Published on 2022-08-18
OTT TV Services
Turning around an OTT TV Services team
Sky is a telecommunications company which serves customers in United Kingdom and Europe. Sky provides a range of television, broadband and mobile services to its 22 million customers. Sky also owns the NowTV which is a subscription-based internet television and video on demand (VOD) service.
The TV Service department provides a set of services for all Sky and Now TV client applications, to download TV schedules for the regions that those applications are running in. Each time a new service is launched, the TV Services team would be engaged to provide the relevant content to the end users.
Over the last 2 years the TV services team had gone through a number of changes with people and leadership. This had led to a team becoming insular and failing to provide critical services within the budget and time provided. This had the unfortunate effect of causing the team to cut down on quality due to pressures in delivering functionality over stability. In turn this created technical debt build up and a number of out of hours support calls having to be answered.
A number of urgent product enhancements had been commissioned to deliver new services into the Italian and German markets. The Germany product enhancements were part of a relaunch of Sky Germany services, introduction of Sky Q platform, as well as a multi-million euro advertising campaign including journalist reviews and demos and the dates had to be met.
The first goal was to understand the problems the team faced. To do this we introduced our Delivery Lead into the team. As our Delivery Lead arrived, the original Scrum Master for the team was relocating, and so we took advantage of this movement and asked our Delivery Lead to take up the Scrum Master role and help coach and evolve the team.
Through a number of 1-2-1s and retros, the Delivery Lead quickly discovered the biggest issues within the team:
- They were split into a support and feature team
- Within these teams they pair programmed but paired with ‘friends’ rather than incorporate everyone in the team
- They were performing Scrum Theatre, they did the ceremonies but never believed in the process
Although other issues were detected, it was integral for us to tackle the main three. These main issues has led to cliques within the team and a huge divide between people resulting in an unhealthy, unsafe atmosphere making people reluctant to communicate.
The Delivery Lead presented their findings back to the team which was quite negative. From this meeting the Delivery Lead with the team started to work on a new set of policies and ways of working which had a positive effect. That being said there were still people who had already decided it was time for them to leave Sky.
As we had an important delivery date, the Delivery Lead spoke to the leadership team of Content Discovery and the TV Services team. We received an agreement to bring in a Technical Lead and additional Senior Developer to help with the coaching and mentoring of the team. We placed these resources within the team and within two weeks the pairing practices had been altered to allow more flexibility and accountability of user stories. We had began to move in the right direction. In the first retro meeting with the Technical Lead and new Senior Developer the trust score within the team had increased by 1.5 points.
In parallel to the technical team growing we needed to replace our Technical Analyst as they had been promoted into the Architecture team. After some discussions with the team they wanted more accountability of the cards and decided that they would rather do the technical analyst of the user stories as a team, so requested that we get a Product Owner who can ensure that user stories were well defined and met their Definition of Ready, which they defined in a brown bag session led by the Technical Lead.
An option was for us to place a Product Owner into the team, but the Delivery Lead decided it would be better to use existing permanent resources, after all a Product Owner is critical to the team. There was a Product Manager who had worked with the team before but lacked the skillset to be a Product Owner. The leadership team of Content Discovery was not originally approving of this move but the Delivery Lead explained the positives of this appointment. One of the core strengths of this individual was his work ethic and approachability. The Delivery Lead also explained that we could try a secondment and review in 3 months to which the leadership team agreed.
The team was set, the Product Owner instantly started to work closely with them to understand the product from a technical aspect and also to agree how they should work together.
They started to review their processes, the Delivery Lead showed them a number of agile processes they could use and wanted to investigate Kanban more. The Delivery Lead booked a couple of getKanban workshops that showed the basic way of working in Kanban and the team chose this methodology moving forward.
The results and evolution of the team was amazing. At the end of 2017 this team was consistently missing committed timelines and over budget up to 50%. From February 2018 to October 2018 the team had hit 96% of their committed timelines and had moved from being known as the team that underperforms to the team that is consistently hitting targets and delivering.
This was reflected in a nomination for a ‘Best of Sky’ stating:
“For the most impressive and relentless lean transformation I have ever seen. And also for thinking strategically about technical ownership.”.
Unfortunately the team missed out to another team, but the nomination was well received by all.
The team took their evolution into their own hands, the Delivery Lead were able to step away from the team and became their Agile Coach whilst also working with other Content Discovery team to help alter their processes.