Skyscanner’s continuous delivery journey


Skyscanner, the Scottish company behind the popular travel search website, has already grown to considerable scale since it was founded by Gareth Williams in 2003. Williams was inspired to create the business by his own frustrations in trying to find the best deal for a skiing holiday. As the Skyscanner website describes it: “A pub brainstorming session with friends and co-founders Barry Smith and Bonamy Grimes followed, and from a single Excel spreadsheet, Skyscanner was born”.

Skyscanner is now one of the largest travel search platforms in the world, providing price comparison data on hotels, flight, and car hire for 60 million users a month.

Its journey from three founders with a spreadsheet to a team of 800 people managing the world’s largest travel search engine, is a fascinating one. What’s particularly interesting is how Skyscanner’s engineers have managed to change their organization, services, and release processes over time, in order to achieve a 100x increase in release frequency.

By introducing practices such as continuous delivery, Skyscanner’s engineers, the ‘Code Voyagers’, are able to release software 95 times a day.

“We’re managing to release up to 95 times per day. It’s vastly improved from 1 every 6 weeks!”

It’s unlikely that Skyscanner would have been able to keep up with such a rapid pace of application delivery if they’d failed to include the database in that journey. With over 70 million unique visitors to the Skyscanner website each month, in more than 30 different languages, you can imagine the incredible amount of data and the complex database changes that need to be carefully managed alongside each new feature release. By including Redgate’s Database DevOps tools as part of their DevOps toolchain, Skyscanner ensures that database changes are visible as part of the deployment process, that testing is automated, and changes can be released safely to production.

This ability to deliver value to customers quicker has proved to be a real competitive advantage for them. As Ryan Crawford, Skyscanner’s Technical Manager told Redgate, this time to market is critical. “The quicker we can get our products out to the market, the happier our customers will be and the less likely they’ll be to go elsewhere.”

“We’re definitely a customer-driven company and our time to market is critically important which feeds back into the need to have products which help our developers deliver faster.”


His words are also backed by the 2018 Accelerate State of DevOps Report from by DevOps Research & Assessment (DORA), which shows that practices like continuous delivery result in 46 times more frequent code deployments. Not only that, but the engineering time you recover by adopting DevOps practices can also be translated into the ability to deliver extra value. For the first time, this year’s report also called out the importance of the database in driving high IT performance, so it’s no wonder Skyscanner are adopting similar practices to maintain a competitive advantage.

It certainly seems to have worked for Skyscanner. It recently announced that revenues climbed from £158.3m in 2016, when it was bought be Chinese tourism group to £214.2m in 2018, while pre-tax profits were up by about £7m, at just over £24m. With these levels of growth, Skyscanner is on track to achieve the company’s long-term strategy to become the single travel app for all your needs.

Find out more about how Redgate’s Compliant Database DevOps Solution can help you deliver value quicker while keeping your data safe.

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