Hi everybody,

We have made some changes to our Product and Technology departments which
we are excited to tell you about. When Wes Moran, former Vice President of
Product, left the Wikimedia Foundation in May, we took the opportunity to
review the organization and operating principles that were guiding Product
and Technology. Our objectives were to improve our engagement with the
community during product development, develop a more audience-based
approach to building products, and create as efficient a pipeline as
possible between an idea and its deployment. We also wanted an approach
that would better prepare our engineering teams to plan around the upcoming
movement strategic direction. We have finished this process and have some
results to share with you.

Product is now known as Audiences, and other changes in that department

In order to more intentionally commit to a focus on the needs of users, we
are making changes to the names of teams and department (and will be using
these names throughout the rest of this update):

   -

   The Product department will be renamed the Audiences department;
   -

   The Editing team will now be called the Contributors team;
   -

   The Reading team will be renamed the Readers team.

You might be asking: what does “audience” mean in this context? We define
it as a specific group of people who will use the products we build. For
example, “readers” is one audience. “Contributors” is another. Designing
products around who will be utilizing them most, rather than what we would
like those products to do, is a best practice in product development. We
want our organizational structure to support that approach.

We are making five notable changes to the Audiences department structure.

The first is that we are migrating folks working on search and discovery
from the stand-alone Discovery team into the Readers team and Technology
department, respectively. Specifically, the team working on our search
backend infrastructure will move to Technology, where they will report to
Victoria. The team working on maps, the search experience, and the project
entry portals (such as Wikipedia.org) will join the Readers team. This
realignment will allow us to build more integrated experiences and
knowledge-sharing for the end user.

The second is that the Fundraising Tech team will also move to the
Technology department. This move recognizes that their core work is
primarily platform development and integration, and brings them into closer
cooperation with their peers in critical functions including MediaWiki
Platform, Security, Analytics, and Operations.

The Team Practices group (TPG) will also be undergoing some changes.
Currently, TPG supports both specific teams in Product, as well as
supporting broader organizational development. Going forward, those TPG
members directly supporting feature teams will be embedded in their
respective teams in the Audiences or Technology departments. The TPG
members who were primarily focused on organizational health and development
will move to the Talent & Culture department, where they will report to
Anna Stillwell.

These three changes lead to the fourth, which is the move from four
“audience” verticals in the department (Reading, Editing, Discovery, and
Fundraising Tech, plus Team Practices) to three: Readers, Contributors, and
Community Tech. This structure is meant to streamline our focus on the
people we serve with our feature and product development, increase team
accountability and ownership over their work, allow Community Tech to
maintain its unique, effective, and multi-audiences workflow, and better
integrate support directly where teams need it most.

One final change: in the past we have had a design director. We recognize
that design is critical to creating exceptional experiences as a
contributor or a reader, so we’re bringing that role back. The director for
design will report to the interim Vice President of Product. The Design
Research function, currently under the Research team in the Technology
department, will report to the new director once the role is filled.

Technology is increasingly “programmatic”

The Technology department is also making a series of improvements in the
way we operate so that we can better serve the movement.

The biggest change is that all of our work in fiscal year 2017-2018 will be
structured and reported in programs instead of teams (you can see how this
works in our proposed 2017-2018 Annual Plan).[2] This will help us focus on
the collective impact we want to make, rather than limiting ourselves to
the way our organization is structured. These programs will be enabled by
the platforms (MediaWiki, Fundraising Tech, Search, Wikimedia Cloud
Services, APIs, ORES, and Analytics) that the Technology department builds
and maintains, and they will be delivered by teams that provide critical
services (Operations, Performance, Security, Release Engineering, and
Research). Distinguishing the work of the Technology department into
platforms and services will also allow us to treat platforms as products,
with accountable product managers and defined roadmaps.

In addition to moving the Search subteam into Technology, we are creating a
separate ORES team. These changes mark the start of something big -
investing in building machine learning, machine translation, natural
language processing and related  competencies. This is the first step
towards supporting intelligent, humanized, user interfaces for our
communities - something we’re thinking of as “human tech”.  Not because we
think that machines will replace our humans, but because these tools cans
help our humans be much more productive.

Why these changes, why now?

When the Product and Technology departments were reorganized in 2015,[1]
the stated goal was establishing verticals to focus on specific groups of
users and to speed execution by reducing dependencies among teams. These
smaller changes are meant to “tune-up” that structure, by addressing some
of its weaknesses and making additional improvements to the structure of
our engineering work.

The process that brought us to these changes began informally shortly after
Victoria arrived, and took on a more formal tone once Wes announced his
departure in May. Katherine asked Anna Stillwell, the Foundation's
newly-appointed Chargée d’Affaires in the Talent & Culture department, to
facilitate a consultation with both departments to identify their pain
points, and better understand their cultural and structural needs. After
collecting feedback from 93 people across the two departments, as well as
stakeholders around the organization, she offered a draft proposal for open
comment within the Foundation. After making some changes to reflect staff
feedback, the Foundation’s leadership team decided to proceed with the
changes described above.

The leaders of some of the teams involved will be following up in the next
few days with the specifics of these organizational moves and what they
mean to our communities. If you still have questions, please ask here or on
the talk page of this announcement:
https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Talk:Wikimedia_Engineering/June_2017_changes.

Best regards,

Toby Negrin, Interim Vice President of Product
Victoria Coleman, Chief Technology Officer

PS. An on-wiki version of this message is available for translation:
https://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Engineering/June_2017_changes

[1]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_Engineering_reorganization_FAQ

[2]
https://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/Wikimedia_Foundation_Annual_Plan/2017-2018/Draft
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