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It’s no surprise that IT organizations use a variety of tools and techniques to deliver at the speed of the business. But, should IT build, buy or customize? At Red Hat, we recently went through this discussion when looking for an efficient way to scale our employee referral platform.

We often say that no one knows a Red Hatter like a Red Hatter. Underscoring this, we source a significant portion of our talent from Red Hat Ambassadors, our associate referral platform. As Red Hat grew, the referral program needed to be able to scale from when it was designed to support an organization of 1,000 people to meet the needs of +11,000 associates.

We started with a 12-week business-led innovation session, asking the program owner, past referrers and other internal stakeholders in the referral process for feedback and ideas. From this session, it became clear that we would need a new technology platform to support the program, as well as a redesign of some of the core business processes. We considered both buying or building a new solution, and when we looked at the level of unique capabilities that would be needed to support our culture, the argument to build the solution in-house easily won. But, the decision alone to build in-house would not get us the development speed we needed unless we took a different approach to the team structure as well. A traditional, siloed project development plan where business and development teams operate separately would slow down the process and not set us up for success.

Instead, we created an integrated Product Delivery Team comprised of the business program owner (in this case, our People team) and a core set of technologists - front end developers, full-stack engineers, an architect and a site-reliability engineer. This team established a set of common goals and language to help make sure both parts of the team were talking about the business space in the same way.

To accelerate our process, we participated in an eight-week residency via Red Hat Open Innovation Labs. Open Innovation Labs is our residency-style consulting offering that helps our customers jump-start modern application development and catalyze innovation. It is designed to help customers more quickly build prototypes, do DevOps and adopt agile methodologies - all things we wanted to achieve our project. During the residency, our team was fully immersed and solely focused on development of our referral platform - both the technology and the business processes. This immersive residency helped us make faster progress than we otherwise could have if we had treated this as an initiative on top of the team’s regular work. We learned approaches like design thinking, event storming and business process reengineering as part of the software lifecycle. The set timeline and hard deadline (the completion of the residency) pushed the team to prioritize what was essential and helped us move quickly from ideation into action.

Now that we’ve wrapped the residency, we are finishing production on an initial beta release of the new referral platform - a platform that not only redesigned the technology, but also the core business processes that support the program. We are changing the way Red Hat IT delivers solution to the business and we can’t wait to share the outcomes.


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Red Hat is the world’s leading provider of enterprise open source software solutions, using a community-powered approach to deliver reliable and high-performing Linux, hybrid cloud, container, and Kubernetes technologies.

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