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COVID-19 – a positive innovation change accelerant

COVID-19 – a positive innovation change accelerant

30 October 2020

For most people, the word ‘COVID-19’ immediately evokes thoughts of change, writes Momentum's head of engineering Blair Dods. Change we would never have imagined at the start of 2020 and that which has forced us to rethink how we operate strategically and how we deliver to our audiences.

As a business, we have always prided ourselves on our approach to innovation and adapting to changing market conditions and consumer needs, but COVID has forced us to up the ante and to be more innovative than ever. It’s not a time to scale back and enter a holding pattern, it’s a time to double down on our innovation and improve upon our already impressive record (as evidenced through our recent AFR Most Innovative Companies recognition).

Innovation from an engineering perspective at Momentum Media means reacting to the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID, ensuring no matter how our audiences’ circumstances may have changed, we continue to keep them better informed.

Engineers thrive on solving problems and never before have these problems been as complex or as fast changing. It’s all well and good to wax lyrical about change, but action and outcomes is how our performance will be measured post COVID.

In a short space of time, these are some of the tangible and impactful changes we have made at Momentum since the start of 2020.

Audience engagement

With changes in how our audience consumes content (different times, places and what they consume), our content delivery strategy experienced several shifts:

  • Less commuting time meant changes to when content was viewed.
  • Increased mobile consumption resulted in optimisations to email formats such as bulletins.
  • Zero in-person events lead to a rapid switch to virtual events, with live streaming and the interactive ballroom.
  • General growth in visits to our platforms accelerated the rollout of new designs and enhancements to existing sites. The addition of specialist UI/UX designers to the team has resulted in improvements to the way our audience navigates and interacts with content on our platforms.

Ecommerce

No less than five ‘Knowledge Centres’ across multiple brands were launched to meet the needs of consumers wanting to upskill anywhere/anytime. These dedicated platforms allow us to deliver a range of workshops, training content and webcasts in an engaging format.

Tech stack

Don't bring a knife to a gun fight. When dealing with tech and multiple potential points of failure, reliability and speed is critical. Several of our sites saw record surges in traffic, particularly in the aviation and accounting brands which forced us to review our server stack and overall code base. The resulting server and database enhancements has led to a marked improvement in server uptime and site speed.

With the forced change in how we communicate and collaborate, new internal tools were introduced and existing platforms optimised to address the new way of working. To bring the wider company together in a social setting, the original ‘Ballroom’ MVP was used for a quiz evening before rolling out to the general public.

Working remotely

An almost overnight shift to the way in which we work within our team and the wider business made many of our daily protocols redundant. As an engineering team we have had to be nimble and improve collaboration with all other teams. This meant reworking the product development structure and cycle so we can surface new innovations seamlessly from anywhere in the organisation, then deliver them rapidly.

Data

With the pace of change experienced in 2020, the need for accurate and timely data has never been greater. Several data focused projects across multiple teams have already rolled out, providing advanced analytics that will help us better serve our audiences well into the future.

Looking towards 2021...

While COVID-19 will have a lasting effect on many, the positive change it has accelerated in how we operate as a business and in keeping our audiences better performed, has boosted our ability to innovate at speed and scale.


Author: Blair Dods, Head of Engineering at Momentum Media