Richard Waghorn, Director of Operations, Technology and Transformation, RTÉ

The pandemic forced us all to change, rapidly. At RTÉ, we implemented some changes in a matter of days, with new ways of working that were previously unthinkable: when choice is no longer an option, necessity drives innovation.


Of course, relying on an external disruptor, such as a worldwide pandemic, to force change is not a sustainable model. We need to disrupt ourselves all the time to ensure that we are ready to face the next change-wave, and the one after that. If dealing with change is challenging, given resource constraints and the regulated environments we operate in, then failing to prepare for change is disastrous.

When I first arrived at RTÉ, I said to the technology teams that we needed to be smart followers. We didn’t need to be the early bird that catches the worm – that risks wasting the limited money and resources that we have. Instead, we needed to be the second mouse that gets the cheese – the wily follower often secures the sustained competitive advantage.

Being the smart follower required us to disrupt established norms. In order to be ready to surf the next change-wave we needed to be agile, efficient, and clever in the way we invested and innovated.
Over time, we shifted the investment focus away from upgrades and maintenance to transformative projects, projects that are now delivering real value across the organization. We are unlocking efficiencies in every area of the business, enabling us to better serve and reach our audiences. Projects such as our private cloud, our content management system and storage platform, our flexible TV studios and new productivity solutions are doing their job – they’ve disrupted the way we work, facilitated change and ultimately enabled RTÉ to strengthen its game.

Innovation culture

And we’re becoming smarter innovators. While RTÉ doesn’t have a research and development function, we do have teams of people who want to push boundaries. Using collaborative approaches, we are building an innovation culture that helps our staff to think beyond the current horizon and see the waves of change that are coming our way.

We are now in our third year of participating in the IBC Accelerator programme: RTÉ will co-champion five projects this year, covering 5G, LEO satellites and AR/VR. Staff from technology and operations are involved in various EBU groups, and we continue to innovate with projects that will transform the way we work. And, along the way, we’ve picked up two IBC Innovation Awards.

Getting the smart follower strategy right means we can make the organization more agile and efficient, and better prepared for change. The proof of the smart follower strategy is in our response to COVID-19. Part of that response is down to the smart investments we’ve made, but part of it is also down to the building of a culture that is more conditioned to facing and responding to change. The self-induced disruption has (so far) paid off.


This article was first published in issue 48 of tech-i magazine.

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