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May
10th

Introducing Durable Teams

Posted by james conway
To prepare ourselves for our ambitious growth plans we are about to introduce some changes to how our developers and product managers work on our platform projects at tombola.

To prepare ourselves for our ambitious growth plans we are about to introduce some changes to how our developers and product managers work on our platform projects at tombola.

We define platform as anything, from a software development perspective, that isn’t a game. This includes things like safeplay tools, player signup, security etc. 

We’re considering this an evolution in how we work rather than a fix or restructure. tombola has achieved LOTS since the days of it being hosted from a couple of old desktop PCs plugged into a dusty cleaning cupboard in the basement of our first office. We love to celebrate this fact but with all of this success and growth we need to acknowledge and be comfortable with the challenges that are presented.

When I joined tombola 7 years ago, slightly wet behind the ears with, probably, more hair ?? , there was one platform development team with maybe 10 platform developers and there were 4 or 5 main stakeholders around the business looking after 3 territories. We mostly fit in one or two rooms so getting the right piece of work done at the right time was a lot simpler. 

Currently we have 3 platform teams totalling more than 40 platform developers, looking after 6 territories (8 if you include the territories we’re due to launch in soon) with stakeholders almost too numerous to count! This poses many challenges for the platform teams, stakeholders and their projects.  

To prepare ourselves for our ambitious growth plans we are about to introduce some changes to how our developers and product managers work on our platform projects at tombola.

platform team

The old way - Projects 

Now is probably a good time to talk about the platform teams project backlog. It’s a bit like A&E on a Saturday night except that the nurses and doctors are platform developers and product managers, and the patients are projects from stakeholders. The patients that aren’t considered emergencies by the nurses and doctors tend to have a ridiculously long wait and because of this some patients don’t even bother turning up to A&E even though they probably should. 

All of our development teams worked in an agile way but agility was limited by a completely un-agile project backlog.

Challenges 

There are numerous challenges presented with how we currently schedule projects: 

Prioritisation 

How do we decide which project is done before the rest of the projects in the queue? Should it be the one that’s been there the longest? The project from the stakeholder that is the most vocal? Or the project with the biggest impact on the business? 

Measuring success 

Because of the sheer number of projects in the backlog the teams never feel comfortable taking time to measure the success of a project when it is launched. There is an implicit pressure to quickly move onto the next project – mainly because of the sheer volume of projects and the length of time some of them have been waiting. 

overview

Resource  

We really don’t like to refer to our people as “resource” but let’s be grown up here. To deliver a project successfully we need developers, infrastructure engineers, designers, testers and product managers and we don’t have infinite numbers of people in our teams. Worse still is the ability for a large important project to consume all of the people we have. A project’s ability to consume the people in the teams is a difficult thing to measure and predict. 

The new way - Durable teams

Durable teams are a way of aligning people with the product that the players see. It is not aligning development resource to specific projects or stakeholders. It’s a collaborative and agile approach to product development that aims to keep ownership and decision making close to the product.

We have divided the non-game side of the tombola product into several areas and in each area we will form a squad. Membership of this squad is going to be durable but not permanent. These are the durable teams.

Reporting lines will not change and the divisions will remain structured in the usual way: 

division overview

How will this help? 

Because we have sliced up the overall product into areas, we think it makes managing the above challenges easier. 

Prioritisation 

Prioritisation becomes much more focused. We no longer have to prioritise certain initiatives in one area of the product against initiatives in another area of the product. 

Measuring Success 

We think durable teams builds in much more ownership of a focused roadmap. There is no more pressure to forget about a recently launched initiative and move onto the next one from the huge raft of ancient projects. Because stakeholders are members of the durable teams, we will have the luxury of having stakeholder engagement baked in from the beginning and we think this will form a culture of continuous improvement. 

Resource 

Durable Teams give us the opportunity to discuss “resource” in a much more focused way. Those all-consuming projects have a much smaller blast radius – only within their product area. We can have conversations about recruiting new people focused in a specific area without impacting the other durable teams. With Durable Teams, we actually hope to lose the word “project” from our vocabulary completely. 

When does Durable Teams start? 

Durable Teams is not something that can be kicked off overnight. We are currently going through a process of mapping business stakeholders with durable teams and fleshing out objectives and roadmaps in each team. I like to think of this process as spinning up the wheels of Durable Teams. 

Phew… 

It should be said that durable teams is a new direction of travel in terms of how we work. It’s the starting point not the final destination. We expect durable teams to evolve significantly. The vision is that we will build a new culture of ownership and collaboration around platform projects. With the following principles in mind: 

  • Focus on group strategy, objectives and KPIs 
  • Maximize ownership 
  • Minimize competition for resource and priority 
  • Reduce the need for signoff 
  • Continuous improvement 

It should also be acknowledged that durable teams will come with its own challenges. We will discover areas or projects that don’t seem to have a home. We think this is a good thing because it forces us to deal with this kind of ambiguity head on. 

