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ThoughtWorks, Inc.
IndustrySoftware industry
FounderNeville Roy Singham
United States
Number of locations
Key people
Martin Fowler, Jim Highsmith
ProductsMingle, Go continuous delivery back, Snap CI, Gauge (alternative for Browsers), CruiseControl, Selenium,
ServicesCustom software, applications
Number of employees
DivisionsThoughtworks Studios

ThoughtWorks is a privately owned, global technology company with 43 offices in 14 countries. It provides software design and delivery, and tools and consulting services. The company is closely associated with the movement for agile software development, and has contributed to a content of open source products. ThoughtWorks' business includes Digital Product Development Services,[2] Digital Experience[3] and Distributed Agile software development.[4]


1980s to 1990s[edit]

In the late 1980s Roy Singham founded Singham Business Services as a management consulting company servicing the equipment leasing industry in a Chicago basement. According to Singham, after two-to-three years, Singham started recruiting additional staff and came up with the name ThoughtWorks in 1990.[5] The company was incorporated under the new name in 1993 and focused on building software applications.[6] Over time, ThoughtWorks' technology shifted from C++ and Forte 4GL in the mid-1990s to include Java in the late 1990s.

1990s to 2010s[edit]

Martin Fowler joined the company in 1999 and became its chief scientist in 2000.[7]

In 2001, ThoughtWorks agreed to settle a lawsuit by Microsoft for $480,000 for deploying unlicensed copies of office productivity software to employees.[8]

Also in 2001, Fowler, Jim Highsmith, and other key software figures authored the Agile Manifesto.[9] The company began using agile techniques while working on a leasing project.[10] ThoughtWorks' technical expertise expanded with the .NET Framework in 2002,[11] C# in 2004, Ruby and the Rails platform in 2006.[12] In 2002, ThoughtWorks chief scientist Martin Fowler wrote "Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture" with contributions by ThoughtWorkers David Rice and Matthew Foemmel, as well as outside contributors Edward Hieatt, Robert Mee, and Randy Stafford.[13]

ThoughtWorks Studios was launched as its product division in 2006. The division creates, supports and sells agile project management and software development and deployment tools including Mingle,[14] Gauge(formerly Twist), Snap CI[15] and GoCD.[16] On 2 March 2007, ThoughtWorks announced Trevor Mather as the new CEO.[17] Singham became Executive chairman. Also in March 2007, Rebecca Parsons joined ThoughtWorks as Chief Technical Officer.[18][19]

2010s to present[edit]

In 2010, Jim Highsmith joined ThoughtWorks.[20] At the start of 2012, ThoughtWorks moved its 40-person sales team on salaries specifically instead of commission.[21] In early 2012, Aaron Swartz joined the company.[22] In May 2012, Ken Collier joined the company.[23]

In April 2013, ThoughtWorks announced a collective leadership structure and appointed four co-Presidents of the global organization.[24][25] The appointments followed the announcement that the then current CEO, Trevor Mather, was leaving ThoughtWorks to take up the role of CEO for the used car sales business Trader Media Group.[26]

In May 2013, Dr. David Walton was hired as Director of Global Health.[27] Walton has done work in Haiti since 1999, including helping establish a 300-room, solar-powered hospital and the establishment of a noncommunicable disease clinic.[28]

In 2015, Guo Xiao, who started as a developer in ThoughtWorks China in 1999, became the chief executive officer and President. Also in 2015, Chinese marketing data company AdMaster acquired Chinese online form automation platform JinShuJu from ThoughtWorks.[29][30]

In early 2016, ThoughtWorks closed their Toronto offices, the last remaining Canadian office after the closure of their Calgary offices in 2013.

In August 2017 funds advised by Apax Partners acquired ThoughtWorks.[31]

ThoughtWorks has more than 7000 employees, working from 43 offices in 14 countries, as of February 2020.[32]

Corporate philosophy[edit]

ThoughtWorks has a tri-pillar system of corporate beliefs, inspired by Ben & Jerry's model. These beliefs, referred to as the "3 Pillars" include (1) Sustainable Business (2) Software Excellence and (3) Social Justice.[33][34]

Social Justice work[edit]

ThoughtWorks launched its Social Impact Program in 2009.[35] This program provided pro-bono or other developmental help for non-profits and organizations with socially-driven missions. Clients included Democracy Now! (mobile content delivery site), Human Network International (mobile data collection), and the Institute for Reproductive Health (SMS-based fertility planner).[36][37] In 2010, ThoughtWorks provided software engineering services for Grameen Foundation's Mifos platform.[38]

