3 keys to fostering cross-departmental collaboration on new products

How do you get editors, marketers, and developers to work together on new products?

On the first day of first day of the INMA European Media Conference, John Einar Sandvand, chief communications officer at Schibsted Tech Polska, shared experiences of how programmers, product owners, and editors used each other’s competence in different development projects.

Schibsted Tech Polska is a programming hub in Krakow and Gdansk, working with many of the leading media houses in Norway and Sweden to develop innovative news products. The company now has 150 programmers and cooperates with 20 different Scandinavian companies, most of them media houses.

Schibsted Tech Polska was established in January 2012, and the programming and software development center now hires almost 170 employees.

There were three reasons behind the launch of Schibsted Tech Polska:

  1. It is very hard to recruit good software developers in Norway.

  2. It is expensive, as well.

  3. The list of products to develop was becoming longer and longer, so finding new developers was crucial.

Now, 18 Schibsted companies have their development centers in Poland.

The core of the business is great and competent people. The most important factor is not the price of the workforce (in fact, they are cheaper in Poland), but the high quality of work shown by people in Poland.

Media companies are no longer newspaper or media houses, Sandvand said. They are now tech companies. They compete with biggest tech companies in the world. That's why Schibsted puts so much effort in building tech platforms.

Merging competences gives great products nowadays requiring editorial, technology, data analytics, and user experience experts. All need to be merged into a project to yield successful solutions.

For example, Schibsted’s hackday participants found out how to make mobile pages load six times faster. A few weeks later, Aftenbladet decided to make it real for its users with the help of the project’s authors.

A new product manager role is needed, Sandvand says. Traditional media may not be very good in this, as deep understanding of competencies like editorial, technology, data analytics, and user experience are needed for such position.

For Schibsted Tech Polska, it all starts with communication. The Krakow-based team works with a project leader from Norway. They use Trello, Slack, and other open-source communication tools.

Working on projects is built around three main components:

  1. Good planning.

  2. Solid roadmap.

  3. A way of reviewing.

Schibsted Tech Polska gives a lot of responsibilities to teams. It helps them move away from technical mastodonts. They find ways not to treat everything as a big project. Great example of such attitude was proven with the award winning iPad app: Aftenposten+. The product imports the content automatically, and thanks to that developers can finally focus on user experience.

As a wrap up, John Einar Sandvand gave three main steps for the right cooperation with developers:

  1. Merge competencies.

  2. Facilitate for collaboration. Communication does not happen for itself; your team needs the tools.

  3. Give the teams freedom, letting them find out how to solve problems.

About Marek Miller

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