Building Connected Communities at the BBC

Chief Architect, BBC

As Chief Architect of the BBC, Jatin Aythora talks about the role Technology, Strategy & Architecture plays in the future of the BBC – and some exciting opportunities to join him on that journey.

If you asked me what were the most important lessons life has taught me, or what legacy of wisdom would I want to pass on to the next generation, it would be confront your fears and size up your risks – put them in their proper perspective – and seize each opportunity. After all, doors to success do not open by themselves.

 One of the greatest fears common to man is fear of change. Fear of change paralyses individuals and organisations alike, hindering progress and leading to inevitable irrelevance. Refusing to adapt to change has seen the death of many technology organisations. But change is often a double-edged sword; yes it can be painful and unsettling, but when the construction team leaves, the dust settles and the paint dries, you forget how things looked before and question why you didn’t start the makeover earlier.

Right now, in TS&A, the opportunities are remarkable. We have done lots of hard work laying the foundations for change and while the paint is still drying on the walls, now is the time to move in and play an important part in our transformation.

But why now?

Newly formed in June ’16, the focus of TS&A is to lead and shape the BBC’s technology strategy and digital transformation agenda in the face of the BBC’s needs – and the wider change in the industry. The most significant and current external drivers are ever-changing consumer behaviour (e.g. increased online and contextual content consumption), rapidly maturing technology industry (e.g. platform and cloud-based services), emerging media service providers and the constant innovation in the device market. Internally, change is being driven by the BBC charter, digital transformation, policies driving standardisation and consolidation, all the while striving to meet stringent savings targets and simplifying our structure and processes. It is now or never.

What do we want to achieve?

The vision is to build a community of architects and technology strategists to support the delivery of transformational change across the BBC. The community will be made up of two collaborative groups:

• a core TS&A team who work closely alongside me, bringing their own constructive perspectives to help shape the vision and refine decision-making.

• second, a group of embedded architects visible and representative, who are embedded within D&E departments e.g. News, TV & Radio, Nations & North and Corporate & Commercial Systems, working in partnership with teams to support them towards achieving their objectives.

Who are we looking for?

We need talented individuals who are excited by the opportunity to structure, shape and implement pan-BBC transformative technology change. They will be responsible for strategy setting for design and technology change. We are looking for individuals who can solve complex problems, are self-starters and believe in the power of community led technological revolution. You can go to the careers website to find out more on the roles available and submit an application.

Markers of Success

I want success to be the track record for TS&A. This means not forgetting how far we have come and looking forward to the journey ahead. Evidencing and celebrating success is imperative to not only raising our profile, but also to raise awareness of the critical work we do as architects and strategists. By highlighting what we have already achieved, we can demonstrate commitment towards those things we plan to do.

Here are my top five highlights for 2016:

  1. Shaped and defined TS&A community role and accountability in the context of newly formed Design and Engineering team - this raised the bar and priority for transforming our technology landscape.
  2. Initiated transformation of our Identity and Access Management capability, improving security, enabling consistent access to technology services and simplifying user experience.
  3. Mobilised assessment of emerging SaaS and PaaS services enabling proactive constructive discussion about change in our landscape.
  4. Generated momentum for new pan-BBC non-content ideas by adopting technology-driven and data-driven approaches.
  5. Initiated tech-startup approach to ideate, innovate and examining systemic challenges that we will need to overcome to deliver cost effective transformation.

Here are six things that I look forward to in 2017:

  1. Kicking-off 2017 with an internal event - the first of its kind - which will bring together the core community with the embedded community of architects face-to-face in one room to share ideas about how we can work together more closely.
  2. Building connected communities of expertise that would define and shape and deliver our transformation, including understanding and developing our core competencies.
  3. Mobilising the implementation of Datalab that will enable us to connect various data-sets and insights providing a much needed, overarching insight about our content and common data tools and capabilities across divisions - some exciting use of algorithms, automation and data partnerships.
  4. Shaping our strategic position and sustainable technology and architectural approach to emerging experiences such as conversation UI, AI and emerging technology partnerships.
  5. Simplification and standardisation of our platform capabilities and using platform-driven technology service to accelerate transformation.
  6. Consolidation of our common broadcast, production, infrastructure and connective technologies enabling future transformations.

So exciting times are ahead, but there is much more work to be done to achieve one of the first markers of success: a fully collaborative, closely-knit, highly functioning and effective team. To achieve this, we need to recruit the right people in the right posts - without that we can’t achieve the impact and scale of progress to fully realise the vision. We just hope they will realise the opportunity and push through the door.


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