Case Study: The Delta

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Overview

  • Industry: B2B SaaS, Venture Catalyst
  • Team Size: 150
  • Airplane Usage: 600+ runs / week

The Delta is a venture catalyst that offers end-to-end services for founders and startups with the goal of accelerating their growth. They've added over 50 engineers to their product team over the last year and use Airplane for scheduled tasks and workflow automation.

Lacked a reliable task scheduler

Jono Tooke's team at The Delta, the platform engineering team, focuses on building reusable components for the company. An important part of developing these products is understanding how they are being used. In order to get this information, engineers were manually and periodically collecting metrics across their services.

This was time-consuming and in order to better understand how customers were using their products, they needed more consistent point-in-time snapshots of things within the engineering department. They wanted to be able to answer questions such as: What scores do repositories have? What is our static code analysis?

One option was to allow the functions in AWS and use cron jobs to collect snapshots. Cron was less appealing because it was difficult to maintain, challenging to track jobs and edit them from one place, and difficult to run one-off jobs outside of predefined schedules. Instead, they were looking for a tool that would allow them to use queries in an API directly.

At the same time, The Delta had a number of other scheduled operations that they were looking to manage centrally. These included things like automatically removing unlinked data for their customers such as unlinked contacts, work experiences, and payment details and automatically being notified of expiring training qualifications.

Introducing Airplane

Tristan Drummond, an engineer at The Delta, first discovered Airplane on Product Hunt and decided to try building out some simple SQL tasks. He was impressed by how quickly he could spin up applications. Airplane had fast time-to-value and the UI was simple and easy to use.

The very first solution that The Delta built out in Airplane used the platform to automate SQL checks on their databases. Using Airplane, it was easy to run different SQL queries, track who was running them and when using audit logs, and set them to run on schedules

The Delta decided to implement Airplane for other use cases across a couple of different engineering teams. "We started to use Airplane as a solution to our original issue of collecting point-in-time snapshots to build out our usage story. With Airplane it was easy to view outputs, collect logs, and manage schedules."

Use cases

The Delta uses Airplane schedules for a number of use cases including updating candidate statuses, removing unlinked client data, and generating a monthly static code quality report.

One important Airplane use case is monitoring staffing and qualifications for nurses for one of their portfolio companies. The Delta regularly checks nursing qualifications for expiration dates because they can't book nurses to hospitals after their qualifications have expired. Airplane allows them to automatically update qualification statuses and notify nurses when qualifications are near expiry so that they can update their training and details.

The Delta also uses Airplane to fetch snapshots of their static code analysis across different repositories and to generate a monthly report of the data. They use this for snapshot metrics of the company and store that in a database.

Finally, the Delta even uses Airplane to support company culture. They created an Airplane runbook to automatically identify and send birthday wishes to employees.

In addition to leveraging Airplane for schedules and automation, The Delta also uses Airplane as a complement to Retool for triggered actions.

Airplane as a complement to Retool

The low-code team at The Delta uses Retool to build out their internal dashboards. While Retool's drag-and-drop admin tools are helpful for data visualization, it's difficult to trigger actions in Retool. This is why they use Airplane as a complement to Retool

The Delta has a number of more complex and recurring tasks that Retool doesn't quite cover. For example, a workflow that runs a database query, hits a bunch of APIs, and then updates the database with the resulting information is much easier to model in Airplane. For UI-heavy use cases that require filtering and searching, The Delta uses Retool. When it comes time to trigger the subsequent necessary operations to resolve issues, they use Airplane.

As an example, one of The Delta's Retool apps is used to clock in users for work. While people come to the dashboard daily to clock in before their shifts, they regularly forget to clock out. The Delta created a scheduled runbook in Airplane that runs every hour to check that people have clocked out at the end of their shifts. When the runbook finds someone that hasn't clocked out at the end of a shift, Airplane automatically updates the database to clock them out and sends a notification.

Today, Airplane helps The Delta operate seamlessly across their internal workflows and scheduled operations. They execute 600+ runs per week and are continuing to expand use cases to cover support and customer success.

"Schedules have been so powerful for us. Airplane saves us more than 50% of the time it would take us to get these tasks up and running ourselves. Everything is fully integrated and we have a complete picture of our internal operations."

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