albelli-Photobox Group are experts in printing high-quality personalised photo products, from photo books and wall decor, to calendars, cards and more. Since their recent merger, albelli and Photobox together serve over 7 million customers across Europe, enabling them to design, print and deliver personalised products, via their online software platform.
albelli and Photobox joined forces in early 2022. The newly combined company is supported by over 1,000 employees across the United Kingdom and Europe. The merger brought together two distinct technology stacks and two distinct organisational cultures, presenting a challenge in creating a single, coherent incident management capability. Their aim is to build a single technology organisation, and a key part of which is how to respond when things go wrong. They’re building a culture where employees are passionate about resilience, incidents and incident resolution and they’ re looking to establish practices for continuous improvement and learning. Unlike some companies who silo their incident response capability to a single team, albelli-Photobox wish to establish a widespread competency throughout their technology department.
albelli-Photobox experiences a high level of variation in seasonal demand and therefore the likelihood and impact of incidents varies similarly throughout the year. albelli-Photobox initially engaged with Uptime Labs to fast-track their Incident Management preparedness for the busy 2022 winter holiday season.
Technology and Tooling vs Culture
Effective incident response is as much a cultural challenge as it is about technology and tooling. How organisations think about incidents and how they organise, communicate, problem-solve and learn under stress is just as important as the tools and technology they employ. albelli- Photobox are well equipped with excellent observability, monitoring and alerting tools but wished to employ Uptime Labs to “seize the people and process piece”. Alex Hibbitt, Engineering Director at albelli-Photobox explained: “Incidents aren’t just about muscle memory, they’re a cultural thing, how you think, how you respond, how you manage stakeholders, which makes it really hard to train. You need something that’s close to a real event”.
Establishing a healthy incident response culture requires practice. Like any team endeavour, practicing together is essential to ensure that the team has mutual understanding and trust when the game is real. Unfortunately, practicing incident response frequently enough to establish proficiency tends to be time consuming, expensive, inconvenient or simply too unrealistic to engender beneficial learning. albelli-Photobox chose to work with Uptime Labs to address this problem, giving them the ability to practice incident response scenarios in a realistic setting, quickly building confidence and expertise through experience.
What We Did
During the 8 weeks prior to the 2022 holiday season, 5 albelli-Photobox engineers employed Uptime Labs to experience 33 simulated incidents. Uptime Labs scenarios were specifically selected to provide experiences that emphasised the first principles of incident response. In addition to using Uptime Lab’s autonomous simulation platform, albelli-Photobox benefitted from coaching and feedback sessions with Uptime Labs experts.