We know DX is one of just thousands of companies that had to develop new ways of working at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Cinema was one of the many segments of the entertainment industry that faced seemingly unsurmountable challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, because DX is a 25-year-old company in the technology and customer service spaces, as we have grown we have already gone through a number of different methods of working even before the pandemic. COVID-19 may have accelerated us to embracing new methods of working, but we have invested plenty of time and effort into finding out what works best for the development of our product. We’d like to think that the way DX restructured the way we work set us up for even bigger successes–so we’d like to share a little about how we restructured–but more importantly, why.
How We Used to Work
Like many other technology companies today, we are committed to #remotefirst work and working asynchronously. We obviously didn’t always operate this way, especially when technological limitations didn’t allow that to be a viable option.
Prior to 2015, there were no real “product specific roles” within DX and the company’s operations weren’t as smooth. At that time, DXs product management consisted of– DX’s current CEO Martin Berg, who grew up around the business since his father was the original CEO and built the first ticketing app for DX in 2012; DX’s Chief Technology Officer, Christian Sakshaug, who was hired through his own external company that DX eventually acquired; and Erlend Valle, today’s Head of Product who was responsible for much of the coding and being the brain behind our online checkout system.
Of the three, only two had development skills, and they all were responsible for product support. For anyone who was involved in the startup environment of the early 2000s, this “everything is on fire, all-hands-on-deck” atmosphere is probably very familiar!
While that environment might have worked to get DX off the ground, having a small group all sharing the responsibility of the entire DX platform was not a sustainable business plan for a product based on ever-evolving technology–especially as an increasing number of cinemas used our product.
As the company grew DX created teams, but at the time they were mostly teams of developers without the streamlined structure that we have today. This led to DX being more in the “call and response” style of problem-solving—our product teams of developers were also our customer support and received feature requests or bug complaints from the customers directly. We’d get a request for a feature from a customer and then we’d just add it.
While that process made some of our customers quite happy with our level of support, a significant issue with that approach is that it is not very forward-thinking. It also meant we were patching issues and bugs without thinking of how to improve the overall experience and usability of our product. Addressing a customer’s request quickly is important, but we’ve learned that it isn’t as important as addressing the request in a way that has the best overall impact on the product.
How we operated helped get DX off the ground, but to be the ideal partner for cinemas, we needed to work smarter.
Why We Needed Better Teams
One of the main reasons we restructured is to position ourselves up for growth and scale through the technology we are developing and new market expansion.
In particular, our product team—which is responsible for developing our brand-new, cloud-native productfeatures—had to pivot to change the way the team is structured and works. While we may service the cinema industry, DX is primarily a tech company because we are constantly developing our productsfeatures through research and development to provide solutions for cinema operations. To do that, we need our teams to work together efficiently to create a product that provides unparalleled support to cinemas–one of the reasons why we’ve positioned ourselves as a software as a service (SaaS) company.
DX’s product vision is our desire to empower great experiences–in other words, help make our clients and their customers’ entertainment experiences even better by supporting them with more technological resources. We see our focus on technology and product development as one of the differentiators between DX and some of our competitors who may have tech knowledge and small teams. However, their small teams may not be scalable for growth. At least half of our 35-person company comprises tech product roles, emphasizing the fact that we are a tech company that is dedicated to driving future-proof tech innovation for the cinema industry.
What Our Teams Do
However, DX did not completely commit to our new structure until the COVID-19 pandemic when our company was forced to rethink the way we operated. As a result, we developed product groups for specific areas of our platform to better position ourselves for growth and scale and prepare our company for market expansion–We looked at what other companies in the entertainment and technology tech space are doing and how they are structured—such as Spotify’s engineering culture—for inspiration (which in turn took elements from the book The Art of Action: How Leaders Close the Gaps between Plans, Actions, and Results by Stephen Bungay)
DX now has three teams covering our entire product line, with each team having the resources they need to complete their appointed tasks:
· Team Offsite Conversion focuses on delivering user-facing solutions that display what the cinema has to offer to a cinema’s customers. For example, marketing, ad-campaigns, memberships, and so on.
· Team Onsite Conversion focuses on delivering a tools that a cinema manager needs to convert and run a sales operations as part of their business. For example, a point of sale system, and more.
· Team Organize focuses on delivering tools that cinema managers need to operate a cinema on a day-to-day basis.
How We Structure Our Product Teams
As noted above, over half of our company is dedicated to developing our product.
Each of our product teams is self-contained, which helps them efficiently focus on their particular tasks without conflicts with other aspects of our projects. For example, our engineers focus on building solutions to solve problems and that all technical aspects are “clean” (i.e., free of errors), while our product personnel determines which problems are the ones we should be focusing on solving. However, these two groups make up a single team working towards completing a particular task.
Of course, as DX grows and technology changes we understand that we’ll need to pivot into new models of working that address our future needs. The most important part of our development strategy is having the ability to shift our methods and procedures when the need arises.
The Importance of Future-Proofing
The overarching goal of our product teams is to future-proof our product. What future-proofing means is that we strive to create products that won’t go obsolete. By constantly working on improving our technology, we are determined not to be caught off-guard when future tech innovations are developed that will impact the way our clients and their customers use our product.
Obviously, we can’t predict everything—who would have predicted the resurgence of QR codes that we have seen in recent years?—but we believe that if you have a strategy or product, rather than creating a top-level plan, that we can push that responsibility downwards so that the smaller teams are more empowered to fulfill and drive our strategy. We’ve found that this agile approach allows us to pivot easily when new challenges emerge that would be much more difficult to address if DX was completely guided by an overarching plan.
Restructuring for Everyone
The restructuring of our teams was based on the idea that if we’re building technology for 2022 and beyond, we have to have a team that works for 2022 and the future. In other words, our teams have to be as future-proof as our product. It also gives us access to a much larger talent pool of experts from around the globe.
Ultimately, DX exists to serve our clients and provide them with a cutting-edge product and unparalleled support. We can’t do that if we don’t have the right team in place working in a more efficient way.
By changing the way we operate to a more forward-thinking approach, we are not only serving our clients better, we are also allowing our teams to work better together to create more impactful technology experiences for our clients and customers.