Heidrun Reisæter, Director of Technology, NRK
NRK is facing great technology change in the coming years. We are about to build a new head office and at the same time we need to modernize our production platform, with a transition to IP, and modernize our playout and distribution solutions. These are changes we would make anyway, but our relocation plans have forced us to accelerate – we don’t want to delay the organization’s journey towards this long-awaited new building, where well-functioning and flexible production technology is a must.
Modernizing NRK’s production infrastructure is a complex and demanding task, both technologically and for the organization. The risk is great, as we’re changing core technology that is crucial to fulfilling our remit. Instead of installing the new production platform for the first time in our new head office, we can reduce the risk and reap the benefits earlier by starting the technological transition now, in our existing premises. This will mean that everything is well tried and tested, with known workflows, before we move.
The way we work
Alongside this renewal of NRK’s technology, we are renewing the way we work. Three years ago, we gathered all product development, technology, and production into one division. To deliver the best results as a unified organization, we have made efforts to develop how our work is organized and carried out. All choices and priorities must be linked to NRK’s remit and audience strategy. For product and technology, we reduce vulnerability by establishing teams as the smallest unit of delivery, strengthening our DevOps capabilities, reducing the use of projects, and striving for more interdisciplinary collaboration.
Based on this, we are now organizing our modernization initiative as a ‘hybrid project’. This means that, even though we operate with a project structure on top, as much as possible is solved within teams in the line organization. The project’s main responsibility is to ensure a comprehensive plan, solution design and financing, while the actual work of developing infrastructure and technical installations will be carried out by the same teams that will own and operate the solution in the future. This way we secure ownership in the team while putting our own organization in a better position to operate and further develop the solutions after the transition.
Investing in our own teams
This model is demanding to set up in the start-up phase. We would probably have made quicker early progress by establishing a large project organization staffed by more consultants, under the assumption that our own employees could take over at a later stage. However, while our chosen approach means we currently face capacity challenges in our teams, I am convinced that having these initial obstacles to overcome is preferable to facing greater risk at a later stage. I have seen too many large projects drive change at their own pace without taking enough care to ensure that the organization would be ready to take over. When the project is over, the organization receives solutions that they themselves have not defined and is thus poorly positioned for future development. There is also a risk of the project being unable to adjust to continuously changing needs because the team is too distanced from the line organization and thus does not deliver what is actually required for the future.
The more we pursue the iterative, team-based development of our technology portfolio, the less we will need large, expensive and risky projects in the future. That is why we are investing in ensuring that our own employees can define and develop NRK’s future production platform, with a way of working that we believe is best for the long term.
This article was first published in issue 52 of tech-i magazine.