It’s an exciting change to how we work full of opportunity and we hope that everyone will see the benefits very soon. 

 

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Mar
18th

Why we’re moving to a hybrid way of working - A message from James Beard, COO.

Posted by James Beard
Last week marked one year of remote working for our permanent office-based staff at tombola. There’s still a lot of debate ongoing around the future of working from offices or remotely, and some technology companies have said they will shift to a new, or different, way of working once the coronavirus crisis is over. The advantages this brings to the tech companies mean a reduced need for real estate investment and infrastructure, and talent can be hired from anywhere in the world. The potential advantage to the people is the reduction of commuting times and a positive impact on work life balance.

Last week marked one year of remote working for our permanent office-based staff at tombola. There’s still a lot of debate ongoing around the future of working from offices or remotely, and some technology companies have said they will shift to a new, or different, way of working once the coronavirus crisis is over.  The advantages this brings to the tech companies mean a reduced need for real estate investment and infrastructure, and talent can be hired from anywhere in the world.  The potential advantage to the people is the reduction of commuting times and a positive impact on work life balance. 

We’re huge believers in the value of “place” in an organisation. We feel when we physically come together it is much more of a shared experience. Those accidental and impromptu meetings, overheard conversations, the impact of body language, mentoring, learning, development and relationship building that goes beyond work is invaluable to the culture of a business.  Then there’s the less tangible aspects of identity, belonging and a visibly shared endeavour. As well as the cultural aspect we’re also very passionate about investment in the North East and we believe there is amazing talent right here on our doorstep. 

Having said that we also recognise that for our people the flexibility and choice that working from home provides is something that they really value. So, after much careful consideration we’ve decided to move to a hybrid model of working for our office-based teams, both in the UK and Europe (our +300 people strong Chat Moderator and Customer Service teams have been working from home for the last 15 years already). This will mean people have the flexibility, if they so wish, to work for up to 2 days from home, with the other 3 days being based in the office. We also want to ensure that when our people are working from the office they have that strong sense of belonging, so we’re ensuring that everyone will continue to have their own dedicated desk which is theirs whether they are in the office or not. We think this new way of working gives a good balance between maintaining the culture of tombola that we’re so incredibly proud of, and what we believe makes us unique, whilst giving people flexibility and choice. 

We’re also going to be looking at ways we can make our existing office environments the best they can be to facilitate this new way of working. 

We have an incredibly passionate and loyal team who ultimately have made us what we are today, so it’s crucial they feel happy and fulfilled at work. We know that having a happy team is key to creating the feel-good factor that helps us be the best we can be as a business. We’ve already been blown away by how our people have adapted to a new way of working in the last year and I’m confident that this hybrid model is a positive change that will help contribute to the continued growth and success of tombola. 

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May
18th

Starting a new job during a global pandemic!

Posted by james conway
Starting a new job during a global pandemic!
Our new Platform Developer - Sam Johnson, gives us a flavour of his first few weeks in tombola and joining during a global pandemic!

Starting a new job is always daunting. Starting a new job during a global pandemic - that’s just a new level!

Not being able to meet any of my new team, not being in the office and not being able to sample that amazing food at lunch. I knew that starting at tombola was going to be a bit tricky.

The first few days were great to settle the nerves that I had. I was able to meet my new colleagues through teams and it really settled my nerves. Everybody seemed to go out of their way to get in touch and welcome me. My initial days were full of really useful and informative inductions about the history of tombola and how it has become the company it is today.

Something else that really blew me away was how seriously the company values and cares about the safety of the players and how it prioritizes the safety and wellbeing of its players before any profits. The safeplay induction was a great way to understand how the company promotes its players to play safely from the amount of tools that are available so the player can play safety and a whole team dedicated to safeplay.

Overall my first weeks here at tombola have been really great and despite everything that is going on, I already really feel part of the team. I’m looking forward to meeting everyone properly! 

Sam.

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Jun
29th

tombola @ codegarden18

Posted by james conway
This year we were lucky enough to be invited to umbraco codegarden to tell the unique story of how we used umbraco CMS to deliver content to our players during I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here!

Umbraco is an excellent CMS and as a project/company are very similar to tombola in terms of culture – users and community first always.

This year we were lucky enough to be invited to umbraco codegarden to tell the unique story of how we used umbraco CMS to deliver content to our players during I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here!

Umbraco is an excellent CMS and as a project/company are very similar to tombola in terms of culture – users and community first always.

You can check out our talk below

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