Translation Cards is an open source Android app that helps field workers and refugees communicate more effectively and confidently. With the help of Google volunteers, Mercy Corps partnered with ThoughtWorks and UNHCR to create the app.[39][40]

In 2020, during the COVID-19 Pandemic, ThoughtWorks, in partnership with the Department of Veteran Affairs, launched an interactive chat bot to help veteran's answer questions about the coronavirus and Veterans Affairs benefits.[41]

Hiring and diversity[edit]

ThoughtWorks has been known for its rigorous interviewing and hiring processes.[42] Between 2010 and 2015, ThoughtWorks increased its percentage of women in tech roles from 17% to 32%. ThoughtWorks has increased its percentage of females in tech roles by hiring developers who have degrees outside of computer science and ensuring female candidates are interviewed by females.[43] As of 2015, 8% of the company's employees identified as black and 3% as Hispanic. In Australia, ThoughtWorks practices quota hiring (requiring one female hired for every male) and conducts pay reviews to ensure female employees receive equal pay and status.[44] On October, 2016, the company won the Top Companies for Women Technologists program by The Anita Borg Institute, for having rates of 59.6/46.2/30/23.8% for Entry, Mid, Senior and Executive positions respectively.[45]

Agile adoption and leadership[edit]

ThoughtWorks has long been a vocal advocate of Agile and Lean principles and practices, speaking often on the topic at conferences and creating Agile self-assessment tests.[46][47][48] Part of ThoughtWorks' client services includes helping large enterprises like GE move to Agile.[49][50] The company employs well-known signatories of the Agile manifesto--Martin Fowler and Jim Highsmith—and uses Agile in client projects.[51] Rebecca Parsons, CTO of the company, has served as the Director of the Agile Alliance.[52]

Books by ThoughtWorks employees[edit]

An abbreviated list of books written by ThoughtWorks employees

  • 1999 - Refactoring, by Martin Fowler. Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN 978-0201485677[53]
  • 2002 - Patterns of Enterprise Application Architecture, by Martin Fowler. Addison-Wesley Longman, Inc. ISBN 9780321127426[54]
  • 2010 - Continuous Delivery, by Jez Humble and David Farley. Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN 978-0321601919[55]
  • 2014 - Lean Enterprise: How High Performance Organizations Innovate at Scale, by Jez Humble, Joanne Molesky, Barry O'Reilly. O'Reilly. ISBN 978-1449368425[56]
  • 2015 - Building Microservices, by Sam Newman. O'Reilly. ISBN 978-1491950357[57]
  • 2015 - Agile IT Organization Design, by Sriram Narayan. Addison-Wesley Professional. ISBN 978-0133903355[58]
  • 2016 - Infrastructure as Code, by Kief Morris. O'Reilly. ISBN 978-1491924358[59]
  • 2017 - Building Evolutionary Architectures, by Neal Ford, Rebecca Parsons and Patrick Kua. O'Reilly. ISBN 978-1491986363[60]
  • 2017 - Understanding Design Thinking Lean, and Agile, by Jonny Schneider[61]
  • 2018 - Enterprise Agility: Being Agile in a Changing World, by Sunil Mundra. Packt Publishing. ISBN 1788990641[62]
  • 2018 - EDGE: Leading your digital transformation with value-driven portfolio management, by Jim Highsmith, David Robinson, and Linda Luu.[63]
  • 2019 - Digital Transformation Game Plan, by Mike Mason, Guo Xiao, Gary O'Brien[64]
  • 2020 - Fundamentals of Software Architecture, by Mark Richards and Neal Ford[65]

Continuous integration and continuous delivery[edit]

Thoughtworks, Melbourne, Australia

ThoughtWorks created the Continuous Integration server, Cruise, in 2001.[66] This Java-based tool was later open-sourced and renamed CruiseControl. Around 2005 ThoughtWorker Jez Humble, working with Chris Read, Dan North, and several other people, encountered problems with deployment for a large client in London. The group's insights about better deployment practices were summarized in a co-authored paper—"The Deployment Production Line"—presented at the Agile 2006 conference.[67][68] The paper contained one of the first depictions of the modern-day deployment pipeline.

