As we prepare for the upcoming INMA European News Media Conference in Budapest, Hungary, we spoke to one of our featured speakers, John Einar Sandvand, chief communications officer at Schibsted Tech Polska. He discusses the news media company’s decision to outsource technology development to nearby Poland.
INMA: Where and when did the idea of outsourcing Schibsted’s development to another country come from? Why Poland?
Sandvand: The decision to establish Schibsted Tech Polska was made in August 2011. Originally, the intention was for it to be an extended unit for Schibsted Norway Digital, a joint development unit for Schibsted’s subscription newspapers in Norway.
But very soon other companies and units within Schibsted Media Group also asked to join. Today, Schibsted Tech Polska partners with almost 20 different companies and units.
Poland was chosen because it is close to Norway. There are direct flights daily to both Krakow and Gdansk. Also, both cities have several very good technical universities and the quality of work delivered by the programmers have a very high level.
INMA: How do you manage the communication between the developers in Poland and the partner companies in Norway and Sweden?
Sandvand: Most of our developers work in a permanent team for one of our partner companies, usually one of Schibsted’s media houses. Communication happens on three levels, I would say.
First, the team meets face-to-face with their partner regularly. Sometimes the developers travel to Scandinavia and sometimes products owners and tech leads visit Krakow or Gdansk.
Secondly, most teams have daily video stand-ups with their partner. All our conference rooms are equipped with modern video conferencing systems.
Thirdly, the colleagues use chat for continuous communication throughout the day; Slack is especially popular for chat.
INMA: What are the biggest projects/clients your team worked with so far?
Sandvand: At any times there are 20 to 30 projects under development in Schibsted Tech Polska. Some of the bigger ones include our contribution to Schibsted’s new media platform, the video platform for VGTV, and a new payment system.
INMA: How many people work in your development team in Poland? New media projects must require a wide set of competencies, so not only software engineering and user experience, but also data analytics and journalism, among many others. How do you manage to find staff with all the necessary competencies?
Sandvand: At Schibsted Tech Polska, we primarily hire software developers. The set-up is usually that the teams work with a product owner and often also a tech lead in Norway and Sweden. In total we now have about 150 developers working for 18 different partner companies.
The different teams are recruited to match the needs of the particular partner company. We therefore have a number of different technologies represented.
Recruiting the best people is not easy. Both Krakow and Gdansk are competitive markets. We therefore put a lot of efforts into building a solid employer brand.
Fortunately, we find that many Polish programmers are attracted to working for a Scandinavian company. They also see it as a plus that we work with so many different technologies and work on products that are used by a large number of people every day.