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Simon Cooper Peering into the depths of .NET

When I joined Red Gate back in 2007, there were around 80 people in the company. Now, around 3 years later, it's grown to more than 200. It's a constant battle against Dunbar's number; the maximum number of people you can keep track of in a social group, to try and maintain that 'small company' feel that attracted myself and so many others to apply in the first place.

There are several strategies the company's developed over the years to try and mitigate the effects of Dunbar's number. One of the main ones has been divisionalisation.

Divisions

The first division, .NET, appeared around the same time that I started in 2007. This combined the development, sales, marketing and management of the .NET tools (then, ANTS Profiler v3) into a separate section of the office. The idea was to increase the cohesion and communication between the different people involved in the entire lifecycle of the tools; from initial product development, through to marketing, then to customer support, who would feed back to the development team.

This was such a success that the other development teams were re-worked around this model in 2009. Nowadays there are 4 divisions - SQL Tools, DBA, .NET, and New Business. Along the way there have been various tweaks to the details - the sales teams have been merged into the divisions, marketing and product support have been (mostly) centralised - but the same basic model remains.

So, how has this helped?

As Red Gate has continued to grow over the years, divisionalisation has turned Red Gate from a monolithic software company into what one person described as a 'federation of small businesses'. Each division is free to structure itself as it sees fit, it's free to decide what to concentrate development work on, organise its own newsletters and webinars, decide its own release schedule. Each division is its own small business.

In terms of numbers, the size of each division varies from 20 people (.NET) to 52 (SQL Tools); well below Dunbar's number. From a developer's perspective, this means organisational structure is very flat & wide - there's only 2 layers between myself and the CEOs (not that it matters much; everyone can go and have a chat to Neil or Simon, or anyone else inbetween, whenever they want. Provided you can catch them at their desk!).

As Red Gate grows, and expands into new areas, new divisions will be created as needed, old ones merged or disbanded, but the division structure will help to maintain that small-company feel that keeps Red Gate working as it does.

Cross posted from Simple Talk. Posted on Wednesday, June 1, 2011 1:36 PM Inside Red Gate | Back to top


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