The most common workplace communication tool, email has been connecting teams since the 70s. But while the way we communicate has gone beyond “send” and “reply,” our inboxes have generally stayed the same. Teams work together more than ever before—relying on countless apps to get work done. With powerful workflows and integrations, Front aims to merge both in a collaborative inbox built for work today. As the company transforms inboxes and workplace communication, they’ve also doubled in size each year, adding offices in Paris, San Francisco, and Phoenix.
Front’s email management app makes it possible to collaborate and communicate in one place—similar to how their own developers work. Initially, the team managed their code in just one main GitHub repository, which limited their collaboration and security options. In order to build on a distributed cloud workflow, manage their infrastructure, and keep their code secure, Front levelled up to GitHub Team. Now GitHub Team is part of the way they build, from back-end development to data.
“We have front- and back-end engineers, and a mobile team as well,” said iOS developer Pierre Laurac. “Even our infrastructure team is developing code based on GitHub. Since we manage infrastructure as code with Kubernetes and Terraform, it’s good to be hosted somewhere.”
More critically, using GitHub Team has also meant consolidating Front’s CI/CD pipeline on a single platform. In the same way their customers manage multiple inbox tasks in one app, Front’s engineers can build, test, and deploy code without ever leaving GitHub. Developers combine Kubernetes with GitHub Actions to automate every step—staging in Kubernetes, then deploying new testing environments and eventual updates. For Laurac, the entire process is as simple as pushing a button, or tapping your computer touchpad. “It’s super easy and seamless to work with both GitHub and Kubernetes. It’s two different platforms and two different systems, but GitHub Actions makes it as easy as clicking a link on a page.”
Whether you’re an individual contributor working on something specific or you’re a manager, GitHub provides an evolved view of the entire CI/CD process.
And it’s not just deployment frequency, Laurac continued. Deployments happen 75 percent faster with GitHub Actions—taking about 10 minutes compared to the 40 minutes required when they were done manually. Each engineer can do their own staging, also contributing to improved deployment time.
“Within five minutes you can test your code, without annoying everyone and making sure everything works,” said Laurac. “Whether you’re an individual contributor working on something specific or you’re a manager, GitHub provides an evolved view of the entire CI/CD process. Our infrastructure team has been doing a really wonderful job with it.”
This integrated and automated workflow doesn’t mean compromising security. In fact, working in GitHub Team helps Front safeguard their code and, by extension, their clients’ information. “Since we’re managing people’s inboxes, we handle a lot of personal and company data,” explained Laurac. A lot of data equals a lot of responsibility—which he knows the team doesn’t take lightly. “We’re always asking, ‘How encrypted are our databases? Who can connect? What type of access control do we have? How do we control secrets?’” Laurac said. “With 40-plus people working on a code base, a lot of changes happen every day. We want to make sure we have tools that tell us, ‘Hey, don’t merge that,’ or ‘You should be careful there,’ or ‘We don’t allow you to merge this because of this reason.’”
Building securely starts with following best practices set by Front’s security experts. But the small-yet-mighty team can’t be everywhere at once, which is when GitHub Team steps in to help handle the load. Before deploying a code change system-wide, Front’s developers use GitHub Actions to trigger Danger JS. This custom action automatically double-checks updated code by deploying it first on a small scale. Built-in pull request reviews also ensure sensitive data is run past the security team before being pushed to production, especially if the changes are related to information like logins or user access.
“We have a bug bounty program. When people find something, the security team says, ‘Okay, maybe we should remind our developers of best practices,’” said Laurac. “With GitHub Team, our developers can easily ask the security team, ‘Hey, just have a look. Here are the tests that I added, so just let me know if this is correct.’”
GitHub Team’s ease of integration supports Front’s other go-to tools as well. The GitHub API makes it possible to move issues from GitHub to Jira, and archive requests and tasks for future reference. Integrating with Electron was especially helpful for addressing the inefficiencies of operating Front’s desktop and mobile apps. When Laurac first arrived at Front, the desktop and mobile apps had been established in two different languages, and had very few testing functionalities. Today, their developers use Electron to build cross-platform apps, and sharing feedback is as simple as opening a GitHub pull request.
Front’s current engineers aren’t the only ones who benefit from better efficiency: new hires can jump in and make an impact because they’re often familiar with the platform before entering the workforce. “I think a lot of people create an account during their studies, because GitHub is a really good student tool with a lot of value,” Laurac said. “They’re already comfortable with the product.”
Overall, GitHub Team helps Front engineers do what they do best: collaborate and stay focused on developing, instead of getting caught up in the details or manual work. From Laurac’s perspective, that’s what gives GitHub Team such a high return on investment—how much time developers save with automation, combined with how quick it is to implement the platform. Now, there’s no excuse not to test something and do it right.
“It’s enjoyable to be able to focus on the work,” said Laurac. “We have teams in multiple regions and timezones, so we can’t rely on meetings. Anything that’s not essential is just not happening.” As Front connects teams and inboxes around the world, they rely heavily on GitHub to stay connected and on task, and they’re grateful to keep seeing improvements. “In the past year and a half, we’ve seen a lot of changes. GitHub Team was a good investment, and we really appreciate it.”
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Kris Nova quickly developed a passion for open source software. Now she gets to work on open source tooling at her day job, which includes maintaining Kubernetes Operations (kops).
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