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Highly Commended as Digital Project of the Year

Creative Skillset: De-risking delivery of a professional network

Our due diligence review enabled Creative Skillset to pivot the development of its Hiive platform and, with our support, this professional network for the creative industries was delivered to great acclaim on time and on budget, and grew rapidly from there.


Creative Skillset is the industry skills body for the Creative Industries. It works across film, television, radio, fashion and textiles, animation, games, visual effects, publishing, advertising and marketing communications. It works with and for the Creative Industries to develop skills and talent, supporting productivity and employability.

Hiive is the professional network for creative people. Provided by the not-for-profit organisation Creative Skillset, Hiive kick-starts creative connections with jobs, courses, knowledge and people.

Hiive helps:

  • creative professionals and those aspiring to enter the industries to get paid, get found and get better at what they do
  • employers to find and recruit the best people based on their talent irrespective of where they have come from
  • course providers to profile and build a reputation for their course and then fill it using Hiive’s matching engine

The challenge

Creative Skillset asked us to support the nascent Hiive project by providing due diligence around both the proposed technical and solution architecture and the quality of the developed application. This was a requirement of the funding provided for the project. We had previously worked with Creative Skillset on the development of a data strategy to support the organisation’s information management.

A technical supplier with some experience of Agile was selected to deliver the discovery phase of Hiive and to develop an early Alpha product as a proof of concept to showcase some of the design and core functionality.

A number of concerns and challenges quickly emerged in the development of this Alpha product. Creative Skillset and IndigoBlue were uncomfortable with the rate of progress and the quality achieved. A significant underlying cause appeared to be in the selection by the supplier of the open source .net CMS (Orchard): the supplier was inexperienced in its use; it was proving difficult to staff the team with experienced developers; and it was difficult to find open source assets and plug-ins for Orchard, meaning a high number of features needed to be built from scratch.

IndigoBlue flagged this significant issue in its due diligence review. Various attempts were made to resolve the situation in a way acceptable to all parties but, following the delivery of the Alpha, Creative Skillset made the decision to pause the project and to reassess the product roadmap and the relationship with the supplier. Combining our due diligence review with the results of user research on the Alpha product, Creative Skillset decided to work with a new supplier on a Beta product and beyond.

Our approach

Many lessons were learnt from the Alpha, including the conclusion that a fundamentally different architectural approach was required; the new Beta application was designed to handle many-to-many publication rather than the Alpha’s one-to-many publication, i.e. the Beta was designed to be a social media application rather than a CMS-driven website.

Moving forward, IndigoBlue provided hands-on day-to-day project assurance and Agile coaching, with a senior consultant working in close collaboration with Creative Skillset’s Product Owner and the Hiive team.

Before commencing work on the Beta with the new supplier, we supported Creative Skillset in a value mapping process to ensure that in refining and reshaping the backlog there was a strong focus on delivering value to users and the organisation.

Throughout the new build, we continued to provide support for project governance using our industry-leading Adapt 2.0 framework. In this way, we helped Creative Skillset ensure that they struck a balance between developing free features for the Hiive community and paid-for features that would generate income to help make Hiive sustainable.

Meanwhile, through our Agile coaching, we transformed the skills of the team in collaborating with the developers, in taking an incremental and iterative approach to the development, and in managing uncertainty resolution in an Agile way. The Hiive project had a tight deadline to meet and it was through managing this Agile transformation that we helped Creative Skillset and the developers to keep things simple, keep batch sizes small and achieve a sustainable velocity.

As a result, we were able to provide confidence to the organisation that it would be able to meet its commitment to its investors and deliver to the creative industries a quality product on time and on budget.

Hiive case study.jpg

The outcomes

The Beta was delivered in eight sprints (16 weeks) in October 2014 and provided an excellent basis for user engagement and further user research.

User feedback, analytics consultancy and a user experience report on the Beta were received and digested, generating refinements and additional features that were prioritised in the product backlog.

After a further eight development sprints, the full production product was launched on 9 March 2015 – both at a high profile event in London (with speakers including TV producer Ash Atalla and journalist and author Caitlin Moran) and at another event at the House of Commons, with speakers including Sajid Javid MP, Vince Cable MP and Facebook’s Nicola Mendelsohn.

Hiive’s launch was an outstanding success, evidenced by user uptake, mainstream press coverage and rave reviews from industry commentators and partners such as Google and the BBC.

Hiive's success was also recognised through a number of award nominations:

  • Highly Commended as Digital Project of the Year at the 2015 UKIT Excellence Awards
  • Shortlisted as Best Project in the Not For Profit sector at the 2015 UKIT Excellence Awards
  • Shortlisted as Best Project in the Not For Profit sector in the 2015 UK Agile awards

The future looks bright. Membership and usage is continuing to grow. New partnerships are being formed, drawing more and more creative professionals and businesses to Hiive. Sky Academy runs its prestigious Arts Scholarship competition through Hiive, and other competition partners include creative industries heavyweights such as The Old Vic, the British Film Institute and Magnum Photos. Meanwhile, sponsorships and sales of vacancies and course promotions are supporting Hiive’s sustainability.

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