Why team managed infrastructure makes sense

Over the past 12 months REA Group has been moving towards a structure where individual teams will manage their own infrastructure.


Start ups (or companies that behave like one) should already have devops culture. At REA Group we’re trying to bring a startup feel to individual teams, so engineers at the team level can decide on what new technology they want to try out, test and learn ahead of the rest of the organisation, and ensure the company stays adaptable and ahead of the curve.

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Getting Shit Done

This post was originally published internally, as an appeal to REA colleagues.

“Getting Shit Done” is the catchphrase on everybody’s lips, and deservedly so!  When we deliver new functionality, our users regroup and flock to us, our customers grudgingly respect us, and our shareholders rejoice.  When the novel concepts invented by our product managers take shape as they watch, their eyes light up with pride and enthusiasm.  Programmers are never happier than when fire and magic fly from their fingertips; products that change people’s lives materialise from thin air, and insurmountable problems melt like butter.  Beer flows freely, parmas are devoured and our managers circulate glowing praise within the company.

We have all felt the opposite too; long months gone by without new features, frustrated and bored developers; product managers forced to nervously adjust their collars and disappoint their superiors, with often dense technical reasons they can barely hope to convey.  New features pop up like mushrooms on our competitors’ sites, and we wonder: why didn’t we do this years ago?

Yet when I hear this phrase “Get Shit Done”, I grimace; my teeth clench and my back involuntarily stiffens.  Why?  There is truly nothing I want more, and it is clearly important; many of our most talented teammates live by it.

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The Walkupinator – a one touch ticket logging system

Introducing the latest addition to the Technology Services team – The Walkupinator – a device which simplifies the way we log our tickets from people just dropping by. 

The Technology Services team at REA Group is extremely proud of the walk up service we provide to our staff, however logging tickets for our walk ups has become problematic.

Innovation HubAfter a busy morning on the service desk in the Innovation Hub it’s often hard to recall who we’ve assisted or what the issue was. With over 550 people at REA HQ, things get busy. To solve an issue that has consistently plagued our team, I’ve created a system that utilises existing technology to allow users to simply swipe a card to log a ticket. This system, which we’ve named “The Walkupinator” can save the person manning the service desk up to an hour a day, as well as saving time for our internal colleagues – or as we like to think of them, our customers.

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The Ops Dojo

No doubt that the term Devops is probably one of the most worn-out concepts in IT these days, maybe only slightly overtaken by the emerging buzzword of the moment: docker, docker, docker. But from the vast area and topics that Devops can cover, the one that attracts me more lately is how to build the Operations culture in an organization: bringing down the walls, sense of ownership, capability to operate a service/system, etc.

In REA we are quite proud of the Devops culture in the organization and we work really hard towards creating highly autonomous cross-functional teams that can operate efficiently end to end. This includes the ownership and operation of the services and products the team builds and maintains. This vision of Operations as a capability/responsibility in a team, rather than a separate team or static role of the engineers, has been providing really good results since we started championing it a few years ago, therefore the willingness to commit to it. There is probably not a single way to boost this capability. Sometimes we achieve it  by embedding an Ops specialist in the team, whose mission and passion is to enable and train the rest of the team, but which in general means that we are committed to invest in raising the technical capability and awareness of all our engineers and providing them with the level of access to our systems/data/services to do their job in an efficient manner.

In this post I am going to focus in one of the ways that we are trying to build/improve that Operations capability across the company based on running a set of community driven activities that we have called the Ops Dojo. The idea behind the concept is not new for REA, we already had several ad-hoc training sessions, plenty of brownbags and a strong culture of sharing what we learn across the organization. The Ops Dojo is just an initiative to have even more of that and to build a community that follows it up and makes it happen regularly. The Ops Dojo is just one form of the guild initiatives which are on the rise at REA as a mechanism to share knowledge and passion and today covers such diverse topics as Security, Public speaking, Delivery Engineering, Agile, Happiness, etc… Continue reading

The transformation of a Customer Contact Centre using Agile and Lean

How REA challenged Call Centre preconceptions

There is a lot of bad press about Customer Contact Centres; callers usually dislike having to deal with one, and people working in them are rarely proud or engaged with their jobs.

But is it possible to create a Contact Centre where callers are left happy and valued, and the people working within them feel empowered and enjoy going to work?

And is it possible to achieve all that while moving the key metrics that matter to the business?

Yes, yes and definitely Yes! But you will have to be bold. You’re going to have to try a few unorthodox moves when it comes to Call Centre Operations. Continue reading

Corporate IT Systems – Leveraging our Hybrid Cloud

The role and purpose IT plays in business has evolved over the years but today, what we represent is evolving at a rapid rate. We now live in a digital world where people are growing up with technology that’s a part of their lives, people understand the role technology plays and how it can affect them both personally and professionally. Gone are the days where IT and tech are foreign concepts to the majority of business.

We have been used to holding the keys and making key decisions in business, keeping the walls up and everyone else knows the IT guys sit over there and do “stuff” but no one really knows what they do. At REA the corporate IT group has ensured we represent the opposite of this very persona that so many IT teams have been aligned with. Being in an Internet based company with tech savvy people everywhere, we are in a good position to build transparency between us and our customers (REA Staff). You have to take it with two hands and lead from the front. Simply put, “IT as a service” Continue reading