Embracing Change – New Thinking Helps Accelerate Transformation at a Global Media Company

Client: Condé Nast
Objective:Bring decades of content from 11 global territories, error-free, into one CMS
Solution:Bespoke migration tool that reimagines engagement with territories as a self-service model and achieves 99.9% accuracy
The Challenge

Condé Nast publishes some of the world’s best-loved magazines, including GQ, Wired and Vogue. Decades of experience in the media industry meant millions of individual pieces of content were involved when the company decided to bring all content, from every global territory, into a unified Content Management System (CMS) for the first time. The new CMS was part of Compass, an ambitious transformation program to standardize Condé Nast technology in order to lower costs, remove duplication of work and systems, and position the organization for growth.

The Software Engineering team at Condé Nast International (CNI) knew it needed an automated way to migrate the vast quantities of content, and it developed a tool to do just that, recognizing that no off-the-shelf tool could cope with the disparate set of content it was facing, spanning multiple territories, languages and content types. But to meet its hard three-month deadline of migrating the first territory, Germany, CNI also saw the need for additional resources who were experienced in key technologies, including Node.js and React, so it selected NearForm.

“We had to augment our resources and very quickly spool up a team who was skilled in the right technologies,” said David Thorpe, Engineering Manager at Condé Nast International. “NearForm has an extremely strong competency in Node.js, and that was a big selling point for Condé Nast International. Node.js was ideal for this engagement: whether you’re looking at the front-end or the back-end engineering, it gives you increased flexibility.”

A Creative Response

To meet the three-month deadline, CNI agreed to try NearForm’s remote model; this would mean using collaboration technologies to let team members work at their own desks across multiple locations for the majority of the project. This would be augmented by monthly face-to-face meetups. CNI at the time had no formal remote working program but was open to the innovation, recognizing that it would deliver the best Node.js expertise for the project. Even its own internal staff members, who were part of the team and based in its offices, agreed to attend standups remotely, to put all team members on the same footing.

The combined team of six, including three NearFormers, successfully migrated Germany, achieving an 80% accuracy rate for the content. Convinced it was possible to improve these numbers — and that a better migration tool was needed — the combined CNI and NearForm team kicked off a new phase of the project: reimagining the migration tool (and the entire migration) by going back to first principles.

The imperfect accuracy of the existing tool wasn’t the only challenge. There was no way the tool itself could scale, as it required such heavy intervention by the Software Engineering team that only one territory could be migrated at a time. And with dozens of media titles in each territory, a slow migration would endanger the pace of the entire Compass transformation program.

Following a productive away day, the combined team designed a brand-new migration tool as part of Project Flyway. The new tool hits the mark, with 99.9% accuracy. Built-in Node.js and React, it’s a fully self-service platform that gives responsibility to the territories to take ownership of the migration process. The tool walks the territory through the process of normalizing its data, allowing a rapid and accurate transition of its content into the new unified CMS.

The Results

Project Flyway has been a runaway success: since its implementation, 99.9% of content is being migrated with no error. CNI can now migrate any number of territories concurrently: at the moment it’s migrating five territories simultaneously. The Software Engineering team now only needs to provide support where it’s required, freeing them up to focus on other elements of the Compass transformation program.

NearForm and CNI continue to work as a combined team using a mix of remote working and monthly meet-ups, leveraging collaboration and communications technologies including Clubhouse, Slack, Zoom, Fun Retro and Confluence. The remote working model introduced by NearForm has also been taken to heart at CNI, which is now trialling a new remote working scheme for its own permanent staff.

NearForm has been instrumental in getting us thinking more about how we can use remote working,” said David. “We have a trial ongoing now one day a week for CNI staff and it’s very beneficial for them because it reduces their commute time and lets them focus without distraction or stress. We’re looking at the metrics now, but anecdotally our engineers who are part of our remote working program tell us their productivity has increased.

David Thorpe, Engineering Manager at Condé Nast International

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