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The software behind the scenes at Food Network and HGTV

Matthew Heusser | Dec. 23, 2015
A cable television network requires round-the-clock programming, an agile development team, some impressive software and a whole bunch of project management. CIO.com’s Matthew Heusser sat down with Tara Nicholson at Scripps Networks Interactive to find out how this complicated operation works.

Quality is everyone’s business now. This year, the Home Program moved from a traditional model of quality engineers owning all testing, to aligning quality engineers with the project “pods.” When manual testing is not available on the project, they switch to test automation. We were serious enough about this mission that they are now called “Test Automation Engineers (who also manually test).” Depending on the project, the “pod” might not have a dedicated Test Engineer, which drives the quality conversation earlier, and a validation plan approach that addresses risks is identified by the team.

Our Design and IXD team is multi-talented as well. We care very much about the aesthetics of our sites, but weighing trivial alignment or color changes against other higher ROI projects leaves those requests on the floor. That’s when they put on their Design Engineer hat, get their hands into the JavaScript or CSS code, and make those fixes themselves. They are often responsible for validating bigger design changes too, because they have a better eye for it. Work tickets historically would churn with the engineering team trying to make the designer’s vision a reality, so we put it in their control to lower the overhead.

For the Home Category, the standard sprint doesn’t work for us in all cases. We’ve taken our process platform and made it flexible enough that if a project team needs the layout of sprints, they can do sprints. If they need to all get in a huddle room and put color on the whiteboards, they can do that too.

CIO.com: What do you think makes teams successful?

Cultivating a learning environment. Technology is a fast-paced industry, and so is publication. We have to be quick and smart about what we go after. That requires us to build skills around new distribution channels like over-the-top (OTT) platform development, behavior-driven development practices, or looking for new and interesting features before we need them. The learning environment creates the habit of asking “why” often. When we ask why we do it this way or that way and know the history or the drivers, it challenges the team toward continuous improvement and problem solving with the right solution in mind. There are many contributing factors to successful teams, but in software, a learning environment opens the door to creating a place people want to work and have a sense of ownership.

sni campus
The pictaresque corporate campus for Scripps Networks Interactive, home to such cable TV channels as Food Network, HGTV, Travel Channel, DIY Network, Cooking Channel and Great American Country.

 

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