Australia's ‘Godfather of agile’ takes a DIY philosophy

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This article appeared in the June 2015 issue of CRN magazine.

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Australia's ‘Godfather of agile’ takes a DIY philosophy
REA Group CIO Nigel Dalton

Are partners important to how you operate?

We don’t use a lot of third parties. We have a commitment to the open source movement. We still have to use partners though, and we have a great partnership with ThoughtWorks, Amazon Web Services, Google, and all the people we need to run at our scale. But ‘do it ourselves’ is our core ethic.

When do you tend to call on partners, and can you provide a recent example of when you have done so?

If it is a business problem, then chances are someone else has solved it already. We are currently in a program of replacing our AccPac finance platforms with NetSuite. And I’ve been impressed with NetSuite. For the first time in history we have had the freedom to ask what is it about our customers and business processes that gives us our competitive advantage, and what would software look like that enabled that to be more efficient. It isn’t about mass production, it is about coping with variation.

Who do you partner with on the hardware and systems front?

Half of what faces consumers runs out of data centres, and half is off the cloud with Amazon Web Services. There is no middleware here. I would much rather have my realty brainy ops engineers embedded early in the process of product development teams than spend their life patching Linux and having nightmares about security issues. 

I would much rather partner with companies like AWS and NetSuite that I know hire people I could not in my dreams hope to hire. And our specialty is the integration of those things. All of our brainpower has gone into how we make this simple, efficient and stress-free for our staff.

What do you look for in partners?

The hardest thing in the world for them is to be honest about the state of their agility. They all know I’m the godfather of agile and it’s a key thing here. 

They all say they can do it. Some of them are excellent and take the opportunity to get free consulting from us. And for some of them, it breaks them.

Do you see yourself using partners more in the future?

Our self-reliance ethic will not change. But the dark side of that is a ‘not invented here’ psyche. So we will work hard to ensure we know what is good out in the ecosystem.

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