Charting a new course for a supertanker

A reorganization and an agile transformation are helping the Danish Broadcasting Corporation (DR) to offer world-class streaming services – and with the latest update of the DR radio app, the first product has already landed on the new shelf. Kristian Waneck, head of streaming at DR, explains what the changes have meant for the development of the new app.

Interview with Kristian Waneck, Head of streaming at DR.

Streaming services of the highest caliber. That’s DR’s ambition. In an important step towards that goal, DR recently launched a new, improved version of their radio app. Released in early April, it has already become a success. DR is attracting more users, and on average, they’re using the app longer. 

When the process of developing the new radio app was set to begin, DR teamed up with NRK, the Norwegian public broadcasting corporation. The Norwegians were planning a similar upgrade of their radio app, so it made sense to work on the project together. This collaboration created a new constellation outside the normal organizational framework. It gave the developers more scope for innovation, as well as good opportunities for testing the approach the new transformation initiatives are seeking to implement.

 “We had the same principles for how we wanted to work – in a more iterative, agile and product-focused way,” explains Kristian Waneck.

And precisely a focus on the product is the cornerstone of the agile transformation which DR is working intensively to spread throughout the large organization. While the collaboration with NRK outside the usual framework made it simpler to work in an agile way on this particular project, it is taking a lot of elbow grease to change the work routines within DR’s organization. But nonetheless, the app is clear proof that agile methods are the right path to delivering world-class streaming services.

To market faster

To deliver the goods, DR has to incorporate new trends, user needs, good ideas and necessary improvements in their products. To achieve this, DR is also working to shorten time-to-market and ensure fast execution. The agile approach will ensure that DR’s products are always up-to-date. Waneck explains:

"We need to work on the products we have on the market on more of an ongoing basis, instead of launching something and going back to it later, which is how we dealt with the old version of our radio app, for example.”

Unlike the old app, the new app was developed on the basis of the principles DR aims to practice going forward – principles which make it possible to react to feedback from the market and continuously develop features for the app. And DR is well on the way. A wide range of improvements are already in the pipeline which will keep the app on the cutting edge of users’ needs.

“We created a first release we could take to market quickly, and which matches the expectations and demands our users have. We also have a list of additional improvements which lie ahead of us. They’ll be added as regular updates with the improvements users ask for,” says Waneck, who goes on to explain why the agile approach is so important:

“The market is developing so fast that we don’t have time for long development processes. If we don’t take an agile approach, we simply risk missing the mark with our products and improvements.”

It is a question of defining the least possible product that gives the user value while staying true to the overall vision. 

“We have a product vision for the app, but if we were to realize it 100% with the first release, the product would be launched much later – and by then, users’ behavior and needs will certainly have changed,” says Waneck.

Reorganization puts the product in focus

In addition to the agile transformation, a recent reorganization has gathered the entire value stream for DR’s primary products in a number of divisions, in order to focus the organization on products, not projects. By having employees work in a product-oriented way rather than a project-oriented way, a long-term sense of ownership of the product is created.

“Before, you might have just delivered your project and gone on to the next one. But with our new approach, we create a sense of investment in the products and the kind of constant attention it takes to maintain sky-high quality,” says Waneck.

His goal is for DR to become an organization where developers have a greater stake in the products. Because the requirement specification on the developers’ table no longer determines how a task is to be approached. Waneck explains:

“Now there’s actually a dialogue about what the goal is, and how we can get there. It gives people a sense of ownership.”

This is reflected in how the new radio app was developed: the team seized the moment, took ownership and drove the development of the design of the product. Although the organization had some requirements about what needed to be delivered, the team had a major say in determining how the task ultimately was solved.

Taking ownership means centering the development process on the product. Development is not done for development’s sake, but rather with a constant focus on optimizing and improving the product.

For Waneck, this means that agility is not only about achieving a higher release frequency. It is also about creating a culture in which developers take responsibility for the products in their portfolio. And in relation to DR’s new radio app, the product-oriented approach has paid off:

“We now have a team in place which has the product focus necessary to deliver continually. This has created focus in relation to our primary tasks, and we’re better at rejecting tasks which aren’t focused on the product.”

A strong internal setup

But it’s one thing to have ambitions – realizing them is a different ballgame. For this reason, according to Waneck, achieving the right mix of internal development teams and external suppliers is crucial. Agile development takes highly skilled development teams who dare to take responsibility for optimizing DR’s streaming services.

“We believe very strongly in having skilled in-house development teams. A strong internal setup gives us a speed and flexibility we can’t achieve by relying exclusively on external suppliers".

In order to create a powerful in-house development organisation with the competencies the organization needs, DR uses external consultants with the right competencies to supplement the in-house team.

“We bring in supplementary external consultants to achieve the volume of competencies we need, but also to bring in the special competencies needed to solve the tasks we are facing.”

Who’s Who:

Name: Kristian Waneck

Age: 40

Title: Head of streaming

Education: Master’s degree in communication

Has worked at DR for the past eight years in various positions, including Head of IT infrastructure and Production Manager before he became Head of DR’s streaming services in late 2016.