The challenge

Youth audiences expect the best content to be available to them in a single place, personalised to their preferences and interests. That was almost impossible for the BBC. Content and audience data are distributed across myriad, disconnected systems. Additionally, content metadata is lacking, which makes it challenging to discover content. The BBC wanted to properly engage the next generation of TV licence fee payers, many of whom already have less affinity with the BBC than the rest of the UK population does.

What we did

We provided an engineering and product leadership function to the new Datalab team helping them accelerate the team’s move towards high performance and assisting in the hiring of permanent staff.

The BBC Datalab was formed to address the issues that younger generations have very different expectations of content delivery and lack an affinity to the BBC that previous generations possess. To do this they are working on bringing together everything known about all BBC content in one place (the Content Graph) and using machine learning to enrich it (i.e. create additional metadata). This will enable content to be identified which is most relevant to an individual’s interests and context. The approach is to build a data ‘platform’, which can be extended by other BBC teams, and which allows many different products to use the data to create more consistent and relevant experiences for BBC audiences.

We led the development of a new high-level technology roadmap and created a new, prioritised backlog better able to deliver the BBC’s vision. By designing and building a simpler, more reliable continuous delivery pipeline, we successfully steered the organisation toward unlocking the value of an infrastructure-as-code approach. This pioneering approach enabled rapid build/re-build of environments, allowing for infrastructure upgrades and security patches to be incorporated and tested in each new build as a matter of course.

Notbinary has provided interim Product and Engineering Leads who have reset the operations of the team to better align to their delivery goals, with improved integration of the data science and engineering teams. Working with leadership from the BBC’s Technology, Strategy and Architecture division, Notbinary has produced the product roadmap for the team. We have set the direction of this major strategic project for the next year, and worked closely with representatives from Google to simplify the Google Cloud Platform architecture used for the ‘data platform’. We have moved the team towards ‘leaner’ ways of working to shorten the development cycle – shortening the feedback loop and providing value to the user sooner.

Under our direction, these improvements ensured that each time code was reviewed and committed to the master branch of a source control repository, it was visible to stakeholders in a live-like environment within minutes. When a release was tagged, it could be automatically deployed and tested in a staging environment and, based on the results, manually approved for release to live.