How BBC moved the cloud

I am not a fan of the news organisation because there are several inconsistencies in their reporting. However, there are key ideas in this interesting blog post on how they moved everything seamlessly, and I’d highlight the essential takeaways. I am not interested in the engineering behind it, but the engineering principles and some common sense associated with it.

Problem statement:

The BBC website is huge. Over half the UK population use it every week. Tens of millions more use it around the world. It has content in 44 different languages. And it offers over 200 different types of page — from programmes and articles, to games and food recipes.As is the case with tech, if you stand still, you go backwards. Until recently, much of the BBC website was written in PHP and hosted on two datacentres near London. That was a sensible tech choice when it was made in 2010; but not now.

The solution (and the motivation behind it):

Rebuilding a massive website could easily suffer from the Second System EffectIt’s all too easy for new projects to be over-ambitious with the requirements and the approach. A push for perfection makes it tempting to pick the most sophisticated solutions, rather than the simplest. We needed to prevent this, to ensure good value and delivery at pace. Here are some principles that helped us do this.

I have mentioned this repeatedly here. The “latest” AI algorithm appears the best fit for a problem but there are numerous examples where the problem is not framed in the right context. It starts from the unstructured data and the enterprises expert their shiny new hire of a data scientist to “fix” it.

Here’s another key insight (and I believe, the most important one):

It’s hard to overstate the value of communication. Without it, teams cannot understand how their work fits alongside that of other teams. And without that understanding, they cannot see the opportunities to share and align. Teams may even start to distrust each other.

Communication brings understanding, and that allows the culture to change. Instead of teams doing their own thing in isolation, they naturally share, collaborate, and flex to each other’s needs. They go beyond what is strictly their team’s remit, knowing that others will too. Which ultimately makes a better solution for everyone.

Communication. Effective communication doesn’t start up in Slack channels. Please!

The solved this issue by addressing the core concerns and then freeing up resources to move forward. I think it is remarkable for it’s simplicity.

I actually love this onion diagram. This blog post (and the further series) is an essential read.

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