Company Profile

The Guardian launched its network of websites, Guardian Unlimited, in 1996 and is recognised as the UK’s most popular newspaper website, winning the prestigious ‘best on-line newspaper web site’ Webby award in 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009.

Guardian News & Media’s (GNM) commitment to remain the best on-line newspaper website required strategic investment and a complete re-design and re-development of their on-line platform and content management system containing 1.5 million items. They set out to re-launch their portfolio of web sites and web services as Guardian.co.uk during 2007 and 2008.

The Challenge

By 2006 it was clear that the Guardian Unlimited platform was limiting opportunity to deliver content and services to readers. In 2006 a strategic decision was taken to re-design and re-develop their web service. By the end of 2006 a first-cut site development had been undertaken with their technology partners Thoughtworks. Although successful from a technical perspective there was concern within the Executive Management team at GU that insufficient control existed.

At the end of 2006 IndigoBlue was asked to undertake a review of the project, resulting in a recommendation that that programme management needed strengthening to ensure that further investment was appropriately planned, managed and delivered.  Following this review, IndigoBlue was asked to provide the programme management needed to ensure business confidence in the strategic investment and successful outcome of the full programme of work.

Our Approach

An IndigoBlue consultant was appointed Programme Manager who worked with the Guardian senior management to determine prioritised critical success factors and business change priorities that were used to guide decision taking during the planning phase. He then managed the intensive planning phase with weekly senior management validation of decisions and options. This resulted in a plan with clear business logic, costs and milestones sufficient for Board approval within 6 weeks.

Using an Agile approach to this programme a series of major business milestones were defined at intervals of no more than 8 weeks. To achieve this schedule the project team was scaled up from a core team of 16 people to a team of 100. This was achieved through the evolution of Agile development teams that transferred knowledge and spawned new teams over the first five months of the 18-month project. While this was challenging and reduced productivity during the early months, it was a critical strategy for meeting the early completion target.

The programme scope covered all aspects of development and delivery including business change. It involved parallel but synchronised schedules for technical development and business preparation for launching sites and services. The technical teams delivered a release of incremental functionality every fortnight and each development iteration was aligned with business dependencies.

Additional IndigoBlue resources were applied to the programme to strengthen the team in key areas of Business Analysis and Team Leadership.

Benefits Realised

Guardian.co.uk continued to beat aggressively ambitious opposition as measured by number of pages viewed and unique site visits by reversing the decline and achieving significant month on month increases.

The user experience was enhanced dramatically through new design, new navigation, better content referencing, improved search, multi media content, interactive services and many other new features.

GNM achieved a competitive edge through development of its own content management system and tool kit that allowed flexibility to manage the content and develop the toolkit as innovative ways of delivering information and services emerged.

Guardian content became easy to find, with multiple routes through content, strong collaborative engagement of readers was developed and flexible advertisement content was enabled.

Internal technical resources were developed while working alongside external resources in a planned way to achieve sustainability of development and delivery as the programme ended and external resources were no longer needed. This enabled a rapid reduction in team numbers from 100 to 24 over a three month period while maintaining a strong internal knowledge base and capable team.

Continuous improvement of the sites and services continued to be achieved while implementing a complete replacement of the content and web service platform with a new platform.

The programme delivered to budget, to schedule and to business satisfaction.