26 June 20215 min read

Reaching The Galaxy | Handbook Part 1

In the first part of the handbook we give you an overview about our METRO.digital. How we are working together and which principles we are following.

Christina Lange & Mark Lambertz
Written by

Christina Lange & Mark LambertzMETRO.Digital

METRO Digital Handbook

Acting as a network organization

METRO.digital has to cover a lot of contexts; therefore, we need a structure that enables us to find the best mix between stable teams and a flexible organization. Thus, we use the idea of a matrix organization. It allows us to distinguish between people management-related tasks from the work done in a product team. Leadership is shared in these contexts and makes it easier for us to act as an organization.

The concept of a matrix organization

The core of our matrix organization is the team. As such, most tech companies that are organized as a matrix organization run products. Why is it called a matrix? Leadership is split into two dimensions, forming a matrix. Skills such as engineering, data science, agile or UX report into separate skill focused managers (horizontal) who take care of the capabilities and knowledge in a skill area. Having these skills at hand, the product teams receive all the expertise they need to build an outstanding product as independently as possible.

  • The responsibility of the product lays in the hands of the ENTIRE product team, every member of which plays an essential role in accomplishing the goals of the product. Since we not only build products, we implement solutions for the next organizational level. For example, our shop has a product called "Search and Discover", responsible for the shop search. Another product is "Order Capture", responsible for the shopping basket. Together plus other products they form the solution M|Shop.
  • Above the solution level follows a business domain, which aggregates different solutions into an organizational entity. For instance, "Customer Ordering" has M|SHOP as an online shop solution.
  • In order to bundle different domains, the last entity comes into play which is called “Unit”. Each business unit has several business domains. Each domain is responsible for a narrower area. For example, in the "Customer Facing" unit, there are domains "Customer Ordering" for e-commerce and "Customer Web" for web-based content.
METRO Digital Handbook

Advantages of the matrix organization

  • A company-aligned focus on the core skills. Engineering and UX strategies apply to the whole company rather than just one department.
  • Tailored management support. Engineering, UX, agile, data science managers that know the fields well can better support those skilled employees.
  • Information flows both horizontally and vertically within the organization. Knowledge sharing not only improves products but also skills.
  • Silos are less likely to form due to the higher interaction within skill and product areas.

Responsibilities in a matrix organization

We distinguish between two domain owner roles:

  • Business domain owner is responsible for a solution/product, its strategy and budget.
  • Skill domain owner: vision/strategy for the skill in the company (UX, agile, engineering, data science)

Both also act partly as people manager. This means a domain owner is responsible for hiring, training and all HR matters of their employees. Leadership happens on all levels of our organization. People management is not a dedicated role in METRO.digital.

Act like a network

Finally, it is important to point out that, no matter which organizational model is in place, we want to be able to adapt to change. That means we act like as a united team with a sole purpose: to solve customers' problems and satisfy them with our solutions. We will certainly continue to run organizational experiments to find the best solution for our business. Because change is the only constant.

METRO Digital Handbook

More Principles Fewer Rules

We rely on principles instead of fixed rules. Principles give us a framework for our actions and leave us enough freedom to adjust accordingly. In contrast, we understand rules as a set of agreements to which we strictly adhere. Of course, we also have rules at METRO.digital. However, we try to keep them to a minimum.

Principles help us set clear priorities and align our actions accordingly. As the foundation of our decisions, they help us make decisions within the team and the organization. Product, engineering and architecture principles are at the core of creating value for our business.

Product Principles:

  • We focus on the customer needs, the root cause of their real problems and generate tailored solutions.
  • We are data-driven and outcome-focused.
  • We experiment and learn in short cycles to create successful solutions.
  • Collaboration with our customers is a valuable source of inspiration.
  • We iterate our products and services, instead of building them from scratch.
  • We are pragmatic when it comes to building the “right thing”.
  • An unused product feature is useless. We are bold enough to let it go.

Engineering Principles:

  • We write clean code and strive towards simplicity.
  • We favor pair programming to deliver high quality.
  • We are test-driven by nature.
  • We care about the business’ needs as much as about stability and maintainability of our systems.

Architecture Principles:

  • We are organized around business capabilities.
  • We keep it simple and eliminate accidental complexity.
  • We avoid tight coupling.
  • We distinguish between autonomous micro services and constraints of the macro architecture.
  • Security, compliance and data privacy is always on our radar.
  • We go for cloud first.
  • We actively strive for a lifecycle management.

Leadership Principles:

  • We empower teams to deliver value around a common culture, vision, mission and strategic objectives.
  • We are passionate about delivering measurable business impact - always in high quality.
  • We use lean, thoughtful discovery and delivery processes that reduce complexity and maximize the value we generate.
  • We are interested in the wellbeing of our colleagues, recognizing their individuality.
  • We present a positive attitude, offer support and encouragement, creating an engaging atmosphere for everyone.
  • We are our best self everyday, not afraid to take risks and an inspiration to everyone.
  • We understand the individuals' and team's capabilities and potential in order to empower them on the right level.
  • We favor coaching that brings up the best within our people over giving them directives, whenever suitable.
  • We find and develop people that are or become better than ourselves and we understand this as strong leadership performance.
  • We make this company a safe space to speak up, to experiment, to fail and learn from it.

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