IPC MediaIPC Media - Agile Rapid Development
With more than 60 iconic media brands, IPC is the leading consumer magazine publisher in the UK and creates content for multiple platforms, across print, online, mobile, tablets and events. IndigoBlue was initially engaged in 2008 to introduce Agile management on the development of the Mousebreaker and Instyle magazine websites.
Both of these projects were developed using the Drupal, and IndigoBlue introduced a range of process and management techniques, blending Scrum, XP (test-driven implementation and continuous integration) and Lean software development. The standard Lamp stack was used with MySQL, Memcached, Varnish (InStyle only), and Apache SOLR. Both projects were a resounding success in delivery, and development of capability, and IPC subsequently won the coveted Team of the Year at the Agile Awards.
Refinement of the Agile Approach
More recently, IPC acquired Trusted Reviews, a comprehensive source of independent expert reviews, user reviews and news of consumer electronics products.
Following acquisition, IPC started to develop a comprehensive set of new features with a new site design and a technology platform, the aim being to improve advertising revenues, optimise for emerging channels and introduce new editorial subject areas. Importantly this had to be completed whilst retaining the existing readership.
A core measure for site performance is the comScore, which is used by advertisers and agencies to identify leading websites. Trusted Reviews previously occupied 2nd place in the ranking and was improving its rating relative to the leading brand Cnet before the change. comScore tracks internet data in order to study online behaviour, and provides information on site metrics but also demographics of the viewers. There is therefore a direct correlation between the comScore and the amount of money that can be charged for advertising. It is therefore critical to the brand’s business model.
A fundamental issue started to occur immediately after the website re-launch, 12 months after acquisition. The site’s SEO ranking decreased significantly leading to a drop in readership levels and a corresponding fall in comScore ranking. Immediately, advertising revenue started to dramatically decline.
This led to a large number of site changes being requested by the publishing side of the business, all of which were designed to solve the problem as quickly as possible. Unfortunately this was of little impact.
Despite the team being recognised experts in its Agile delivery, and Lean in its practices, the business was becoming frustrated by the software development group apparently not delivering all the changes quickly enough. At the same time, the development team was frustrated because it felt that many of the changes were counter-productive and that the business was failing to make the right decisions.
IndigoBlue was originally engaged by the business to help optimise the delivery team. However, a brief analysis revealed that the delivery team practices were best in class. There was however a disconnect between the work requested and the overall business objectives, and limited measurement of outcomes.
IndigoBlue worked with the teams at IPC to build in measurement throughout the digital creation, development and improvement processes. We used our unique Impact Mapping process to create manageable KPI’s for all areas of the business, to link these to solutions, and to build in objective measurements of success of the changing the product.
This on-going measurement is crucial in ensuring that decisions are reviewed and reversed if the evidence is clearly telling a particular story, something that is often difficult in a fast-moving digital environment. Equally, if something is successful, it is usually worth further investigation and investment.
The KPI’s helped to establish a very clear set of areas of focus – which would yield the biggest benefit.
Importantly this approach identified a key problem in the website page load time which had a major impact on the comScore – an issue that could be addressed.
The newly co-ordinated approach to site improvement has its roots in evidence-based decision making, crucially it also allows the teams to make decisions based upon the businesses’ ability to deliver the required changes (rather than assuming that they can be achieved and then becoming frustrated).
Page Load times have been reduced significantly, and this, in conjunction with other changes has led to the comScore score improving quickly. The product is now on an upward curve towards regaining its previous position as number two.
Equally importantly the approach has established a new level of dialogue, engagement and trust between the business and technology, enabling a fully collaborative approach to achieving Digital business objectives.
The approach is now being taken by IndigoBlue across all digital properties within the business, led by the Board and the Head of Digital.