Insights from an Outsider
A couple of weeks ago, CoreMedia was seeking internal applications for an employee exchange program with etracker. The two companies had the idea to learn from each other by swapping a software developer for three weeks and offering insights to their culture, processes and software (see ‘Get Insights from Outside the Box’ and ‘Get more Insights from Outside the Box’).
The moment I heard about the experiment I wanted to participate. I thought it was a great opportunity to see another company, meet new colleagues and learn about another product and it’s technology stack. I was also keen to see how another company lives the idea of agile software development and how their way differed from the CoreMedia one.
The Exchange – A Personal Perspective
From the first day at etracker, I experienced my new temporary home as a very welcoming and professional environment with very competent and open minded colleagues. It turned out that the technology stacks of the two companies overlapped in so many areas that I could integrate into the new workplace smoothly. I could dive into the unknown product quickly and got the chance to participate in discussions and design decisions.
Despite the similarities in the technology world, it soon became clear how different the organisation of the two companies is. While both development departments do agile software development, some of their constraints and key approaches were fundamentally different:
Product: While CoreMedia is a product development company, etracker sells a software as a service. This has implications for the desired release cycles and the possible feedback roundtrips in the two companies.
Teams: While each CoreMedia development team is responsible for certain components, the etracker teams are set up in a cross-functional way. Each team is set up in a way that enables it to work at every component.
Process: While the CoreMedia development is organised in a scrummy flavour, etracker uses a Kanban style process.
To see and experience these differences was one of my personal highlights of the experiment. It was enlightening to learn why etracker had replaced their scrum process with the cross-functional Kanban approach as some of the problems they tried to tackle were very similar to the ones that CoreMedia is still facing. It was also interesting to see which of these problems were solved by their move and which ones they got in exchange.
Three weeks of exchange seems to be a pretty perfect duration. It gives enough time to pick up all the details and to get into some kind of a routine in the exchange company while it is still a comfortable time to be away from ‘home’.
For the whole time of the exchange we established a series of open fishbowl sessions where all the etracker and CoreMedia employees were given the chance to ask questions about the exchange and the other company’s organisation. I experienced these meetings as very productive, many interesting questions emerged from the lively discussions.
Personally for me, I think the employee exchange was a full success. I really enjoyed the time and it absolutely widened my personal background. While the completely different constraints and approaches of the two companies make it very difficult to cherry-pick individual aspects from one company and adapt them for the other, it was definitely one of the highlights to see and to ‘live’ these differences.
I would not hesitate to participate in another employee exchange program if I got ever offered the opportunity again.