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✈️ How to level up your releases with Runway — Webinar, Feb 8th at 1pm ET — Register

How VSCO uses Runway to save hours of engineering work with each release and improve collaboration between teams

company
VSCO is a photo & video editing and sharing platform that combines premium quality presets & tools, thoughtful curation, and a diverse community of creative professionals.
headquarters
San Francisco, CA
industry
Photography & Video Editing
Mobile Team Size
12
Platforms
iOS and Android
Release Frequency
Weekly
Integrations
GitHub, Jira, CircleCI, TestFlight, App Store Connect, Slack

In a very crowded space, VSCO has long set itself apart by developing what is among the most extensive suites of photographic filters and editing tools to be found in any consumer-facing photography app. First released for iOS in 2011, VSCO has since expanded to multiple platforms and its community of photographers and creators has grown to over 200 million creators worldwide. 

To stay ahead of the competition as one of the segment’s most popular apps for over a decade, VSCO’s mobile engineers have always had to move quickly and evolve the product alongside rapidly changing technology and consumer tastes. They can’t allow the release process to slow them down.

Challenge

Releases were smooth when they had the dedicated bandwidth of a release manager… until suddenly they didn’t.

“Engineers weren’t really ‘release pilots’ — we didn’t have that concept. There was a dedicated release manager who did all the work for releases. Then one day, they left.”

Henry Ly
Staff Software Engineer

Until relatively recently, mobile engineers at VSCO weren’t managing their own releases at all. There were no release rotations, no taking turns as release pilot. Instead, the team handed their entire release process off to a dedicated release manager. Individual iOS and Android engineers ultimately didn't have any responsibility for — or visibility into — shipping their own app, by design. 

When the team changed, VSCO needed to empower mobile engineers to handle releases themselves, although previously they never needed to give releases a second thought.

To ensure the workload didn’t fall on just a couple of engineers, VSCO started a release pilot rotation, built out fastlane scripts, spun up a few GitHub Actions workflows, and set up some automated triggers. But this was all done piecemeal and turned into a huge time sink that disrupted engineers from doing their usual work. It was OK, but no one was happy with it.  

“We tried a few different experiments with release pilot rotations. That was disruptive since people weren’t getting enough reps in the process to build a pattern for tackling the work. Each time someone was taking their turn, they had to reboot all of the context and relearn the runbook.”

Henry Ly
Staff Software Engineer

Solution 

Runway as a replacement for (and improvement on) on engineers spending time on release tasks. 

When the VSCO team learned about Runway, there was very little hesitation to try it out. Runway provided a level of visibility and automation that relieved them of many of the more frustrating tasks that came with managing all the moving parts of the process, and provided a comprehensive experience that the previously mentioned fastlane scripts and GitHub Action workflows that they created couldn’t replicate. 

“What appealed to me right away was the single dashboard where we could see every part of the release. Before, release pilots had to keep multiple App Store Connect tabs open, CircleCI tabs, Jira tabs… just trying to follow the entire process was a lot.”

Henry Ly
Staff Software Engineer

Before Runway, VSCO had to build their own bespoke process for managing their releases. As bespoke processes age and get increasingly more complex it can become difficult to discern which parts of the process are necessary and which parts are in place due to legacy decisions that no longer have any bearing on the way things currently need to be done.

While Runway can work with a team's existing release process, VSCO's engineers were instead inspired to streamline and standardize things upon seeing Runway's interface, evaluating its available automations, and collaborating with Runway's support team. 

Ultimately, the decision to use Runway was made easy when considering: 

  • Engineers were spending 4 to 8 hours per release managing the process — valuable time that would be better spent building the product. 
  • Runway was less expensive than those wasted engineering hours, or hiring someone to be a dedicated release manager again. 
  • Runway provided clarity and empowered them to greatly simplify their process.
“There was no resistance to using Runway. It was like, we’re spending all this time on releases… and Runway will save us all this time. It seemed like a no-brainer.”

Henry Ly
Staff Software Engineer

Results 

The engineering team no longer wastes time building, maintaining, and executing their own mobile release process.

Implementing Runway accomplished exactly what VSCO hoped it would. Their mobile engineers no longer had to sink hours into every release. No one had to continually tinker with the process and document all the twists and turns their bespoke workflow was taking. Everything just worked. Engineers could visit one dashboard, see exactly what was going on with live and upcoming releases, and take any actions they needed to take for active releases, all from right there.

“Managing releases was taking a lot of time away from engineers, time they’d have preferred to use to build features. Runway provided a lot of super helpful automations and lots of visibility into the releases, which provided a big improvement over what we were able to do before.”

Henry Ly
Staff Software Engineer

Runway also improved collaboration between teams who were previously siloed from each other. Instead of needing to send Jira tickets back and forth from QA to engineering to QA to engineering for regression testing and other parts of the process, the QA team can now just go into Runway and update status as they get things done. They’re automatically notified when a new build is ready for testing, and the engineers are automatically notified when testing is finished. No need to write up explanations or communicate via tickets.

“There’s less slowness in handoffs. We feel more collaborative and we’re inviting even more people in. Runway’s usage doesn’t start and end with the engineering team.”

Henry Ly
Staff Software Engineer

In addition to the big wins Runway has delivered in improving collaboration and providing a unified dashboard to keep track of the entire process, it has also helped in many smaller ways. Tasks like populating release notes, uploading screenshots, approving builds for release, triggering CI workflows... all this busywork that used to get lost in a sea of tabs that required constant context switching are now just handled by Runway. 

With the improvements Runway brought to their process, it didn’t just take VSCO’s mobile team back to their “good enough”  status quo; it instead helped them reach an even better place — with full transparency and meaningful collaboration alongside their worry-free releases.

“Runway has been a huge timesaver for us, letting us focus less on the work of releasing the app and spend more time building features our users want. Runway has made things so much easier for us that we don’t even think about releases anymore.”

Henry Ly
Staff Software Engineer

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 release to rollout. No more cat-herding, spreadsheets, or steady drip of manual busywork.