OVO has been through a lot of very exciting growth and change in the last 2 years. When I joined OVO in Feb 2018 we had around 1500 staff. Fast forward to now, and we have closer to 10,000 people across multiple brands and multiple locations.
In that time our Tech, Product, UX & Data (TPXD) teams have doubled and we now have 400+ people helping to build and maintain our products. It’s been an amazing couple of years watching our teams evolve, and it has also thrown up some pretty interesting challenges, one of which is making sure we still keep our sense of community.
It’s important that through all the growth and change, our TPXD communities remain connected, enabling them to learn from one another, share best practice and build cross-team relationships. OVO wanted someone to focus on this full time, so 4 months ago I moved into a brand new role (for both OVO and me), as Group Communities Lead.
Whether our teams are working in OVO Energy, Kaluza, Boost etc. they should all feel part of the same community and there are 4 predominant areas that I work on to help achieve this:
Communities & User Groups
Back in 2017 we introduced Communities of Interest/Practice/Purpose into OVO (blog post here) as a way for people across the company with mutual interests to come together. Our teams are truly cross functional so there needs to be a central place for people who share the same discipline and interests to share experiences.
After a lot of focus groups and feedback, we found that whilst communities worked really well, splitting them into 3 separate categories created some confusion and made them less scalable. We wanted to shift the focus back onto the purpose of the community rather than the type. We also wanted to give communities the freedom to evolve, without worrying about which category they fell into.
So 2 months ago we relaunched communities with a slightly different framework and we now have Communities of XXX and have created User Groups.
Our Communities are where people who share the same craft or interests can come together to learn and collaborate. They raise awareness of a topic to a wider audience in OVO and explore new and better practices, tools and processes. (e.g. Community of Product, Community of DevSecOps, Community of Accessibility)
Our User Groups help solve problems and share ideas around a particular technology or platform. They focus on reactive problem solving, day to day Q&A and also promoting best practice. (e.g. Scala User Group, Kafka User Group, GCP User Group)
These 2 types of communities allow us to work smarter, move quicker and build relationships all at the same time.
During this time we also changed our Women in Tech network into a fully fledged Women* in the Tech Sphere (W*iTS) Community, which aims to create a fair, inclusive and supportive environment for women* working in the tech sphere. Shifting it from a network into a community allows us to work in a very collaborative way and develop initiatives that impact our business.
Internal events are a great way of bringing people together to learn and also socialize. One of the biggest internal events we run is our annual OVO Product Development Conference. It is an opportunity to get everyone in Tech, Prod, UX & Data at OVO together offsite, share ideas, hear some excellent talks and have a great time! It’s also a fantastic way to showcase the huge amount of talent we have at OVO.
We also run Hackathons, monthly Tech Talks, socials and our TPXD Village Hall which we use as a forum to share group wide updates and answer any questions from the teams.
As you can imagine, the bigger the team, the bigger the challenge is to ensure internal communication is consistent. As I mentioned before, we are now a multi-brand, multi-site company and our TPXD teams are spread across the whole group, so we needed to confirm which platforms would be suitable for which communication.
For anything important, impacting a large number of TPXD teams we deliver face to face in a Village Hall, and always follow up with a recording and email after. For anything that impacts a team on a more micro level, we use Slack.
We have also developed the ‘OVO Tech Hub’, a website which is used as a centralized place for any information that would be beneficial for people in the tech community to know. This includes content such as; The New Starter Area, Career Development, Communities Area, Useful Links, Useful Info (from our Village Halls) and much more. Ultimately it ensures that not only does everyone across the group have access to the same information, but that they can also access it quickly and easily.
Importantly, we want any new starters to feel really welcomed into the TPXD community, so we make sure that they know all about our Communities, Events and Internal Communication as part of their induction, so they can get stuck in straight away.
In all of the areas above, visibility is the key factor. In order to have a strong cross-brand, cross-location community, people need to know what’s going on and how to get involved.
The next step now is data and measuring the impact of my particular role and the changes we have made. We will use a mix of quantitative and qualitative data to measure engagement, usefulness, retention and the demographic of the community.