org also meant starting to bring in interdisciplinary players from the wider company.

As Gusto mobile grew in size and remit, releases became a clear bottleneck: they were still entirely on the plates of just those few original engineers. There was a shared sense that release responsibilities should be better distributed, but the team was well aware of the tradeoffs involved and they were keen to accomplish that end goal without risking quality or incurring the cost of additional coordination overhead. Some efforts were made to document the release process and provide training for others to take it on, but it became clear that more measures were needed to fully scale beyond that world where “tenured” release engineers needed to attend to proceedings every time.

“I think what we had was working for us at the scale we were at. But as we started to grow, we were either going to have to build in much more process, or figure out some kind of tooling to manage it.”

Kamilah Taylor
Head of Financial Products Engineering

Solution

Runway as a framework to enable shared release responsibilities, without sacrificing quality

When the Gusto team came across Runway, they were initially skeptical that a tool could solve the higher-order, collaboration-related problems they hoped to solve. In spite of that skepticism, and even with a lingering sense that they might be able to iterate on an approach in-house, Gusto’s engineering leads were soon intrigued by Runway, both in terms of the breadth of features it offered and the bigger vision it spoke to.

“At first, I was thinking, ‘Our release process works. It’s fine.’ But as we went through the Runway demo, it occurred to me — actually, wouldn’t it be nice to make releases happen without me or our leads involved every time? That idea was a big selling point — the possibility of involving more people to shoulder some of the responsibility.”

Kamilah Taylor
Head of Financial Products Engineering

During a trial run, those same founding mobile engineers were the first to run releases through Runway, but they quickly pulled in others on the team when they realized Runway could completely flatten the learning curve while also safeguarding their high quality bar. The framework Runway provided, with an intuitive overview of the state of releases and customizable checklists for every part of the process, essentially made for a foolproof, self-documenting release runbook. And at every step of the way, Runway’s Slack integration kept the wider org apprised of progress and blockers, eliminating much of the communication overhead that had been growing across the increasingly distributed and interdisciplinary team.

Gusto’s mobile leads soon found themselves offloading even more responsibilities to Runway as they discovered the full extent of its automation capabilities. Not only was it a win to have Runway take over rote tasks like branch cuts, version bumps, and release tagging but also—where they had previously managed to automate tasks with their collection of scripts—Runway was eliminating the need to know exactly how and when to run those scripts. Plus, as usual, Runway was doing all that with complete transparency and predictability for the entire team.

Results

Freed-up bandwidth for the immediate mobile team, and improved collaboration org-wide

Runway’s impact at Gusto has been clear and far-reaching, improving processes and practices both within the immediate mobile team and beyond it. On the mobile front, the most visceral results have included freed-up capacity and mental bandwidth for senior engineers and less collective time spent thinking about releases. Mobile leads have found themselves with more freedom to manage larger initiatives, and gone are the days of babysitting each and every release. Across the team, there’s more confidence in knowing when updates will ship and that they’ll do so smoothly.

“It literally would not be possible for me to continue doing all the things I have to do today if I was still personally attending to the release process.”

Kamilah Taylor
Head of Financial Products Engineering

Runway also makes onboarding new mobile engineers to Gusto’s release process painless — further easing the burden on the wider team. New hires are pleasantly surprised to find an intuitive interface mapping out all the steps and tasks of the release sequence, giving them confidence to run releases soon after joining.

“This is the fastest I’ve ever learned how to ship an app at a new company… getting up to speed was seamless. I love the checkpoints in Runway that are contextualized with where you are in the release cycle.”

Joshua Lamson
Android Engineer

One of the most surprising, yet most impactful, outcomes for the wider Gusto org has been seeing Runway organically create new spaces and touchpoints around which the entire cross-functional team naturally comes to collaborate effectively. Within Runway, release overviews allow engineering, product, and other stakeholders to quickly get on the same page when it comes to state of work and blockers. Outside of the platform itself, Runway’s Slack notifications also serve as surprisingly effective hubs for the wider team to work together and triage issues. For example, an alert about the status of regression testing might seed a threaded discussion digging into why a build recently failed QA, and putting heads together on possible fixes.

“What I really love about Runway is that it gives me visibility into blockers. If a build has failed QA I can see that notification, I know to make it top of mind, and I can quickly check in with the team to see what’s going on.”

Chris Lysiuk
Senior Product Manager

Real-time app store reviews that Runway posts to Slack have become a critical part of the company’s customer experience workflow. Besides the fact that these notifications provide timely active monitoring of release health, they too act as a centralized place for a variety of different roles to come together to solve problems. Time to resolve CX issues has gotten even speedier, with customer service, product, engineering, ops, legal, and other folks able to quickly huddle in one place, hash things out, and delegate next steps.

“CX loves Runway because it creates a natural place for conversations on user feedback and product enhancements. We’re able to collaborate together around Runway’s notifications, instead of discussing in DMs or private channels, so that’s been huge.”

Christina Johnson
CX Analyst

With Runway’s help, the entire team behind Gusto’s apps today feels better able to maintain their laser focus on improving the Gusto mobile experience. The collective brain space previously devoted to worrying about releases, and the time previously wasted running through release documentation and constantly dealing with manual chores, is now freed up for iterating and making further strides towards the vision of work empowering a better life for their customers.

“Runway has been super, super impactful. It is amazing. My Runway ‘aha’ moment was the day when I realized, ‘Oh wow, this release will happen and I don't even have to think about it.’”

Kamilah Taylor
Head of Financial Products Engineering

Release better with Runway.

Runway integrates with all the tools you’re already using to level-up your release coordination and automation, from kickoff to submission to release. No more cat-herding, spreadsheets, or steady drip of manual busywork.
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