Around 2007, after finding CruiseControl limiting, Humble worked alongside a ThoughtWorks team in Beijing to create the tool that later became Go (now styled GoCD).[69] In 2010, ex-employee Dave Farley published the first book on continuous delivery. The book was based on ThoughtWorkers' experiences with client deployments.[70] The book outlined key principles in continuous delivery, such as frequent releases and trunk-based development. Since then, ThoughtWorks has advocated for continuous delivery through its evangelists, speakers, blog posts, and in client projects such as one at The New York Times and another at the UK Guardian.[71][72][73][74]

Software and services[edit]

The company's primary service is the creation of custom software applications for corporate clients. Projects for North American, European or Australian clients are often delivered from India, China, Brazil or Ecuador. The firm also provides consulting services related to software development, design, architecture, operations and IT transformation among others.

Thoughtworks Chennai, India

Proprietary software[edit]

ThoughtWorks' products division was launched in 2006.[75] The department creates, supports and sells products for agile project management, software development, test automation, and continuous delivery and deployment. In 2012, Chad Wathington and David Rice were announced as co-Managing Directors of the products division.[76] In 2016, Wathington left to join ThoughtWorks' global leadership team. Rice is currently sole managing director.

Open source software and contributions[edit]

  • Selenium: In 2004, ThoughtWorks employee Jason Huggins developed Selenium, a portable software testing framework for web applications, as an internal tool.[77] It was open-sourced later that year.[78]
  • GoCD, a continuous delivery server, was released by ThoughtWorks products in 2010 and open-sourced in 2014.[79] GoCD specializes in advanced workflow modeling for deployment pipelines. Although free, it also offers a variety of paid support services from ThoughtWorks.[80] Jez Humble, author of the Continuous Delivery book, is a former GoCD product manager. GoCD is available on GitHub.
  • Gauge, a lightweight cross-platform test automation tool, replaced Twist. Gauge was released by ThoughtWorks' products division in 2015. Although written in golang, Gauge is language-agnostic and allows users to test in any IDE. The tool's architecture was created to be highly modular and plug-in supported, and uses Behavior-driven development and Test-driven development for functional testing.[81]
  • Talisman was released in early 2016. Talisman works with local GitHub repos to prevent users from accidentally pushing potentially sensitive information.
  • Bahmni is an easy-to-use electronic medical records (EMR) and hospital information system. It combines existing open source products such as OpenMRS, odoo, dcm4chee and OpenELIS into a single solution. Bahmni is available on GitHub.
  • The FreedomBox project has received both code contributions[82][83] and sponsorship[84] from ThoughtWorks.
  • QuickFix: QuickFIX was created by Oren Miller and a small ThoughtWorks team alongside Jim Downs of Connamara Systems and was launched in 2002. The creators were honored with an award from the FIX Trading Community in 2014 for the impact the project had on the global trading community.[85][86]

Awards and Recognition[edit]

ThoughtWorks has been awarded the Award for Top Companies for Women Technologists for three consecutive years from 2016 to 2018.[87]

In 2018, ThoughtWorks CTO, Dr. Rebecca Parsons received the Abie Technical Leadership award, presented by at the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing event.[88]

See also[edit]


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  2. ^ "Now Tech: Digital Product Development Services, Q1 2020". Retrieved 2020-03-27.
  3. ^ "The Forrester Wave: Digital Experience Agencies In Asia Pacific, Q1 2019". Retrieved 2020-03-27.
  4. ^ "Case Study: ThoughtWorks Makes Distributed Agile Work". Retrieved 2020-03-27.
  5. ^ Lundy, Dave. 2003. Ex-activist backs revolution in software. Chicago Sun-Times, October 23. "At the time, I was an independent consultant working in the leasing business, but I realized I didn't want to work on my own. So, I recruited a few people, and we built a company called Singham Business Services for two or three years doing consulting and leasing. Then in 1990, I came up with the name ThoughtWorks."
  6. ^ Gale Directory of Company Histories accessed 2011-7-20 "The fledgling enterprise recruited some of its first technical staff by posting bulletin board notices at the University of Chicago. ThoughtWorks soon grew from an initial staff of 8 people to 30 consultants at the time of its official incorporation in 1993.
  7. ^ Jones, Capers (2013). The Technical and Social History of Software Engineering. Pearson Education. p. 234. ISBN 9780321903426. Retrieved 6 April 2016.
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External links[edit]