How do you redesign a team of digital specialists, post-acquisition?
Telegraaf Media Group
Streamlining work processes of IT and business teams in a changing organisation.
Capability building of specialists in a new organisation.
About Telegraaf Media Group (Mediahuis)
Telegraaf Media Group, known today as Mediahuis Nederland, is one of the Netherlands' largest media companies, with well-known brands such as De Telegraaf, VROUW, Privé, Metro, Autovisie; regional dailies and even a number of digital brands. Its mission? To provide consumers 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with high-quality, relevant content in the field of news, sports, and entertainment, through every conceivable form of distribution. The organisation still maintains an unconditional belief in independent journalism to this very day.
Plenty of potential, plenty of talent
The close to 50 digital specialists on the team had already gone through their share of change in recent years. Takeovers, stakeholders who came and went and an IT landscape that had lost flexibility over the years. Furthermore, the organisation was also striving for a stable website, resistant to peak loads and safe from outside influence.
Finally, the backlog was also not always well prioritised and feeling – not data – often influenced the choices made. In short: there was a team of capable, independent specialists in place but there was still room for improvement when it came to working towards a common goal.
Code freeze: no releases for a month
As releases were done continuously, lacking well-designed release processes, some things were bound to go wrong from time to time. That’s why we were the first to pitch the idea of a resting phase. During a one-month 'code freeze', we spent our days only eliminating necessary items from the backlog and checking the code for accuracy and security. That’s what it was in the end: a moment to take a break, giving us the well-needed time and space to properly assess the situation.
Together with TMG, we analysed the existing processes in detail. Having looked at them from different angles we proceeded to create an overall picture: we examined the people, the team, the product (the websites) and ways of working as a team. We compared various best practices: models for development that had already made their mark in the digital world. We chose the model that suited TMG best and extracted the most relevant elements we found.
Shiny new team structures and processes
The next step? A complete redesign of team structures and processes. This particular department used to work solely towards major releases. With iO in the picture, we quickly moved towards an agile way of working. We made work of a sprint planning and formulated a clear definition of done. In doing so, we worked pragmatically.
The changes had an immediate effect on the work done, which lead to the team delivering output right away: websites went live and functionalities were developed as we went. Meanwhile, we continued to develop and refine the process.
"Along with iO, we interviewed important stakeholders in the organisation. How do you do the things you do? Why do you do them that way? If you face changes, how do you tackle them? All of this we did with zero judgement. This gave us a proper view of the current situation and processes."
Chris de Groot, Manager Operations Digital Innovation & Development at De Telegraaf
Best practices and explicit roles for a team in motion
Colleague Willem Corbijn: "Every time you start from scratch, it takes a long time before you see any results. By following an established best practice, progress comes swift. However, simply implementing that best practice isn’t desirable either. In that case, you’re left to deal with limited relevance and resistance following it. That’s why we chose some things to implement immediately. Among other things, we made roles explicit. People suddenly knew their place in the bigger picture and learned who was responsible in every scenario. This got the team moving as one."
Fewer mistakes, more understanding, better atmosphere
The way of working, just like the phase a release is in, is much clearer today because of how it’s described – a huge help. As long as you know exactly what part you have to play and what to do, you are less likely to make assumptions and therefore make fewer mistakes. Team members also feel much more involved. The team atmosphere was never better and the relationship between IT and the business is still standing strong today.
"In processes like this, it’s very important to work with an independent party carrying that outside-in view. Otherwise, you quickly get caught up in politics and the internal struggles of the day. iO did exactly that."
Chris de Groot, Operations Manager Digital Innovation & Development at De Telegraaf
Structured development and release
TMG's teams can now develop and release in a structured way. Steering actions based on data, working together from feeling and emotion. The company makes more rational data-driven decisions regarding further development and new functionalities.
The technical side of both the collaboration and the development process has also become scalable and secure. The backlog works better cleared and the websites enjoy stability and speed. Finally, the digital department has improved means of responding to the needs of the internal organisation.